The Connor Bedard showcase, also known as the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship, wrapped up Thursday night with Bedard and Team Canada taking the gold medal in a 3-2 overtime win over Czechia.
Bedard, the youngest player in the tournament, completely tore through the rest of the field with 23 points in only seven games. The next-highest scoring player had 14 points. Some scouts are calling Bedard him the best prospect since Connor McDavid in 2015, or even Sidney Crosby in 2005.
We may be less than half way through the season, but some NHL franchises already seem to have shifted their attention to the stacked 2023 draft class. Ramifications for the organization that’s fortunate enough to add Bedard could be massive. We’ve seen generational players shift an entire franchise’s trajectory in the past, and projections have Bedard’s potential at that level.
Of the places he could land, which is best for the sport? The fanbase for every team in the lottery obviously will want Bedard to call their city home, but from a neutral perspective, which landing spots would be most fun or beneficial to the NHL and hockey as a whole?
We’re going to rank the best potential outcomes for the Bedard sweepstakes, based on current standings.
10. Columbus Blue Jackets
Bedard would be the generational franchise player the Blue Jackets have been searching for since their inception 23 years ago. The only No. 1 overall pick in team history was Rick Nash in 2002, and while he opened with a bang — winning a share of the Rocket Richard Trophy with 41 goals as a 19-year-old in 2004 — he wasn’t the franchise-altering player many believe Bedard could be.
Columbus has the sixth-best prospect pool at the moment, according to The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler, headlined by 20-year-old Kent Johnson and 19-year-old Cole Sillinger. Add Bedard to the mix and the Blue Jackets are set up to be strong up the middle for some time. Columbus is projected to finish the season with 59 points, with the third-highest chance of getting the No. 1 overall pick in the draft at 13 percent.
9. San Jose Sharks
Erik Karlsson would love another weapon in San Jose, and Bedard just might be good enough to make an impact while the veteran star defenseman has some good hockey left on his tires.
The Sharks seem to be caught in a strange place between a complete rebuild and trying to return to winning games with their core of Karlsson, Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture. They don’t have nearly as strong of a young pool of players as the Blue Jackets, but William Eklund, 19, and Ryan Merkley, 22, have shown promise. If they opt to trade Timo Meier before the trade deadline, the Sharks could have the ammunition to add to their prospect cupboard quickly.