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July 24, 2024

Blackhawks Phenom Connor Bedard Exits Game After Big Hit From Devils’ Brendan Smith

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Jan 6, 2024

Chicago Blackhawks rookie sensation Connor Bedard was forced to exit Friday’s game against the New Jersey Devils after absorbing a crushing open-ice hit from Devils defenseman Brendan Smith. The 18-year-old Bedard, considered a generational talent and the runaway favorite for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year, did not return to the game after the second-period collision.

Bedard Sandwiched By Smith Hit

Early in the second period with the game tied 1-1, Bedard collected a pass in the neutral zone and cut towards the middle of the ice. As he entered the Devils’ zone, Smith stepped up and delivered a forceful hit that appeared to catch Bedard high and sandwich him between Smith and Devil’s forward Erik Haula. Bedard’s head snapped back on the play and he struggled to get to his feet after the collision.

“It was a north/south hit, through the body, no charge or jump into it,” said Smith in defense of the play after the game. “Just a good, hard hockey play.”

Bedard’s Blackhawks teammates saw things differently, with captain Jonathan Toews calling the hit “predatory” while winger Patrick Kane said it was “obviously dirty.”

“He had no chance to protect himself or brace for that hit,” Kane said in an emotional post-game interview. “Everyone in the league knows who Connor is and I think Brendan knew exactly what he was doing there.”

Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson was more measured in his response, saying the coaches would review the tape before passing judgement, though he conceded Bedard was in a vulnerable position.

“We have to see all the angles, but from what I saw live it looked like a north/south hit withConnor’s head down coming across the middle,” said Richardson.

Bedard Does Not Return After Big Collision

Bedard remained down on the ice for nearly two minutes while attended to by Chicago’s training staff. He attempted to leave the ice under his own power but appeared wobbly, grabbing the shoulder of an assistant trainer for balance. After a brief stop in the locker room, the Blackhawks announced Bedard would not return to the game with an upper-body injury.

Bedard’s injury sparked an emotionally-charged contest that featured three fights, including a second period line brawl, as the Blackhawks sought retribution on Smith. The 18-year-old phenom notched an assist before exiting but his premature departure left Chicago’s offense punchless. The Devils scored three unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes to rally for a 4-2 victory.

“You take a generational talent like that out any lineup it has an effect,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff admitted. “We’re just happy we found a way to get two points tonight.”

Reigning 1st Overall Pick Making Immediate Impact

Bedard, chosen first overall by Chicago in the 2023 NHL Draft after a sensational junior career, has been nothing short of spectacular in his first NHL campaign. He reached the 20-goal mark in just his 39th career game and sits fourth among all rookie scorers with 22 goals and 47 points despite missing four games earlier this season with a minor foot injury. His 22 tallies are the most by a Blackhawks teenager, surpassing franchise legend Bobby Hull who notched 21 as a 19-year old in 1957.

At 18 years, seven months old, Bedard is the youngest Blackhawk to appear in an All-Star game after being selected to the NHL’s midseason showcase later this month. He is considered not only the frontrunner for the Calder but also a potential Hart Trophy finalist as league MVP.

The North Vancouver native now faces uncertainty surrounding his health. The Blackhawks have not released details on his diagnosis or a potential timetable for his return. Chicago continues their six-game road trip with games against the New York Rangers, Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks next week.

Blackhawks Left Reeling After Injury To Young Star

While the team awaits further updates, the loss of hockey’s brightest young talent for any period of time deals a significant blow to a rebuilding Blackhawks club that has gone all in on a youth movement this season. Without the sublime playmaking of Bedard, Chicago will struggle to manufacture consistent offense unless veterans like Toews, Kane and Max Domi dramatically elevate their production.

The injury also puts a damper on what has been an electrifying debut campaign for the phenom center, who has consistently found ways to amaze while spearheading Chicago’s next generation. Now his sensational freshman season faces an untimely interruption.

What’s Next For Bedard and the Blackhawks?

The concern in Chicago is that this is more than just a minor, short-term ailment. Upper body injuries can often involve concussions or shoulder issues that tend to linger, especially for smaller skill players like the 165-pound Bedard.

If he misses extended time, it could derail a Calder Trophy bid considered a foregone conclusion up to this point. It also eliminates Chicago’s best and most consistent offensive weapon, crippling their chances of sticking around the Western Conference playoff picture.

For now, the Blackhawks will have to forge ahead without the offensive dynamo that has electrified their fanbase this season while hoping for a quick and full recovery. But with Bedard now facing an uncertain road ahead, Chicago’s already slim postseason hopes may have taken a massive, potentially season-altering blow on Friday night in New Jersey.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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