FILE - Canada's Connor Bedard (16) shoots against Latvia during the second period of an IIHF junior world hockey championships game Aug. 10, 2022, in Edmonton, Alberta. Bedard, from British Columbia, is anticipated to be selected by the Chicago Blackhawks with the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press, File)

Connor Bedard, as expected, taken first in the NHL draft by the Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks selected Connor Bedard with the first pick in the NHL draft on Wednesday night, kick-starting a hopeful new era with a highly skilled offensive forward who’s drawn comparisons to Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby.

Bedard became the second No. 1 pick in Blackhawks history, joining Patrick Kane, who went first overall in 2007 and helped form the core of a team that won three Stanley Cups from 2010 to 2015.

Though Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson declined to reveal who he would take first since winning the draft lottery in May, Bedard was considered Chicago’s target all along among a prospect class filled with talented forwards.

The intrigue of the draft begins with which players round out the top five selections, and questions over when a team picks Matvei Michkov, who is under contract to play in his native Russia through the 2025-26 season.

The Anaheim Ducks held the second pick, followed by the Columbus Blue Jackets, San Jose Sharks and Montreal Canadiens.

A large contingent of Blackhawks fans were in attendance, with an exceptionally loud cheer going up during the pre-draft roll call of teams when it came Chicago’s turn.

Weeks shy of his 18th birthday, Bedard has spent much of the past two years projected as this year’s top draft prospect. From North Vancouver, British Columbia, Bedard has done nothing to give pause to the high projections after posting 100-point seasons in back-to-back years with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League.

His 71 goals in 57 games last year were the most by a WHL player in 24 years, and his 143 points were the most since 1995-96. At just under 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, Bedard is regarded a generational prospect, much like McDavid, who was selected first in 2015 and this week was named the league’s MVP for the third time.

The Blackhawks have already begun refitting their roster to help Bedard’s development by acquiring veterans Taylor Hall (the first pick in the 2010 draft) and Nick Foligno in a trade with Boston this week.

Davidson spent much of the past year tearing his roster down, dating to last year’s draft when the Blackhawks stockpiled picks by trading Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach on consecutive days. The overhaul continued when Chicago traded Kane to the New York Rangers in February and closed the year by parting ways with longtime captain Jonathan Toews.

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