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How Connor Bedard will change life for Hawks, on and off the ice

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For the second time in franchise history, the Blackhawks have won the NHL Draft lottery and will hold the No. 1 overall pick in 2023. That means they've earned the right to select Connor Bedard, who's arguably the best draft-eligible prospect since Connor McDavid.

Now, let's be clear about something right off the bat: Bedard's presence alone doesn't necessarily mean everything is fixed for the Blackhawks.

Sure, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews being drafted in back-to-back years in 2006 and 2007 altered the trajectory of the franchise, but they won three Stanley Cups together because Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Patrick Sharp — to name a few — all emerged as key pieces from their pipeline. Signing marquee free-agent Marian Hossa obviously helped, too.

Bedard will, however, change life for the Blackhawks from the standpoint that the most challenging box to check off in a full-scale rebuild is landing a generational talent to be the cornerstone piece, which every team that wants to be perennial contenders needs.

Does the timeline of the rebuild change? Maybe not, and Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson said as much on NBC Sports Chicago's lottery show immediately after securing the No. 1 overall selection.

"I don't think so, necessarily," Davidson said. "I think that's the one thing we don't want to do, is change course. We've set course, we'll stick to our plan, and we just have to stay true to that and not deviate and just do what's right by the organization and build this thing the right way.

"Let's not get it twisted: First overall is a big deal. It's a huge deal for us and what we're doing, but I don't think we can let that change and alter the bigger picture."

The right to land a talent like Bedard though does raise the potential ceiling for the Blackhawks in the long term. He's the kind of player that should keep the Blackhawks competitive for a long time, if the right supporting cast is around him.

The other area it impacts — which can't be understated — is the financial and marketability perspective. Bedard immediately puts fans back in the United Center stands, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Chicago back near the top of attendance as soon as next season, even if they aren't close to competing for a playoff spot in the near future. He will make the Blackhawks watchable.

The hard part now becomes establishing the new core around Bedard. Can Lukas Reichel be a consistent top-six piece? Can Kevin Korchinski grow into a No. 1 defenseman? Will Frank Nazar be the center behind Bedard for the next decade as the team's 1-2 punch up the middle? 

All of these questions have yet to be answered and will take time before we actually know the outcome. But one thing is for certain: Bedard is the most important piece and will make the Blackhawks competitive again. It’s only a matter of when, not if.

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