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What we learned at Day 1 of Chicago Blackhawks camp, including Connor Bedard ‘champing at the bit to get out there’

Connor Bedard skated around the second rink Thursday at Fifth Third Arena, looking as if he always had been there.

But it was a new experience for him and Chicago Blackhawks fans who packed the stands to watch him: Bedard’s first training camp.

“It was good,” he said in his very even-toned manner. “I didn’t know how that works, so it was fun to have everyone there and see people enjoying it.”

Several fans were wearing his No. 98 jersey.

“You see someone wearing your jersey, that’s pretty cool,” Bedard said. “It’s weird to think about but when you’re in the moment, you’re not too weird about it. But definitely now when you sit back.”

Bedard was glad to check that box: Day 1 of training camp.

“It’s good to be out there and obviously have all the guys (and) compete against them, so it was fun,” he said.

Coach Luke Richardson was a bit more effusive: “He’s been champing at the bit to get out there too. … He really wanted to be on the ice with the team and the jersey.”

It also was a chance for the veterans to meet a lot of the next-generation players such as Bedard, Kevin Korchinski and Lukas Reichel and show them the ropes.

“It’s important for everyone to build relationships with the young guys coming in to make them feel comfortable to talk about things or read the room, read the day and see if anyone’s going through anything hard or needs a bit of support,” defenseman Connor Murphy said.

“It’s really cool that we added (Nick) Foligno and (Corey) Perry this year, with Foligno being a captain before and Perry having an amazing career — and even Taylor hall being a top pick. They’ve been through those things Connor’s been through. To have guys like that supporting you and a fan for you to get through it every day is big.”

Foligno has been getting to know Bedard over the summer and help his pro transition.

“He’s been unreal,” Bedard said. “He texted me all the time throughout the summer or called me, see how I’m doing. Make sure I’m working hard. …

“I got to go over to his house, meet his family and kids and everything. It was a lot of fun. He’s been so good to me and he’s made me feel so comfortable, as well as all the young guys. He’s such a good person, such a good role model. It’s great for me to have a guy like that.”

Here are five other things we learned from Hawks camp.

1. Richardson might want to get creative with Bedard.

Richardson said coaches already are thinking up ways to put Bedard in offensive situations right after puck drop.

“We’ve been working on some automatic faceoff plays,” he said. “We had a few last year and we’re trying to add some more.”

Last season the Hawks ranked sixth in faceoffs but will be missing Jonathan Toews.

“We’ve got to be a strong faceoff team, and if we can do that in the offensive zone,” Richardson said. ”We have a chance to put our offensive players out there, we want to be ready for it. Especially a guy like that can add to that. “Power play, same thing.”

The Hawks ranked 28th (16.4%).

2. ‘Let Connor cook’ takes on a different meaning.

It started with Bedard answering a question about how much he gets recognized around Chicago — which is just “a bit” since he hasn’t gotten around town much.

“I’ve just been at the rink a lot, going home, trying to cook or whatever and figure that out,” he said.

And by “figuring it out,” he means mom, Melanie.

“I just FaceTime her, put her on the counter and she tells me what to do,” Bedard said. “She’s making it easy on me, but yeah, maybe try to be a little more independent at some point.”

Asked what’s on the menu, Bedard admitted, “I haven’t cooked that much — it was just something to say here. … Some rice and chicken, couple tacos. Nothing crazy.”

3. Seth Jones is changing his stick.

The game is changing and the offensive defenseman is changing his equipment along with it.

“I went down a little bit of flex,” he said. “Same curve, same all that.

“You don’t see as many big, heavy slap shots anymore. You know, it’s a lot more quick releases. hands close together, trying to get it through. So the lower flex really helps with that.”

4. Is Connor Murphy still the fittest?

Murphy came into the previous two camps as the most in shape, according to team testing. But Jones said the tests are a bit more limited this year, and the results aren’t in yet.

“We haven’t got the email yet,” Jones said. “You’re scrolling down trying to reload the email to see when it comes in for the next couple days.”

Later, Murphy gushed about how much of “a horse” Nick Foligno is in the gym, so it begged the question: “Is he fitter than you?”

“Fitter? I don’t know about that,” Murphy said. “He’s a beast, so I don’t know. I wouldn’t challenge him in anything physically or fighting on the ice. He’s tough. But maybe I can take him in a bike ride.”

5. The Hawks aren’t sweating the no-captain decision.

Davidson on Tuesday said the Hawks won’t name a captain this season to “let it breathe” and show difference to Toews. Richardson said it won’t change his relationship with the locker room.

“I know we had some times last season when Toews wasn’t here, even Kaner was out for a while, a big presence,” Richardson said. “I think that’s when you saw other guys step up and they have more of a leadership role and feel more comfortable to take that leadership role. I think you’re going to see that through committee this year.

“We brought some guys in to help with that. … We don’t really need a ‘C’ out there.”

Jones and Murphy, both alternate captains last season, echoed those thoughts.

“I thought it made sense,” Murphy said. “They didn’t discuss it with us, but I could tell right after the season that (it) probably would’ve been the best move, just having legends like Tazer and Kaner being absent. It’s hard for anyone to fill those shoes.”

Jones said players will step up.

“It’s just a letter on a jersey,” he said. “I understand the significance of wearing it, and it’s an honor to wear it, especially for an original six team, but when it comes to the room, when it comes to that team, we’re tight, we’re close together and we keep the noise on the outside and we deal with things as a team in the locker room.”