Nick Goss

Bruins come away impressed with Blackhawks phenom Connor Bedard in opener

"I think he's going to be the real deal."

NBC Universal, Inc.

BOSTON -- Connor Bedard is the best prospect to come into the NHL since Connor McDavid in 2015.

He put up unreal stats (143 points in 57 games) in the WHL last season, and the 2023 Draft Lottery that determined which team would get the chance to select him first overall was one of the most anticipated league events in a while.

The ping pong balls fell in the Chicago Blackhawks' favor, and after a good regular season debut Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins during which he tallied an assist in a 4-2 victory, Bedard played his first ever game against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Wednesday night.

Bedard got the Blackhawks on the board with his first career NHL goal at 5:37 of the opening period. His initial shot was stopped by Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark. The puck then bounced behind the net, where Bedard grabbed it and scored on a wraparound attempt.

Bedard is the third No. 1 pick in the last 50 years to score his first career goal versus the Bruins, joining Mario Lemieux (1984-85) and Sidney Crosby (2005-06).

"I remember being behind the net and kind of seeing it and I was just like: 'Don't screw this up,'" Bedard told reporters postgame, including Charlie Roumeliotis of NBC Sports Chicago. "And then once it went in, a lot of joy, for sure. Just that moment, it's what many people in the world dream of, and I'm very fortunate to be able to be put in this position and get a chance like that."

The Bruins tried to be physical with Bedard when possible. There was one welcome-to-the-NHL moment in the first period when B's captain Brad Marchand nearly drove Bedard into Boston's bench.

The Bruins got the better of Blackhawks in a 3-1 win, but Bedard was one of the best players on the ice.

He finished with one goal, a game-high six shots on net (seven attempts), four high-danger scoring chances and one penalty taken in 21:44 of ice time -- the highest of any forward on either team. The rookie phenom put on display all of the high-end skills that made him a can't-miss prospect.

"Really great player. Elite skill, elite skater, great vision, and obviously an unbelievable shot," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said when asked about Bedard. "I know he's only played two games, but he's going to keep getting better and better. I think he's going to be the real deal."

Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery came away impressed, too.

"I think he's a really good hockey player," Montgomery said. "I thought we were aware of him, but he creates time and space. I don't think our checking is where it needs to be no matter who it is, and a good player like that is going to break free."

How does Bedard's performance Wednesday night compare to other No. 1 overall draft picks in their first career game against the Bruins?

Below is a list of all of them since the 2004-05 lockout. Each of these games happened during the player's rookie season unless otherwise noted. The Bruins have allowed these No. 1 picks to score four goals with six assists in 18 games. Boston's record in these matchups is 14-4-0.

  • Sidney Crosby, Penguins, 2005: One goal, two assists in 7-6 loss (OT)
  • Erik Johnson, Blues, 2006: Zero points, two shots in 4-1 win (2007-08 season)
  • Patrick Kane, Blackhawks, 2007: Zero points, one shot in 3-1 loss
  • Steven Stamkos, Lightning, 2008: Zero points, two shots in 3-1 loss
  • John Tavares, Islanders, 2009: One goal, one assist, four shots in 4-3 shootout loss
  • Taylor Hall, Oilers, 2010: Zero points, zero shots in 3-2 loss
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers, 2011: One goal, zero assists, two shots in 6-3 loss
  • Nail Yakupov, Oilers, 2012: Zero points, two shots in 4-2 loss
  • Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche, 2013: Zero points, four shots in 2-0 win
  • Aaron Ekblad, Panthers, 2014: Zero goals, one assist, three shots in 2-1 loss (OT)
  • Connor McDavid, Oilers, 2015: Zero goals, two assist, one shot in 4-3 win (2016-17 season)
  • Auston Matthews, Leafs, 2016: Zero points, two shots in 4-1 win
  • Nico Hischier, Devils, 2017: Zero points, four shots in 3-2 loss (shootout)
  • Rasmus Dahlin, Sabres, 2018: Zero points, zero shots in 4-0 loss
  • Jack Hughes, Devils, 2019: Zero points, three shots in 3-0 loss
  • Alexis Lafreniere, Rangers, 2020: Zero points, zero shots in 3-2 loss (OT)
  • Owen Power, Sabres, 2021: Zero points, two shots in 5-0 loss
  • Juraj Slafkovsky, Canadiens, 2022: No games yet
  • Connor Bedard, Blackhawks, 2023: One goal, zero assists, six shots in 3-1 loss

Expectations are sky-high for Bedard. He's the overwhelming favorite for the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year). And even though the Blackhawks are in the early stages of their rebuild, that process could be expedited if Bedard becomes the superstar most everyone projects. That said, one player isn't enough to carry a team to the playoffs. The Oilers, for example, missed the playoffs in three of Connor McDavid's first four seasons.

Bedard's next and final game against the Bruins this season -- unless these teams meet in the 2024 Stanley Cup Final -- will be Thursday, Oct. 24 in Chicago.

Contact Us