Connor Bedard eager to let his play do the talking again: Blackhawks prospect notebook

Connor Bedard has done countless interviews since being drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks. He’s posed for numerous photo shoots. He’s given his time to assist the Blackhawks’ marketing and social media teams in various ways.

Bedard has been active with so much since being drafted, but, at the same time, so little with actual hockey. It’s why getting on the ice with other Blackhawks prospects Thursday for a practice in preparation for this weekend’s games in Minnesota was so welcomed by Bedard.

“Yeah, it’s what we all want to do,” Bedard said. “Of course, there’s been a lot of photos and interviews, which is great, but I want to play hockey, so it’s good to get back here and get everything started and focus on that.”

Bedard missed the first day of practice Wednesday as he was attending the NHL Player Media Tour. He returned to Chicago late Wednesday evening and was on the ice at 10 a.m. with everyone else on Thursday. Bedard had his share of Bedard moments throughout the first day as he showed off his elite puckhandling and shooting skills.

Bedard spent time centering Nick Lardis, a 2023 third-round pick, and Colton Dach, a 2021 second-round pick, during the practice, and the trio could be a line come the weekend.

“Lardis is quick, he’s light on his feet, thinks the game well,” said Rockford IceHogs coach Anders Sorensen, who is coaching the rookie team. “Colton is a big body who creates some room. But we’ll see how it looks. I thought they looked good today, but I’ll talk to the guys up top and see what they think.”

Dach played mostly center in juniors, but it appears the Blackhawks want to give him a look on the wing. Whether it’s a permanent move will likely depend on how he fares, but with the Blackhawks drafting a lot of centers in recent years, including Bedard, Frank Nazar and Oliver Moore in the first round in the past two years, other prospects may have a better chance of working their way to the NHL on the wing.

Bedard is expected to play in at least one of the two games this weekend. Sorensen wouldn’t say anything beyond that. The Blackhawks play the St. Louis Blues on Saturday and the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. Bedard talked again Thursday about why he wanted to play in the showcase.

“I think that’s what will get me ready (for the season), to be honest with you,” Bedard said. “I haven’t played the game in a long time and that’s what I want to do. And I’m a rookie, like any other guy here. So I want to play a game so bad, it’s been so long, so I’m really excited for that.”

The Blackhawks spent a lot of Thursday’s practice playing small-area competitions that forced players to think and play quickly.

“We tried to put them in an environment today where they were contested closer, smaller areas, the ice was shrinking a little bit, so maybe it got a little sloppier, but that’s the game,” Sorensen said. “The game is chaos, and how do you figure out chaos when you’re in those situations? Our goal today was to put them in those situations so they’re ready to prepare to play on Saturday and Sunday and also prepare them for camp.”

That type of environment can be useful for a lot of players, but especially the European players who don’t have a lot of experience with playing on a smaller ice sheet. Sorensen said he and forward prospect Antti Saarela had a conversation about just that on Thursday.

“He’s only played a total of I think three weeks of hockey on North American soil, so for him to adjust to the smaller ice, had a really mature conversation,” Sorensen said. “He brought it up himself that things are happening quicker, the angles are a little different. We had a good chat about that today. It’s going to be a little bit of a process for him, so I think for him, similar to Connor, it’s good for them to get games so they’re playing.”

Wyatt Kaiser continued to be one of the most noticeable players on the ice on Thursday. That’s expected as he’s someone who could compete for a spot in the NHL training camp, but still probably a good sign.

“Really like him,” Sorensen said. “His habits, instincts off the puck, with the puck. Really like him.”

Ryder Rolston has also stood out with his speed. Rolston probably isn’t someone who can push for an NHL spot early on, but he has people talking about him.

“He’s so fast out there,” Sorensen said. “It’s insane to watch. And everything he does is fast. His hands are quick, he’s got a great shot, so I think that’s very good, we obviously hope that as well and I think that’s a possibility for sure.”

Here are some clips from Thursday’s practice:


(Photo: Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

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