Connor Bedard’s first NHL season has lived up to expectations


Emily Kaplan, ESPNApr 4, 2024, 07:31 AM ET

CloseEmily Kaplan is ESPN’s national NHL reporter.

Connor Bedard’s remarkable rookie season has been defined by confidence and offensive wizardry. But on Jan. 5, as he tried to knife through the New Jersey Devils defense while driving to the net, he was flattened by a hit. When the 18-year-old’s jaw broke, everything he had been building for was cruelly interrupted.

“It’s not fun not to play,” Bedard said. “I was dying to get back.” One week after surgery to repair his fractured jaw, Bedard convinced trainers to allow him to skate. Solid foods were out, so he drank as many soups, smoothies and supplements as his body would allow, desperate not to lose weight.

The Chicago Blackhawks arranged regularly scheduled CT scans. “I haven’t necessarily encountered this with a player before, but he was pushing to get checked by the doctors as often as possible,” Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson said. “It was a lot of, ‘Can I get in to see the doctor? Can I go again?'”

At one point Davidson told Bedard: “I’d give you my jaw if I could.”

Bedard researched players with similar injuries. He learned that Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara didn’t miss a game in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, with two plates, some wires and screws holding his jaw together. Bedard was incredulous that the Blackhawks wouldn’t let him do the same. After six agonizing weeks, doctors gave Bedard the news he was waiting for: He was cleared for contact.

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Coach Luke Richardson was meeting with Davidson in his office about another matter when Bedard invited himself in — with talking points. The team initially wanted Bedard to get in a few practices before a game. Bedard believed he should play the next night against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, and presented his case for why.

They compromised. Bedard would skate the next morning with coaches to see how he felt. Bedard would take checks from Richardson, a former NHL defenseman himself, to test his…

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Author : Emily Kaplan

Publish date : 2024-04-04 12:57:11

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