Connor on Connor: Bedard talks chasing McDavid’s ‘ridiculous’ stats


His name is Connor. After a season in which multiple NHL teams tried to maximize their draft lottery odds to select him, Connor was selected first overall. He was cast as a potential franchise savior, with unparalleled offensive skills. He’s sold thousands of tickets before playing a minute of pro hockey.

That was Connor McDavid with the Edmonton Oilers in 2015, after which he was a point-per-game player as a rookie.

This is Connor Bedard with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2023, hoping to make a difference for a franchise in need of a dramatic reversal of fortunes.

The two Connors had some shared experiences to discuss when attending the 13th annual BioSteel NHL Camp in Halifax this week, hosted by BioSteel Nutrition.

“Connor has given me lots of good advice,” Bedard said of McDavid. “There are some things he’s said about what to expect. It’s obviously not easy. It’s the best league in the world. It’s about just preparing yourself the best you can, and I feel like I’ve done that this summer. I’ve worked really hard.”

The 18-year-old Bedard picks up the franchise baton from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who both left the Blackhawks this year after their dynastic run in Chicago. Weeks before his first NHL training camp, Bedard said he’s a mix of nerves and excitement.

“Your dream and lifelong goal is to play in the NHL and be an impact player. That’s what I want to do,” he said. “For me right now it’s about training, going to camp and earning my spot on team. But of course there are some nerves.”

When McDavid was drafted by the Oilers, he also talked about getting “stronger and faster” in the summer before his first NHL season. When it comes to the pressure of being a phenom, McDavid said on his draft day, “my expectations on myself exceed any of those put on me.”

There were echoes of that declaration in Bedard’s approach to the NHL.

“I think if you’re worried about what other people are saying, or what you guys write about me … I’m trying to pursue a dream,” he said. “There’s obviously pressure from the outside. I’m hard on myself. But pressure goes away, in my mind when, you’re just doing what you love. I’ve dreamed of playing in this league for 18 years now. So I wouldn’t really think of outside noise too much.”

McDavid was limited to 45 games as a rookie because of injury, tallying 48 points. He finished third in the Calder Trophy voting behind the Blackhawks’ Artemi Panarin and Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers.

He’s made up for that initial lack of hardware since then: three Hart trophies as league MVP; four NHLPA most outstanding player awards; and five scoring titles in seven seasons. He has 850 points in 569 career games.

“I think he’s kind of the pinnacle right now. And you’re like, ‘This guy is the best, or one of the best, [so] how can I get closer to him?'” Bedard said.

But before the hockey world runs wild with the “Connor vs. Connor” hype, Bedard indicated that it’s not matching McDavid’s legacy he’s concerned about. It’s creating one of his own.

“You never want to be like, ‘Oh, I can’t do this.’ I don’t really think that mindset is that great,” Bedard said. “But I’m not him. I’m my own person and my own player.

“I think that’s such a great thing in sport. You’re always competing against guys. For me to get to spend some time with him on the ice and just try to compete with him … he’s obviously unbelievable. You can barely talk about his stats because they’re so ridiculous. But for me, it’s just trying to be my own player. Be the best I can be.”

May the best Connor win.

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