Playing your first NHL game against Sidney Crosby, Erik Karlsson, Kris Letang, and Evgeni Malkin sounds like a tall task, unless you're Chicago Blackhawks rookie Connor Bedard — then it's easy.
The former Regina Pats ace kicked off his NHL career with a 4-2 embarrassment of the Pittsburgh Penguins, collecting an assist and opening his Blackhawks account in the process. At 5-on-5, Bedard dominated the likes of Crosby, Letang, Jake Guentzel, and Bryan Rust, posting a positive Corsi share against each of them. The teenage sensation finished the game with a 58.82 percent Corsi for, with nine scoring chances for and only five against.
The next two games — consecutive losses to the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens — showed Bedard more of what life on the Blackhawks would really be like this year. He did score his first NHL goal against Boston, but Bruins sniper David Pastrnak scored two, which ultimately reflects the difference in the 3-1 loss for Bedard's Blackhawks. The 18-year-old particularly struggled with Hampus Lindholm on the ice, but Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Charlie McAvoy weren't giving out freebies either.
Against the Canadiens, Bedard didn't play particularly well against anybody, but he did record his third NHL point in as many games while playing a season-high 23:02 of ice time. The 2023 No. 1 overall pick also fired off five or more shots on goal for third consecutive game, but the goals have been hard to come by to this point.
Bedard was held without a point in his two latest matchups with the likes of Auston Matthews, Nathan MacKinnon, and Cale Makar, and the Blackhawks walked away from those games with two very different results. A 4-1 shock win over the Toronto Maple Leafs was followed by a 4-0 shutout loss to the Colorado Avalanche, concluding Bedard's first week (or five games) at the NHL. So, how did he do?
Bedard has been as good as advertised through his first week of play, highlighted by his domination of the Penguins' stars at even strength.
However, as of Oct. 17, Bedard was also one of the worst players in the NHL in goals above expected, alongside Blackhawks teammate Lukas Reichel. Reichel was dead-last with a -2.2, while Bedard was just ahead of him with a mark of -2.1 — good for 610th in the NHL. Bedard's finishing will improve as he gets a better read on NHL goaltenders and more experience in general. Not a bad start for the future Blackhawks superstar.