It seemed impossible that Connor Bedard could live up to the comedic amount of hype that followed him into his NHL rookie season.
Now, it's laughable there was ever a doubt.
The Blackhawks superstar has set the league on fire with 13 points (nine goals, four assists) in as many games, and his electrifying play has demanded the attention of the greatest hockey player who ever lived.
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Wayne Gretzky, an analyst on TNT's NHL broadcasts, has been wowed by Bedard's performance against the league's toughest teams early in the season.
"He had to go into Toronto, into Montreal, into Colorado, and he got Boston twice and Vegas twice," Gretzky said Wednesday. "Those are good hockey clubs. Those are hard buildings to play in, and I thought he held his own. And you can see him getting more and more confident."
Gretzky added that the 18-year-old phenom has not only met expectations of grandeur, but surpassed them.
"With young players, one of the hard things is you always tell them, 'you got to shoot the puck, you got to shoot more,'" he said. "Young guys don't want to be called selfish on the hockey club. You want to show your teammates, 'look, I'm not a selfish player.' And he's not a selfish player. He sees the open man, but he doesn't hesitate to shoot the puck. I think he stepped in nicely, and he's been everything that everybody thought he was going to be.
"And he might even be better than we thought."