Connor Bedard

New era begins as Blackhawks draft Connor Bedard to be face of franchise

The Connor Bedard era has officially begun

2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round One
The wait is over: Connor Bedard is officially a Blackhawk, which signals the start of a new era.

NASHVILLE — The wait is over.

Fifty-one days after winning the 2023 NHL Draft lottery, the Chicago Blackhawks were finally able to make the worst-kept-secret in hockey official by taking Connor Bedard with the No. 1 overall pick. He became the second player in franchise history to be taken first overall.

"It's incredible," Bedard said. "I can't put it into words. Growing up, obviously that was when they were going on their runs, winning Cups, and I was watching a lot of them. You see the United Center going crazy and all of Chicago getting behind them. Original Six and so much history there. I really can't put it into words and I'm so excited to be part of the organization."

The selection signals a new era for the Blackhawks, who have cleared the decks from the dynasty era. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were the final two members from the three Stanley Cup teams but are no longer part of the organization. The Blackhawks want to give the new core an opportunity to blossom on their own without being in the shadows of two city icons.

To go from Kane and Toews to Bedard isn't something Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson truly expected.

"It is lucky," Davidson said. "That’s what it is. I had no hand in winning the lottery. That’s just luck. We’re very fortunate. It was very tough to make the decision to move on from Jonathan and Patrick not knowing what was on the other side of that. It was not easy. Thought it was the best course of action whether we won the lottery, moved up, or not. Luckily we did and again tough decision, but lucky we won the lottery and here we are today."

It's hard to think of a more perfect player than Bedard to be the new face of the franchise. He's a generational-type talent for the Blackhawks to build around on the ice and possesses captain-like qualities as a leader off of it.

"Great player, great person," Davidson said. "I think everyone’s seen how he’s handled himself in the leadup to this draft. Obviously, a lot of attention but he’s shown a maturity beyond his years. He’s 17 years old but you’d never know it based on how he’s handled things."

Despite checking off perhaps the most important box of a rebuild, the Blackhawks still have a lot of work to do before they can realistically start thinking about becoming playoff contenders again and eventually competing for Stanley Cups. Bedard isn't going to lift the Blackhawks to the promised land by himself — just look how difficult it's been for Edmonton even though they have the two best players in the world in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

The next step of the Blackhawks' rebuild is identifying the new core around Bedard and the role players to surround them with. It's something they might not get real clarity on for another couple years, depending on how each individual's development goes.

When Kane and Toews entered the league, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Patrick Sharp were already on the roster. Eventually, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Marian Hossa also entered the picture and established themselves as key members of the foundation. The situation was perfect.

It's a little bit different this time around. The Blackhawks may have some players who could step into those types of roles down the line, but they're not in the NHL yet. They're still prospects. 

Those are questions to be answered for another day. On Wednesday, Bedard officially became a Blackhawk and the franchise, the fans and the city can finally start to get excited about hockey again and think about the possibility of what could be the beginning of another memorable journey.

"Those players that can reach star potential are the hardest boxes and hardest positions to fill when you’re building a team," Davidson said. "Obviously first overall is a place where you hope you can get that and I feel like we’ve got a player in Connor that has every chance to be that type of player for us."

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