Connor Bedard heard from a lot of people after he was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks with the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft.
There was one in particular that stood out.
“I got a text from Sidney Crosby, so that was really cool,” Bedard said. “My favorite player growing up and obviously one of the best to ever do it, so I was pretty excited there.”
If everything goes according to plan for Bedard and the Blackhawks, the teenager will make his NHL debut against Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 10. The road to the opener for Bedard begins with the team’s development camp that starts this weekend.
The high-scoring forward made it clear Friday that he isn’t looking too far ahead.
“This is a big summer for myself to try to make the team and play in the league, of course,” Bedard said. “Obviously, it’s very fast. Everyone is bigger, stronger.”
Bedard, who turns 18 next month, is the crown jewel of an 11-man draft class for Chicago that also includes Oliver Moore, another first-rounder known for his speed. Moore is slated to play college hockey for Minnesota.
Bedard is the second No. 1 overall pick in franchise history, joining Patrick Kane in 2007. Kane helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
“Obviously, you know the history of this organization and the expectation of winning,” Bedard said while sitting beside Moore at a table with four more of the team’s draft picks. “We’re going to do everything we possibly can to improve ourselves and try to win games and ultimately win a Stanley Cup. That’s the main goal.”
Widely regarded as a generational talent, compared to his idol Crosby and Edmonton star Connor McDavid, the 5-foot-10 Bedard had 71 goals and 72 assists in 57 games for Regina in the WHL last season. He also was the tournament MVP when Canada won the world junior hockey championship in January.
While Bedard continues his preparation for his first NHL season, the Blackhawks are adding some veteran forwards to help with his transition.
Chicago announced Friday that it had agreed to a $4 million, one-year contract with Corey Perry, who had 12 goals and 13 assists in 81 games for Tampa Bay last season.
The Blackhawks traded a seventh-round pick to the Lightning for the 38-year-old Perry on Thursday. He was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on Saturday.
Chicago, which finished with a 26-49-7 record last season, also acquired forwards Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno in a trade with Boston on Monday. It announced a $4 million, one-year contract with the 35-year-old Foligno on Tuesday.
Perry is joining his fifth NHL team. He has 417 goals and 466 assists in 1,257 career regular-season games.
Perry also leads active players with 196 career postseason appearances. He won the 2007 Stanley Cup with Anaheim.
Jay Cohen, The Associated Press