Can Bedard be a point-per-game player with the Hawks as a rookie? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The 2023 NHL Draft is still barely more than a month away, but there’s little doubt that the Blackhawks will take Connor Bedard with the No. 1 overall selection.
Part of the reason the Blackhawks can’t actually come out and say Bedard will be the pick is for betting purposes. Another part is probably out of respect to the other prospects, as well as letting Bedard enjoy the process of hearing his name officially called on the Bridgestone Arena stage in Nashville.
Nevertheless, Bedard will inevitably be a Blackhawk in 35 days, and it’s already got me thinking about what kind of numbers he could put up next season. Is a point-per-game average too aggressive? History shows it’s not impossible but obviously could be a difficult task.
Only 37 players in NHL history have averaged at least a point-per-game in their rookie season, with a minimum of 40 games played as the requirement. That number shrinks to five among rookies who have done so in the last 27 years:
Alex Ovechkin: 1.31 (106 points in 81 games)
Sidney Crosby: 1.26 (102 points in 81 games)
Evgeni Malkin: 1.09 (85 points in 78 games)
Connor McDavid: 1.07 (48 points in 45 games)
Mathew Barzal: 1.01 (85 points in 84 games)
Here’s why I’m not ruling out Bedard joining that company: The NHL’s goals-per-game average in 2022-23 was 3.18, which is the highest it’s been since 1993-94, according to Hockey Reference. The NHL’s power-play success rate was 22.31 percent, which is the ninth-highest percentage. ever.
For context, Patrick Kane recorded 72 points in 82 games during his rookie 2007-08 season with the Blackhawks when the scoring average was 2.78 and the league power-play percentage was only 17.75. Heck, the scoring average was 2.77 and power-play percentage was 19.1 just six years ago. It’s a substantial difference.
Scoring is up. Power plays are up. Save percentages are down. It’s a great time to step into the league and make an impact right away if you’re an offensive playmaker and goal scorer like Bedard, who should be slotted into a top-six role and eat up first power-play minutes immediately.
The biggest challenge the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Bedard will face might not be his opponents. It’s the supporting cast around him.
There’s no Patrick Sharp or Duncan Keith or Brent Seabrook on the roster, like Kane had in his rookie campaign. There’s not even a Martin Havlat.
The Blackhawks finished the 2022-23 season with Andreas Athanasiou, Jason Dickinson, Tyler Johnson, Seth Jones and Jonathan Toews as their first power-play unit. The second unit consisted of Joey Anderson, MacKenzie Entwistle, Wyatt Kaiser, Boris Katchouk and Ian Mitchell, respectively.
It’s worth mentioning Philipp Kurashev and Taylor Raddysh were shut down because of injuries and Lukas Reichel was reassigned to the AHL a week earlier than expected, which thinned out the group more than it already was post-trade deadline. But the point remains the same. Without jeopardizing the long-term outlook and financial flexibility, the Blackhawks must find a way to surround Bedard with the right players so he can play his game and not try to carry a line or unit by himself, even though he’s fully capable of doing so. .
Bedard has exceeded expectations at seemingly every level. I wouldn’t bet against him doing the same in the NHL.
Click here to subscribe to the Blackhawks Talk Podcast for free.
Download MyTeams Today!