It’s all but guaranteed at this point that Regina Pats centerman Connor Bedard will be the first overall pick in the 2023 Draft, and NHL teams are doing whatever it takes to get a better chance at winning the first overall pick in the draft lottery. He has the potential to be a franchise altering superstar with game breaking offensive skills that already rival some of the very best NHL players despite him being just 17 years old.
I decided to try something new with this piece, ranking the best teams for Bedard to join while keeping his best interest in mind. That means the top team must have a spot in the depth chart perfect for him, a chance to win important games in the near future, quality teammates/prospects to play with, have a sensible rebuilding timeline that Bedard fits into, among a few other factors. There isn’t a team in the NHL that wouldn’t absolutely love to add him, but some teams would be much better destinations for him than others.
I will be ranking 15 teams with picks in the top-16 (the Montreal Canadiens have two) as of Monday, March 13, since they have the best chances at potentially landing the first overall selection. The new NHL Draft lottery rules mean that only the NHL’s bottom 11 teams even have a chance so some of these teams won’t even be in the running when the lottery comes around. I will also be assuming that Bedard makes it as a center in the NHL for most of these because of the value of that position and my belief that his skating/compete combo gives him a good shot at sticking there. Without further ado, let’s take a look at which NHL teams would make for the very best landing spots for Bedard.
15. Philadelphia Flyers
After firing Chuck Fletcher and naming Danny Briere interim general manager, it has become clear that the Flyers are finally committing to a rebuild. However, that also means that they’re likely to be trading away more of their good players and have very few quality young players to use when trying to build a great team around Bedard in the near future. Cutter Gauthier (5th overall in 2022 Draft) could very well be a great second-line center behind Bedard someday, but there aren’t a lot of exciting young wingers or defenders coming up in Philly so their future is a bit murky.
This is one of the few teams really competing for Bedard (seventh best odds as of writing) that would likely still be absolutely horrid next season even if they added Bedard, so it’s very possible that they could add another top-10 pick or two to build around Bedard with, but it just doesn’t seem like a great fit at the moment. A team that just started their rebuild would likely feel the need to immediately accelerate said rebuild after landing Bedard which probably won’t lead to long-term success in Philly’s case.
14. Washington Capitals
Washington would be an interesting landing spot for Bedard, with enough talent around him to be a fringe playoff team in his rookie year. It would be a bonus to have Alex Ovechkin as a teammate/mentor for Bedard so us fans could see the greatest goalscorer of all-time passing the baton to someone with the potential to be one of the best snipers in the league for the next decade.
However, Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, and John Carlson are nearing the end of the prime of their careers (or have already passed that point), which would leave Bedard with very little in the way of high-end talent to play alongside long-term. The Capitals don’t have the greatest prospect group at the moment, so the first year or two of Bedard’s career would be competitive before having to endure a re-tool/build for the next few years which is certainly not ideal.
13. San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks are in a similar boat to the Flyers in that they’ve only recently committed to a full rebuild when they traded away Timo Meier and that would make them a strange landing spot for Bedard simply based on their timeline. He’d have an easy path to being their first line center (1C), slowly working his way through the lineup past Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, but the Sharks don’t have very many top of the lineup type prospects for Bedard to play alongside yet.
I’m a big fan of both William Eklund and Filip Bystedt, but that trio doesn’t instill enough confidence in me that this will be a great team long-term. I’d bet that Bedard makes this current group better next year, maybe pulling them into the 24-18th in the league range, which hurts their ability to build through the draft with high picks while also not making them an especially competitive team. We can find a better fit.