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Chicago Blackhawks Connor Bedard

Blackhawks begin major rebuild with Connor Bedard at the center of it all

The Chicago Blackhawks won the offseason on the day of the Draft Lottery. Instead of coming away with the No. 3 pick, the Blackhawks bypassed the Anaheim Ducks and Columbus Blue Jackets on May 8 and got the right to make the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Connor Bedard No. 1 pick in the draft

That pick was Connor Bedard, the highest rated rookie to come into the NHL league since Connor McDavid. Bedard is a generational player, and he may eventually become the best player in the league. That won’t happen right away because Bedard is only 18 years old and now he has to play against men.

It will be a challenging adjustment, but it will be a successful one because he is a brilliant skater and shooter with the creativity to make his teammates better players.

Last year, Bedard led the Western Hockey League with a remarkable total of 71 goals, 143 points and 2.51 points per game in 57 regular-season games with Regina last season.

The Blackhawks were led by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews for years, and now they have another superstar-in-development to build their team around.

Chicago finished in last place in the Central Division of the Western Conference with a 26-49-7 record, but the selection of Bedard changes the dynamic. General manager Kyle Davidson has made it a point to tell Blackhawks fans not to expect too much too quickly, but the team has made several moves to put a significantly better team on the ice next season.

Player trades

The Blackhawks traded for Taylor Hall shortly before the draft, and he is likely to play on the same line with Bedard. Hall, the former No. 1 draft pick in 2010, was supposed to be a game-changing superstar when he was selected. While he has become a solid player with excellent speed, he is not a McDavid, Sidney Crosby or Auston Matthews.

However, he is far better than the other veteran players on the Blackhawks. He also figures to help Bedard develop, because he has the speed to outmaneuver defensive players and finish the creative plays that the rookie is likely to create.

Hall had 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 61 regular-season games last year. He also had eight points (five goals, three assists) in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games for the Boston Bruins last season.

The Blackhawks also received winger Nick Foligno from the Bruins in the Hall trade. He had 26 points (10 goals, 16 assists) in 60 regular-season games and three points (goal, two assists) in six playoff games for the Bruins. He will give the Blackhawks a stronger physical presence.

In addition to Hall, the Blackhawks acquired Corey Perry, a 38-year-old veteran who played with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season. The Blackhawks traded a seventh-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft for Perry and they signed him to a one-year contract. Perry had 25 points last year in 81 games, and five points in six playoff games for the Lightning last season.

Head coach Luke Richardson was surprised Perry was available to the Blackhawks, but he believes he can help turn the team in the right direction.

“He’s a winner,” Richardson said of Perry. “He’s going to help guys on our team, just like he [helped] guys in Montreal — guys like Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki. He had a big footprint on making them what they are today. That’s why I thought, when they brought [Perry’s] name up, he would be a great fit for us right now.”

New agent Ryan Donato

They also signed free agent Ryan Donato from the Seattle Kraken as a free agent. Donato signed a two-year contract  on the first day of free agency. He had 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists) in 71 regular-season games for the Kraken last season. He also added two assists in 14 playoff games.

The Blackhawks are not likely to challenge for a playoff spot this season, but they are likely to be one of the most improved teams in the league, and the presence of Bedard will make them one of the most interesting teams as well.

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