Bedard's handling of early whirlwind impresses NHL peers
A player dubbed as a potential "Next One" since age 13, the top pick at June's draft ran a gauntlet through his first four professional games.
Bedard kicked things off by facing childhood idol Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in his debut before visiting a trio of Original Six teams — the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs.
"They sure started him off on the all-circus tour," Matthews, selected No. 1 by Toronto in 2016, said with a smile.
"It's a lot, but in the end you just want to play hockey."
Bedard has done that, and a lot more, just over a week into his NHL career.
The 18-year-old centre from North Vancouver, B.C., picked up his first point against his hero, scored his first goal against the Bruins, was booed by Montreal fans in a show of respect, and suited up in Toronto under the bright lights of the game's biggest media market.
With all that came a lot of attention from media and fans.
Too much at times, according to Blackhawks winger Taylor Hall.
"But I think he understands his role as a major ambassador for the game of hockey, and he's handling it so well," said the top pick in 2010. "He doesn't seem to be fazed by it."
Bedard said he was prepared for the hype machine early in the schedule, which will see Chicago play one more road game Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche, prior to making his first regular-season appearance at the United Center when the Blackhawks host the Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday.
"A little crazier just because people haven't talked to you or seen you play," Bedard said of the blitz on his time. "Just enjoying it … living out a dream right now."
From where Hall sits, there needs to be a balance between growing the game and letting the sport's next big thing breathe.
"He's going to get used to it," Hall said. "The NHL is obviously trying to promote their stars in a different way, on so many different streaming platforms and everything that's going on now.
"It's different, but I think we're pretty in awe of what he's done so far."
Bedard picked up points in his first three games for a rebuilding Chicago team that's impressed with two wins and two losses to start the year, including Monday's 4-1 victory over the Leafs.
The Blackhawks didn't hold a morning skate before that one in Toronto, and didn't make Bedard available to the media afterwards, but his head coach has been impressed by how he's handled the attention.
"Very mature at this part of the game, which is great for him because he has to go through it," Chicago bench boss Luke Richardson said. "But lots of help in the room as well with the former No. 1 picks overall and former MVPs and a Stanley Cup winner. A lot of those guys are surrounding him with a lot of great advice."
"Kid is unbelievable," Blackhawks forward MacKenzie Entwistle added. "Not only as a player, but also as a person. For him to start on the road in pretty tough cities to play in, it just shows the character of who he is."
Toronto captain John Tavares likened Bedard's demeanour to the youngster's favourite player growing up.
"Reminds me of Sid," said the No. 1 selection in 2009.
"You guys aren't easy to please," Leafs winger Mitch Marner said of the media. "He hasn't lost himself in it."
Bedard has made a point to embrace the madness.
"You never know what to expect," he said. "When I found out we started on this trip, I was really excited for all the home openers and Canadian markets. It's been a lot of fun. There's been a lot of media, a lot of attention on it, but I'm just focused on playing hockey.
"You have to enjoy the experience."
Matthews, who doesn't know Bedard on a personal level, said that's the best way to approach this new, hectic chapter.
"Good head on his shoulders," he said. "An exciting time in your life. Gotta have fun with it."
OILERS PUNCH BACK
Edmonton forward Evander Kane joked the "sky is falling" after his team's 0-2 start that included a combined 12 goals against.
Leon Draisaitl took charge in Game 3.
The Oilers star forward had two power-play goals, including the 127th of his career to move past Ryan Smyth and Glenn Anderson, and set a new franchise mark as part of a four-point night in Tuesday's 6-1 victory in Nashville over the Predators.
Most teams across the NHL release salary details, including term and dollar amount, when announcing a signing.
Some, however, still do not.
Independent websites like capfriendly.com and puckpedia.com bring most of the information together in one place through various sources, but why hasn't the league ever done that itself?
"I don't think there's any league imperative to make that information available," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said before the start of the season. "We've never thought that was worthwhile pursuing or something that really be in any of our clubs' interests.
"Third parties have done it with various degrees of effectiveness and accuracy. But that's been our position from Day 1."
Daly added the NHL as debated the idea, especially when it comes to the benefits of potential fan engagement.
"A number of internal discussions," Daly continued. "There are people in my office who are very, very much supportive of something like that. And there are other people who are very much against.
"It's always a balance."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 18, 2023.
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