Connor Bedard will be the first overall pick at the 2023 NHL draft. With 21 points through only five games at the World Juniors in Halifax, the 17-year-old Canadian forward is dazzling on the biggest stage. And let’s not forget the 2.28 points per game he’s logging at the WHL level.
Bedard is the prize at the end of the tunnel for NHL teams sinking to the bottom of the standings.
Now there’s still time for a team to tank its way down to the bottom of the league. But as it stands today, there are five teams in a strong position to win Bedard’s NHL rights. What team is the best fit for Bedard?
NHL’s Best Fit For Connor Bedard
The five teams with the best shot of landing Bedard are:
|Columbus Blue Jackets||24||11-23-2|
|San Jose Sharks||24||12-20-7|
Unlike the NFL, the NHL doesn’t simply reward the worst team in the league with the first overall pick at the entry draft. The NHL has taken steps to prevent teams from tanking by establishing a lottery system for the first overall pick. I disagree wildly with those steps – tanking is going to happen whether the league tries to discourage it or not – but Gary Bettman and the NHL didn’t consult with me.
Here are the current NHL draft lottery odds for the five teams in question. I’ve also converted the percentage odds to win the first overall pick to American odds, because we are a gambling website, after all.
|Team||Percentage Odds||American Odds|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||11.5%||+770|
|San Jose Sharks||9.5%||+953|
For the time being, Chicago is in the best position to draft the soon-to-be elite NHL center. But are the Chicago Blackhawks the best destination for Bedard? Are they a good fit for him? Because if you’re Bedard, you want to go somewhere that can win ASAP.
Connor Bedard has been great, even extraordinary, in the WJC.— Byron Bader (@ByronMBader) January 4, 2023
But should we maybe pump the breaks on the excitement for this guy?
Hit the gas.
He's going to be regularly putting up 100+ point seasons in the NHL. pic.twitter.com/EIDLFtzs9R
Obviously from an NHL marketing standpoint, Bedard to Chicago is mouth-watering. An Original Six team picking up a generational talent like Bedard? That’s a money-maker for the NHL right there. But, is that the best destination for him? Is it the best fit? Can he win, and win soon, in Chicago?
Of course, he’ll be able to learn from Jonathan Toews and even Patrick Kane but after those two Chicago legends – who could be out the door soon – who does Bedard have to play with? Where is the next core of talent that will push the Hawks back into Cup contender status? It’s not there.
If Bedard is going to win in Chicago, he’s going to have to do it alone.
The best fit, as I see it, is Anaheim.
The Ducks have an incredible core of young guns. Sophomore Trevor Zegras is scoring at a 0.75-point-per-game pace and rookie Mason McTavish has started his career well with a 0.53-point-per-game pace. That’s just the guys who are playing at the NHL level right now.
Anaheim has other guys in the pipeline who are getting ready to jump up to the show.
|Player (Position)||Draft Year (Overall)||PPG (Level)|
|Jamie Drysdale (RHD)||2020 (6)||0.40 (NHL)*|
|Nathan Gaucher (C)||2022 (22)||1.21 (QMJHL)|
|Sasha Pastujov (RW)||2021 (66)||1.56 (OHL)|
|Olen Zellweger (LHD)||2021 (34)||1.22 (WHL)|
|Pavel Mintyukov (LHD)||2022 (10)||1.50 (OHL)|
*2021-22 stats, Drysdale is injured
Now imagine that core of talented prospects alongside Connor Bedard coming through the NHL ranks at the same time and joining Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish. It would be an incredible sight to see for the NHL. It might take a year or so for them to start winning given how young they would be, but that core of players could easily dominate the NHL.
Bedard wouldn’t be left on his own to drag this team to relevancy. He’d have a cast of talented players around him to help out. That’s why the Ducks are the best fit.
Anaheim doesn’t have the best odds to win the draft lottery at 13.5 percent but don’t count out the Ducks just yet. They might have more points than Chicago in the standings right now, but the Ducks have overtime to thank for those wins. Anaheim is the only team in the league with less than six regulation wins this season (they have three).
This is a really bad Ducks team that could outpace the Blackhawks’ losing record and reach the bottom of the league by the end of the year, which would give them the best draft lottery odds to select first overall.