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Since the Chicago Blackhawks won the draft lottery, and the right to draft generational talent, Connor Bedard, the conversation has focused on what happens to the roster now. Does this halt the rebuild? No. It doesn’t.
Should the Hawks start signing free agents to help Bedard right away? Probably not, but maybe they could take on some bad contracts.
Which veteran leaders should Chicago bring in to mentor and help Bedard’s transition? No one. They’re already here.
Yeah, you heard me. All the veteran leadership Connor Bedard needs is already on the Blackhawks roster.
But Jay, isn’t jumping from Junior hockey right to the NHL a tough transition for a kid? Yes, it is. Which is why it’s a good thing Seth Jones, who was drafted fourth overall in the 2013 Draft, is on the team. Jones joined the Nashville Predators immediately, jumping from the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks for his rookie season. He finished the year with 77 games played, six goals and 19 assists. Jones knows exactly what it’s like to be a hyped prospect with massive expectations jumping from juniors to the NHL right away.
But Jay, Connor Bedard is small, and needs a veteran leader to show him how to adapt to the NHL game. Yes, that’s true. Which is why it’s a good thing that two-time Stanley Cup Champion Tyler Johnson is on the roster. Johnson, who is 5-8 185 lbs (compared to the 5-10 185 lb Bedard), has made a career of playing bigger than his size. He never shies away from a puck battle, thrives in the area around the net, and can play center or wing.
But Jay, Chicago can be big and scary for a kid from Vancouver. How will he adjust to life in the big city and its hard-hitting big-market media? Ooh…that’s a good point, which is why it’s a good thing that Connor Murphy, the longest-tenured Blackhawk, has been here since 2017. He knows the city well, and has shown great leadership skills on and off the ice. He’s the most media-savvy Blackhawk by a mile, and is the perfect guy to guide Bedard into his inevitable captaincy without having to surrender “control” of the locker room, as Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane would have.
Okay, but Jay…teams are going to be taking runs at Bedard left and right? Who is going to stand up to opponents taking liberties with Chicago’s young star? I think Bedard is skilled enough to avoid most big hits, but in the case he’s not, yeah it might be smart to have some physical players on the team, which is why it’s a good thing that the Blackhawks currently employ Murphy, Jarred Tinordi and Reese Johnson. Murphy led the team with 69 nice penalty minutes, while Tinordi and Johnson each added 40 of their own over their injury-shortened seasons.
Sometimes, the answer is right there, right? Take the familiarity of the names out of the mix, and Murphy, Johnson and Jones check every box you’d want checked when looking at vets to bring in to help mentor Bedard. Add in the physical presences of Tinordi and Reese Johnson, and the Blackhawks are in pretty good shape. Now, General Manager Kyle Davidson can begin focusing on adding draft assets or taking on bad contracts to strengthen the roster, get to the cap floor and move up in the draft. He’s in complete control of this offseason…just like he drew it up.
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