The (Next) Great One

It’s time to take a deeper dive into NHL prospect Connor Bedard’s future glory.

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By Jaden Bae

When Arizona Coyotes prospect Dylan Guenther scored the game-winning goal in the IIHF World Junior Championship final to win Team Canada gold, the team jumped on him in jubilation. While the focus was, deservedly, on Guenther, fans knew who the real hero was: Connor Bedard. Guenther, along with the rest of his teammates, knew it too. In the tournament alone, Bedard put in a whopping nine goals and 23 points—the highest point tally in Canadian history—along with an otherworldly goal that won Canada their quarter-final game. Humbly, when asked about his Most Valuable Player of the Tournament award, Bedard said, “I don’t want to talk about myself right now. We’re not talking about me.” This quote exemplifies his humility and gives all the more reason for fans to be excited about Bedard. Now that we know he’ll be landing in Chicago this fall, it’s time to unpack Bedard’s hype.

Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Bedard brought excitement to the hockey world at an early age, being dubbed “The Future of Hockey” at age 13 by The Hockey News. At 15, he joined an elite group of six other skaters in history granted exceptional status to play in the Canadian Hockey League before turning 16, the typical age requirement. He was drafted first overall to the Regina Pats, where he played up until the end of this season, putting in 10 goals and 10 assists in his last playoff series. These achievements with the Pats are only a sign of what’s to come, as he will look to move up and take the NHL by storm.

He may seem to have God-given talent, but in truth, it’s all in the wrists—or lack thereof. In 2017, Bedard broke his right wrist—his dominant one—and could not use it for 12 weeks. Instead of giving up, Bedard used the opportunity to sharpen his left hand, training it to shoot, stickhandle, and play hockey as well as his right hand could, which took his game to unfathomable heights. His newfound strength also allowed him to develop a rocket of a shot. Additionally, he created a new technique for shooting––coined the “Toe-Drag Release”–– bringing the puck closer to his body and firing it through tight holes between defenders. 

Like every superstar athlete, his intense work ethic led him to where he is today. He famously brought his hockey stick and inline skates on a vacation in Hawaii to train while abroad. While his hockey ability was largely driven by his love for the game, loss in Bedard’s life was also a motivator. In 2021, Bedard’s grandfather, Garth Bedard, died in a car crash that left him and his family devastated. In his next game, he scored two goals, including the OT winner, and pointed toward the heavens for his late grandfather. Bedard’s hard work has led him to astronomical heights, and there’s no telling where he’ll end up amongst the hockey greats.

It’s hard to compare Bedard to any player in history because he blends elements of all those who came before him. His powerful shot and soft hands allow him to dominate, but his game is perfectly well-rounded with practically no weak points. He plays and understands the game superbly, is a natural leader, and overall, looks to be a flawless prospect. Wayne Gretzky, “The Great One,” possessed a similar ability as Bedard’s to visualize the perfect pass, though Bedard himself has rejected comparisons to Gretzky––both due to the accolades difference and the associated pressure. “Bedard is a highly imaginative puck handler and a very creative passer,” The Athletic’s prospect analyst Corey Pronman said.

Compared to elite players, he’s most similar to Sidney Crosby, as each possesses strong leadership abilities, primarily plays center, and has a knack for driving play. “[Bedard’s] skill and shot are legit game-breaking attributes,” Pronman said. His comparisons to these future Hall of Famers are remarkable signs, though it’s hard to tell how he’ll adapt to the NHL’s increased size and speed. He’s a hybrid of all these legends, and he’s certain to be the centerpiece for the Blackhawks––and the NHL––in years to come.

Currently, the Blackhawks are in their rebuild-mode mindset, trading all-time great Patrick Kane and letting longtime captain Jonathan Toews leave at the end of his deal. The

acquisition of Bedard has certainly leapfrogged their timeline, simply because they must maximize their years with a generational talent. The NHL is lucky to have such a talent, and the

world will be waiting to see how he performs. It’s not a question of if he’s going to be great; it’s a question of how great.