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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Pitt baseball players stand in the dugout during a game against Virginia Tech on March 24 at the Petersen Sports Complex.
Pitt baseball shows promise in weekend series in Texas
By Dylan Grace, Staff Writer • 12:32 am

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Pitt baseball players stand in the dugout during a game against Virginia Tech on March 24 at the Petersen Sports Complex.
Pitt baseball shows promise in weekend series in Texas
By Dylan Grace, Staff Writer • 12:32 am

Opinion | It’s not easy being no. 1

Chicago+Blackhawks+Connor+Bedard+is+introduced+before+an+NHL+hockey+game+against+the+Vegas+Golden+Kights%2C+Saturday%2C+Oct.+21%2C+2023%2C+in+Chicago.%0A
AP Photo/Paul Beaty
Chicago Blackhawks’ Connor Bedard is introduced before an NHL hockey game against the Vegas Golden Kights, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, in Chicago.

The National Hockey League draft is an exciting night for hockey fans. It can be sweet watching these players start their careers and experience the moment that they have been waiting for their entire lives.

But the happiness that comes with watching the draft is short lived, considering everything that comes after it. 

Recently, Connor Bedard, the 2023 first overall NHL draft pick, made his NHL debut for the Chicago Blackhawks here in Pittsburgh playing against the Penguins. This confirmed to me that the vicious cycle of breaking first overall draft picks will not end anytime soon. 

The media circus picked up after Bedard’s debut, but the spotlight was on him before he was even drafted. It wasn’t a surprise when Connor Bedard went first as the hype for him had been building for months before the draft. Bedard definitely has the stats to warrant the excitement, which materialized in Chicago fans, who showed up to the draft already wearing Bedard Blackhawks jerseys.

None of this was a surprise. It happens every year — a city puts all its rebuilding hopes on one kid that might not even be 18 years old yet. Being excited about sports is not bad, and people should be looking forward to watching Bedard play, but these expectations don’t help anyone. Every year, the first overall pick is thrown into a game that they haven’t had time to learn and are expected to fix problems within the team that have existed since before they were born. 

The expectations on Connor Bedard were so incredibly high that there was no way that he would reach them. Before he even played his first regular season game, the media was comparing Bedard to Wayne Gretzky. It is laughably ridiculous, but unfortunately some people found this comparison valid, even when Bedard had never played in an NHL game.

Ever since the Blackhawks played the Penguins in their first game this season, the media has loved comparing Sidney Crosby and Bedard. Comparing Crosby and Bedard has become a major source for marketing the game. Leading up to the game, my Instagram timeline was full of graphics comparing Crosby’s stats and Bedard’s, the latter being non-existent, somehow arguing that Bedard will be the next Crosby.

What happened when Bedard played his first game was what I think everyone, deep down, knew would happen. He wasn’t phenomenal. He assisted a goal and got his first point, but everyone online was already calling him a draft bust. Fans were raging that he was overrated like it was his fault and not the media’s. 

He didn’t get a hat trick in his first game like Auston Mathews, but no one should have expected that of him. Those feats are only going to happen once in a blue moon, and there is a reason why that was so impressive when Mathews did it.  

You especially can’t expect amazing feats when these players are thrown into the NHL without any time in the NCAA or the AHL. Other players that get those experiences have time to adjust to a higher level of hockey before playing in the NHL. 

The saddest part is that this happens with high draft picks year after year. Jack Hughes went first overall to the Devils in 2019 as their second number one overall pick in the span of three years. He comes from a hockey family and impressed scouts at the United States National Development Program

No matter how you look at it, Hughes had a bad rookie season. In 61 games, he had only seven goals and 21 points. Looking back on his career, Hughes talked about the frustrations of not living up to everyone’s expectations of him because he was the first pick overall. 

Eventually, it did come together for Hughes. Now only a few years after his draft he is making headlines and breaking records, he holds the Devils’ single season points record with 99 points. Now, only a few weeks into the 2023-2024 season, he is in talks for the Hart Trophy

Hughes is an example of how extensive training can’t prepare you for immediate success in the NHL. Really, nothing can — developing that talent takes time.

Being drafted first overall seems like the best thing that can happen to these young players, but the notoriety comes with its own challenges. There is a reason we have generational talents. It’s not easy to reach that status, and it comes after a career of work. 

I hope Connor Bedard has an amazing rookie season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t. Regardless of his performance, his career won’t be defined by this first year.

Jameson Keebler writes primarily about pop culture and current events. Write to her at [email protected].

About the Contributor
Jameson Keebler, Senior Staff Columnist
Jameson Keebler is a junior Political Science major. She is from New Jersey and loves to read. She is interested in writing about literature and pop culture.