The term “generational talent” gets thrown around too often nowadays, but sometimes there is no denying what the eyes see. And one lucky NHL club is going to have a generational talent on their hands when they draft Connor Bedard at the 2023 NHL Draft.
The Regina Pats star is with Canada at the 2023 World Juniors this winter, giving him arguably his biggest platform to perform before the draft in June. Bedard had a strong performance at the 2022 tournament this summer, helping Canada to win a gold medal, and now he’s back for more.
There is still a long way to go in the NHL season and teams can fluctuate up and down the standings. But as the halfway point approaches, we are getting a sense of which teams will be in the running for the No. 1 pick in the draft and presumably, the rights to select Bedard.
MORE: 2023 World Juniors schedule, standings, results
So which team would present the best fit for Bedard? The Sporting News breaks down the clubs currently with the best chances at the No. 1 pick and where Bedard would thrive the most.
Ranking the best NHL fits for Connor Bedard
The teams selected are the seven teams holding the best odds at getting the No. 1 pick.
1. Anaheim Ducks
Imagine a lineup in the future that consists of the following — Bedard, Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, Jamie Drysdale, Mason McTavish, Nathan Gaucher and Olen Zellweger. Yeah, that’ll do.
Adding Bedard to the Ducks’ immense prospect pool feels unfair, but that very well could be the case. The Ducks are ahead of only the Blackhawks in the league standings, so they will have a good shot at the No. 1 pick. This might be a hot-ish take, but the league is better off when the Ducks are good, despite being a smaller market team, so bringing Bedard out to California would be a great get.
2. Chicago Blackhawks
Just as one era is about to be finished in Chicago, another could start in 2023.
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are all but out the door with their contracts expiring after this season and the Blackhawks in full rebuild mode. Nothing would signify a change in guard more than Bedard taking over for those two superstars as they’re leaving.
Sure, it would be disappointing that we wouldn’t get to see Bedard playing alongside the pair of long-time Chicago legends, but he is the exact kind of player that the organization needs to build around. They are in the early stages of replenishing their prospect pool and desperately could use a high-end talent like Bedard. Plus, how cool would it be to see a generational talent like Bedard in one of the best sports markets?
MORE: Top 10 NHL prospects at 2023 World Juniors
3. Vancouver Canucks
A homecoming for Bedard could be in play. The Canucks have underperformed this season (again) and now could be in serious consideration for the No. 1 pick. Getting the top pick would allow the Canucks to bring the North Vancouver native back home.
The state of the organization is a mess, as Vancouver currently doesn’t have a roster fit to win a cup, they are in complete cap hell and don’t have an extensive prospect pool. Getting Bedard would be a decent-sized step in the right direction. The addition of Bedard would give the Canucks a strong 1-2 down the middle with Elias Pettersson for the foreseeable future.
4. San Jose Sharks
The dog days in San Jose have continued this year.
Last year’s playoff miss marked the third year in a row without a postseason for the Sharks, which set a franchise record. Fans are used to success in the Bay, but these last couple of rough years could be all worth it if the Sharks get that top pick in 2023.
The Sharks have taken steps to fix their own cap situation, as the team looks to re-tool rather than rebuild. They have a No. 1 center in Tomas Hertl, who they signed to a long-term extension last year, so Bedard wouldn’t have to be thrown into the fire. Hertl would be a great mentor for Bedard, like Logan Couture was for him, and Joe Thornton was for Couture.
5. Philadelphia Flyers
How quickly things have turned south in Philly. The Flyers were real contenders right before the pandemic hit, but fast forward to now and they could finish as a bottom-five team for the second consecutive year. Philadelphia was expected to stink this season and boy have they answered that bell.
MORE: Every NHL draft pick at the 2023 World Juniors
Like the Canucks, the Flyers don’t have many promising prospects, don’t have cap space and don’t own a roster that can contend. Bedard would give them their No. 1 center for the future that they don’t have. With that said, John Tortorella’s coaching style and systems might not be the best for an offensive stalwart like Bedard.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets weren’t expected to be great this year, but I don’t think people thought they would find themselves in the potential Bedard sweepstakes.
A win for Columbus? Perhaps in the long term.
The Blue Jackets have a borderline top-five prospect pool, so drafting Bedard would add him to a group that already has Kent Johnson, Cole Sillinger, David Jiricek and Kirill Marchenko.
With the exception of this year’s signing of Gaudreau, the Blue Jackets have struggled to bring in stars through free agency, relying on trades and homegrown talent to compete. In addition, they have had a number of star players want out in recent history, including Artemi Panarin, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Matt Duchene and Jeff Carter. Would Bedard follow that trend? It’s certainly a possibility.
7. Arizona Coyotes
*insert joke about Bedard going from Regina’s 6,484-seat rink to Mullett Arena with 5,000 seats*
The Coyotes have been subpar for quite some time now, yet the franchise has never gotten the top pick in the draft. They are once again threatening to get that selection and could potentially get to pick first. Considering how committed the team has been to fielding a bad roster, it feels like they are due to win the lottery.
MORE: Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli top 2023 draft prospects at World Juniors
Bedard getting stuck out in the desert might be the worst-case scenario for the league, although Gary Bettman is the one leading the charge that hockey can thrive in Arizona. It hasn’t happened yet, but the addition of Bedard would give the Coyotes a promising future alongside 2022 No. 2 pick Logan Cooley.
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