Connor Bedard: The Race for Last Place

Connor Bedard

It is always more fun to predict the top teams. Teams poised for cup contention, and talented players at the best of their ability. On the polar opposite end, there are the lottery teams. After a rough season, there is always light at the end of the tunnel – a high draft pick. Adding a skilled prospect to your franchise is the main element in securing a contending future. The 2022 NHL Draft was very tight at the top, with the race for first overall being undecided until Kent Hughes walked on the stage. However, the 2023 NHL draft has a clear number one at this point: Connor Bedard.

When Bedard was 15, he was granted exceptional access to the WHL. At 16, he was a leader on Canada’s U20 team, as well as scoring 50 goals for Regina. At 17, he will surely impress, however, he only turned 17 about a month ago. Shades of Connor McDavid with superior goal-scoring ability makes Bedard one of the most exciting prospects in years – and several teams are hedging their bets on acquiring him for their future.

Top Teams in the Race for Bedard

The bottom-feeding teams from this past season are likely going to be in the same spot this upcoming season. While things are looking up for the Ottawa Senators, New Jersey Devils and Detroit Red Wings, the Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers, Montreal Canadiens, and Seattle Kraken look to remain at the bottom of the pack. The San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks equally look poised to contend for a lottery pick.

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Montreal Canadiens

When the Dallas Stars brought the Coyotes to overtime in their 81st game of the season, nobody understood the importance of that one overtime point. If Arizona had lost that game in regulation, they would have finished the season with 55 points, one behind Montreal. Instead, they tied in points, but having more wins, Montreal won the tie-breaker. Coming in last place, Montreal had the best odds to pick first overall in the 2022 entry draft. When the lottery ball came through, and Montreal was awarded first overall, they shocked the hockey world by selecting Juraj Slafkovsky. The odds of winning first overall twice aren’t in the Canadiens’ favour. However, they are a prime candidate to finish 32nd overall.

A team where the second defensive pairing will likely have combined for 17 career NHL games (Jordan Harris and Justin Barron), the Habs roster is quite weak. Uncertainty in the net is equally doing them no favours. Their offence looks pretty solid, with young dynamic players like Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki. However, the offence isn’t enough to bail them out of a worrying back-end.

Factors to Consider

The Canadiens saw a significant uptick in performance under Martin St. Louis. Going 14-19-4, the Habs would be on a 56-point pace in a full season, ever so slightly higher than their actual performance last season. However, players like Caufield and Suzuki are poised to improve this year and could win some additional games for the team. Sam Montembeault will equally be healthy and could be an underrated factor in the team’s success.


The Canadiens will finish 30th, with 64 points (29-47-6).

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Chicago Blackhawks

A team that won three cups in five years, the Blackhawks are a skeleton of the team they once were. With franchise cornerstones Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane likely on their way out as well, the Hawks are poised to have a truly awful season. Going for a true full rebuild, Chicago traded 24-year-old 40-goal scorer Alex DeBrincat and 2019 3rd overall pick Kirby Dach away at the draft (netting them Kevin Korchinski, Frank Nazar, Paul Ludwinski and Gavin Hayes). With very little left on their roster, the Blackhawks could be doing something we haven’t seen since 2015. The deliberate tanking for Connor McDavid saw teams like the Buffalo Sabres trade anything and everything they could – Chicago appears to be doing the same for Bedard. With their current franchise center in Toews possibly on his way out, Bedard would be a fantastic replacement.

Factors to Consider

If Toews and Kane stay in Chicago, it is much less likely they finish last. Seth Jones is equally an incredibly important player and had a sneakily good season last year. If Petr Mrazek returns to form, he could also win some games for the team. Being given much more ice time, free-agent signing Max Domi could be impactful as well. Their top NHL-ready prospect Lukas Reichel is equally poised to have a breakout season.


The Blackhawks will finish 31st, with 60 points (25-47-10).

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Arizona Coyotes

While the Coyotes may have been robbed of last place this past year, they could have the best odds to draft Bedard. They were very bad this past year, and there isn’t much on their roster to inspire any hope. While players like Clayton Keller and Lawson Crouse are legitimately good, the team around them isn’t. 2022 first-round draft picks Logan Cooley, Connor Geekie, and Maveric Lamoureux are all staying in junior this season, and they don’t have much in the way of incoming talent. While Karel Vejmelka was good last year, it is unlikely he is a catalyst for the team.

Factors to Consider

There isn’t much to consider when it comes to positives in Arizona. Losing one of their top players in Phil Kessel is a big hit, and there is still significant defensive uncertainty. Their goaltending has some promise with Vejmelka, but with a team payroll that consists of cap dumps and burials, they are unlikely to succeed.


The Coyotes will finish 32nd, with 48 points (21-54-7).

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Other Teams to Consider

There are several teams that will be on the fringe of this bottom-three spot.

Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers have spent years as a fringe playoff team, however, without Claude Giroux, their success appears unlikely. New coach John Tortorella may have significant experience, but his success recently has been minimal.

Young forwards in Owen Tippett, Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee could make an impact, while Cam York is improving quickly – Carter Hart has a lot of room to grow as well. With as many young pieces as the Flyers have, it would be logical to commit to a rebuild, however, that doesn’t seem like a likely route for the Broad Street Bullies.

Seattle Kraken

The Kraken didn’t see much success in their first season. Being compared to the Vegas Golden Knights, who reached the Stanley Cup Finals in their first season, Ron Francis built a disappointing team. Luckily for them, they have a bright future down the middle. Having already drafted Matty Beniers and Shane Wright – adding Connor Bedard would be a ridiculous feat. Without Mark Giordano, their team lacks effectiveness on the blue-line while being underwhelming at forward. Their goaltending was supposed to be a bright spot, however, Philipp Grubauer was terrible this past year.

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks have a large part of their roster taken up by some of the worst contracts in the NHL. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Erik Karlsson and Logan Couture all provide significantly less than their contract suggests, while Tomas Hertl‘s new deal is significantly inflated for a player of his calibre.

Buffalo Sabres

While Buffalo has improved enough to leave this tier, in a strong Eastern Conference they will be outmatched. They weren’t big players in free agency and thus are still stuck with the uninspiring goaltending duo of Craig Anderson and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. The future of the team looks very bright, however.

Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks are another team on the rise. However, they likely have another season or two until they can contend. With an incredibly strong defensive crop of Jamie Drysdale, Noah Warren, Tristan Luneau, Oren Zellweger, Pavel Mintyukov and Drew Helleson, Anaheim is almost sure to be a threat sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, their team is still very young, and they aren’t quite on the level of other Western Conference teams. Adding a player like Connor Bedard to a team with young superstar Trevor Zegras, and world juniors MVP Mason McTavish down the middle would make Anaheim an even bigger future threat.

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High Risk, High Reward

Putting a team through a tough season is a big decision. Possibilities of stunted development and weakened team morale have to be a consideration. However, when it comes to a player as special as Connor Bedard, it is a risk many teams will be willing to take.

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