It’s not often that the race for last is as intense as the race for first, but this NHL season has toppled that trend. All eyes — owners, general managers, coaches and fans — are on 17-year-old Connor Bedard, the crown jewel of this year’s entry draft. Bedard is considered to be not only the best player in his draft class but also a rare, “generational” prospect. Many believe he is the best since Connor McDavid entered the league in 2015 — and the two of them share more traits than just a first name.
Bedard, a Vancouver kid, plays for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League and started with them after being granted “exceptional player status” by Hockey Canada in 2020, allowing him to enter the major juniors a year early. He recently competed in the World Junior Championships for Team Canada, breaking the Canadian record for all-time points with 36, knocking the great Eric Lindros off the throne. Bedard is a 5-foot-10 playmaking center who thrives in all aspects of the game — footspeed, creativity, shooting, defensive instincts, you name it. Dynamite on the ice and a highlight reel goal waiting to happen, Bedard is a bundle of high-end skill wrapped up in one 17-year-old.
It therefore comes as no surprise that NHL general managers have been ogling at Bedard all year, though honestly, some have been ogling since his toddler self was lacing up skates. A look at the current standings shows that Columbus, San Jose, Chicago and Anaheim are in the thick of the loser’s race. With the current NHL Draft Lottery system, where the last-place team only has a 25% chance of getting the No. 1 overall pick, the importance of finishing at the bottom is diminished, but teams will still do everything they can to stack the odds in their favor.
Whichever team plays the ping pong balls right will be adding an immediate superstar to their roster who almost certainly will shape their franchise for years to come. Remember the name: Connor Bedard.
A few other thoughts from around the NHL:
- Speaking of McDavid, the Oiler has 56 goals and 129 points through 68 games. Video game stuff.
- Unlike last year when the playoff picture was wrapped up before January, the Eastern wild card race is on! The Penguins and Islanders currently hold playoff spots, but the Panthers, Sabres, Capitals and Senators are all within 7 points of taking those spots. Florida and Ottawa especially have heated up lately — can they catch up with under 20 games left to play?
- No team has disappointed more than the Calgary Flames this season, who now sit 6 points out of a wild card in the West. Calgary has been too inconsistent and can’t score enough to remain relevant. Old-school head coach Darryl Sutter is popular among management, but could changes be coming to the bench next season?
- L.A. Kings cup-winning goaltender Jonathan Quick, who was stunningly traded to Vegas by way of Columbus at the deadline has had himself quite the start in Sin City. A 3–0 record and .939 save percentage — Quick is sticking it to the Kings for moving him.
Enjoy this week’s action as the playoff push arrives in full gear!