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Connor Bedard is hockey’s LeBron James, and the NHL Draft lottery hype is real

NOBODY has been as hyped as Connor Bedard ... and he deserves it.

2023 Kubota CHL Top Prospects Game - Practice Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

Connor Bedard will be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. This story has been written for months, the start of his professional career chiseled in stone long before it. Bedard is one of the most hyped prospects not just of the last decade, but of all-time — and on Monday night someone is going to literally win the lottery and get to draft him.

Bedard is unquestionably the next “great one,” and you have to go back to Connor McDavid in 2015 to find anyone carrying close to this level of hype. However, while McDavid entered the NHL with enormous promise, Bedard is already being anointed as the next truly legendary player to change the game.

Who is Connor Bedard?

A 17-year-old North Vancouver native, Connor Bedard’s greatness was being hyped from a ludicrously early age. In 2018, at the age of 13, he was already being compared to Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid. A story from The Hockey News introduced him as “the future of hockey,” discussing his eventual debut in the WHL. It came hot off the heels of a U15 season which saw Bedard record 64 goals and 24 assists in 30 games — showing an unnatural talent for scoring, with a preternatural understanding of spacing and positioning for a player of his age.

So often we see these stories of greatness from young athletes and the early pressure of greatness out-paces their performance — but this wasn’t the case with Connor Bedard. If anything, he just kept getting better.

His on-ice performance was so profound that at age 14 he moved up and began competing at the U18 level. Competing against players with years more experience and size, Bedard continued to dominate — leading the league in goals, points and winning MVP again.

Every single limiting factor designed to measure Bedard’s ceiling was blown away. There was an inherent belief that sooner or later pushing him to higher levels of hockey at a younger age would cause a drop in performance, but this simply didn’t materialize. In 2020 Bedard was granted “exceptional status,” by Hockey Canada, allowing him to compete in the WHL a year earlier than is normally allowed. He returned the faith by recording 28 points in 15 games, and was just getting started.

In the 2021-22 WHL season Bedard scored 51 goals, recorded 49 assists and finished second in the league in points. If this wasn’t enough he went on to international competition in 2021 and broke Wayne Gretzky’s record by scoring four goals against Austria, the most ever by a 16-year-old at international level.

Bedard’s most-recent WHL season was his victory tour, playing to sold out crowds around Canada and becoming the sport’s biggest draw. He didn’t disappoint for a second, expanding on his prior season to show the most complete, flawless game we’ve seen from a youth player in years, finishing the 2022-23 season with 71 goals and 72 assists.

Connor Bedard is a player who is easily ready to play in the NHL right now, and he’s destined to make an impact — because there’s literally nothing he can’t do on the ice.

What is Bedard’s play style?

It’s almost impossible to define or compare Bedard to anyone we’ve seen at his age, because outside of needing to get physically stronger there is NOTHING he can’t do.

A selfless centerpiece, the Regina Pats required him to primarily be a scorer in the 2022-23 season, but he still found a way to make everyone around him better. As a facilitator from the center his vision is second-to-none, as Bedard shows tremendous poise with the puck on his stick to wait for a clear passing lane to open before finding a teammate.

When it comes to shooting there’s a near-mythic quality to Bedard’s wrist shot. The suddenness and force he’s able to generate with a quick flick is on-par with multi-year NHL veterans, but his ability to place shots with pinpoint accuracy makes him an absolute nightmare for opposing goaltenders. There’s no “tell” to where Bedard is shooting from, always releasing a puck from a stable base which requires goalies to react when the puck is off his stick, rather than before — and most of the time it’s too late.

We didn’t see a lot of true defensive play last season because of Regina’s role for Bedard, but in the past he’s shown to be a willing and physical forechecker, who isn’t afraid to get down on the ice to eat a shot.

Topping all this off is a mechanically pure skater who doesn’t lose momentum in any direction, gracefully changing his path through traffic with the grace of a figure skater.

This is truly a case where the hype is beyond compare, and he’s able to somehow live up to it all. The best possible analog we could make would be Connor McDavid offensively, with an ability to facilitate like Sidney Crosby had at his age. We are talking about a one in a generation talent who will change hockey.

Who has the best chance to land Connor Bedard?

NHL teams were well aware this was coming, and numerous teams appeared to tank to 2022-23 season in preparation for his arrival. As it stands the Anaheim Ducks are in the best position to land this generational phenom, with 15 other teams having at least a minuscule chance of getting the No. 1 overall pick.

Get ready, because Connor Bedard is coming to the NHL, and I don’t think anyone is fully prepared for it — even those who have been watching him for years.