Connor Bedard will draw attention in fantasy hockey. Tony Ferrari and Jason Chen rank the bottom NHL teams based on how smooth Bedard’s transition could be.
This year’s fantasy hockey season is nearing an end, but it’s never too early to take a quick look ahead at next year, especially when it comes to projecting a player deemed a generational talent.
Connor Bedard is just that – a generational scorer.
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Anyone invested in building and tweaking fantasy hockey rosters knows the environment and situation matter for a player. Not every opportunity is made equal.
Playing on the second line in Tampa Bay isn’t the same as playing on the second line in Philadelphia. Some of that is the talent surrounding a player, and some of it is the systems employed by the coaching staff. Opportunity and environment can make a massive difference.
What does that mean for Bedard? Well, it means the difference between ending up in Vancouver or St. Louis, where the team has been bad but offensively capable, or ending up in Chicago or Philadelphia, where offense has gone to die.
The landing spot could be the difference between a 60-point season or a potential 80-point season for the game-changing talent coming into the NHL next season. Even if those point projections are optimistic for someone who hasn’t played an NHL game yet, Bedard will likely be a strong contributor right away.
I enlisted the help of The Hockey News’ fantasy hockey guru Jason Chen to look ahead at where the best landing spots could be for Bedard based on points percentage in the standings. With the bottom 11 teams eligible to win the first overall pick, let’s look at what each group could mean for Bedard’s rookie year.
1. Washington Capitals – Projection: 35G-40A-75P
Tony: 1 Jason: 2
Not only does Bedard provide the answer to the post-Ovechkin era in D.C., but their veteran core will also be able to help shoulder some of the pressure of being a top pick and allow Bedard to start his career on the wing. A power play featuring Bedard, Alex Ovechkin and a healthy John Carlson should propel their special teams back into elite status. Peter Laviolette has a reputation for not trusting younger players, but Bedard’s otherworldly talent may force Laviolette to change his philosophy. – Jason Chen
The Washington Capitals could use Bedard to help extend the Ovechkin Era. The Capitals are looking to retool rather than rebuild, as shown by the aggressive move to acquire Rasmus Sandin after dealing Dmitry Orlov. It has been a down season, with injuries limiting Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson, and Tom Wilson to under 30 games each. Healthy years from them and adding Bedard could help Ovechkin and the Caps return to the playoffs and contend once again. – Tony Ferrari
2. Vancouver Canucks – Projection: 30-40-70
Tony: 2 Jason: 1
The Canucks getting the hometown kid would be an outstanding story. It could also help rejuvenate a franchise that has hit the skids lately. Vancouver has a ton of offensive talent for Bedard to play with. If you want him on the wing, you could play with Elias Petterson and Andrei Kuzmenko. If you want him down the middle, you could insulate him with J.T. Miller and Ilya Mikheyev. The Canucks would be a great story and spot for Bedard to land. – Tony Ferrari
Bedard has made no secret of his love for his hometown team, and he will thrive on a squad that already has no problem scoring goals, especially in transition. The Canucks already have an impressive young core headlined by Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. Adding another elite offensive talent gives them enough to build around as long as they can address their deficiencies on the blueline. The offensive upside for Bedard on the Canucks is massive – the only question is how long Rick Tocchet’s leash will be if Bedard starts hunting for more goals by cheating on defense. – Jason Chen
3. St. Louis Blues – Projection: 30-40-70
Tony: 3 Jason: 3
Adding Bedard to a young core led by Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas will give the Blues one of the best under-25 cores in the league, where 27-year-old Pavel Buchnevich is deemed “old.” Bedard will immediately help the Blues’ scoring, who have only one player who has scored at least 30 goals (Kyrou). He’ll also get a chance to play in the middle of the ice on a team lacking natural centers. – Jason Chen
The Blues need true centers, and Bedard could quickly step into a top-six center role. The depth of talented young wingers on St. Louis’ roster would provide an excellent mix with Bedard’s elite scoring talent. The Blues are in a position to aggressively turn the tide and get back into the playoff picture next year. Adding a true top-six center of Bedard’s caliber could set them up for success for years, despite the low lottery odds. – Tony Ferrari
4. Detroit Red Wings – Projection: 30-35-65
Tony: 4 Jason: 4
Long needing depth down the middle in the Dylan Larkin Era, the Red Wings could be one of the best long-term landing spots for Bedard. He would allow the rest of the roster to slot into their more natural spot over time and provide depth down the middle. Getting Bedard would solidify the fact that the Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider core is the group to build around, with the veteran Larkin helping the youth flourish. The emerging talent on the wings would immediately provide Bedard with someone to play with. He could be key to the team taking the next step. – Tony Ferrari
The Wings tried a number of players to fill the spot behind Dylan Larkin for many seasons, and Bedard would be the best option they’ve ever had. The Yzerplan hit a few snags this season, and they’re still years away from being a contender. Still, the upside for Bedard will be plenty of playing time and a glut of impressive wingers he could pair with down the road, including Grand Rapids grads Jonatan Berggren and Elmer Soderblom and impressive Denver Pioneer sophomore Carter Mazur. Larkin’s strong two-way play will also help shelter Bedard from tougher matchups on home ice and allow him to flourish offensively. – Jason Chen
5. Montreal Canadiens – Projection: 30-35-65
Tony: 5 Jason: 5
There may be no better coach on this list than Martin St-Louis to help usher Bedard into the NHL. Elite players see the ice differently from most, and St-Louis will be able to teach and relate in a way that many coaches couldn’t. The Habs don’t have a high-end goal scorer outside of Cole Caufield, meaning Bedard may have to carry a line alone. The veterans, such as Denis Gurianov, Josh Anderson and Brendan Gallagher, will benefit from playing with Bedard – not the other way around. – Jason Chen
A back-to-back first-overall selection would give the Canadiens a thunder-and-lightning combination with Juraj Slafkovsky and Connor Bedard. They could even play together, as Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield developed chemistry this season. Those pairs would give the Canadiens a couple of impressive duos to build around in the top six. Montreal has several veterans that could play with either pair as well. Bedard would look excellent in bleu, blanc, et rouge. – Tony Ferrari
6. Anaheim Ducks – Projection: 30-35-65
Tony: 6 Jason: 8
The Ducks have a collection of exciting young talent, with Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale and Mason McTavish already in the fold. Adding Bedard could put them on track to truly emerge from the rebuild over the next few years. The opportunity to start on the wing alongside his Canadian world juniors teammate in McTavish could give Bedard some instant comfort and chemistry with the Ducks. The team doesn’t seem in a rush to exit the rebuild, so Bedard would get time to make mistakes as he learns the NHL game. A new coach in Anaheim might help, too. – Tony Ferrari
Bedard would be an excellent piece to add behind Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish, but the question is how well the Ducks can help him develop. Bedard is talented enough to be a top center without much instruction, but the Ducks’ track record for developing forwards hasn’t been excellent – they currently only have one top-six winger in Troy Terry. Coming into arguably the worst defensive team in the cap era, and with Dallas Eakins still behind the bench, try to ignore Bedard’s inevitably horrendous plus-minus. – Jason Chen
7. Columbus Blue Jackets – Projection: 30-30-60
Tony: 8 Jason: 6
The Jackets already have an intriguing group of young players, headlined by Cole Sillinger, Kent Johnson, Kirill Marchenko and Yegor Chinakhov, giving them tons of flexibility on the depth chart. The best spot for Bedard to play will likely be next to Johnny Gaudreau, who maintained a point-per-game pace for much of the season without a bona fide center. The skepticism about Bedard’s success on the Jackets stems from the team’s reputation for going after the big fish but never really making it work, going back to their acquisitions of Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene. – Jason Chen
Columbus has one of the most underrated prospect pools in the league and a plethora of young talent on the roster as it is. The glaring hole for the Jackets is at center, which means Bedard could come into camp with an eye on playing down the middle between Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine. That would allow the rest of the young talent to develop under that loaded top line. If he isn’t on line 1, the skilled depth on the wings with Kent Johnson and Kirill Marchenko, among others, would give him players to thrive with. – Tony Ferrari
8. San Jose Sharks – Projection: 30-30-60
Tony: 7 Jason: 10
The Sharks don’t quite have the talent of most teams ahead of them on this list, but they have some intriguing prospects. William Eklund has been solid in his late-season run and could pair with Bedard well. The Sharks have two quality top-six centers in Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, which would also allow Bedard to start on the wing, promising him at least one capable linemate. – Tony Ferrari
The Sharks can surround Bedard with veterans and shelter him, but for how long? Logan Couture will turn 35 next March, and at some point, their rebuild will require them to trade Erik Karlsson and Tomas Hertl. That paves the way for Bedard to play a lot. While David Quinn was criticized for not playing Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko enough during their rookie seasons on Broadway, note William Eklund averaged close to 20 minutes per game during his late-season call-up. However, Bedard’s production will likely be capped if the Sharks can’t surround him with better players. – Jason Chen
9. Arizona Coyotes – Projection: 30-25-55
Tony: 9 Jason: 9
With Bedard, the Coyotes will finally be able to put together a second scoring line behind Clayton Keller. Though the Coyotes are very young and punch above their weight under Andre Tourigny, their ceiling won’t be very high if Bill Armstrong continues to gut the roster for futures every season. They must commit to building around an established core. With a thin defense, they might be fishing pucks out of their net too often to be able to generate much offense, even with Bedard in the lineup. – Jason Chen
Bedard would give the Coyotes a player of a caliber they’ve never had and allow them to develop some depth through the lineup. The roster has been routinely void of talent over the last decade, and they continue selling anything not nailed down. Bedard could give them the confidence to settle down finally. Bedard has routinely sold out rinks with higher capacity than what he would get in Arizona, at least until they get their new NHL rink in a few years. The kid deserves better. – Tony Ferrari
10. Philadelphia Flyers – Projection: 25-30-55
Tony: 11 Jason: 7
While Philly may have better talent for Bedard to play with than a few other teams on this list, the biggest factor for the Flyers being so low is that John Tortorella is behind the bench. Tortorella has had success, and his history of developing players is evident, but it’s also a long and hard road for young players. The reality is that while Bedard may ultimately be the most talented player on the roster, the coach starting Bedard in the bottom six isn’t out of the question. That could lead to muted point totals and lackluster production until he likely finds his way to the top line. It certainly doesn’t help that Philadelphia is a mess as they figure out a potential rebuild. – Tony Ferrari
Take it from those he’s coached before – when it comes to teaching and developing players, John Tortorella’s one of the best. Bedard’s journey will not be smooth, but that’s expected from a young player. With Joel Farabee, Travis Konecny and the upcoming Tyson Foerster, the Flyers will have a few players for Bedard to play with while they go through a rebuild. No other team on this list provides more outcomes for Bedard’s point production, mainly because Tortorella is demanding and will ask that Bedard earns his ice time. There may be games where Bedard plays 20 minutes and others where he gets benched for a period – neither would be surprising. – Jason Chen
11. Chicago Blackhawks – Projection: 30-25-55
Tony: 10 Jason: 11
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane broke in as teenagers and immediately dominated. However, remember that they also had plenty of veterans to help them along, including Patrick Sharp and Robert Lang. Who will play that role for Bedard if Toews leaves? While Bedard will get the reins right away, even the best young players need a little guidance. With only Taylor Raddysh able to eclipse the 20-goal mark this season, Bedard will have to do a lot of the heavy lifting. It’s a monumental task for 82 games in the best and most grueling league in the world. – Jason Chen
Unless Jonathan Toews returns next season to mentor Bedard, Chicago could be asking a lot of the young phenom. Bedard has all the skill in the world and will likely get every chance he needs to produce in Chicago, but the talent surrounding him is dreadful. They will need to bring in some good veterans or hope that players like Taylor Raddysh or Tyler Johnson step up ambitiously. The Hawks may have torn it down too far for Bedard to succeed immediately. – Tony Ferrari