Hockey phenom Connor Bedard totaled 71 goals and 72 assists in 57 games in 2022-23 in the Western Hockey League. File Photo by Kaiser Matias/Wikimedia Commons
June 29 (UPI) -- Fresh off becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, Connor Bedard says he wants to make an early impact on the league and will dream about a potential debut matchup against "idol" Sidney Crosby.
The Blackhawks selected Bedard at the top of the NHL Draft on Wednesday in Nashville.
The 17-year-old center is considered one of the top hockey prospects in recent memory, often put in the same class as Crosby and Connor McDavid, who claimed NHL MVP honors earlier this week.
"Obviously as the best league in the world, it won't be easy," Bedard told reporters at Bridgestone Arena. "But I'm going to do whatever I can this summer and moving forward to try to have an impact in the league."
The Anaheim Ducks selected center Leo Carlsson at No. 2 overall. Center Adam Fantilli went No. 3 overall to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Fellow center William Smith went to the San Jose Sharks at No. 4 overall. Defenseman David Reinbacher was the No. 5 overall pick by the Montreal Canadiens.
Defenseman Dmitriy Simashev (Arizona Coyotes), right wing Matvei Michkov (Philadelphia Flyers), right wing Ryan Leonard (Washington Capitals), center Nate Danielson (Detroit Red Wings) and center Dalibor Dvorsky (St. Louis Blues) rounded out the Top 10 picks.
Bedard led the Western Hockey League with 71 goals, 72 assists and 143 points in 57 games this season for the Regina Pats. The storied Blackhawks, who claimed Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015, missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons and went 26-49-7 in 2022-23.
They won the NHL Draft lottery in May for the right to select Bedard, a potential franchise cornerstone. The Blackhawks will start their 2023-24 campaign against Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 10 in Pittsburgh.
"If I'm able to make the squad come October, [Crosby was my] childhood idol, ever since I can remember," Bedard said of the Penguins star. "That would be unbelievable. It's a little bit of time away.
"I think I'll kind of dream about it now, but hopefully that comes."
Rounds 2 through 7 of the 2023 NHL Draft will air at 11 a.m. EDT on NHL Network.
The Nashville Predators will face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first game of the 2023-24 season at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 10 in Tampa, Fla. The Penguins will then host the Blackhawks at 8 p.m. in Pittsburgh.
The Seattle Kraken will face the Vegas Golden Knights in the final game of the opening night triple-header at 10:30 p.m. Oct. 10 in Las Vegas.