Taylor Hall's 'week-to-week' injury presents new test for Connor Bedard

Connor Bedard doesn't need Taylor Hall to succeed, but he will miss the skilled winger.

When the Chicago Blackhawks traded for Taylor Hall in June they did so knowing their roster lacked players talented enough to play alongside Connor Bedard, and it would be helpful to give the phenom some skill on his flanks.

A blindside hit to Hall on Wednesday has put the 31-year-old out of commission for a while and, as a result, Bedard has lost his best on-ice resource.

The 18-year-old is skilled enough to make plenty of dazzling individual plays — and Ryan Donato and Andreas Athanasiou aren't a pair of crash test dummies — but no one on Chicago's roster had potential to complement Bedard like Hall.

Connor Bedard just lost the linemate he'd become most accustomed to in the early days of his NHL career. (Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Connor Bedard just lost the linemate he'd become most accustomed to in the early days of his NHL career. (Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

While the former Hart Trophy winner is a few years removed from being one of the NHL's most dangerous forwards, he put up a 62-point season as recently as 2020-21 and averaged 0.70 points per game over his last four seasons.

Donato and Athanasiou, on the other hand, have combined to top 40 points once in 14 combined NHL seasons prior to 2023-24. In the pair's defense, Donato is getting his first chance to show what he can do in a featured offensive role, and Athanasiou's speed could be an intriguing fit alongside Bedard — a dynamic that showed up on an overtime goal in the preseason:

Still, the gap between Hall and the other options on Chicago's roster is significant. Bedard also has a strong comfort level with the veteran winger.

Including preseason action, 62.54% of Bedard's 5v5 ice time in the NHL so far has been spent alongside Hall. While the sample size is small, he's also been better with the 31-year-old on his flank than without him according to possession metrics:


Again, these numbers come from a small sample that mixes preseason and regular-season data.

If you've paid any attention to Bedard in the last few weeks and come away with the conclusion that he needs an aging Hall to drive his success, your scouting eye is on the dubious side.

What we do know is that Bedard has shared the ice with Hall for the vast majority of his nascent NHL journey, and the results that we have suggest the two are meshing well. There isn't a player on the Blackhawks roster who seems as likely to have as additive an effect on Bedard's production as the former first-overall pick.

No one expects the lack of Hall to ruin the beginning of the 18-year-old's career, but it's worth noting that he could use all the help available to him in the brutal stretch to come.

After a relatively tame matchup against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, Bedard should see plenty of Auston Matthews in his game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night. Things get tougher from there as his next four games include matchups with the Colorado Avalanche and Boston Bruins — plus two battles with the Vegas Golden Knights, who are impressing with their defensive structure in the early going.

From a big-picture perspective, betting on Bedard to do anything but excel in his rookie season is foolish. On a more micro level, the phenom has some tough sledding ahead. Missing his most accomplished teammate could make the next two weeks even tougher.