Blackhawks Phenom Connor Bedard Could Become Biggest Chicago Sports Star

Written By C.J. Pierre on July 7, 2023
Connor Bedard

Even though he has yet to set foot on the ice in a regular season game for the Chicago Blackhawks, Connor Bedard is already the talk of the town.

The No. 1 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft by the Blackhawks has been making the rounds. Some of his adventures during his first week in Chicago included getting steak and pasta at Gibson’s Italia and going to a Chicago Cubs game, where he threw out the first pitch.

But the hype surrounding Bedard is due to his talents on the ice. He has been touted as the best NHL prospect since Connor McDavid, who is a two-time NHL MVP.

Expectations are high that he can improve the Blackhawks’ odds of making the playoffs and competing for the Stanley Cup.

He isn’t the only young stud that Chicago sports fans are putting a lot of faith into. Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields is also being viewed as a ‘savior’ of sorts. The hope is that these two young men can bring their teams back into the winning conversation in the near future.

Can Bedard turn the ship around for the Blackhawks in his first year?

Bedard is the talk of the town

Music megastar Drake kicked off his most recent tour in Chicago by showing some love to the city’s newest star. In an Instagram story, the rapper shouted out his fellow Canadian Connor Bedard hours ahead of his packed show at the United Center.

Drake posted a photo of Bedard with the caption, “Dialed in.”

Courtesy: Drake’s Instagram: @champagnepapi

Bedard, who turns 18 in August, is widely regarded as a generational talent. He is the second No. 1 overall pick in Chicago Blackhawks franchise history, joining only Patrick Kane. Once the selection was made, social media was buzzing about the team’s newest addition.

Bedard is only 17, but he is already being touted as the next big thing in the NHL. And he is expected to help the Blackhawks expedite their rebuild and return to winning hockey. NHL fans jumped into the debate on social media regarding just how good a prospect Bedard is.

The Bedard buzz has been brewing for a while now. The Blackhawks made $5.2 million in ticketing revenue less than a day after winning the 2023 NHL draft lottery. Furthermore, the team said they sold 500 full-season ticket packages in the first 90 minutes after the lottery results were announced.

It is also important to note that the Bedard merch is flying off the shelves. The Blackhawks negotiated with the NHL and NHLPA to have Bedard put on a No. 98 jersey when he was selected No. 1 overall, so they could put the jerseys on sale ASAP that night. Now the Blackhawks’ store on Michigan Avenue has Bedard jerseys everywhere.

Bedard joins Fields as Chicago’s young bright stars

Bedard is the latest addition to the “Save Chicago Sports” club. Most of Chicago’s pro teams are hovering in mediocre-to-lousy territory. However, another bright spot has been in town for a couple of years.

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields is also being viewed as a beacon of hope for Chicago sports fans. Fields, like Bedard, was a highly-touted prospect. However, Fields did not go No. 1 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. In fact, it wasn’t until after his sophomore season that folks started to see his talent blossom on the field.

Since Fields was drafted, the Bears have gone 9-25. Last year, the team went 3-14 and earned the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Typically, the team with the worst record in the NFL is looking for a quarterback. However, Fields showed flashes of brilliance that even earned him an MVP vote.

The Bears flipped the No. 1 pick for wideout D.J. Moore and additional draft capital. So it appears that everything is in place for Fields to take a leap and lead the Bears back into relevancy.

The beauty is that Fields is no longer the sole young phenom in Chicago. With Bedard also in town, there is another place for Chicago fans sports to focus on as these teams look to compete for championships.

Odds Bedard can lead the Blackhawks to a successful season

The expectation is that Bedard will start the season as the Blackhawks’ best player. But is there enough to mold this team into a playoff contender? According to Illinois sports betting sites, the answer is “not likely.”

PointsBet Sportsbook has the Blackhawks’ odds of winning the Western Conference at +5000. That puts them outside the Top 8, meaning they have a better chance of missing the playoffs altogether. However, some hockey experts say the Blackhawks definitely have an opportunity to surprise us. Surrounding Bedard with well-respected veterans was a smart move.

Bedard and the rest of the Blackhawks draft class have a lot of work ahead of them.

Chicago, which won the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015, has been in the Stanley Cup Playoffs three times since that last Cup win. However, they have been unable to advance past the first round.

Photo by George Walker IV / AP Photo
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C.J. Pierre

C.J. Pierre is a Lead Writer at Play Illinois. He has been covering news and sports for over a decade for both online and TV broadcasts. He was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN and is an alum of Minnesota State University: Moorhead. He recently dove into tribal casino and online gambling news. He also covered the launch of sports betting in Arizona. C.J. has experience as a reporter and videographer and has covered high school, college and professional sports throughout his career, most notably following Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Vikings and North Dakota State University football.

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