The Washington Capitals could have the opportunity to select the next generational superstar in the NHL if things go their way in next Monday’s NHL Draft Lottery.
Connor Bedard is far and away the consensus number-one overall selection in the 2023 draft and the Caps, who finished as the league’s eighth-worst team, have a six percent chance of moving up to the very top of the draft. They would undoubtedly then make the center prospect a member of their organization next season.
So, why is there so much hype behind Bedard, and why exactly would it be huge for the Capitals if they were to somehow have their lotto ball pulled by Commissioner Gary Bettman?
Bedard first emerged into the hockey spotlight when he was 13 years old. The Hockey News‘ Ken Campbell did a profile on him titled Meet the Future of Hockey, 13-Year-Old Connor Bedard. Bedard at the time was playing for the West Van Hockey Academy of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League.
A year later as a 14-year-old, while playing on the school’s U18 team, Bedard led the league in goals and points and was named MVP.
That sort of success at an advanced age level was followed by his first foray into major Canadian junior hockey. Bedard was granted “exceptional status” by Hockey Canada, allowing him to enter the CHL a year earlier than he normally would.
At the WHL Bantam Draft in 2020, the Regina Pats made Bedard the first overall selection and with that pick, he was made the first-ever WHL player of exceptional status. As a rookie with the Pats, he put up 28 points (12g, 16a) in 15 games. That performance earned him the Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year.
Bedard also played four games in Sweden at the junior level that season with HV71, recording four points (2g, 2a). Current Capitals prospect Alexander Suzdalev was his teammate for those four games.
Bedard’s first full WHL season came as a 16-year-old during the 2021-22 campaign. That year he became the youngest player in league history to score 50 or more goals in a season. He finished the year with 100 points (51g, 46a) from 62 games.
That 100-point season was also record-setting as he became the fourth 16-year-old to ever reach the century mark and the first in the 21st century.
Bedard also made his first appearance at the U20 IIHF World Junior Championship, becoming just the seventh 16-year-old to ever do so for Canada. He joined a short list there that features Wayne Gretzky (1978), Eric Lindros (1990), Jason Spezza (2000), Jay Bouwmeester (2000), Sidney Crosby (2004), and Connor McDavid (2014).
Bedard had a four-goal game in the tournament before that result was annulled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once the proceedings were restarted in August, Bedard tallied eight points (4g, 4a) in seven games for Canada on the way to a gold medal.
This past season was Bedard’s last in the WHL before his assured rookie NHL season and his first with Suzdalev as a teammate on the Pats. He finished with an absolutely absurd 143 points (71g, 72a) in only 57 games, becoming the first WHL player to have a 140-point season since the 1995–96 season.
“His skill level is really high,” Suzdalev told RMNB of Bedard. “His skill set is something else. How he shoots the puck is pretty crazy to see. He just works hard off the ice and on the ice. Very good person.”
Bedard was named to the Canadian World Junior team again for the 2023 tournament. With his 23 points (9g, 14a) in seven games, he set a new world record for points by a player under the age of 18, previously held by Jaromir Jagr (18). The 23 points were also the fourth-highest total in overall tournament history behind only Raimo Helminen (24), Markus Naslund (24), and Peter Forsberg (31).
Canada once again won a gold medal and Bedard was named the WJC’s best forward by the IIHF and its most valuable player.
Bedard’s highly-anticipated arrival will likely be a franchise-changing one for any team that gets the opportunity to draft him. It would certainly be one for an aging Washington Capitals team that has seen a quite barren prospect cupboard for some time now and will be hiring a new head coach for the 2023-24 season.
With captain Alex Ovechkin just 72 goals away from tying Wayne Gretzky for first all-time in NHL goal-scoring, Bedard coming to DC could speed up that process and make it even more of a guarantee.
It would also completely jumpstart the Caps’ roster retool and give general manager Brian MacLellan a much easier job to do as the Caps look to get back into the playoffs after having their worst, full 82-game season in 16 years.
Cross your fingers, Caps fans. The Draft Lottery will be held on Monday, May 8, at 8 pm ET and aired on ESPN.
Screenshot via NHL/YouTube
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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