Connor Bedard

Connor Bedard surprises Luke Richardson with early morning workout in hotel gym

Bedard strolled through the hotel gym early in the morning ahead of Sunday's game

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Ahead of Sunday's Blackhawks game against the Florida Panthers, Connor Bedard got some early work in.

According to Luke Richardson, he was caught off guard at the hotel gym when his 18-year-old rookie strolled in for some morning stretching. But that's the kind of athlete Bedard has proven to be.

"I think he's that guy. He's eager," Richardson said Sunday. "I'm in the gym at 6:30 this morning and he rolls in not too long after me and he's in there stretching in his bare feet preparing his routine before the game."

It appears, from the other side of the story, that Bedard appreciates the work his coach puts in and draws inspiration from how Richardson takes care of his body.

"I went in there (to) kinda warm up a little bit," Bedard said after Sunday's game. "He (Richardson) was just drenched on the bike. He's a horse on the Peloton, or whatever there. It's cool to see him working. That's why he played as long as he did (Editor's note: 21 seasons, in fact) --- the dedication he put into his body and the game."

What does Bedard's gym dedication tell the Blackhawks head coach about him?

"I think he's driven. He gets excited at times but there's times where it's a really quick celebration and you can tell he's just skating and moving on mentally to the next play. I like that. I think that'll drag everybody along with him; not that the other guys aren't like that as well, but it's great to have young guys who are already in that mindset."

Bedard has proven to operate with a certain tunnel vision on and off the ice. He's the first guy on the ice, the last guy off the ice type of player.

Earlier this season, the Blackhawks veterans had to force Bedard and the other rookies off the ice after practice. They kept the team waiting as they were all sitting on the team bus ready to travel.

This type of work ethic and standard is vital for the Blackhawks long-term. Remember, there are no permanent captains this year. Kyle Davidson made it clear during the preseason he would leave it up to the players to figure out who's the voice and leader of the team.

It doesn't have to be the best guy on the ice. But Bedard is showing himself to be a natural leader. He leads by example in his work ethic and communicates effectively on the ice, as Richardson said with his shortened celebrations.

His efforts off the ice are proving effective on it, too. On Sunday, Bedard notched two goals against the Panthers. He's up to nine goals on the season, tied for eighth most in the league this season.

"I think he's driven to be better, and better, and better every game. And that's great to see," Richardson said.

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