May 5, 2023

Evaluating the best NHL Draft Lottery fits for Connor Bedard

The Connor Bedard train has been rolling since he was just 16, and now he’s just days away from finding out where this generational talent will call home.

Bedard’s name has been relevant around the hockey world well before his draft year, as the North Vancouver, British Columbia native has lived up to the hype. Finishing what will likely be his final year of junior hockey, Bedard’s numbers this season with the Regina Pats were video game-esque. In just 57 games, Bedard’s 143 points (71 goals, 72 assists) were 36 more than the WHL’s second-best, while managing to win the goal-scoring race by 21 snipes.

Aside from doing everything asked of him in Regina, Bedard also represented his country with flying colors. His 2023 World Juniors went down as one of the greatest of all time, finishing with 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in just seven games on his way to a second consecutive gold medal with Canada. 

Now that his time in juniors is likely over, one team will have its fortunes changed forever in what is the most anticipated Draft Lottery since 2015 when the Edmonton Oilers were granted the first overall pick and the right to select Connor McDavid.

The two aren’t without valid comparisons.

Eleven out of the 16 teams in the lottery are eligible to win the first overall pick, as a team can only move up a maximum of 10 spots from their original position. The Anaheim Ducks, who had the league’s lowest point total, own the greatest odds at 25.5%.

Of the 11 teams capable of winning the Bedard sweepstakes, let’s take a look at the fit for Bedard within each organization:

Anaheim Ducks
Lottery Draft Odds: 25.5%

While the Ducks were the NHL’s worst team this season, Anaheim may be the best fit for Bedard. The franchise has struggled the past few seasons, resulting in high draft picks. With Trevor Zegras already one of the league’s most polarizing figures, and the emergence of Mason McTavish, Bedard could become the third member of a three-headed monster at the forward position.

With some talented offensive-minded defensemen coming through Anaheim’s system in Pavel Mintyukov and Olen Zellweger, by adding Bedard, the Ducks could easily become one of the most exciting teams in the NHL and bring a notoriety to hockey in Southern California similar to the early ’90s when Wayne Gretzky joined the Kings.

Columbus Blue Jackets
Lottery Draft Odds: 13.5%

When the Columbus Blue Jackets made the shock signing of the season, bringing Johnny Gaudrdeau to Ohio, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen expected to see improvement in his team and possibly a playoff push. Unfortunately, the injury bug decimated the Blue Jackets lineup all season, losing 575 games to injury, second-most in the league.

Winning the lottery and selecting Bedard would give an elite center to either Gaudreau or Patrik Laine. Though the three wouldn’t likely play together five-on-five, the options on the power play would be endless. It’s been a while since Columbus was competitive, and Bedard could change the course of their future. 

Chicago Blackhawks
Lottery Draft Odds: 11.5%

The Chicago Blackhawks could have had the best odds to land Bedard if it weren’t for a late-season victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, which ultimately eliminated Pittsburgh from playoff contention. With the departure of Patrick Kane and Captain Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks are without a face of the franchise. Bedard could instantly jump into that role wearing the league’s most noticeable sweater.

Chicago has been accumulating draft picks the past few seasons as they are in full rebuild mode. With three first-round picks last year, 13th overall pick Frank Nazar, currently playing at the University of Michigan, could eventually join Bedard to become the organization’s new Kane and Toews. 

Bedard would be the first building block to Chicago’s future and could be appointed captain sooner rather than later.

San Jose Sharks
Lottery Draft Odds: 9.5%

After years of being near the top of the league standings, the San Jose Sharks now find themselves at the bottom of the tank. Bedard in the Bay Area would bring excitement to hockey in Northern California like never before. While the Sharks have struggled, they still have a talented roster in Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, and the reinvigorated Erik Karlsson. Not to mention, top prospect William Eklund will likely be part of the Sharks’ opening night roster. 

The addition of Bedard could put them back into playoff talk, as they would have two formidable forward lines making matchups much more challenging than they have been in the past.

Montreal Canadiens
Lottery Draft Odds: 8.5%

Bedard would immediately be accepted as one of their own by the fans of the Montreal CanadiensThough the team had an unheralded run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2021, Montreal has been free-falling ever since. The Habs drafted Juraj Slafkovsky first overall in 2022 and hope to repeat in 2023. 

Before his injury, we saw what Martin St. Louis did for Cole Caufield’s game. While Bedard plays a different style from Caufield, St. Louis could unlock some unseen potential in 2023’s No. 1. Not to mention what having a center like Bedard could do for the game of Slafkovsky. If the Canadiens are announced winners of the NHL Draft Lottery, the bars down Crescent St. in downtown Montreal may have a playoff vibe for the night.

Arizona Coyotes
Lottery Draft Odds: 7.5%

There may not be a franchise more deserving of Connor Bedard than the Arizona Coyotes. After years of relocation discussion, the Coyotes will finally have their new arena in Tempe, AZ, and what would be better than having Bedard lead them into their new home? After years of taking on bad contracts in exchange for draft picks, the Coyotes are building their future from the bottom up.

While Bedard led the 2023 World Juniors in points, second in the tournament was 2022’s No. 3 pick, Logan Cooley. Cooley is the Coyotes’ top prospect and will likely join the team next year after a successful freshman season at the University of Minnesota. Dylan Guenther, who played part of the season with Arizona before being returned to juniors, is also projected to be part of the opening night roster and has played alongside Bedard in international play — including scoring the golden goal in Canada’s gold medal-winning game against Czechia. If playing alongside Guenther didn’t work out, he could always play next to Clayton Keller, who had a career year averaging more than a point-per-game. 

Philadelphia Flyers
Lottery Draft Odds: 6.5%

After looking like a team ready to compete for the Stanley Cup, the Philadelphia Flyers have missed the playoffs in each of the past three seasons. They’ve been missing that game-breaker for what seems like forever, and Bedard would certainly fit that role. If healthy, Philadelphia would have a one-two punch down the middle with Bedard and Sean Couturier — if healthy — along with young forwards around them like Owen Tippett, who the Flyers acquired in the trade for Claude Giroux, and last year’s leading point producer, Travis Konecny.

It would be interesting to see how Bedard would fit into a John Tortorella system, as there is no doubt Torts would want to see the face of the franchise blocking every shot that comes his way.

Washington Capitals
Lottery Draft Odds: 6.0%

After missing the playoffs for only the second time in the last 16 seasons, Bedard could put the Washington Capitals back into title contention. While Nicklas Backstrom has been struggling with injuries recently, Bedard could fill that role by centering Alexander Ovechkin, giving the Capitals one of the most dynamic scoring duos in the league.

It would be incredible to see those two playing alongside each other, as defenders would be forced to pick their poison. Wayne Gretzky’s goal-scoring record would be in immediate peril, and Washington’s rebuild could be over before it even started.

Detroit Red Wings
Lottery Draft Odds: 5.0%

Could there be a better fit for Bedard’s future than landing with the Detroit Red Wings? With Steve Yzerman playing puppet-master as he rebuilt this team from the ground up, Bedard could be the final piece of the puzzle, returning the Red Wings to the pinnacle of the hockey world.

Yzerman has accumulated plenty of draft capital over the past few seasons, with some already blossoming into perennial superstars. Bedard playing alongside Lucas Raymond or Marco Kasper would be a line combo capable of playing together for the next 15 years. Add Moritz Seider on the back end, and you’re possibly looking at the new Yzerman-Sergei Fedorov-Nicklas Lidstrom combo.

St. Louis Blues
Lottery Draft Odds: 3.5%

With the trades of Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly this season, the St. Louis Blues are ready to turn the keys over to a new driver. They’ve already extended Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou to long-term extensions, but Bedard would become the face of the franchise. 

The immediate future looks bleak in St. Louis, as they’ll need strong drafts in each of the next few years, but it’s hard to imagine someone like Bedard couldn’t speed that process up by at least a year or two. As incredible as Bedard may wind up being, he needs help. Look at his fantastic season this year in Regina, yet the Pats couldn’t make it out of the first round.

Vancouver Canucks
Lottery Draft Odds: 3.0%

What story could be better than a local boy heading home to save the Vancouver Canucks? Born and raised in North Vancouver, this would be a homecoming for Bedard. Caught somewhere between retooling and a rebuild, winning the lottery would throw both ideas out the window and turn this into a team ready to compete for playoff contention.

With Elias Pettersson currently the team’s top center, he and Bedard would become a goal-scoring duo striking fear into the Western Conference for the next decade. The addition this year of Andrei Kuzmenko and the potential of Vasili Podkolzin would make this a very young, extremely scary team. 

While heading home sounds like a great story, Bedard will already have the pressure of the world on his shoulders from whichever franchise is lucky enough to draft him. Add in the pressure from friends and family, and it can be almost too much to handle for an 18-year-old.

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