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Who is Connor Bedard? Five things to know about top NHL prospect

Five things to know about top NHL draft prospect Connor Bedard originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The 2023 NHL Draft Lottery might as well have been called the “Connor Bedard Sweepstakes.”

All 11 teams with a shot at the No. 1 pick in Monday’s draw had their fingers crossed with hopes they would be the lucky franchise with first dibs at Bedard. The odds were in the Anaheim Ducks’ favor, but it was the Chicago Blackhawks that landed the top selection.

The Blackhawks won’t be on the clock until the 2023 NHL Draft begins on June 28, but there is little doubt who they will take at No. 1.

Here are five things to know about Bedard:

Connor Bedard is still just 17 years old

The top prize of the draft lottery isn’t even old enough to buy a lottery ticket in the U.S.

Bedard was born in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on July 17, 2005.

Connor Bedard led Team Canada to World Juniors title in 2023

Bedard has been in the spotlight since his early teens and has already earned hardware for his home country.

The 5-foot-10 center dazzled in the 2023 IIHF World Junior Ice Hockey Championship, walking away with MVP honors and carrying Canada to a gold medal. He scored nine goals across seven games with none prettier than his overtime winner against Slovakia in the quarterfinals:

Connor Bedard plays for the Regina Pats in the WHL

Bedard captains the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League, a major junior hockey league across western Canada and the northwestern U.S.

After tallying 28 points for the Pats in 2020-21 and 100 points in 2021-22, Bedard raised the bar in 2022-23. He scored 71 goals, tallied 72 assists and was a plus-39 across 57 regular season contests. He went on to tally 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in the playoffs, but the Pats fell to the Saskatoon Blades in a seven-game, first-round series.

Connor Bedard scored 100 goals over the last year

Bedard’s cumulative stats from the last season are almost unfathomable.

Across all competitions, Bedard scored 100 goals across 83 games (h/t The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler). That includes World Juniors, all stages of the WHL season and the CHL/NHL Top Prospects game.

Forty-six of those goals came on slap shots, but Bedard’s wrister, stickhandling and skating abilities make him an all-around scoring machine.

Connor Bedard nearly ignored a call from Wayne Gretzky

Bedard was close to sending NHL and Canadian royalty to voicemail.

In 2020, Bedard was granted a rare exception to play major junior hockey a year early. That caught the attention of Wayne Gretzky, but when The Great One reached out to send some quick congratulations, Bedard was suspicious.

“After I received exceptional status, he called,” Bedard told The Regina Leader-Post in 2021. “It was a random number from California, so I didn’t know whether to pick up or not.

“Then I was stuttering and I couldn’t really talk. It was definitely one of the cooler things.”

For those rightfully hesitant to draw any further connections between Bedard and Gretzky, there’s one more close one on the back of their jerseys. Gretzky famously donned No. 99, and Bedard has rocked No. 98 in the WHL. Should he keep it, he would become just the seventh player in NHL history to wear No. 98.