Young Blackhawks star Connor Bedard poses challenge for Canadiens

Habs head coach Martin St. Louis remembers coaching against No. 1 pick at this year’s NHL Draft eight years ago at summer Brick Tournament.

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Martin St. Louis has a lot of experience coaching against Connor Bedard.

He will get a chance to do that again Saturday when the Canadiens face the Chicago Blackhawks and the No. 1 overall pick at this year’s NHL Draft at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., CITY, SNE, SN360, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

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St. Louis coached against Bedard for the first time at the 2015 summer Brick Tournament in Edmonton when he was behind the bench for one of his son’s teams from Connecticut. Bedard was named MVP of the tournament after posting 8-1-9 totals in six games with the B.C. Junior Canucks shortly before his 10th birthday.

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As MVP, Bedard won an autographed Sidney Crosby stick, which was presented to him by St. Louis. When Bedard made his NHL debut with Chicago Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, he took the opening faceoff against Crosby in a game the Blackhawks won 4-2. Bedard picked up an assist in that game and scored his first goal the next night in Boston in a 3-1 loss to the Bruins.

“He was a talented kid,” St. Louis recalled when asked about the Brick Tournament. “Great tournament. My son was part of it. I actually coached against Connor for many years — 10, 11, 12, every summer we’d face his Pacific team or Western team, I can’t remember what it was called. He was very good then and so I’m not surprised. But time flies. Now he’s in the NHL and I got more greys.”

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When asked what makes Bedard special, St. Louis said: “What stands out is his shot, to me. I know there’s more to it, but that’s what stands out.”

That shot allowed Bedard to score 71 goals in 57 games last season with the WHL’s Regina Pats. Bedard became the first player in WHL history granted exceptional status to join the league as a 15-year-old and during his three seasons with the Pats he had 134-137-271 totals in 134 games. At this year’s world junior championship, Bedard had 9-14-23 totals in seven games while helping Canada win the gold medal.

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In the eight years since that Brick Tournament, Bedard has gone from getting an autographed Crosby stick to now having his own Sherwood model after agreeing to an endorsement deal with the company.

Bedard is from North Vancouver and the Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher is also from B.C.

“I’ve heard about him for a really long time,” Gallagher said. “He had the exceptional status, played in the Western league and put up kind of obscure numbers. World juniors did the same thing. Everywhere he’s gone he’s been what he’s been hyped up to be. Early on in his NHL career, he’s been exactly that as well. You’re excited to watch him, obviously, just not tomorrow night. Tomorrow night we got to focus on the job to do.”

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St. Louis isn’t expected to make any changes to his lineup following Wednesday night’s season-opening 6-5 shootout loss to the Maple Leafs in Toronto other than Samuel Montembeault starting in goal instead of Jake Allen.

David Savard, who at 32 is 14 years older than Bedard, will be one of the defencemen trying to shut down the Blackhawks’ young star.

“He’s a special talent,” Savard said. “I think it just the way he creates space to shoot. He’s not the biggest guy (5-foot-10, 185 pounds) but sometimes they’re the hardest to hit and try to neutralize. I think it’s going to be a challenge for us.”

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