Chicago Blackhawks win the NHL draft lottery — and the right to pick Connor Bedard at No. 1
Lightning struck twice.
When the lottery balls settled Monday for the NHL draft’s first draw, the Chicago Blackhawks were the big winners — securing the No. 1 pick for just the second time in franchise history.
And those instances of lottery luck are equally momentous.
In 2007, the Hawks won the lottery despite the fifth-best odds and spent the No. 1 pick on Patrick Kane, winner of three Stanley Cups in Chicago.
This year the clear-cut prize is 17-year-old forward Connor Bedard, who had a whopping 143 points (71 goals and 72 assists) in 57 games last season for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League.
The Hawks had an 11.5% probability of earning first dibs after finishing with the league’s third-worst record.
“It’s a monumental thing,” general manager Kyle Davidson said on ESPN. “I’m really excited for the fan base, the city. ... It’s a big piece but it’s one piece. ... We’re excited and it’s a great day.”
The run-up to the June 28 draft in Nashville, Tenn., will center on a Big Four of Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Matvei Michkov and Leo Carlsson. But Hawks director of amateur scouting Mike Doneghey said Bedard is in a tier by himself.
Despite coming into the season as the consensus No. 1 pick, “he never took the foot off the gas to relinquish that,” Doneghey told the Tribune last week. “Connor kind of just went about his business all year long and just continued to improve.
“And just when people were like, ‘OK, he can’t do anymore,’ he said, ‘Hold on a second, I got a lot more in the tank.’ He was on a steady climb all year long.”
However, Doneghey cautioned against anointing Bedard as hockey’s next Chosen One too soon. He turns 18 in July.
“Even if Bedard plays in the league next year, he’s an 18-year-old playing among men,” Doneghey said. “There’s still going to be a learning curve.”
The Hawks have a second first-round pick, acquired in a trade last season with the Tampa Bay Lightning. That slot is likely to be No. 20.