NHL rookie idols: Who inspired the new wave of stars?

Connor Bedard was born on July 17, 2005, just under two weeks before Sidney Crosby was drafted first overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

As you take a deep breath and consider the endless march of time, please note that Bedard and his generation of talented young prospects basically all grew up admiring players who are still thriving in the NHL today. Some are eager to compete against them. Some admit to feeling "weirdness" about it. At least one currently shares a locker room with his favorite player from his childhood fandom -- but hasn't revealed that fact to him yet.

We asked 18 young stars at the 2023 NHLPA Rookie Showcase which NHL players inspired them as young players, from borrowing aspects of their games to inspiring them to first pick up a stick.

First up is No. 1 overall pick Bedard and his hockey idol ... against whom he's expected to battle in his first NHL game this season.

How to watch the 2023-24 NHL season on ESPN networks -- including 100 exclusive games and the out-of-market package (over 1,050 games).