Lightning Round: The winner of the Connor Bedard Sweepstakes will be announced tonight
Draft season kicks off tonight.
If there is a bright light at the end of a dark season for a NHL team, it's the chance to improve your roster with a high draft pick. If your team does happen to finish at the bottom of the standings at a time when a generational talent looms as the consensus number one pick, even better. Tonight, one team will hear their name called as the owners of the number one pick in the 2023 NHL Draft and have the chance to draft Connor Bedard.
The 2023 NHL Draft is reportedly a deep one with any of the top five teams (at least) having a chance at picking up a franchise player. While Adam Fantilli, Matvei Michkov, Leo Carlsson, and Will Smith (not that Will Smith) will likely by household names in a few years, none of them have the hype surrounding the consensus number one pick - Connor Bedard.
Unlike last year where Shane Wright was seemingly the top pick until the draft drew closer and he was usurped by Juraj Slafkovsky and others, Bedard is going to go number one. There hasn't been this type of anticipation for a prospect since Auston Matthews went first overall in 2016, and it's reaching 2015 Connor McDavid level.
Bedard has been on the radar since at least 2018 when The Hockey News named him "the future of hockey" in an article by Ken Campbell. At just 13-years-old, weighing a slight 150 lbs and standing just 5'7" he was already drawing comparisons to McDavid and Sidney Crosby.
He was granted exceptional status in 2020 and was drafted first overall in the Western Hockey League by the Regina Pats. In three seasons with the Pats, the North Vancouver native put up 271 points (134 goals, 137 assists) in 134 games. He's already represented Team Canada twice at the Under-20 Mens' World Junior Championships, putting up 17 goals and 19 assists in 16 games (if you include the 2 games that were played at the 2021 World Juniors that were started in December and then postponed).
Bedard heads into the draft ranked first by every major scouting bureau and service in the land. The only question left, is who is going to get him? The pool consists of 11 teams. Technically, all 15 teams that didn't make the playoffs are eligible, but thanks to a rule put in place in 2021, the most a team can move up is 10 spots, so the 11 teams that have a numerical chance at altering their franchise are:
As you can see the odds are heavily in favor of the Anaheim Ducks with an 18.5% chance of seeing their logo flipped over in conjunction with the number one pick. Vancouver has the lowest odds at 3% (and would be the funniest outcome). As explained by this article from The Athletic, Anaheim's odds are closer to 25.5%. If any of the non-playoff teams outside of the top 11 win the lottery, they will move up 10 spots and Anaheim gets the top spot. Bully for the Ducks.
Adding Bedard to a talented young roster that already includes Trevor Zegras, Mason McTavish, and Troy Terry (with Nathan Gaucher and Sasha Pastujov waiting in the wings) would, if nothing else, make Anaheim a fun team to watch. Of course, the fact that they are on the West Coast probably doesn't appeal to the NHL or ESPN, but, hey no one complained that Wayne Gretzky did most of his damage at 11:00 PM EST.
If the Chicago Blackhawks (currently sitting with the third best odds) were to win and jump up to the first spot, the conspiracy theorists would have a field day. With the championship era in the Windy City officially over, having Bedard jump into the line-up in place of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane would be mighty convenient. In the era of technology it's not quite as easy as a frozen envelope, but Gary Bettman is a smart guy and could figure it out.
Montreal or Washington would be interesting fits for him while watching John Tortorella bench him for stretches at a time would provide the most internet fodder. Columbus would also be an intriguing fit with some of the young talent they have there as well.
The 2023 NHL Draft Lottery will be televised on ESPN and ESPN+ in the US and Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada. ESPN's coverage will begin at 7:00 PM EST and lead into Game Three of the Vegas/Edmonton series.
Lightning, NHL, Hockey News
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