Connor Bedard has been an impact player from the moment he arrived in the NHL, but he seems to have found his groove lately.
In the first few games of his career he consistently flashed the skills that made him such a well-regarded prospect, but he didn't exactly take the NHL by storm. There was no need to panic when the 18-year-old produced just two goals and four points in his first seven NHL games, but it felt a little anticlimactic.
Since then, Bedard has been nothing short of electric.
Over his last six games the rookie has scored seven goals, including a number of the highlight-reel variety.
BEDARD HAS ANOTHER ONE 🤯
THREE POINT PERIOD FOR CONNOR 🥵 pic.twitter.com/9nCQe0rRKC
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) November 10, 2023
CONNOR BEDARD. WHAT MORE CAN WE SAY?? pic.twitter.com/vmPwDBch6k
Connor. Bedard. Unreal. pic.twitter.com/YCNOdXfBte
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) November 12, 2023
The end result is a total output through 13 games that's in line with the lofty expectations the hockey world had for Bedard entering the season.
What we've seen from the Calder Trophy favorite so far fits a pretty simple narrative about a talented rookie taking some time to get his feet wet at the highest level before taking off. It's hard to dispute that's what's happened from a bottom-line production standpoint, but in terms of process not much has changed.
Bedard may have scored seven goals in his last six games, but he did so on fewer shots (21) than he got off in his first seven (22). He's also seen his ice time decline as the Chicago Blackhawks have had him skate 18:38 over his last six after averaging 20 minutes on the dot in the first seven games of his NHL career.
Digging into more advanced numbers, it seems clear he's been creating opportunities at a high level from his first game on. In fact, he got more and arguably better looks in his first games:
That doesn't mean his recent work is fluky or not worth celebrating. Some of the goals he's scored in the last couple of weeks have demonstrated a skill level only a handful of players on the planet possess. Bedard absolutely deserves the praise he's getting now.
What those numbers indicate is that the rookie's slow start was never something to be alarmed by. Bedard was making things happen from the moment he arrived in the NHL, he just wasn't getting the bounces.
Because the 18-year-old has a deadly shot — and teammates that aren't nearly as dangerous as he is — it seems that a high percentage of his production will come from his goal-scoring. That's a positive in many ways, but goal-scoring tends to come in bunches while piling up assists can be a more consistent road to lofty point totals.
After all, a number of top offensive threats who play amongst similar talents are consistently passing to teammates who then create opportunities. That won't happen for Bedard as frequently as it will for others. Instead, it seems like much of his production will come down to whether he can light the lamp or not.
Even if he takes more than three shots per game as he's doing now, there will be occasional slumps. Because his shot is so dynamic, there will also downpours.
We've seen a little of both in the early going, but the important thing for Bedard is that he keeps creating opportunities. That hasn't been a concern yet, even when the raw production wasn't jumping off the page.