The Chicago Blackhawks made the obvious official Wednesday night, selecting Regina Pats center Connor Bedard with the first overall pick in the 2023 NHL draft.
Bedard, 17, has been called a generational talent thanks to his shooting ability and puck possession skills. The North Vancouver native was the most hyped prospect since Connor McDavid was drafted first overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2015.
“It’s incredible. I can’t it put into words,” Bedard said in his Wednesday news conference. “Growing up, they were going on their runs, winning [Stanley] Cups. You see the United Center going crazy and all of Chicago getting behind them. I’m so happy to part of the Blackhawks organization.”
Chicago earned the right to select Bedard after winning the 2023 NHL draft lottery, despite having only the third-best odds to win the No. 1 pick this year at 11.5%. The Blackhawks last selected first overall in 2007, when they took winger Patrick Kane.
Bedard was granted exceptional status as a 15-year-old to play in the Western Hockey League, the first time the WHL granted such an exception. This year, he was the inaugural winner of the IIHF Male Player of the Year Award, leading Canada to the gold medal at the World Junior Championship with a tournament-best 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in January. He swept the player of the year, top prospect and top scorer awards at the Canadian Hockey League awards after recording 143 points (71 goals, 72 assists) in 52 games for the Pats.
Bedard’s arrival signals a new era for the Blackhawks, who completed a run of three Stanley Cups in six years in 2015. He joins a team that finished with a .360 points percentage in the standings, the worst season for Chicago since 2003-04. Kane was traded to the New York Rangers. The team parted ways with captain Jonathan Toews, an unrestricted free agent, as well.
The Blackhawks started building around Bedard earlier in the week when they acquired winger Taylor Hall from the Boston Bruins. “He won a Hart Trophy. He’s had a great career, his talent level is remarkable. Fun player to watch, for sure,” Bedard said.
At No. 19 overall, the Blackhawks selected another center, Oliver Moore from the U.S. National Development Program.
Moore wasn’t a top line forward for the USNDP, but his speed allowed him to be a dynamic presence. The way he can accelerate, enter the zone and get a shot off with enviable speed is what makes Moore a special prospect, one who had 26 goals and 64 points last season.