17-year-old Connor Bedard is the hottest name in the NHL Draft conversation, as all signs point to him being a superstar in the making.
The right-handed center is currently a part of the Western Hockey League and is expected to headline the strong class of prospects in the upcoming draft. He is the only player to be awarded “exceptional status”, which allowed him to break into the league as an underaged player at 15.
Last season, he joined an elite group of players that have been selected to Canada’s World Junior team, joining some names you may recognize: Wayne Gretzky, Eric Lindros, Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby.
The 2021-22 season saw Bedard play in a total of 62 games, scoring 51 goals and 49 assists, good for a whopping 100 points. So far this year, he has 11 games under his belt and has nine goals and 11 assists for the Regina Pats in the WHL.
Taking a look at three likely landing spots for Connor Bedard in the 2023 NHL Draft.
1. Arizona Coyotes
The Arizona Coyotes, who have missed out on the playoffs in nine of the last ten seasons, are off to a rough start in the current campaign, losing to the Penguins on Thursday 6-2 and then to the Bruins on Saturday 6-3. As mentioned in our most recent power rankings, the Coyotes project to be in the No. 32 spot for the foreseeable future, putting them in a good spot to land Bedard with the first overall pick.
As the Coyotes continue to spiral downward, losing their fair share of games is highly likely. To make things even worse, the farm system is not exactly full of big name prospects. John Chayka, the club’s former GM, had a bad habit of wasting top picks on prospects that did not pan out (see: Barrett Hayton, Dylan Strome).
With Travis Boyd and Nick Ritchie in place as the team’s top scorers, injecting someone of Bedard’s stature and potential could help Arizona find the winning ways that have eluded them as of late.
2. Montreal Canadiens
While the Montreal Canadiens are at least able to say that they have won a game this year, that certainly doesn’t say much, as the team is very much expected to finish near the bottom of the league this season.
Fortunately, this puts them in a better position to potentially get the draft’s first pick via the draft lottery, which has been known to either drastically help or cripple teams chances in years past. Helping their chances even further is the draft pick they landed in the trade with the Panthers that sent Ben Chariot to Florida.
The Canadiens are a young team in the midst of a rebuild. The health issues surrounding otherworldly goaltender Carey Price have forced the club to turn to the unproven trio of Jake Allen, Sam Montembeault and Cayden Primeau.
With the uncertainty at goaltender, the team’s youngsters may have difficulty adjusting to a revolving door at goalie, likely leading to some struggles that the club has already been seeing early on. Inserting a talent like Connor Bedard to this club could work wonders on reinvigorating the offense should it continue to flop.
3. San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks, much like both the Coyotes and Canadiens, are off to a rough start this season and are already looking next to hopeless. The team is 0-4 entering today thanks to two losses to the Predators and one each to the Hurricanes and Blackhawks.
With many accusing the Coyotes and Canadiens (amongst other teams) of tanking to land Bedard’s services, it doesn’t seem, at least on the surface, that the Sharks are throwing their names into that conversation.
The long-term contract extension handed out to center Tomas Hertl in March was the first move made to show the San Jose faithful that this team is not going to lay down and die. Over the offseason, Oskar Lindblom and Luke Kunin were brought aboard as well to shore up the club’s depth chart.
While the Sharks should not be counted out when it comes to the Bedard sweepstakes, it’s worth wondering if the team’s recent signings and extensions will make it difficult to even afford bringing the young star aboard.