Connor Bedard Blackhawks role

CHICAGO -- Connor Bedard begins his first NHL training camp Thursday, and according to the Chicago Blackhawks, it will be up to the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft to determine how much he’ll play and in what capacity.

“We'll let him and his play do the talking,” general manager Kyle Davidson said Tuesday. “I'm sure the expectations are something he's been followed with for a long time and I'm sure he'll handle it just fine.”

Bedard has handled everything well up to this point, as the most highly touted No. 1 pick since Connor McDavid was selected by the Edmonton Oilers with the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

The center is expected play on the top line for the Blackhawks and be the next face of the franchise, following the departures of forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, who helped Chicago win the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

Bedard made his first appearance with the Blackhawks on Saturday, finishing with three goals and an assist in their 5-0 win against the St. Louis Blues at the Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“He's played one game, but fantastic performance. Obviously led the team in shots and goals,” Davidson said. “You saw that offensive hockey sense, that shot, that scoring ability that he was touted with heading into his draft. So really excited for him to get going and assimilated into the group.”

Bedard led the Western Hockey League in goals (71), points (143), shots on goal (360), points per game (2.51) and goals per game (1.24) in 57 regular-season games with Regina last season. There aren’t many flaws in Bedard’s game, but his wrist shot, which he used on all three goals, is his forte.

“It’s an elite shot. He loves to use it,” Davidson said. “I don’t think we learned or confirmed anything there that wasn’t fairly well documented. It was nice to see him get on the board and I’m sure it was a relief for him to produce a little bit as well and just get back on the ice and play.

“Any young player, I’m sure there’s going to be a running effort to prove himself and to justify the interest and the expectation there. But we’re not going to put any pressure on him, we’ll just let him figure that out and let him figure out the NHL level as well.”

There will be enormous expectations placed on Bedard from outside the Blackhawks organization this season. But Davidson, who said the way Bedard handles everything on and off the ice is “incredibly impressive,” figures Bedard is ready for it all.

“The amount of attention, expectations, not just now but in the past, has been something that is rarely seen," he said. "I can't speak more highly of how he's handled it, how he's not let it impact his focus and what he thinks is important and the work he needs to put in, both on and off the ice, to perform at the level he expects of himself.

“Incredibly mature and impressive for an 18-year-old coming into a very unique situation.”

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