Connor Bedard is leaving for the Chicago Blackhawks thanks to a huge NHL draft lottery win that could alter the future of the legendary Original Six franchise.
The Blackhawks won the lottery Monday night for the right to pick Bedard, the most anticipated draw in the league since Connor McDavid in 2015. Bedard, as a generational talent, has been compared to McDavid and the three-time Cup champion. Stanley and two-time playoff MVP Sidney Crosby. , whom he idolized growing up.
Chicago will try to get back to the top of hockey’s mountain with Bedard as the new face of the franchise, replacing deceased stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, who combined to help them win the Cup three times between 2010 and 2015. After committing last year to a full-scale comeback, this is the Blackhawks’ first lottery win since 2007 when they got Kane.
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Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly unveiled a sign with the Blackhawks’ logo at 8:22 p.m. EDT, signifying they got the No. 1 pick and sparking a huge celebration among fans at a watch party. Chicago had the third highest probability of winning the lottery at 11.5%, behind Anaheim’s 25.5% and Columbus’ 13.5%.
«I think I just said ‘wow’ because you understand the impact that a first overall pick, and having a first overall pick in the right year, can have,» Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson said at a news conference in New York. Chicago. «Hopefully that’s what we have here. It can change a franchise, it can change a city and it can change an era in a team’s history. There’s a lot of weight in that and a lot of importance.»
Anaheim, the worst in the league, won the lottery for the second pick and will be able to choose from a trio of talented forwards: Canada’s Adam Fantilli, Russia’s Matvei Michkov and Sweden’s Leo Carlsson.
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Columbus is set to pick third, continuing the Blue Jackets’ lottery losing streak. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen said an airborne slip that revealed his team was in third place «ruined the moment.»
«We are going to have a great player at 3, there is no doubt about it in my mind,» Kekalainen said in a video call with reporters. «Everyone wants to win the lottery, so it’s all in your control, and obviously everyone has talked about a special player at the top of the standings. But we’re sure we’re going to get a big differentiator in 3.»
Bedard has been the presumptive first pick in the 2023 draft for several years, considered the best available prospect since McDavid, and before that, Crosby.
Bedard, a native of North Vancouver, British Columbia, led all Canada youth players with 72 goals and 143 points last season while playing for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League. He doesn’t turn 18 until July.
In a pre-recorded television interview that aired on ESPN, Bedard said his future is set: «There are different emotions watching, but I think we’re all watching as fans… It’s more for the teams.»
The Blackhawks were once considered among the model NHL franchises. But the team’s reputation was tarnished by a 2021 investigation that found some of the organization’s top leaders mishandled allegations that an assistant coach sexually assaulted a player during the team’s 2010 title run, leading to which led to a $2 million fine and the resignation of then-general manager Stan. Goalkeeper.
Davidson, who was not with the team at the time, took over on an interim basis, taking over the full-time role in the spring of 2022.
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Then the front office decided to hit rock bottom and plunge into a long-term rebuilding process, trading star forwards Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach in last year’s draft even though they were each under 25 years old. The strategy worked: Chicago lost 56 of 82 games to set up a chance on Bedard.
«No matter where we picked, I think we were going to have a great player,» Davidson said. «I don’t think it’s a claim. It’s certainly a nice bonus and a nice surprise to go out with No. 1.»
Davidson never said Bedard’s name after winning the lottery and only alluded to the players at the top of the drafts who were «elite talent» and «NHL ready.» He will be able to announce Bedard’s name at the start of the draft on June 28 in Nashville, Tennessee, which could be the start of a new chapter for Chicago.
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«We have to build a team,» Davidson said. «You look back at any Stanley Cup team, they have great players, but it’s not just one person that wins it.»