The 2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft will be held Wednesday and Thursday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The first round will be Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN, TVAS) and rounds 2-7 are Thursday (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS). NHL.com is counting down to the draft with in-depth profiles on top prospects, podcasts and other features. NHL.com’s full draft coverage can be found here.
NASHVILLE — Connor Bedard added another piece of hardware to his ever-expanding trophy case, winning the E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence during the 2023 NHL Awards at Bridgestone Arena on Monday.
It’s the first honor of the week for Bedard, who almost certainly will receive another one in this building Wednesday, when he is selected by the Chicago Blackhawks with the No. 1 pick of the 2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft.
“It would be awesome,” Bedard said of the possibility of going No. 1. “I mean, the history of that organization and that city with sports would be unbelievable. We’ll see what happens, but to select me … that would be a huge honor.”
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It’s a spot Steven Stamkos was in 15 years ago, when the forward was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning with the No. 1 pick of the 2008 NHL Draft.
Stamkos arrived to a flurry of ‘Seen Stamkos?’ bumper stickers blanketing the Tampa region, so he understands the pressure Bedard will be facing. But after spending time on and off the ice with Bedard during some offseason training in 2022, he feels the 17-year-old is well-equipped to handle what’s coming his way.
“There’s a lot of pressure that comes with being a first overall pick, especially one as highly touted as him,” said Stamkos, who won the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award on Monday. “I’m not sure I was in the same category as that coming up, but he’s got his head on his shoulders right. He comes from what I can tell is a good family and the skill speaks for itself. We’ve all seen the videos of him shooting pucks and in the gym, the work ethic is there as well, and I’m excited to see what he can do next year.”
Bedard’s strong play and strong character are what earned him the E.J. McGuire Award, which is presented by NHL Central Scouting in honor of McGuire, who served as director of Central Scouting from 2005 until he died of cancer April 7, 2011. It’s given to the candidate who best exemplifies commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness and athleticism.
The Regina center led the Western Hockey League in goals (71) and points (143). And among the awards and honors he’s received was the most valuable player award after helping Canada win the gold medal at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship, and the Canadian Hockey League player of the year award.
“Connor Bedard is a most worthy recipient of the E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence,” Central Scouting vice president Dan Marr said. “The skills, attributes and qualities that this NHL award exemplify are the signature hallmark of the Connor Bedard brand. His honest approach, team commitment and contributions to the game are already record-breaking, and it’s going to be exciting for hockey fans globally to watch his NHL development and impact in the years ahead.”
With 48 hours to go before he pulls on his first NHL jersey, Bedard said he was feeling a mix of nerves and excitement. But another Connor, and another No. 1 pick of an NHL Draft, said the most important thing for Bedard is to stay in the moment.
“The best advice is just to enjoy it and enjoy it all together as a family,” said Connor McDavid, the No. 1 pick of the 2015 NHL Draft who won the Hart Trophy as the League’s most valuable player Monday. “They’ve worked so hard to get them to this point. It goes by really fast, it’s just a day, so I just hope that they enjoy it together as a family.”
NHL.com staff writer Mike G. Morreale contributed to this report
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