So here we are, finding ourselves with the second best odds of landing one of these so-called “generational talents”. How good is Connor Bedard, and what would he mean for the Blue Jackets?
The short answer here: he’s really, really good. First off, he scored 9 goals and 23 points in 7 games at the World Junior Championships … as an underage player. That tournament is dominated by 18 and 19 year old players, many of whom are high draft picks, some who play professional hockey at various levels, and he dominated. He became the all-time leading scorer for Canada at the tournament: at just 17 years old. This would be plenty to cement his status as a top-five pick in almost any draft, but that’s not all he did.
He scored 71 goals and 143 points in the WHL, in just 57 games this season. He led the entire CHL in scoring – and again it’s worth noting, this is a level typically dominated by 18, 19, and even 20 year old players; including high NHL draft picks. He did all of this before he’s even eligible to be drafted. If you look at his full season, including playoffs, it reads like this: 94 goals, 194 points in 78 games.
The most recent player that we’ve seen given the “generational” label is Connor McDavid. In his draft season, he averaged 2.55 points per game at the CHL level. His Erie Otters had three 100+ point players that season; including McDavid (120 points), Dylan Strome (129 points), and Alex DeBrincat (104 points). Bedard just averaged 2.50 points per game, on a team that he led in scoring by 57 points.
When you watch him play, it’s impossible not to get excited. Every time he’s on the ice, he’s clearly the best player out there, buzzing around and creating offense every time the puck gets into his general area. He has a shot that would already be considered very high end at the NHL level, with a quick release and the ability to let it go from a variety of angles. He’s a terrific passer with shifty feet and hands, something he doesn’t get enough credit for.
The attributes that really stand out for me though, are his hockey IQ and his competitive nature. We’ve seen guys come along with elite level shots, or great playmaking ability. But often, what sets great players from good players, are these two attributes. Bedard has a knack for getting lost in the action, only to appear in a high danger area with the puck on his stick. He’s also a player who strives to get better at everything he does, and will do whatever it takes to help his team win. These are the attributes, in my opinion, that will make him a star the moment he steps foot into an NHL arena.
If you watched the 2000s-era Blue Jackets, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say that Rick Nash was the face of this franchise. He meant so much to Columbus, especially in the youth hockey circles. He was the only star player we had, and he was one of the best scoring wingers in the NHL. Just ask Sean Kuraly, or Jack Roslovic, or any other Central Ohio trained hockey player who grew up around that time, they’ll tell you the same thing.
Yet Rick Nash was only a marginal first overall pick. He had a great career, don’t get me wrong – but look at some of the other names that were taken over the last 25 or so years. He’s pretty middle of the pack.
Comparing him to Connor Bedard at the same age, there’s really no comparison. Rick became the face of a struggling franchise for more than a decade, reaching 40 goals just three times in his career. Bedard will not only be the face of the franchise – he could be the face of the entire NHL in just a few seasons’ time.
If you take the full package here and put it all together: Johnny Gaudreau, Patrik Laine, Kent Johnson, Cole Sillinger, Kirill Marchenko, David Jiricek, Denton Mateychuk, really, the whole prospect pool … Connor Bedard could be the final piece of the puzzle. The driving force that thrusts this team into perennial Stanley Cup contention. That’s what he would mean to the Blue Jackets.