Blackhawks win NHL draft lottery, Connor Bedard sweepstakes
The Chicago Blackhawks won the NHL draft lottery Monday night, earning the right to select phenom Connor Bedard.
The Blackhawks last selected first overall in 2007, when they took winger Patrick Kane. Chicago had the third-best odds to win the first overall pick this year at 11.5%.
Chicago fully committed to a rebuild this season, which included a trade that sent Kane to the New York Rangers and a parting of ways with free agent captain Jonathan Toews. That rebuild got a major boost with the potential to draft Bedard, the 17-year-old Canadian junior center who many believe is a generational talent.
“I’m a little bit speechless to be honest, but really, really excited,” Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson said. “Anytime you can add elite talent like we’ll be able to add in this draft with the first overall selection, it’s a monumental thing. I’m really excited for the fan base and the city. But in the end, it’s one piece. It’s a big piece, but it’s one piece that will go into building this team.”
The Anaheim Ducks had the best odds at 18.5% after finishing in the bottom of the NHL standings. They secured the second overall pick. The Ducks have never selected first overall but picked Bobby Ryan (2005) and Oleg Tverdovsky (1994) second overall. They’re in line to select center Adam Fantilli of the University of Michigan, considered the second-best prospect in the draft.
“You never want to move down in the draft and not retain the first spot, but the top players this year give us an opportunity to select an elite player with the second overall pick,” Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek said. “We are now in the unique position to draft one of the best players available and add to the exciting young players already in our organization.”
The Columbus Blue Jackets had a 13.5% chance to secure the first overall pick but dropped to third.
The lottery involved the 16 teams that did not make the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Bedard, 17, is considered a generational talent by many draft experts and the best franchise building block since Connor McDavid went first overall to the Edmonton Oilers in 2015.
As draft pundit Craig Button, a former NHL general manager, told ESPN: “I think Connor Bedard changes the fortunes of a franchise.”
He was the first Western Hockey League player granted “exceptional status” by Hockey Canada, allowing a 15-year-old Bedard to play full time in the junior league. The North Vancouver native had 271 points in 134 games with the WHL Regina Pats, including 134 goals. This season, he tallied 143 points with 71 goals for the Pats.
His legend grew at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship, where he broke records for career goals (17) and points (36) by a Canadian player. He also set a world juniors record for points by a player under 19 years old, topping Jaromir Jagr’s previous mark.
Fantilli, an 18-year-old Toronto native, has been the consensus No. 2 overall pick throughout the year. The 6-foot-2 center won the 2023 Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA’s top men’s hockey player after tallying 65 points in 36 games as a Michigan freshman.
This draft is considered one of the deeper ones in recent years.
Other players in the mix behind Bedard include U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program center Will Smith, a Massachusetts native committed to Boston College, Swedish center Leo Carlsson, considered an elite two-way player, and Russian winger Matvei Michkov, a dynamic goal scorer whose contract with the Kontinental Hockey League would prevent him from playing in the NHL until the 2026-27 season.
There are two lottery draws, for the first pick and the second pick. Thanks to an NHL rule change in 2021, teams can move up a maximum of 10 spots in the order. If a team ranked Nos. 12-16 wins the first lottery, it would move up the maximum number spaces and the team lowest in the standings would slot in at No. 1. The same rules are applied for the lottery draw for the second overall pick.
The lottery odds this season were:
1. Ducks: 18.5% 2. Blue Jackets: 13.5% 3. Blackhawks: 11.5% 4. San Jose Sharks: 9.5% 5. Montreal Canadiens: 8.5% 6. Arizona Coyotes: 7.5% 7. Philadelphia Flyers: 6.5% 8. Washington Capitals: 6% 9. Detroit Red Wings: 5% 10. St. Louis Blues: 3.5% 11. Vancouver Canucks: 3% 12. Ottawa Senators: 2.5% 13. Buffalo Sabres: 2% 14. Pittsburgh Penguins: 1.5% 15. Nashville Predators: 0.5% 16. Calgary Flames: 0.5%.
According to the NHL, for each of the two drawings, 14 balls, numbered 1 to 14, were placed in a lottery machine. The machine randomly selected four balls. The resulting four-number series (without regard to selection order) was matched against a chart that shows all possible combinations and the clubs to which each was assigned. The chart showed that the Blackhawks had been assigned the numbers (4-5-9-13) that were expelled in the first drawing, followed by the Ducks (6-8-9-10) in the second drawing.
The NHL also implemented a rule that a team cannot win the lottery more than twice in a five-year span, starting with the 2022 lottery.