(CNN) — The Chicago Blackhawks selected Connor Bedard with the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft on Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
The 17-year-old Bedard is considered a generational talent among NHL scouts, boasting an elite skill set and hockey IQ. According to NHL Central Scouting, his offensive instincts with vision, read/react, exceptionally quick hands and moves all combined with his inherent ability to utilize these skills and assets at top speed, place him in the category of being a “special” NHL prospect.
“It’s really hard to put into words,” Bedard said on what was going through his mind when putting on the Blackhawks sweater. “Growing up in an era where they were so dominant and so good with all the players they had, it’s incredible looking down and seeing it on myself. Couldn’t be happier and can’t wait to get started.”
In his final year in the Western Hockey League (WHL) with the Regina Pats, the right-shot center finished atop the league in goals (71), points and points per game (2.51), including going on a 35-game point streak (44-46—90).
His 71 goals scored last season were the most by a player in the WHL in 24 years and 21 more than the second-place player.
As a result, Bedard became the first player in the Canadian Hockey League’s history to sweep Player of the Year, Top Prospect and Top Scorer awards. No player had won all three since the Top Scorer award was introduced in 1994.
Internationally, Bedard further established himself as a top prospect at the 2023 World Junior Championship, leading all players in goals (9), assists (14) and points (23), while leading Team Canada to a gold medal. He was named the Most Valuable Player, Best Forward and a Tournament All-Star at the competition.
The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 10 against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“That will be unreal,” Bedard said on the ESPN broadcast about facing Crosby in the team’s opening game. “He was my favorite player growing up and a big idol of mine. You couldn’t have scripted it any better.”
Bedard is the Blackhawks’ second-ever first overall selection in the NHL Draft’s 60 years after London Knights (OHL) forward Patrick Kane in 2007.
After being traded to the New York Rangers last season, Kane left the Blackhawks as a three-time Stanley Cup champion and ranked top-five in franchise history for regular-season goals (3rd), assists (2nd) and points (2nd), as well as postseason goals (4th), assists (3rd) and points (3rd) in his 16-year tenure.
The Rest of the Top 5
Meanwhile, with the second pick in the NHL Draft, the Anaheim Ducks selected top-ranked international skater Leo Carlsson.
While playing with Orebro in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), the 18-year-old Carlsson was named the SHL Junior Hockey Player of the Year last season after leading the league in assists (15) and points (25) and finishing second in goals (10) in his age category.
At No. 3, the Columbus Blue Jackets drafted Adam Fantilli out of the University of Michigan.
The 18-year-old Fantilli finished his lone season in college by becoming the third freshman in NCAA history to win the Hobey Baker Award, given to the top men’s player in NCAA ice hockey. He led all players in points and points per game and was also tied for first with 30 goals in 36 games played.
“I’m super excited,” said Fantilli on joining the Blue Jackets. “Obviously you guys have a lot of Michigan men there already and they’re doing tremendous things for the team so hopefully I can have somewhat of an impact like them.”
With the fourth pick in the NHL Draft, the San Jose Sharks selected William Smith – a center from the U.S. National Team Development program (NTDP).
Smith ranked second on the NTDP under-18 team with 127 points in 60 games during the 2022-23 season. A Boston College commit for the 2023-24 season, Smith was named as the 2023 Under-18 World Championship MVP after leading the tournament in goals (9) and points (20) and helping Team USA to capture the gold medal.
The Montreal Canadiens rounded out the top five, selecting defenseman David Reinbacher from Austria with the fifth pick.
Reinbacher, 18, is the first defenseman ever to be drafted out of Austria and ties compatriot Thomas Vanek as the highest drafted player from the country. Vanek was drafted No. 5 by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2003 NHL Draft.
The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.