Blackhawks first in line for Connor Bedard after winning No. 1 pick in NHL Draft lottery

The Hawks cashed in on an 11.5% chance to receive the top pick during the lottery Monday. Bedard, the most anticipated prospect in years, will almost certainly be a Hawk come June 28, when the draft takes place.

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With the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft, the Hawks likely will select center Connor Bedard, who starred for Canada in the world junior championship.

With the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft, the Hawks likely will select center Connor Bedard, who starred for Canada in the world junior championship.

Darren Calabrese/AP

The Blackhawks are first in line for Connor Bedard after receiving the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft.

The improbable stroke of luck in the draft lottery Monday immediately rendered all the hand-wringing over the team’s 30th-place finish moot, essentially gifting the Hawks the future face of the franchise.

The Hawks entered the day with only an 11.5% chance of winning the No. 1 pick but somehow cashed in with those odds. The Ducks landed the No. 2 pick, and the Blue Jackets slipped to No. 3.

On June 28 — when the draft begins in Nashville — the Hawks will almost certainly select Bedard, the 17-year-old Canadian forward phenom considered arguably the best prospect to enter the draft since Connor McDavid in 2015.

“I just said, ‘Wow,’ ” Hawks general manager Kyle Davidson said Monday. “You understand the impact that a first overall pick can have — and having the first overall pick in the right year.

“Hopefully that’s what we’ve got here. It can change a franchise, it can change a city and it can change an era in a team’s history. So there’s a lot of weight to that. . . . When that No. 1 card flipped over, and it was our logo, it hits you all at once.”

Bedard, a Vancouver native, racked up ridiculous stats for the Regina Pats of the WHL this past season, notching 163 points — 81 goals and 82 assists — in only 64 games during the regular season and playoffs combined.

But his fame was propelled most by his superhuman performance at the world junior championship in December and January, when he had 23 points in seven games to lead Canada to the gold medal. His overtime goal in the quarterfinals, in which he deked through three Slovakia skaters and the goalie in an effortless display of skill, has played on a loop in every draft preview since.

The 5-10, 185-pound center is an elite player in virtually all offensive categories, but his shot is considered the most exceptional of all.

Davidson unsurprisingly avoided discussing Bedard directly. He called him, with a twinkle in his eye, a “great player — one of many in this draft.” But there’s little question about whom the Hawks will pick.

And Bedard’s anticipated selection will provide a colossal boost to the Hawks’ rebuild. If he lives up to his potential, he could be the man that makes the team a Stanley Cup contender again down the road — just like Patrick Kane, the only other No. 1 overall pick in franchise history, did after his selection in 2007.

The Hawks had gathered a room full of team executives at their United Center offices to watch the lottery play out, and Davidson said it was “pretty special” to see the excitement after NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly turned over the Hawks’ placard.

Davidson, meanwhile, had mentally prepared himself all day to end up with the No. 4 or 5 pick, knowing there was nearly a 70% chance the Hawks would slide into one of those two positions.

But this will make the offseason ahead much more compelling. Davidson probably will be more aggressive in free agency simply to give Bedard some offensive support next season, even though the team won’t become a playoff contender immediately. Plus, the Hawks also own the 19th or 20th overall pick (from the Lightning) and four second-round picks.

“I said it to the staff right after we found out we had the No. 1 pick: We acquired all these assets and these draft pieces because we couldn’t rely on the odds,” Davidson said.

“Having said that, now that we have the first overall pick, maybe that gives you more options to use some of those draft assets to move up. . . . It’s just [about] options, and this gives us more options. We’re going to explore them.”

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