ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — When the Chicago Blackhawks selected Connor Bedard with the first pick in the draft earlier this summer, the player considered hockey's next superstar slipped on his new team's jersey over a dress shirt and tie.
Bedard got his latest welcome-to-the-NHL moment Tuesday, skating around on the ice in the Blackhawks' home red jersey and his new team's full gear for the first time at the Players' Association's rookie showcase. From the draft through development camp and signing his entry-level contract on his birthday, the event was Bedard's latest step toward making his pro debut.
“Just to be with this organization and city and everything, it’s a dream come true,” Bedard said. “Growing up watching them and seeing kind of their (Stanley Cup) runs was pretty cool, so to put the jersey on is really special.”
Just like Bedard wouldn't say anything publicly about going to Chicago until general manager Kyle Davidson called his name, the 18-year-old doesn't want to get ahead of himself about his first game potentially coming against childhood idol Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 10.
Facing Crosby would be a magical start — but first comes training camp, which starts Sept. 22.
“Try to focus on having a good camp and everything,” Bedard said. “But if that’s what happens, then that’ll be awesome.”
Bedard for two days in the Washington area was the subject of plenty of attention from autograph seekers staking out an event run by the NHLPA and Upper Deck for rookie orientation and trading card photos. He has been seen as a future star since at least age 14, so he said simply: “I’ve had crazier.”
Fellow Blackhawks prospect Kevin Korchinski, who is expected to be a big part of their future but not the face of the franchise like Bedard, admires the relaxed, unbothered approach to all the hype.
"That’s the extra stuff that comes with being a player of his caliber," Korchinski said. “The spotlight on him is really big, so for him to be able to block it out is pretty special and a testament to his character.”
Bedard cracked a smile telling reporters what they say doesn't affect his day-to-day life, though of course he's no stranger to the expectations the hockey community has for him.
“I’m worried about, obviously, my expectations of myself and teammates and everything and trying to be the best version of myself every day,” Bedard said. “I love the game of hockey. For me, that outside noise isn’t really pressure. It’s just kind of something that’s there."
Oh, it's there. FanDuel Sportsbook even has over/under betting lines for Bedard's first-season totals for goals (31 1/2), points (67.5) and has set him as the favorite to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
As for his own expectations for his rookie season, Bedard is still in wait-and-see mode.
“I kind of got to see how it is going to camp, going (through) preseason and everything,” he said. “I expect things out of myself, of course. I want to be a good player, I want to be making a difference and I want to help the team win. That’s kind of what I have right now.”
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Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press