Connor Bedard doesn’t need to sleep to dream.
The presumed No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft didn’t figure he’d get much Tuesday night anyway, the eve of watching his childhood dream come true just a little more than 24 hours away.
“Me and Adam (Fantilli) were talking about it, we’re probably not going to sleep tonight,” Bedard said Tuesday afternoon. “We’ll probably be pretty wound up.
“It’s super exciting how close it is. It’s hard to have words for it, so we’ll see what happens (Wednesday).”
The soon-to-be 18-year-old from North Vancouver said Tuesday he wasn’t sure how he planned to chase away his final hours as an amateur hockey player, save for that his parents, family and friends would be by his side.
High praise from Connor McDavid to Connor Bedard
A big blue sign rested on an easel outside the biggest room with the biggest view of downtown Nashville on the 11th floor of the AllianceBernstein Tower on Tuesday.
The name on that sign belonged to the biggest-hyped hockey sensation the league has ever seen: Connor Bedard.
The crowd in the room for his Q-and-A session spilled past the doorway and into a bar just outside.
As he made his way through a side glass door and took his place behind a microphone, still cameras clicked and video cameras cast their attention on him.
Bedard, bearing a gray NHL Draft polo and shorts, was poised and relaxed. He didn’t seem fazed by all the praise that’s been thrown his way.
Not even when it came from another Conner, last name McDavid, perhaps the only player in the league who can relate to the experience Bedard has had. The two have trained together, skated together, shared some time. One thing McDavid said he hasn’t shared much of with Bedard is advice.
“He’s got a good head on his shoulders,” said McDavid, who was taken first overall by the Oilers in 2015 and has won three MVPs since. “He seems like he knows what he’s doing.
“I just tell him to enjoy it because this goes by quick. The draft is a special time, and just to enjoy all the moments as you go. … At the end of it, you’ve lived your childhood dream to be drafted in the NHL. At the end of the night you’re just like, ‘What even just happened?’ “
Expectations, people have a few. Bedard does too.
But he insisted the hype hasn’t gotten to him.
“It was pretty gradual,” he said. “It wasn’t a thing that happened overnight. That helps me to kind of learn how to deal with things. It’s gone up a bit this year with the draft and everything.”
He also has taken the little advice McDavid has given him.
“I really try to take every moment in and not look past anything. Just enjoy it,” he said
He burst onto the hockey scene as a 11- or 12-year-old, with the hype train gradually gaining steam.
The center was the first Western Hockey League player to be granted exceptional status, meaning he was allowed to play in the WHL’s major ranks at 15 years old. Two seasons ago he scored 51 goals for the Regina Pats, becoming the younger player in league history to reach the 50-goal mark. He followed that with 71 more scores last season, the first time that’s been done since 1988-89. His 143 points were the most in the league since 1995-96.
Heck, on Monday night, months before he’ll play his first NHL game, Bedard collected his first award from the league. He took home the E.J. McGuire Award for Excellence, which is given to a player who “best exemplifies commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness, and athleticism.”
“I had a chance to skate with him, and just no weakness,” Crosby told NHL.com. “It’s pretty cool to see someone at that age as dominant as he is.”
Kid feels like a kid again
Bedard said his first NHL goal before he scores his first NHL goal will be to make the team.
“That’s my No. 1 goal,” he said.
Bedard spent the morning before the biggest day of his life yucking it up with other prospects and a group of kids during a clinic at Ford Ice Center in Bellevue.
There he wore his Regina Pats sweater, his No. 98 and name bold for all to see. He shouted words of encouragement and instruction. For an hour or so he felt like a kid again, skating with a bunch of youngsters who all were wearing Predators jerseys with the phrase “Future No. 1 Draft Pick” on the back.
“You see the excitement they had on the ice, it kind of takes you back to when you were a kid,” he said.
Bedard turns 18 in July. On Wednesday night in Nashville, he’ll land his first full-time job. On Wednesday night in Nashville, Bedard’s path to his dream will continue. And he won’t need any sleep to see that.
“I never thought too much about the future,” Bedard said. “But we always had the dream of playing in the NHL come up. I hope to achieve that.”
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: 2023 NHL Draft: How Connor Bedard wowed Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby
Source: Yahoo Sports