Every few years, a player enters the National Hockey League to astronomical levels of hype. They receive lofty comparisons, are heavily promoted by the league, and are touted as one of the next great athletes before they even touch the ice in a professional game. This was the case for players like Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby, and both have surpassed every expectation to become generational talents. This is also the case for Connor Bedard, the incredible youngster who was the first overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Bedard has been hyped up since he received exceptional status to play in the WHL a year early. He was the first-ever player to receive this status. Even though he was a year younger than everyone he played with, Bedard hit the ground running. He established himself as a generational prospect and was the firmly established pick for the Blackhawks, who now have a once-in-a-decade talent at the center position.
Bedard has been hyped up by analysts and fans for several years, and he is entering the NHL to massive expectations. While he is still just a few months removed from his 18th birthday, Bedard is listed on every sportsbook on mybettingcanada.com as the presumptive favourite for the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. He is entering the league to a massive amount of fanfare, including from some of the generational talents like McDavid and Crosby, who know what it’s like to arrive to great expectations.
Connor McDavid knows better than most what the difficulties of adjusting to the changes Bedard has to navigate are like. In an interview with the NHL’s Tracey Myers, McDavid said, “It’s a really, really hard league. It’s a league full of grown men that have been playing for a long time, and you know what? He’s a really special 18-year-old hockey player, and it’ll take some time.”
McDavid discussed the difficulty of playing in a league with experienced, older, more physically mature players. He also talked about the difficulty of adjusting to the lifestyle. Being away from family, in unfamiliar cities, and being on your own for the first time can be a challenge.
In the same interview, Myers also talks with Crosby about the adjustment. While many younger hockey fans only know Crosby as the longstanding legend of the game, who has played in three separate decades, Crosby entered the league as a young 18-year-old with massive expectations on his shoulders. He is someone who can provide sage advice for Bedard.
“I think that guys who are in that situation, I think, thankfully, they’ve gotten to that point because they can handle that,” Crosby said. “You know, if you’re a first overall pick or if you’ve achieved what he has, it’s not like you’re waking up Day One in the NHL and have these expectations all of a sudden. So I think he’s shown he can handle it. And he’s dealt with it really well.”
It isn’t easy for an 18-year-old to face a consistent media circus and huge expectations to perform at a high level immediately. Bedard is a rare figure in a league filled with grown men who have been at it for decades. But his talent is also rare. He is a dynamic scorer who will enter the league with one of the best shots in the game. He is incredibly skilled, has great hockey sense, and put up incredible stats at lower levels.
While some question whether Bedard can shine straight away against bigger, more physical players, in Crosby and McDavid, he has believers. And in his first professional game, Bedard looked excellent, racking up an assist and five shots on goal.