Bedard feature Feb 17

CHICAGO -- Connor Bedard has played two games after missing nearly six weeks with a fractured jaw sustained Jan. 5. The No. 1 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft has shown no hesitation, very little rust and added a few points to his statistics.

The Chicago Blackhawks center has picked up right where he left off, and if that’s supposed to be a surprise, it isn’t to him.

“I've played the game for a long time and obviously it kind of takes a couple shifts, but I think I've been putting in a lot of work the last little bit here,” Bedard said after he had a goal and an assist in the Blackhawks’ 3-2 win against the Ottawa Senators at United Center on Saturday that ended an eight-game skid.

“So yeah, I don't know, I was expecting to kind of feel good coming back and the first few games have been nice, so got to keep that going.”

Bedard has felt good and looked good, with three points (one goal, two assists) and nine shots on goal in his past two games. He played 21:17 in a 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday and 18:17 against the Senators.

On Saturday, Bedard had the secondary assist on Nick Foligno’s first-period goal that gave Chicago a 1-0 lead, then tied it 2-2 midway through the second with a wrist shot from the left circle that trickled through Joonas Korpisalo’s pads.

OTT@CHI: Bedard nets his first goal since his return from injury

The 18-year-old leads NHL rookies with 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 41 games. Minnesota Wild defenseman Brock Faber is second with 33 points (four goals, 29 assists) in 54 games, and Wild forward Marco Rossi is third with 30 points (14 goals, 16 assists) in 54 games.

Bedard and Faber are tied for the most multipoint games among rookies (seven).

“Not too often does an 18-year-old come in and have this kind of an impact on a team,” Blackhawks forward Jason Dickinson said. “It’s very few players that have the opportunity to do something like that, and it’s even fewer that take that opportunity and run with it. He’s a special player, demands a lot of himself and it shows in his play. He’s going out there and making it happen.”

Bedard started skating Jan. 15, one week after he had surgery on his jaw. He started shooting at the same time, too, though he had to stay away from taking slap shots; the added exertion and teeth clenching wouldn’t have been good for his healing jaw.

But as players and coaches often say, there’s no simulating a game in practice. Also, prior to the game Thursday, Bedard hadn’t participated in a full practice since his injury. The only contact he had taken to that point was from a few players and Chicago coach Luke Richardson that morning.

Apparently, it didn’t affect him.

“He's just driven,” Richardson said. “Loves to play, loves to score and help the team in that way. He's really mild mannered in every other part of his lifestyle away from the rink, even at the rink, and he just lights up when he gets on that ice.

“We had some ups and downs in our team game. I think he's also still getting back in the positional part of the game, but we're just reminding him. I could see him high-stepping a couple times; he seems like he's really excited to be back.”

Bedard’s return doesn’t change the trajectory of the Blackhawks (15-37-3), who are last in the NHL standings and in the early stages of their rebuild, but he obviously is a huge addition to the lineup. His presence gives the home crowd a jolt, puts the opposition on alert and gives his team a boost that is appreciated during a trying season.

“Yeah, I think it goes without saying,” Dickinson said. “Everybody knows he’s a dynamic player, he’s electric with the puck. You give him opportunities he’s going to make something happen and it brings a lot more depth to the lineup, a lot more danger to that line (with left wing Nick Foligno and right wing Philipp Kurashev). So, teams have to think a little bit harder.”

Bedard is back in his element. He said he was happy that he could start skating quickly after his injury, but it’s nothing like playing games.

Yes, he’s missed this.

“Yeah, it's great,” Bedard said with a laugh. “Especially getting back and being at home for a couple games and getting to kind of feel that energy and stuff. It's awesome. To get a win, it's been a long time for myself. I think we were on a five-game losing streak when I was playing and obviously it's hard watching, and it's hard watching when we're losing. So it feels good for all of us to get that.”

Related Content