It was ESPN’s turn to devote prime time to hockey last night, and with what to some may be the least desirable matchups of U.S. TV markets (Edmonton and Las Vegas), they tried to provide a lead-in with the coverage of the NHL Draft Lottery results. The winner was likely to draft one Connor Bedard, a phenomenal 17-year-old Canadian who has dominated junior league scoring despite being saddled with a medicore team in Regina, Saskatchewan and who broke out with several stellar performances during this past winter’s World Cup.
Since the Chicago Blackhawks held the best odds for coming away with the coveted rights, there was some belief that ratings might be helped. And when the Blackhawks did indeed emerge with the number one pick, there would, in theory, be jubilation and excitement akin to what happens with the NBA draft lottery results, which historically draw significantly more viewers and attention. This announcement seemed far more muted.
Probably because it was pre-taped, as AP’s Stephen Wyeno explained:
The Chicago Blackhawks won the NHL draft lottery and the chance to select Connor Bedard long before Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly revealed it on national television.
The process to determine who got the No. 1 pick and Bedard, considered hockey’s top prospect since Connor McDavid, actually wrapped up about 80 minutes earlier in a small room at NHL Network studios. It also ended with the Anaheim Ducks getting the No. 2 pick.
The Associated Press was one of three media outlets represented among the roughly 20 people there to witness the potentially franchise-altering drawing. It was filmed for posterity and posted on the league’s website.
And as several media outlets reported, while’s Bedard’s credentials and talents are unquestioned, he is landing with a particularly stripped-down version of a franchise that merely a decade ago dominated both the NHL and hockey fans’ mindsets with three Stanley Cups in five seasons. Those teams were led by young superstars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both of whom only recently left the Hawks after enduring a payroll purge, several scandals resulting in changes in coach and general manager and six consecutive playoff-less seasons. So this may be the extent of seeing the Blackhawks playing in May anytime soon.
They can only hope this Connor proves to be as talented as Edmonton’s star McDavid, who led his team into a home game with the Vegas Knights last night in Alberta. McDavid had enjoyed a stellar 153-point regular season, one of the highest point totals recorded in a season in NHL history. The U.S. narket still doesn’t know all that much about him, even though he’s been threatening records held by a slightly more famous ex-Oiler. Yes, THAT one.
But despite that, plus the momentum that the Oilers developed in thrasking the Knights on the Vegas strip Saturday night, instead McDavid and his teammates got a dressing down, as the AP also reported last night:
The Vegas Golden Knights are used to shuffling goaltenders. When starter Laurent Brossoit had to leave with an injury early in their latest game, Adin Hill came in and led them to a win.\
Jonathan Marchessault scored his first two goals of the playoffs, Jack Eichel had a goal and an assist, and the Golden Knights beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-1 on Monday night for a 2-1 lead in their second-round playoff series.
McDavid did his best to provide leadership and optimism in the aftermath, also per AP:
“Forty-eight hours ago, we played a game we really liked,” McDavid said. “Forty-eight hours later, we’re here talking about not a very good one. So, our game is not gone, it’s not far — we need to bring our best Game 4.”
And perhaps they will. But it wasn’t to be last night. With a chance to potentially capture more attention in the U.S. from fans who have otherwise ignored his exploits in Western Canada, this Connor proved to be as not quite ready for prime time as the other one.
Unlike these. The ones who spell the name with an E. And might just scrape up enough for tickets to see them play at the United Center next year.