As the World Juniors tournament came to a close and Canada took the gold medal in a thrilling overtime win, the chatter around top prospect Connor Bedard did not quiet down.
He scored a thrilling goal to send Canada to the medal game, and was named the MVP for the entire tournament. The buzz around Bedard, who is expected to go first overall in the 2023 NHL Draft, has not yet quieted, especially as the trade deadline approaches. Teams are expected to become sellers and tank the season in order to have a chance at drafting Connor Bedard. Here are the teams that could win the draft lottery, and what impact selecting Bedard could have on each club.
The bottom-of-the-barrel Ducks are rolling after selecting top prospect Trevor Zegras in 2019. They show signs of offensive life despite playing some questionable hockey, and their key pieces in Cam Fowler, Kevin Shattenkirk and John Gibson are generating tons of trade interest. They’ve all but guaranteed a spot in the bottom three in the league when the season is done, meaning their odds of winning the draft lottery are pretty high.
Drafting Connor Bedard could only boost the rebuild, as Bedard would join Zegras, Troy Terry and Jamie Drysdale as the key pieces of the Ducks’ future. It may even take them out of the bottom of the league and kickstart the next phase of the process.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Even the addition of Johnny Gaudreau couldn’t save the Blue Jackets from the depths of the Eastern Conference. Despite Gaudreau and Patrik Laine playing solid hockey, Columbus is still solidly in last place in the Eastern Conference. They’re currently competing with the Chicago Blackhawks for last place in the league, and therefore competing for the highest draft lottery odds. Connor Bedard could kick start the offense and create more of an offensive threat up front, especially considering the depth and youth Columbus has on its back end.
Columbus had a few years of relative success, sweeping Tampa Bay in the first round of the playoffs. Bedard would likely start with Columbus right away, and be expected to carry big minutes and a ton of offensive responsibility for the Jackets pretty immediately.
The Blackhawks are, in short, a trainwreck. And, matters will only get worse when Patrick Kane leaves the Windy City, as they’re left with overpaid Seth Jones, short term contract Max Domi, and injury-prone veteran Jonathan Toews (though he, too, could be on the move). It wouldn’t be shocking if the Hawks assumed that Connor Bedard was the solution to their offensive woes. The club has only scored 86 goals on the whole season, and carries a terrible -58 goal differential. What’s more, Domi, Toews and Kane account for 30 of those 86 goals scored.
If the NHL season ends right now, the Hawks would have the highest odds at Connor Bedard, and would be the most likely team to win the first overall pick. He would, of course, be expected to effectively replace Patrick Kane offensively, and shoulder most of the offensive workload.
The desert franchise is in a world of trouble that not even Bedard could save. The Coyotes need a long-term solution for their arena–as sharing a rink with a college hockey club is not a good look for an NHL team–and can’t even be saved from the bottom of the league with tons of young talent like Jakob Chychrun and Clayton Keller.
They’re currently sitting fourth from the bottom, and therefore have a higher chance of winning the NHL Draft lottery than most clubs. Bedard would likely start right away in Arizona, too, and essentially become the beacon trying to lead fans to care about the Coyotes. But, again, not even Connor Bedard can save the Coyotes from relocation talks, and he likely wouldn’t even be able to take them to a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Habs are, by a longshot, the worst Canadian team, and the club from Connor Bedard’s home and native land most likely to land him. They’re fighting with the San Jose Sharks for the fifth worst record in the league, and could very well deliberately tank the rest of the season in order to improve their chances at drafting the young phenom.
Drafting Bedard, for Montreal, would quickly accelerate an already exciting rebuild, as he’d join Cole Caulfield and Nick Suzuki as key building blocks for the future. He would likely slot into the lineup immediately after being drafted and learn through experience, adapting to a speedy, offensive style of gameplay created by fellow Canadian speedster Martin St. Louis, who currently coaches in Montreal.