Connor Bedard will play his first preseason game with the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night, ushering in a new season in the Windy City. Gone are perennial superstars and three-time Stanley Cup champions Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. The Hawks are no longer a constant threat to exit the Western Conference come playoff time. Instead, they are one of the worst teams in the NHL, fully committed to a rebuild after the last pieces of the squad that won three Stanley Cups in six straight seasons.
But there is hope that the new core will be able to replicate the incredible success of the 2010s Blackhawks, and that everything will start with perhaps the most hyped prospect in the history of the league in Bedard. The kid is only 18-years-old, fresh from breaking up junior hockey. Somehow he scored 71 goals and 143 points in 57 games for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League, and there is no doubt that he will start the 2023-24 season as the center of the line. franchise.
Expect Bedard to dazzle the hockey world and easily win the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie, but how will that translate into team success? Here are three bold predictions for the 2023-24 Chicago Blackhawks.
3) The Hawks still finish last in the West
Despite the excitement that Bedard brings to what could be a typical rebuilding season in Chicago, it doesn’t change the fact that the roster, as currently constructed, is one of the worst in the NHL. . Looking at the expected lineup combinations on the DailyFaceoff team, it’s pretty clear to see that after a long line up front and Seth Jones on the back end, things quickly turned ugly.
You could argue that there isn’t another top-six forward on the roster besides Bedard and recently acquired Taylor Hall. There are some young players to keep an eye on next year, including Taylor Raddysh, Lukas Reichel and Andreas Athanasiou, but no one has put up more than 50 points.
Worse on back side; On opening night, the Hawks will field a left defense that includes Wyatt Kaiser, Kevin Korchinski and Jarred Tonordi. It goes without saying that that’s not really an NHL-level trio. The right side is especially promising with Jones, Connor Murphy and Nikita Zaitsev, but the 2023-24 Blackhawks will likely spend more time in their own zone.
Petr Mrazek will handle the goaltending duties in the Windy City after the 31-year-old posted a brutal .894 save percentage and 3.66 goals against average in 39 games for the last year’s team. Once a very good starter, he should be a backup now, and may be the weakest starting goalie on all 32 teams on opening night.
You probably get the point. Connor Bedard is exciting, but Chicago is not good, and they are expected to be in the basement of the Western Conference no matter how well their prized rookie plays.
2) Seth Jones turned back the clock, scoring 60 points
Seth Jones will look for a better individual season after a year in 2022-23. Still an above-average offensive defenseman, he’ll be in charge of Chicago’s powerplay again in 2023-24, as he looks to improve on last year’s 37-point performance. The difference this time is Hall and Bedard. With both players on the PP, the team is counting on scoring more goals, and so Jones’ individual production should see an increase as well.
The 28-year-old is just one season removed from a 51-point-in-78-game showing, and I believe the Arlington, TX native will surprise this year, scoring 10 goals and 60 assists. points revealed by Hall and Bedard in PP1.
1) With Taylor Hall on his wing, Bedard eclipsed 80 points, winning the Calder
Picking Connor Bedard to win the Calder Trophy is the norm for the most favored prospect since Connor McDavid. But with elite puck skills, a lightning-fast release and incredible vision, the 18-year-old really should make an impact right away. He’s already shown chemistry with Taylor Hall on the top line, and those two figure to be at the hip throughout the season.
A former Hart Trophy winner five seasons ago, Hall has had some tough times but remains a star player. Playing with Bedard will be beneficial to both, and Hall should quickly improve on his 36-point performance in 2022-23 with the Boston Bruins. He is a complementary player in Massachusetts, but will be a viable option alongside Bedard as he looks to return to form at the United Center.
Seven months from now, the Chicago Blackhawks will likely finish the campaign as a bottom-three team in the Western Conference. But if Connor Bedard scores 80+ points and wins the Calder Trophy, as he should, it will be considered a successful season in Illinois.