Pulling For Bedard

Now that the NHL Trade Deadline has passed, we can all focus on which team will win the biggest prize in hockey this year. No, not the Stanley Cup; the chance to draft franchise-changing talent Connor Bedard. The Ducks, Coyotes, Blackhawks, Blue Jackets and Sharks have the best shot right now. But who else is pulling for Bedard?     

Who has the most to gain from each market? Which team is NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman hoping for? What about those of us who are glued to YouTube for NHL highlights? Maybe an American college would like to see him walking around campus. So many options. 

As the song goes, ‘Be crappy for Conner, Be bad for Bedard’. Make no mistake, the Regina Pats forward will be selected first overall at this summer’s NHL Draft. He will undoubtedly be a force on the ice. He will also garner attention off it, which is never a bad thing for the NHL. Among the last five teams in the NHL standings, each one has someone or something pulling for them to land the big prize. 

Bedard With Benefits  

Anaheim Ducks – YouTube  

Connor Bedard has scored some highlight-reel goals in his young career already. Imagine if he played on a power play with Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, Mason McTavish and Jamie Drysdale? Can you say viral videos on YouTube on a nightly basis?   

Now that the NHL is back on ESPN, great goals are being shown on SportsCenter every night. The Ducks might be leading the show some nights next season with this electrifying addition. Every league craves mainstream exposure, and the Ducks would provide the NHL’s wow factor. It might not lead to wins immediately, but the NHL is in the entertainment business. The Ducks would be a big ticket.   

Arizona Coyotes – Arizona State University  

At 18, many students are graduating from high school and moving off to college. While Bedard will likely not be going to class in the fall, he could be seen around Arizona State next year. The student body attending games on campus at ‘cozy’ Mullett Arena will be able to relate to the new face of the franchise. They are all pulling for Bedard. 

With only 4,600 seats, only 13 percent of the 61,000 students need to buy a ticket to fill the junior-sized arena. The good news is the season starts right around homecoming every year, which makes for a fun, early atmosphere. The bad news is most students will have finished exams and returned home when the playoffs begin in April. That might result in some sparse crowds.  

Chicago Blackhawks – Gary Bettman  

The demise of the Blackhawks has been painful to watch. From three Stanley Cup titles to a lineup that few can recognize without a program, the rebuild is underway. Future Hall-of-Famer Patrick Kane was shipped out of town at the deadline. Jonathan Toews was preparing to move before he suffered from health issues. Who knows what the future holds for the 34-year-old captain?  

What better way to start over than selecting Bedard with the first overall pick? NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman might be the happiest person in the building, knowing the Blackhawks will be relevant again. More Winter Classics, Stadium Series Games, international games… the opportunities are endless.    

Columbus Blue Jackets – Johnny Gaudreau  

Johnny Gaudreau signed a big free agent contract over the summer, but has little talent with which to play. He took less money to leave the Calgary Flames after eight good seasons. Last season, he scored 40 goals playing on a line with Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk. This season, he has 15 goals playing on a line with Boone Jenner and Kirill Marchenko. Can you say free agent remorse?  

Jenner is a good NHL player, but not a #1 centre (this coming from an Oshawa Generals fan). However, Bedard is a legitimate #1 centre. As a bonus, he shoots right, which would mean the world to Gaudreau’s numbers on the left side. Or maybe fellow left-winger Patrik Laine, who has struggled since scoring over 100 times in his first three seasons, could rejuvenate his career.    

Here’s a conspiracy theory: Maybe this was Gaudreau’s plan all along to get to play with the next superstar for the remainder of his contract! Gaudreau is definitely pulling for Bedard.  

San Jose Sharks – Logan Couture and Marc-Edouard Vlasic  

Logan Couture and Marc-Edouard Vlasic have been with the Sharks organization for their entire careers. They have enjoyed some long playoff runs, but now missed the post-season for the fourth straight season. The franchise that has come close but never won could take another long playoff run in short order.  

Later this month, Couture will turn 34, while Vlasic will be 36. It might be too late for them, but being life-long Sharks, they would love to see Bedard hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.   

Five different teams mean five unique benefits to drafting Connor Bedard with the first overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. Whichever team selects him will reap the benefits of his phenomenal abilities on the ice.   

They will also enjoy the intangibles of selling more tickets, watching jerseys fly off the shelves and be the talk of the league wherever they go. Just ask the Edmonton Oilers and Connor McDavid’s effect on that franchise. Let the race to the bottom begin, followed by the drama of Draft Lottery Day.   

From Gary Bettman to YouTube, everyone is pulling for Bedard.

Main Photo: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports