Column: As former election no. 1, the Cubs’ Dansby Swanson knows the pressure Connor Bedard could face against the Blackhawks

Dansby Swanson looked up at the video board Monday night at Wrigley Field as Chicago Cubs fans began cheering a PA announcement.

The Blackhawks had won the draft lottery to secure the top pick in the NHL draft, meaning the crazy Connor Bedard, a so-called “generational talent,” will likely come to Chicago.

Being the top pick of any draft puts you in an exclusive club. Swanson earned that honor in 2015 when the Arizona Diamondbacks selected him No. 1 in the amateur baseball draft, so the Cubs shortstop knows living up to the hype isn’t easy.

“No. 1 choices are always associated with some kind of performance level that is expected, right?” Swanson said Tuesday at Wrigley. “I feel like a lot of that pressure is coming from the outside in. It’s more of a challenge learning to handle the voices from the outside. Whoever it is is going to be drafted first…”

Uh, Bedard. Or so we assume.

“Is that it?” he asked.

Forgive Swanson for not knowing the name of the Blackhawks’ supposed top pick. He grew up in Georgia and had some experience following the Nashville Predators when he went to college at Vanderbilt.

“How old is he?” Swanson asked. “Twenty? Twenty-one? Eighteen?”

Uh, 17.

“Exactly,” he said. “Obviously the Hawks have an outstanding tradition. When I was in college, the Preds and Blackhawks had quite the rivalry and always matched up in the playoffs at one point or another. Obviously there will be some expectations.”

That’s an understatement.

Bedard has already been touted as the face of the franchise, and the Hawks said Tuesday that since the news, they have it has already sold $5.2 million season and half-season ticket plans for 2023-24 after finishing with the third-worst record in the league.

EA Sports NHL tweeted that a video game simulation of Bedard’s career resulted in 739 goals, 1,145 assists, four MVP trophies and three Stanley Cups, among other accolades.

Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson hasn’t revealed his hand on the top pick. We’ll likely have to wait until June 28, when the first round of the draft takes place in Nashville, Tenn. But rest assured that the not-to-be-named will be the Hawks’ pick, and the marketing department has already begun to respond. child promotion plans.

Swanson was excited to be the first pick nearly eight years ago and was one of the last picks to sign. Diamondbacks Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa traveled to Swanson’s hometown of Marietta, Georgia, to seal the deal.

“Being No. 1 is the best position you can be in,” Swanson said upon signing for a $6.5 million bonus. “It’s kind of hard to improve on that.”

But Swanson’s path zigzagged when La Russa and Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart decided that winter to make him the centerpiece of a shocking deal that sent him to the Atlanta Braves for Shelby Miller. It was widely criticized at the time and ultimately became one of the worst trades in Diamondbacks history.

La Russa later defended the deal in an interview with the Arizona Republic.

“How many offices, if you polled the other 29, how many would question it or say it’s a bad deal?” La Russa said. “At the same time I heard the criticism, I also heard from people I knew personally saying, ‘Hey man, we know where you’re coming from. We were also interested in Shelby.

“I would always like to know who criticizes her. There are some people that I have a lot of respect for and there are others that I don’t have the same level of respect for. If it’s someone I have a high level of respect for, then it would bother me. If it’s not, then I’m not.”

Stewart left after two seasons and La Russa left a year later. Swanson emerged as the Braves’ everyday shortstop through 2017 and helped lead them to a World Series title in 2021. He signed a seven-year, $177 million contract with the Cubs last fall .

Bedard won’t have to follow the same path and should expect to be a Blackhawk for years. He will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Patrick Kane, the team’s last pick in 2007, who lived up to the hype and won three Cups with the Hawks before that. being distributed to the New York Rangers at this year’s trade deadline.

If Bedard can follow in Kane’s footsteps with no missteps, he could become one of the most popular athletes in Chicago history. That’s asking a lot of someone who turns 18 on July 17th.

But that’s the way it is. Bedard has lived up to the hype that put him in position to be the No. 1 pick. 1 and seems ready to take on anything that comes his way.

“The thing I will say about hockey, from most of the hockey guys that I’ve met, is that they’re all pretty down-to-earth guys in general,” Swanson said. “There’s a little different kind of mentality and environment, so it usually helps, being surrounded by that kind of culture.”

Swanson’s advice to he who shall not be named is to follow your instincts and shut out the noise.

“Obviously there’s going to be some expectations, but No. 1 is to control what you can control,” Swanson said. “That’s the easiest. I found many of them in my faith (being grounded). That’s where I go, instead of everyone labeling me “this”. That’s not who I am. This is just part of my journey.

“So that’s pretty important advice that I would give to anyone in that position.”

Swanson knows that every top pick in any sport has different hurdles, and some fall short. He too had his share, but eight years later he can already say that he has achieved some of the goals he set for himself.

“It’s your own journey, your own path,” he said. “Everyone has a different way of doing it. Some have it smooth, some have it hard. Some have it smooth, then hard and then smooth.”

And yours?

“Mine has been a steady incline,” he said. “That’s how I like it.”

The Hawks would happily settle for that when you know who’s arriving.


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