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Connor Bedard 'excited' for first NHL game in Canada as Canadiens host Blackhawks

BROSSARD, Que. — Connor Bedard is on quite the road trip to begin his NHL career. The hockey phenom and No.
Chicago Blackhawks' Connor Bedard plays in his first regular season NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Gene J. Puskar

BROSSARD, Que. — Connor Bedard is on quite the road trip to begin his NHL career.

The hockey phenom and No. 1 overall draft pick played his first game Tuesday in Pittsburgh against Sidney Crosby and his second Wednesday against the Presidents’ Trophy champion Boston Bruins.

On Saturday night, he’ll take the ice at Bell Centre for his first NHL game in Canada as the storied Montreal Canadiens (0-0-1) host his Chicago Blackhawks (1-1-0). Tickets 

Pressure? Too much attention? The 18-year-old from North Vancouver, B.C., says he’s used to it after a high-profile junior career that was highlighted by a record-setting performance at last year’s world juniors.

"I've been dealing with it for a while, I think I've gotten better every day with all that,” said Bedard from the Canadiens’ practice facility.

As for the on-ice adjustments, Bedard appears to be fitting in just fine. He earned his first point, an assist, in his first game against the Penguins before scoring a first-career goal in Boston, and led all Chicago skaters in ice-time for both games.

Chicago head coach Luke Richardson says the speed with which Bedard is adapting to the game is what separates him from other players. And the media attention that comes with being that special a talent comes with the game.

"He's already making adjustments on the fly where sometimes it takes young guys months, maybe years to do that,” Richardson said. “That's just why he is at an elite level because he does take information and he wants to be out there in the pressure situations, he doesn't mind this media attention that goes along with it because that's the way it goes. 

“If you want to be the best you're going to have lots of attention."

On top of it being his first game in Canada, it’ll also be his first time featured on “Hockey Night in Canada,” making the experience that much more special.

"You grew up watching 'Hockey Night in Canada' as a kid, I remember always getting really excited for Saturday ... we always tuned in, and obviously it was it's kind of a tradition,” he said. “It's really exciting to be in a Canadian city for their home opener. It's going to be a lot of fun."


The Canadiens, who twice gave up a two-goal lead in a 6-5 season-opening shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, are expecting a fun challenge to get their first win with Bedard in town.

"He's a special talent,” said veteran forward Brendan Gallagher, who’s been familiar with Bedard for years. "Everywhere he's gone, he's been what he's been hyped up to be. Obviously, early on in his NHL career it's been exactly that as well. So you're excited to watch him, obviously just not tomorrow night."

Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis says what impresses him most about Bedard is his shot, one that’s been compared to Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews with the way he drags and curls the puck to create a shooting angle.

Samuel Montembeault will be the lucky goalie trying to stop it as he gets set to make his first start this season.

Montembeault says he’s well aware of the challenge he’s about to face.

"His shot looks a lot like Matthews. I haven't studied it but it's everywhere on social media, even when he was in junior, we've seen so much of him,” he said. “It's obviously a big challenge for goalies so I'll have to do my best to stay patient in my approach"


Besides Bedard’s shot, St. Louis thinks the young talent has pretty much all the tools except for his size, listed at five-foot-10.

St. Louis, who’s five-foot-eight, was one of the smallest players in the NHL throughout his career. Bedard says watching St. Louis build a Hall-of-Fame career despite being called “too small” is something he looked up to as a kid.

"I was someone that got told they were too small growing up a bit too, so just seeing a guy like that doing it and at the highest level, you can always look at that and be like, 'OK, he's doing it then it's not impossible,'” said Bedard. “I never thought it was impossible, but it's it's cool to kind of see that example and just see the career he had."

Bruins captain Brad Marchand, five-foot-nine, told reporters in Boston on Wednesday after playing Bedard that the game has changed and that being small isn’t as big a deal as it used to be.

St. Louis says size doesn’t matter, as long as you play big.

"You can't just be a small guy who's talented, who doesn't want to get involved physically,” he said. “Brad is the prime example of that, and every small guy, you gotta get involved physically, you've got to win battles, and I can see Connor doing that."

He’ll get the chance to see firsthand if that’s the case on Saturday night.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 13, 2023.

Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press