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NHL Notebook: Capitals’ Tom Wilson suspended six games for slash on Maple Leafs’ Noah Gregor and where Connor Bedard’s rookie season ranks among the greats

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Photo credit:Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
3 months ago
The Washington Capitals have lost a big piece of their forward group for the next six games, as winger Tom Wilson has been suspended for six games by the NHL for a vicious slash.
It happened in the Capitals’ 7-3 loss to the Maple Leafs on Wednesday night, when with eight minutes left in the third period, Wilson errantly flung his stuck into Gregor’s face.
Wilson’s suspension is the latest in a slew of disciplinary action he’s faced, having been suspended five times — thrice in the 2017-18 season, which included a three-game suspension in the playoffs. In the 2018 preseason, he was suspended for 20 games for a hit on St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist.
Gregor, sporting a new smile with some busted up teeth, said on Friday that Wilson apologized for the slash.
“I don’t think he’s trying to slash a guy in the face,” Gregor said, via TSN. “I don’t think anyone in the league is ever trying to do that. Probably a little reckless with the stick, and unfortunately, got me, but I’m fine.
“The league will handle it.”

Bedard’s busy season

Connor Bedard is on the fast track to becoming one of the league’s most talented players amid a rookie campaign in which he’s racked up 21 goals and 54 points in 56 games. A few matches missed along the way due to a broken jaw, he hasn’t missed a beat since returning.
Bedard has been just as advertised with incredible offensive skill, and what might arguably be one of the best shots in the NHL already. Yeah, it’s that good.
His ability to deke and dunk on opposing players will make him a nightmare for rearguards and netminders for years to come, and on Friday, Daily Faceoff’s Paul Pidutti opined about where his rookie campaign could rank historically.
We’ll expand our view of Bedard’s rookie year by comparing to recent top draft prospects. Since the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, there have been 15 forwards taken first overall. While high-end draft talent varies, past #1 selections offer some insight on both how Bedard’s season stacks up and how offensive output evolves.
Sidney Crosby remains the gold standard for NHL-ready prodigies, debuting at an era-adjusted 100-point pace. At 19, he joined Gretzky as the only teenage MVP in major pro sports. McDavid was not far behind, winning back-to-back scoring titles in his second and third seasons. Given Bedard’s extreme ambition and comparable pedigree, these two guys offer ideal blueprints.
But even among first overall picks, career destinations can be a mixed bag, ranging from no-doubt Hall of Famers to, well, Nail Yakupov. Both the players and the production above are intriguing.
Now that we’ve had a sensible look at Bedard’s first season, it’s time to say goodbye to our senses. Let’s dream big of what could be – a place among hockey’s titans.
The label ‘generational talent’ is in the eye of the beholder. Is it based on prospect hype? Does the player need to fully realize the talent? Is it both? How far apart is a generation anyway? All great questions, none of which can be objectively answered. But here’s our definition: a player with such unmistakable promise and immediate impact that they reasonably could be the NHL’s best player over a 10-year span.
So, what can we learn from some of the best to ever do it?
First, due to early birthdays (Gretzky, McDavid), late birthdays delaying draft years (Lemieux, Ovechkin), and refusal to report (Lindros), only two other generational talents have had traditional 18-year-old seasons. Yes, even among teenage studs in NHL history, Bedard is young. In his age-18 season, Bedard is no Crosby. But Jagr at 18 was also no Bedard.
For Lemieux, his ascension was slightly slower by his lofty standards, hurt by a lack of quality teammates in his early days in Pittsburgh. Jagr, only arriving in North America at 18, marinated a little slower than the others. Crosby and McDavid offer modern templates – hugely hyped, modestly-sized centers and products of Canada’s junior hockey system. Both were era-adjusted 100-point scorers as teens and era-adjusted 140-point scorers by their mid-20s.
Is this a reasonable expectation for Bedard? Perhaps. But lots has to go right to keep up to arguably the two greatest players since Lemieux. Chicago’s fortunes in the draft lottery this spring, as well as the progress of their well-stocked prospect cupboard, will inevitably impact Bedard’s output too. Both factors are out of his hands.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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