Connor Bedard goes off for hat trick in first prospect tournament game

The NHL's next generational prospect hasn't even suited up for the Chicago Blackhawks in a regular season game, but he's already turning heads.

Forgive Chicago Blackhawks fans and wider hockey nerds for dreaming big after their first glimpses of Connor Bedard.

While it’s important to remember that Bedard was facing overmatched St. Louis Blues prospects and hopefuls on Saturday, he dazzled with a hat trick and an assist in Chicago’s 5-0 win.

Bedard himself downplayed the importance of the performance. Still, it didn’t take long for the phenom to show why he’s the most-hyped prospect since another Connor (McDavid).

As a reminder, Bedard also collected an assist. He finished his unofficial debut with 11 shots on goal, while also threatening with a breakaway chance. Not bad for his first bit of hockey action in five months.

Hat trick in prospect game showcases Bedard’s ridiculous release

All three of Bedard’s goals put his deceptive, lightning-fast release on display. You can really see how Bedard can change the angle of his shot with his first tally, a skill that could very well torture even the best NHL goalies.

Bedard likely won’t get the same space to maneuver, nor as much net to shoot at, when he faces true NHL competition, but his second goal was just as jaw-dropping. Not many players can score like Bedard did, shooting from below the faceoff dot.

The third, and maybe least scintillating of Bedard’s hat trick of goals, also showed off what the 18-year-old is capable of. Observe how quickly he was able to unleash his world-class shot.

Heading into the 2023 NHL Draft, analysts raved about Bedard already possessing a world-class release. It wasn’t just prospect experts either, as even pros like Nathan MacKinnon sang his praises to ESPN’s Emily Kaplan, ranking the lethal shot among the best in the world with Bedard just 17-years-old.

Nevertheless, in true hockey player fashion, Bedard brushed this first glimpse off.

For every person wondering about a 50-goal rookie season and a 90-point debut, there are more modest projections, slating Bedard for about 60 points on a Blackhawks team with limited talent. Perhaps he’ll straddle both lines, echoing Auston Matthews’ impressive feat of scoring 40 goals in his first NHL season (but finishing with “just” 69 total points). If Bedard ends up like Matthews, his almost one-of-a-kind shooting can buy time for the rest of his game to mature.

Remarkably, Bedard wasn’t the only high pick from the 2023 NHL Draft to record an impressive hat trick in prospect action this weekend. Third-overall pick Adam Fantilli gave the Columbus Blue Jackets some much-needed positive press with his hat trick and five-point game in a 10-7 scoring fest at the Traverse City Tournament.

Want one more Bedard-related nugget to get excited about? Imagine what he’ll pull off during his NHL regular season debut against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.