When the Chicago Blackhawks opened their development camp on Friday, everyone knew the main focus of the coverage would be the arrival of number one overall pick Connor Bedard. The 17-year-old center entered the draft as the most hyped prospect since Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, and expectations are already sky high. What we did not expect was how much of an impact Bedard would make on his teammates in such a short time.
Over the course of the week, the media was allowed to chat with Oliver Moore, Samuel Savoie, Ryan Greene, Frank Nazar, and Colton Dach, among others. When given the opportunity, many prospects took time to rave about Bedard as a leader and as a person person…not just a hockey player.
“The one thing that I really liked when I first met him…he was really humble and just a nice guy. I didn’t realize how honest and humble he was. That’s even better than getting the first pick,” Frank Nazar said.
Colton Dach, who was a teammate of Bedard’s at the 2022 World Junior Championships, was also impressed with his off-ice demeanor. “Just the way he carries himself off the ice is something I took away from that tournament. Everything he does on the ice…he’s 10 times better off the ice. He’s such a good kid. He wants to get better. He wants to prove to everyone that he can be the best player.” When asked if Bedard’s teammates fed off of his work ethic, Dach said, “Oh yeah. For sure. Everyone wanted to show him up or try to get better than him, but he was always right there knocking on the door, letting you know that he was going to compete with you each night.”
Kevin Korchinski was also Bedard’s teammate at the WJCs and shared a similar experience to Dach’s. “The thing you don’t get to see is him off the ice. Just him as a friend…whether it’s just after games…having a conversation with him, or just talking to him as a guy. Great guy off the ice. He was a great leader for us there.”
Fellow first-round pick Oliver Moore offered praise of his own. “When I talk to him, you can’t really tell (that) he just got drafted first overall, and he’s a generational talent. He’s a normal kid. The way he carries himself…right after the draft, we were already talking about getting in the gym and getting ready to work. He wants to get better and that’s why he’s so special.”
On Saturday, I asked Bedard how he can be “just one of the guys,” with so much spotlight on him. “I think I’m a pretty normal guy,” Bedard responded. “For me, that’s really important. I don’t see myself as any different just because there’s maybe a little more attention on the outside. I just want to be a good teammate and fit in with the locker room. That’s something I find really important.”
After hearing his teammates rave about him, I wanted to follow up. On Thursday, I asked Bedard how he approached leadership and how he felt hearing that his teammates have gone out of their way to praise him. “I’m just being myself,” Bedard said. “It’s a great thing to hear from people if they think you’re being a good leader. I just try to be a good person. I just come in and work as hard as I can every day and just be nice to everyone around you. That’s kind of my approach to life in general. Hopefully, people look at that and see a leader. That’s something I take a lot of pride in.”
So what does Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson make of all of this? He had the chance to address Bedard’s leadership, as well. “We’re definitely seeing (Bedard’s leadership). I was reading Oliver Moore’s comments about how Connor carries himself has already rubbed off on him. That’s what you want. That’s culture.”
“I’m a normal person, in the end,” Bedard added later. “You have a little more noise around you…I think people might forget that a little bit. I’m a human being. I’m still a 17-year-old kid, but there are responsibilities that come with noise and attention and I’m aware of that, but in the room, I’m just one of the guys. In life and in family, I’m just a normal person.”
We all knew Bedard was going to be very good on the ice, but it speaks volumes to his character that the biggest impression he’s made so far has been off the ice. This is the culture Davidson and head coach Luke Richardson are trying to cultivate. It looks like they’ve already found their next captain in Bedard.