While fans of the top 16 of the league’s 32 teams have spent the last month or so watching the playoffs, fans of the bottom 16 teams have all been eagerly awaiting the draft lottery. This event is the single best chance most teams ever have at landing truly elite talent and turning around the fortunes of their franchise.
Just look at the impact in Edmonton since they won the 2015 draft lottery and earned the right to select Connor McDavid, or the New Jersey Devils since selecting first in both 2017 and 2019, landing Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes respectively. Winning the draft lottery and selecting first or second overall is the biggest wildcard for every rebuilding team in the NHL, it completely changes your outlook and accelerates any timeline you may have prepared.
Now that the dust has settled a little bit on the draft lottery and the Chicago Blackhawks’ lottery win, let’s take a look at the fit for Bedard in Chicago and what he could mean for this team going forward.
Blackhawks Win the Bedard Sweepstakes
Don’t let anyone tell you tanking doesn’t work. Just 10 months after dealing Alex Debrincat and Kirby Dach in the leadup to the 2022 NHL Draft, the Blackhawks put together one of the most remarkable (read: embarrassing) years in recent memory. They iced lineups that were borderline unwatchable at times, with one clear goal all year, Connor Bedard.
Related: 2023 NHL Draft Guide
Latest News & Highlights
I’ll give credit where it is due to Blackhawks General Manager Kyle Davidson who has quickly turned around the future of this team in a matter of months, adding some excellent prospects in the 2022 Draft (Kevin Korchinski, Frank Nazar, Ryan Greene, etc.), making big trades for futures, and for trading away nearly anyone with a pulse at the trade deadline for a significant haul in return. This team was going to be set up well for the future whether they won the lottery or not. I also want to shout out the players and coaching staff of the Blackhawks, who were put in some un-enviable positions this year and fought and clawed their way to a half-respectable record by season’s end.
Alright, so with that out of the way, this is an absolutely massive win for the Blackhawks, just as the final remaining members of their 2010’s dynasty (Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews) are on their way out. Bedard is going to be the next centerpiece of this team, and Chicago has plenty of great young players and draft capital to build a contender around him. They’re starting from scratch so I’d expect it to be at least two full years before they get a real sniff at the playoffs even, but there is no better prospect in this year’s draft to build around.
Every rebuilding team is faced with a ton of questions and roster holes that they need to fill out before they can dig themselves out of the league’s basement and make a run at the Stanley Cup. The most difficult of these questions to answer is “who will be your top centerman/run your offense?”, and Bedard gives Chicago an easy answer to that question for the next 15 years. He will make plenty of opposing defenders look silly, carry tons of pucks through the neutral zone, and he will likely score a ton of goals along the way. What’s not to love?
Who is Connor Bedard?
Connor Bedard is the clear favorite to go first overall, with the potential to be an elite goal scorer in the NHL who turns a team’s fortunes around completely. He is without a doubt the best player in the entire Canadian Hockey League (CHL), and led the Western Hockey League (WHL) in goals and points as the captain of the Regina Pats. The 17-year-old Bedard cemented himself as the best prospect in the draft at the 2023 World Juniors where he was clearly the best player at the entire tournament despite being two years younger than many of his opponents.
The last time there was this much hype around a prospect was back in 2015 when the arrival of Connor McDavid was highly anticipated, and Bedard could have a similar impact in Chicago. There’s a non-zero chance that Adam Fantilli blows the competition out of the water for Team Canada at the Men’s World Championships this May and earns the top spot in this year’s draft, but that is very unlikely after the season that Bedard managed this year in the WHL>
An Exciting Night for the Future of the NHL
At least two franchises will likely look back on this day as the moment their luck finally turned and their team took a massive step forward (the other being the Anaheim Ducks who landed the second overall pick), with the rest of the league’s teams looking back on it as the day they missed out on some of the best young players in the world. Obviously, none of the picks in the top-five are sure-things (though first overall is about as close to a sure-thing as we’ve seen since 2015) and lots can change between now and the 2023 NHL Entry Draft on June 28, but the level of talent at the top of this year’s draft is clear, and getting your pick of the group is a very valuable position to be in.
The Blackhawks organization and their fans have a huge reason for excitement now, and a glimpse at the bright future that lies ahead of them. Bedard was always the goal for a tanking Chicago team, so now it is official that the 2022-23 Blackhawks season was an unqualified success.