How many points will Connor Bedard produce as a Blackhawks rookie this season?

Historical precedents set by other No. 1 overall picks suggest 63 to 72 points to be a reasonable over-under line for Bedard — but that’s assuming he stays healthy for the full season.

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Expectations for Connor Bedard’s rookie production with the Blackhawks are already high.

Expectations for Connor Bedard’s rookie production with the Blackhawks are already high.

George Walker IV/AP

Two months before his NHL debut, Blackhawks prospect Connor Bedard is the overwhelming favorite to win the Calder Trophy.

FanDuel lists Bedard, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft in June, at minus-120 to be the 2023-24 rookie of the year. In other words, they figure he’s more likely to win the award than every other NHL rookie combined. And DraftKings is even more confident, listing Bedard at minus-140.

Nobody else has come close to ‘‘minus’’ preseason odds to win the Calder since Auston Matthews in 2016 and Connor McDavid in 2015 — and with good reason, given that Bedard is the most anticipated prospect since those two superstars. (Speaking of McDavid, both sportsbooks think Bedard is more likely to win the Calder than McDavid is to win the Hart Trophy as MVP in the coming season.)

But nothing is certain. Bedard will have to stay healthy for a full 82-game season — or at least close to it — to have a chance. That’s no easy task for any NHL player, much less an 18-year-old with no prior experience playing against grown men.

The unpredictable nature of injuries means they don’t affect preseason odds, but they certainly affect end-of-season results. McDavid, after all, didn’t win the Calder in 2015-16 — Artemi Panarin did instead — because a fractured clavicle limited him to 45 games (in which he had 48 points).

Assuming Bedard manages to play 82 games, however, leads to the most interesting question of all: How many points will he produce?

It isn’t a simple question to answer, given Bedard has yet to play an NHL game. His ridiculous production in the Western Hockey League last season — 163 points in 64 games — can’t be translated at any predetermined rate to the NHL.

The best method of estimation involves looking at the historical precedents set by other No. 1 overall picks, a pool that includes 15 forwards who have entered the NHL during the salary-cap era (since 2005).

Collectively, those forwards have averaged 53 points — 23 goals and 30 assists — in 68 games during their rookie seasons. Prorated over 82 games, that pace equates to 63 points.

Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, the first two players on the list, are also the outliers; they had 106 and 102 points as rookies, respectively. Nobody else has topped 72 points, although Matthews did come close with 69 (including 40 goals).

When looking at the best rookie performances by anyone — of any draft status — during the cap era, that 72-point threshold (coincidentally set by Patrick Kane in 2006-07) remains notable.

Twenty-four rookies have topped 60 points, but only seven have topped 70 and only Ovechkin and Crosby have topped 85. That 72-point barrier seems to be the distinguisher between a great rookie season and an otherworldly one.

The recent history of the No. 1-overall-picks pool is the most concerning part of the exercise because the last three forwards taken first struggled mightily as rookies. Jack Hughes produced 21 points in 61 games, Alexis Lafreniere produced 21 points in 56 games and Juraj Slafkovsky produced 10 points in 39 games.

Breaking things down further, the first-picks group collectively averaged 2.66 points per 60 minutes as rookies. But Hughes, Lafreniere and Slafkovsky weigh that number down considerably because they all finished below 1.63.

Before them, Taylor Hall’s rate of 2.13 points per 60 minutes set the group’s bottom line. Interestingly, infamous bust Nail Yakupov produced at a right-on-average rate of 2.66 as a rookie in 2013, matching Nathan MacKinnon’s output the next year. Matthews’ rate was 2.86, McDavid’s was 3.39 and Kane’s was 2.87. Nico Hischier (2.33), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2.86), John Tavares (2.19) and Steven Stamkos (2.34) make up the rest of the group.

So perhaps that’s a roundabout way of reaching the answer. If Bedard plays 82 games this season, he can be expected to produce about 63 points.

Rookie seasons by No. 1 picks (forwards only)
Player Season Games Points
Juraj Slafkovsky 2022-23 39 10
Alexis Lafreniere 2021 56 21
Jack Hughes 2019-20 61 21
Nico Hischier 2017-18 82 52
Auston Matthews 2016-17 82 69
Connor McDavid 2015-16 45 48
Nathan MacKinnon 2013-14 82 63
Nail Yakupov 2013 48 31
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 2011-12 62 52
Taylor Hall 2010-11 65 42
John Tavares 2009-10 82 54
Steven Stamkos 2008-09 79 46
Patrick Kane 2007-08 82 72
Sidney Crosby 2005-06 81 102
Alex Ovechkin 2005-06 81 106
Average 68 53

One also could look at a second relevant pool for historical precedents: forwards with the highest preseason Calder odds. In the last eight years, that group consists of McDavid, Matthews, Clayton Keller, Elias Pettersson, Hughes, Lafreniere, Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish — four players who also were taken No. 1 overall and four who weren’t.

Nonetheless, that group’s average is remarkably similar to the other group’s average: 50 points — 21 goals and 29 assists — in 69 games, with a rate of 2.52 points per 60 minutes. Hughes and Lafreniere still weigh it down, but Crosby and Ovechkin don’t prop it up. Keller (2.63 points per 60 minutes), Pettersson (3.06), Zegras (2.73) and McTavish (2.10) all fall roughly in the middle.

But this method of using historical precedents, while better than pure guesswork, still oversimplifies things.

On one hand, Bedard’s supporting cast on the Hawks will be significantly worse than the average supporting cast of those who set the historical precedents. The Hawks’ decision to tank to maximize their lottery odds worked out well, but doing so left a bare-bones depth chart around Bedard, even with the acquisition of Hall.

On the other hand, Bedard almost certainly will play more as a rookie than most of the precedent-setters did. In fact, if he inherits Kane’s role and averages 19:57 of ice time per game (as Kane did with the Hawks last season) instead of 17:20 (the historical No. 1 picks’ average) while still producing 2.66 points per 60 minutes, his full-season projection shoots up from 63 to 72 points. He probably won’t play quite that much, but it’s possible.

And then there’s the undeniable fact that Bedard isn’t a typical No. 1 overall pick. He entered the draft considered a possible generational talent on the same tier as Matthews, McDavid and Crosby. No rational scout harbored the same thoughts about, say, Slafkovsky or Hischier in their draft years.

So what if he’s McDavid? Well, if McDavid hadn’t fractured his clavicle in 2015-16, his stats suggest he would’ve produced 87 points in 82 games. That number might be the best-case scenario for Bedard this season.

And what if he’s Crosby? Well, Crosby did play a full season as a rookie — that’s how he got to 102 points. But that number is probably not worth entertaining as a possibility. After all, Bedard still has yet to play an NHL game.

NOTE: Forward Anders Bjork signed a one-year contract Thursday with Rockford of the AHL, so he’ll remain in the organization this season but won’t be eligible to be called up. During his brief stint with the Hawks last season, Bjork appreciated the proximity to his family in Milwaukee and college connections at Notre Dame.

Elsewhere, former Hawks goalie Alex Stalock signed with the Ducks and ex-Hawks defenseman Caleb Jones with the Hurricanes. Jujhar Khaira remains a free agent, and Jonathan Toews sill hasn’t announced his plans for the coming season.

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