It’s many Canadian kids’ dream to make the NHL, and skating alongside your best friend would be icing on the cake.
North Vancouver native Connor Bedard is the consensus first-overall pick at the NHL Draft on June 28 in Nashville. That prized pick is held by the Chicago Blackhawks, who also hold the 19th overall pick, after a complex trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning in March of 2022.
Kelowna Rockets forward Andrew Cristall is another top prospect in the upcoming NHL draft. For months now, hockey analysts have been predicting he will go in the first round of the draft – somewhere in the high teens. What better situation would there be for the Chicago Blackhawks than to acquire both the top prospect of his generation, and a friend he has been playing either with or against each other as long as they can remember?
The 17-year-olds got the chance to play against each other once in the WHL, Cristall for the Rockets and Bedard for the Regina Pats. There is still a question as to if either of them will see junior hockey action again, but they had the opportunity to play against each other once last season, a topic that made for great fodder when the ‘Bedard Effect’ hit Prospera.
“I think we’ve known each other for over 10 years now,” said Bedard at the time. “We’re super competitive together, whatever it is we’re doing. I mean, he doesn’t beat me much but we’re together all the time, we’re super close.”
NHL.com experts released a mock draft on June 11. While the top four picks are a consensus (Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson, Will Smith) after that is when it gets contentious. Both experts that weighed in had Cristall going to Chicago at 19th.
“The Blackhawks can add one of Bedard’s best friends by selecting Cristall (5-9, 167), who mixes high-end skill with an edge,” said writer Adam Kimelman. “His speed and elusiveness allow him to find open spots in the offensive zone and his creativity and tenacity allow him to finish in-tight. Cristall can dominate in open ice, and one scout said Cristall is ‘basically a cheat code on the power play.”
Cristall’s hometown team, the Vancouver Canucks, holds the 11th overall pick.