Connor Bedard (born July 17, 2005) is a Canadian professional ice hockey centre for the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League (NHL). Considered one of the greatest ice hockey prospects of his generation, he was selected first overall by the Blackhawks in the 2023 NHL entry draft and made his NHL debut that year. Bedard would go on to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year in 2024.

Connor Bedard
Bedard with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2023
Born (2005-07-17) July 17, 2005 (age 18)
North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Height 5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Weight 185 lb (84 kg; 13 st 3 lb)
Position Centre
Shoots Right
NHL team Chicago Blackhawks
National team  Canada
NHL draft 1st overall, 2023
Chicago Blackhawks
Playing career 2023–present

Bedard was selected by the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League (WHL) first overall in the WHL Bantam Draft in 2020 as the first WHL player of exceptional player status and won the Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy as the league's top rookie player in his debut season.[1][2] In his third year in the WHL, he won the Bob Clarke Trophy as the league's leading scorer and was given the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as its most valuable player, before also earning the Canadian Hockey League's Top Scorer and Player of the Year honours.[3][4][5][6]

Competing internationally for Canada, Bedard won championships with the Canadian national under-18 team in 2021 and with the Canadian national junior team in 2022 and 2023. His 2023 tournament performance set several national and international points records and led to his being named the event's MVP. Bedard was the inaugural recipient of the IIHF Male Player of the Year award.[7]

Early life

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Bedard was born on July 17, 2005, and grew up in North Vancouver, British Columbia, with his parents, Tom and Melanie, and sister Madi.[8][9] Connor's great-great uncle James Bedard played 22 NHL games for Chicago between 1949 and 1951.[10] In 2018, Bedard emerged as a young hockey prospect, being named "The Future of Hockey" in an article by The Hockey News.[11] Bedard played minor hockey with West Vancouver Academy Prep of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League.[5] While playing with this school's U15 and U18 teams, Bedard led the league in goals and points and was named most valuable player both years.[5] He considered Sidney Crosby his childhood idol.[12]

Playing career

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Regina Pats (2020–2023)

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In March 2020, Bedard was granted exceptional player status by Hockey Canada, allowing him to enter the major junior-level Canadian Hockey League component leagues a year early.[13][14] He was the first player granted such status to play in the Western Hockey League (WHL).[15] In the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft, Bedard was selected first overall by the Regina Pats.[16][17] In September 2020, Bedard was loaned to the HV71 junior hockey system in Sweden, where he could play while the WHL season was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He played with HV71 until the WHL returned to play for its 2020–21 season beginning in March 2021.[18] Due to the pandemic, his rookie season was a shortened one with all of the Pats games played at Regina's Brandt Centre. As a rookie, Bedard scored 12 goals and 16 assists for 28 points in 15 games before leaving for the 2021 IIHF World U18 Championships. He was awarded the Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy as the WHL's rookie of the year.[2][19]

During the 2021–22 WHL season, Bedard became the youngest player to score 50 or more goals in a season, scoring his 50th and 51st goals in the last game of the regular season.[20] He finished the year with 51 goals and 49 assists for 100 points, ranking second in the WHL in goals and fourth in points. He was only the third 16-year-old to manage a 100-point season in the WHL, and the first to do so in the 21st century.[21] Despite Bedard's scoring, the Pats narrowly missed qualifying for the playoffs. As he attended the 2022 NHL Entry Draft as an observer, Bedard was profiled in The New York Times as "the most exciting future NHL player attending this week’s draft."[22]

After not recording a point in his opening game of the 2022–23 season, Bedard embarked on a lengthy points streak that made him the league's top scorer.[23] On November 17, he became the first WHL player in a decade to record twenty-game point streaks in consecutive seasons.[24] Bedard was noted for attracting large crowds for the Pats' road games; his first-ever return to the Greater Vancouver area for a game against the Vancouver Giants drew over 5,000 fans, which was nearly double the Giants' season average.[25] Despite missing eleven games in December and early January while attending the World Junior Championships, Bedard still led the WHL in scoring upon his return to the lineup on January 8, where he had four goals and two assists in a 6–2 home victory over the Calgary Hitmen.[26]

With the Pats not considered a title contender, there was media discussion in advance of the WHL's 2023 trade deadline about whether the Pats should seek to trade him to a contending team in exchange for future assets.[27] Pats general manager John Paddock asserted that he would not trade Bedard, noting in addition that per WHL rules Bedard would have to consent to be traded, and that "Connor has the final say. He wants to be a Regina Pat and finish his career in Regina, clear?"[28][29] Ultimately, the trade deadline passed without any transaction.[30]

 
Bedard with the Regina Pats in 2022.

While Bedard's status as an audience draw was already apparent earlier in the season, this effect ramped up noticeably following his return from the 2023 World Junior Championships, which had significantly elevated his national profile. A January road trip through the province of Alberta saw team record attendance (7,287) at the Red Deer Rebels' Peavey Mart Centrium, while Medicine Hat Tigers' sellout of their arena saw more than double their average attendance. The Lethbridge Hurricanes offered standing-room only at the Enmax Centre. The Pats played a nationally televised game against the Hitmen in the Saddledome, the home of the NHL's Calgary Flames.[31][32] The Saddledome's upper seating was made available for the occasion, resulting in a near-record WHL attendance of 17,223 when the Hitmen's seasonal average was only 3500.[33][34][31]

Bedard finished the regular season with 71 goals and 72 assists in 57 games, winning the Bob Clarke Trophy as the WHL's leading scoring. His 143 points also led the CHL in scoring for the year, and he was the first WHL player to have a 140-point season since 1995–96.[3] The league subsequently awarded Bedard the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as WHL player of the year. He was the first draft-eligible player to be named league MVP since Sam Reinhart nine years prior.[4] Bedard was later given the CHL's CHL Top Draft Prospect and CHL Player of the Year awards—becoming the first person to win those and the CHL Top Scorer Award in a single season—and named to the revived CHL First All-Star Team.[6][35]

The Regina Pats qualified for the 2023 WHL playoffs, drawing a first-round match-up against the Saskatoon Blades. Bedard had two goals and an assist in a 6–1 Regina victory in the series opener, the first playoff points of his career.[36] The Pats won the first two games of the series, but lost the next three straight. Bedard had a goal and three assists in Game 6, a 5–3 Regina victory that forced Game 7.[37] The Pats were eliminated by the Blades, losing Game 7 in Saskatoon by a score of 4–1.[38] Bedard had 10 goals and 10 assists in the series, which was expected to mark the end of his WHL and junior career.[39]

2023 NHL Entry Draft

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Bedard attracted considerable interest as a future high selection in the National Hockey League draft from an early age, speculation that was accelerated by his being granted exceptional status to play in the WHL.[11][13] Much of the early conversation two years in advance of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft involved a debate of his merits versus those of Russian winger Matvei Michkov, also considered a budding top talent with the same draft eligibility. Following their dueling appearances on their respective countries' national teams at the 2021 IIHF World U18 Championships and the abortive initial edition of the 2022 World Junior Championships, many in the media suggested a career rivalry between them comparable to that between Russian 2004 first overall pick Alexander Ovechkin and Canadian 2005 first overall pick Sidney Crosby.[40][41][42] However, following Michkov's signing of a multi-year contract extension with his KHL club SKA Saint Petersburg, as well as geopolitical uncertainties resultant from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it was widely presumed that Bedard would be picked first in the draft.[22][43][44]

Entering his draft year as the consensus choice to be taken first overall, much of the debate around Bedard's future concerned whether he warranted being considered a "generational" talent, comparable to Crosby, Ovechkin and Connor McDavid.[44][45][46] A number of NHL teams, notably the Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes, were said to be openly tanking the 2022–23 season in the hopes of obtaining favourable odds in the draft lottery.[47][48][49][50] The Sports Network produced a parody song about this, called "Bad for Bedard".[51] ESPN remarked that fans of "potential lottery teams have adopted some variation of 'Fail/Tank/Lose Hard for Bedard' as a 2022–23 battle cry."[52] The first overall selection was ultimately won by the Blackhawks, making them Bedard's presumptive destination. A Chicago Sun-Times reporter stated that within an hour and a half of the lottery outcome being announced, Chicago had already sold $2.5 million of season ticket packages.[53]

In advance of the draft in Nashville, Bedard received the E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence, bestowed by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau to "the candidate who best exemplifies commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness, and athleticism."[54]

Chicago Blackhawks (2023–present)

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On June 28, 2023, the Chicago Blackhawks selected Bedard first overall in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. It was the second Blackhawks' first overall selection in team history, after Patrick Kane in 2007. He was also the second player born in British Columbia selected first overall, after Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011.[55][56]

Bedard signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Blackhawks on July 17, his 18th birthday.[57] He made his NHL debut on October 10, where Bedard recorded his first point, an assist, in a 4–2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.[58] Bedard scored his first NHL goal in the opening period the next night, on October 11, of a 3–1 loss to the Boston Bruins.[59] His first two NHL games were the most-watched regular season ice hockey games for ESPN and TNT respectively.[60] On November 9, Bedard tallied two goals and two assists in a 5–3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning, becoming the third-youngest player in NHL history to record a four-point game, the youngest rookie to do so since 1944,[61] as well as becoming the youngest in Blackhawks franchise history to record a multi-goal game.[62] On January 4, 2024, Bedard was selected to represent the Blackhawks at the 2024 National Hockey League All-Star Game. He would have been the youngest All-Star in NHL history;[63] however, the following day, he sustained a broken jaw after a check from New Jersey Devils defenceman Brendan Smith, and was placed on injured reserve for six-to-eight weeks after undergoing surgery.[64][65] Due to the injury, he was excluded from the All-Star Game rosters,[66] but managed to appear in the "One-Timers" skills competition, serving pucks to Mathew Barzal, Nathan MacKinnon and David Pastrňák.[67] Bedard returned to action on February 15, registering one assist in a 4–1 loss against the Penguins.[68] On March 12, Bedard put up a career-high of five points, with a goal and four assists to lead the Blackhawks to a 7–2 win over the Anaheim Ducks.[69] He finished the season with 22 goals and 61 points in 68 games, leading all NHL rookies, and was the recipient of the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year.[70][71]

International play

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Bedard serving a penalty at the 2022 World Junior Championships
Medal record
Representing   Canada
Ice hockey
World Junior Championships
  2022 Canada
  2023 Canada
World U18 Championships
  2021 United States

In April and May 2021, Bedard played for the Canadian under-18 team at the 2021 IIHF World U18 Championships in Frisco, Texas, winning a gold medal, tying for second in the tournament in points, and earning a spot on the media all-star team.

On December 12, 2021, Bedard became the seventh 16-year-old to be selected by Canada for the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships.[72] Initially the thirteenth forward in the lineup, by the end of the team's first game he had been elevated to the top six. Bedard scored four goals in an 11–2 victory over Austria, breaking Wayne Gretzky's record for most goals by a 16-year-old at the championships, and tying the overall Canadian record for most goals in a single World Junior game.[73] However, the tournament was cancelled on December 29 due to concerns about COVID-19; it was subsequently announced that the event would be rebooted in August 2022.[74][75]

On April 18, 2022, Bedard was named to the Canadian team for the 2022 IIHF World U18 Championships, the only returning player from the previous year's championship team.[76][77] He scored a hat trick in the second game of the tournament, an 8–3 victory over Germany, breaking Shane Wright's record for Canada goal-scoring at the U18 Championships, and simultaneously breaking Mathew Barzal's Canada points record.[78] Later in the summer, at the revived World Junior Championships, Bedard again played for Canada, attracting considerable attention for his shot.[79][80] He recorded four goals and four assists over the course of the seven-game tournament, winning gold with Canada.[81]

On December 12, 2022, Bedard was named to the Canadian national team to compete at the 2023 World Junior Championships.[82] When he scored the opening goal in the quarter-final match against Slovakia, Bedard broke the Canadian record for career goals and points at the tournament. He also set a new world record for World Junior points by a player under the age of 19, previously held by Jaromír Jágr.[83][84] Bedard's game-winning goal, scored in overtime, was called an "indelible stamp" on the tournament.[85][86] He recorded nine goals and fourteen assists during the seven-game tournament, winning gold with Canada for the second consecutive year.[87] Bedard was named the championships' best forward and most valuable player by the IIHF directorate, as well as to the media all-star team.[88][89] Bedard was the inaugural recipient of the IIHF Male Player of the Year award.[7]

Following the end of the 2023–24 NHL season, with the Blackhawks not qualifying for the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs, Bedard accepted an invitation to make his debut with the senior national team at the 2024 IIHF World Championship.[90] Bedard would score his first senior international goal on May 11, 2024 against Great Britain, helping Canada to a 4–2 victory over Great Britain.[91] He began the tournament with a strong offensive showing, recording five goals and one assist in Team Canada's first three games.[92] However, his production subsequently tapered off, with no points registered in the following four contests. Bedard's offensive drought led to diminished ice-time before was relegated to Team Canada's 13th forward.[92] He appeared in the Canada's final game against Sweden, where he was held without a point in a 4–2 loss to Sweden. Bedard finished the tournament with eight points in ten games.[93]

Career statistics

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Regular season and playoffs

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Bold indicates led league

Regular season Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
2018–19 West Van Academy Prep CSSHL U15 30 64 24 88 22 4 5 2 7 2
2019–20 West Van Academy Prep CSSHL U18 36 43 41 84 32 1 1 1 2 0
2020–21 HV71 J18 J18 Region 1 1 1 2 0
2020–21 HV71 J20 J20 National 4 2 2 4 0
2020–21 Regina Pats WHL 15 12 16 28 6
2021–22 Regina Pats WHL 62 51 49 100 42
2022–23 Regina Pats WHL 57 71 72 143 62 7 10 10 20 8
2023–24 Chicago Blackhawks NHL 68 22 39 61 28
NHL totals 68 22 39 61 28

International

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Bold indicates led tournament

Year Team Event Result GP G A Pts PIM
2021 Canada U18   7 7 7 14 2
2022 Canada U18 5th 4 6 1 7 4
2022[a] Canada WJC 2 4 1 5 0
2022 Canada WJC   7 4 4 8 2
2023 Canada WJC   7 9 14 23 2
2024 Canada WC 4th 10 5 3 8 10
Junior totals 27 30 27 57 10
Senior totals 10 5 3 8 10

Awards and honours

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Award Year Ref
CSSHL
CSSHL U15 Most Valuable Player 2019 [5]
CSSHL U18 Most Valuable Player 2020 [5]
WHL
WHL Exceptional Player Status 2020 [1]
Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy 2021 [2]
Bob Clarke Trophy 2023 [3]
Four Broncos Memorial Trophy 2023 [4]
CHL
CHL Top Scorer Award 2023 [3]
CHL Top Draft Prospect Award 2023 [6]
CHL Player of the Year 2023 [6]
First All-Star Team 2023 [35]
NHL
E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence 2023 [54]
NHL All-Star Game 2024 [63]
Calder Memorial Trophy 2024 [71]
NHL All-Rookie Team 2024 [95]
International
World U18 Championship Media All-Star Team 2021 [96]
World Junior Championship Best Forward 2023 [88]
World Junior Championship Media All-Star Team 2023 [89]
World Junior Championship MVP 2023 [89]
IIHF Male Player of the Year 2023 [7]

Notes

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  1. ^ The initial 2022 World Junior Championships was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however the scoring from that tournament was still counted.[94][84]

References

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Awards and achievements
Preceded by NHL first overall draft pick
2023
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chicago Blackhawks first round draft pick
2023
Succeeded by
Preceded by Winner of the Calder Memorial Trophy
2024
Succeeded by
Incumbent