FCHockey
Staff
June 30, 2023

The best value picks of the 2023 NHL Draft

With the NHL Draft now in the books, it’s not yet time to turn the page to 2024.

While some organizations may have reached for players a few picks or even a few rounds early, some ultimately fell into their laps later than expected. Whether it be the “Russian factor,” size concerns, or any other reasons, each year, we see players drop in the draft who ultimately become steals a few years into the future.

Here’s a look at some of the best value picks in the 2023 NHL Draft:

Riley Heidt | No. 64 Overall | Minnesota Wild

Riley Heidt, selected with the final pick of the second round, dropped 43 spots from his final slotting in FCHockey’s ranking of No. 21. Heidt is a playmaking forward whose numbers in the assist column this year were on par with Connor Bedard. He may be slightly undersized, but he came into the draft as one of the most potent playmakers with off-the-charts hockey sense.

Bill Guerin and the Minnesota Wild have made a habit recently of scooping up players who’ve dropped further than initially ranked. There’s the potential of Heidt lining up alongside Kirill Kaprizov, where he can produce some gaudy numbers in the assist column.

Scouts quote: “The best value pick in my eyes is likely Riley Heidt by the Minnesota Wild with the last pick of the second round. He was a no-brainer first-round center pick in my eyes, with elite vision, high skill, and a level of execution that you only find in top players. His fall likely has to do with his lack of defensive presence and limited size. His play without the puck certainly needs improvement, but I think the size concerns are overblown. He shows great edgework to escape contact, a low centre of gravity that makes him tough to knock off balance, and the play-reading talent to stay ahead of pressure. Getting a potential top-line distributor who can dictate the pace of play like Heidt deep in the second is a homerun swing that I think the Wild will be pleased with down the line.” – FCHockey Chief Western scout Donesh Mazloum

Luca Cagnoni | No. 123 Overall | San Jose Sharks

There’s only one reason Luca Cagnoni dropped to the fourth round to the San Jose Sharks, and that’s his size. A defenseman at only 5-foot-9, teams had reservations about the Portland Winterhawks blueliner. But Cagnoni’s production was among the best for a WHL draft-eligible defenseman. Finishing with 64 points, Cagnoni trailed only Lukas Dragicevic for the league’s top spot.

Cagnoni is powerful on his edges, creating deception along the ice, leaving the opposition guessing his next move. He executes crisp tape-to-tape passes capable of creating from nearly every spot within the offensive zone.

Scout’s quote: “Deeper in the draft, my favorite value pick was the Sharks selecting Luca Cagnoni towards the end of the fourth round. Cagnoni received a first-round grade from me the Sharks are getting an excellent offensive talent on the backend who in my opinion, was the best player on a very good Portland team this year.” – FCHockey crossover scout Brandon Holmes

Matvei Michkov | No. 7 Overall | Philadelphia Flyers

It’s difficult to believe that one of the draft’s best value picks came in the top 10, but when that pick has the skill set of Matvei Michkov, it becomes easier to comprehend. If not taking into account all the other factors that surround him and are looking at just on-ice performance, Michkov is a no-doubt top-three selection.

A potential 100-plus point producer in the NHL, Michkov has rivaled Bedard for parts of the draft process, as it was once believed he could become the first overall pick in 2023. He’s a magician in the offensive end, capable of things beyond most players’ wildest dreams. He can score, create, pass, you name it. His contract situation in the KHL was the only thing preventing him from being selected higher, as the Philadelphia Flyers may have received a gift at No. 7.

Scout’s quote: “The best value pick, in my opinion, was actually Michkov at seven. I think the Flyers got number one overall potential at seven overall, and there really aren’t any picks before him — besides Bedard –that have that upside. Philly should be very, very happy with that selection.” – FCHockey crossover scout Jake Janso

Etienne Morin | No. 48 Overall | Calgary Flames

A skillful offensive defenseman, Etienne Morin began to draw a lot of attention the closer we came to draft night. There was the potential of him hearing his name in the first round, but he managed to slip through the cracks midway into the second to the Calgary Flames.

Morin was far and wide the most productive draft-eligible defenseman in the QMJHL this year, registering 72 points — 29 more than his next closest competitor. He’s not afraid of the game’s physical aspect in the defensive end, always willing to lay the body along the boards to disengage the puck carrier. While things have been chaotic in Calgary the last two off-seasons, Morin is a player the Flames can perhaps turn to in a year or so, leading their defensive corps into the future.

Scout’s quote: “Calgary’s selection of Etienne Morin at 48 is definitely my favorite pick from the QMJHL. I had him in the late first round, yet he slipped further down to the second round, probably because of his said unpolished defensive game and his average size as a defenseman. But I think his high-end IQ, his vision, his shot, and his transition play made him a highly covetable choice in the second round. Morin has a higher ceiling than some think, and I think he could well develop into a top-4 defenseman for the Flames.” – FCHockey regional scout Joey Fortin Boulay

Lenni Hameenaho | No. 58 Overall | New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils elected to take the top draft-eligible point producer out of Finland’s Liiga with their first pick of the draft. With the Devils trending upwards, Lenni Hameemaho will slot into the Devils’ North American system in a few years.

While most prospects in Finland spent their season playing in the Finnish junior ranks, Hameenaho played the entire season in Liiga, registering 21 points. He’s a playmaker more than anything, manipulating the opponent into doing what he wants. He anticipates where the puck will be, cleaning up rebounds or finding passing lanes a move or two ahead of everyone else.

Scout’s quote: “If you are just looking at who went way later than he probably should have, I would have picked Emil Jarventie for this one. However, I feel like the Devils will get very good value out of picking Hämeenaho, even though he got them right around where he was ranked by most. He will probably not be a top-six offensive guy for them, but I think his floor is fairly high, and he’ll probably be an effective top-nine or bottom-six guy in the NHL sooner or later.” – FCHockey regional scout Rasmus Tornqvist

Oliver Moore | No. 19 Overall | Chicago Blackhawks

It’s hard to argue that picking up the draft’s best skater at No. 19 isn’t incredible value. Now, the Chicago Blackhawks potentially has their top-two centers for the next decade in Bedard and Oliver Moore.

Attending the University of Minnesota next season, Moore was the NTDP’s top performer outside the team’s top line. Though his point production wasn’t on par with some of his teammates, he was the engine running the second line, causing havoc for the opposition. At 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds, Moore is powerful and agile enough to create in a multitude of ways. He may not light up the scoreboard every night like Bedard is expected to, but he’ll bring a different dynamic to the team, capable of turning up the tempo.

Scout’s quote: “The best value pick from my region is pretty close to no brainer with Oliver Moore going to the Blackhawks at pick 19. Many, including myself, saw him as a sure top-ten talent in this class and thought he’d go right around ten. But to drop to 19 to the team that already picked up the best player in the class was something not many saw coming and was easily the best value pick in from my region and possibly the entire draft.” – FCHockey regional scout Douglas Larson

Aiden Fink | No. 218 Overall | Nashville Predators

Aiden Fink was one of this draft’s most intriguing prospects, as he has the skills to excel, but he’s massively undersized. At 5-foot-9, Fink was the AJHL’s leading point producer, racking up 97 points in 54 games.

Fink plays a well-rounded game, assessing play on a higher level than most. He can beat the goaltender in different ways, whether firing a wrist shot into the top corner or dangling his way through the defense. He had the talent to go a few rounds earlier than he ultimately did when the Nashville Predators plucked him, but the size likely scared off potential suitors.

Scout’s quote: “Fink is a big boom or bust type of selection, and the fact that Nashville took that swing with their last pick in the 7th round is why it’s my value pick. Fink is a high-octane offensive player. He lacks size, but that doesn’t deter him from getting to high-traffic areas to create opportunities. He’s an extremely intelligent offensive player who is at his best with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone. Does a great job of taking what the defense is giving him, and is a threat to shoot or pass. It’ll take some time for Fink to develop fully, but there’s potential for him to become an offensive contributor in a middle-six role one day. If that ends up being the case, that’s pretty good value for a 7th rounder.” – FCHockey regional scout Mitch Savard


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