Blackhawks sign No. 1 overall pick Connor Bedard to entry-level contract

Sources: Blackhawks sign No. 1 overall pick Connor Bedard to entry-level contract originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Chicago Blackhawks have signed Connor Bedard to a three-year entry-level contract, sources confirmed to NBC Sports Chicago. The news will be made official on Monday morning; the deal was first reported by The Athletic.

Bedard, who turned 18 on Monday, was selected by the Blackhawks with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft on Wednesday, joining Patrick Kane as the only other player in franchise history to be taken first.

“It’s incredible,” Bedard said after being drafted. “I can’t put it into words. Growing up, obviously that was when they were going on their runs, winning Cups, and I was watching a lot of them. You see the United Center going crazy and all of Chicago getting behind them. Original Six and so much history there. I really can’t put it into words and I’m so excited to be part of the organization.”

Bedard is not eligible to play in the American Hockey League next season due to Canadian Hockey League rules, which means he has to play in the NHL or return to the WHL. He’s essentially a lock to be on the Blackhawks’ Opening Night roster, and his entry-level contract will officially kick in after he plays in his 10th NHL game.

Bedard racked up 143 points (71 goals, 72 assists) in 57 games last season for the Regina Pats, which led all Western Hockey League skaters by a considerable margin, and compiled 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in seven postseason contests. In June, Bedard won the Canadian Hockey League’s top prospect award, the leading scorer award and the David Branch CHL Player of the Year Award. He’s the first player in CHL history to win all three prizes.

Bedard also lifted Team Canada to a gold medal at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship, where he set a new Canadian record for most points in a single tournament with 23 (nine goals, 14 assists) in only seven games.

“He’s a high-end player and he’s obviously an exceptional talent,” Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson said. “I think he’s got the personality and the drive away from the rink to handle all the extra attention that he gets. He knows how to handle it. It doesn’t really change him.

“I think he’s just a guy that wants to be one of the guys, and that’s what we want to be. We want him to fit in. We want the team to grow as a team, not as an individual, and then everybody else follow. And I think that’s what he wants. So I’m looking forward to starting the season and seeing him at rookie camp and then regular main camp, and see him personally on the ice. It’ll be fun to be behind the bench with him.”

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