May 12, 2023

Draft eligibles to keep an eye on at the 2023 IIHF Worlds

The 2023 IIHF World Championship will have a little NHL Entry Draft flair sprinkled in.

The tournament, held in Tampere, Finland and Riga, Latvia from May 12-28, will present five members of the 2023 NHL Draft class with an additional showcase prior to draft day — each with a varying degree of potential impact.

Draft eligibles have been no strangers on the Worlds stage of late, with the likes of Juraj Slafkovsky, Jack Hughes, Kaapo Kakko, Patrik Laine, and Auston Matthews participating over the past number of years.

Here’s who will get the chance in 2023:

David Reinbacher | Austria | D | 6’2″ | 187 lbs
FCHockey Midterm rank: 20

David Reinbacher is contending to be the first defenseman selected on draft day. Following a fairly productive season for EHC Kloten in the NL, Reinbacher will likely be Austria’s premier choice to lead the power play, logging significant minutes in all scenarios throughout the tournament. Given Austria’s predicted struggle against relegation, Reinbacher will need to be at his best.

“Reinbacher is a big, smart defenseman with many above-average tools. He moves effortlessly on the ice,” FCHockey scout Miroslav Simurka said. “He’s an effective shutdown defenseman but also very calm with the puck, strong in transition, and adept at getting pucks through to the net from the blue line.”

Leo Carlsson | Sweden | C | 6’3″ | 198 lbs
FCHockey Midterm rank: 4

Swedish phenom Leo Carlsson made the team after solid performances during Sweden’s extensive camp, where he was seen centering a line with NHLers Lucas Raymond and Fabian Zetterlund. Carlsson has certainly made a case to be a top-three pick in this year’s draft, particularly if he proves his ability to excel and produce as a center, possibly convincing teams that he is the player they should target. Sweden, as usual, brings a formidable group to the tournament, so Carlsson will likely need to perform immediately to maintain his spot in the top lines.

“He is the type of player who improves those around him by attracting coverage and creating time and space for his teammates,” FCHockey scout Erik Sjolund said. “He also enjoys decoying defenders with his smooth hands and body fakes using weight transfers. His puck handling aids him in creating high-danger passing and shooting lanes.”

Adam Fantilli | Canada | LW | 6’2″ | 194 lbs
FCHockey Midterm rank: 2

Following one of the most impressive draft-eligible seasons in college hockey history, Adam Fantilli appears to have established himself as the consensus No. 2 in the 2023 draft. Now, he will have the chance to play alongside NHLers. There’s no reason to believe he can’t produce and make a significant impact in this tournament. It will be fascinating to see how Fantilli performs in the tournament on a Canadian entry that will offer him plenty of opportunity to shine.

Oscar Fisker Molgaard | Denmark | LW | 6’0″ | 163 lbs
FCHockey Midterm rank: 38

Oscar Fisker Molgaard is vying to be the first first-round pick from Denmark since Nikolaj Ehlers — who is also his teammate in this tournament. Having already competed in the U18 and U20 tournaments this season — where Denmark played in Division 1 — Fisker Molgaard is now joining the men’s team for his third World Championship tournament of the year. With Denmark fielding an experienced group and forwards with superior offensive abilities, Fisker Molgaard will likely find himself among the bottom six. Despite his youth, he will probably be relied upon in most game situations.

“Fisker Molgaard is a player with exceptional hockey sense who makes sound decisions in all areas of the ice,” FCHockey scout Fredrik Haak said. “He skillfully maneuvers through tight areas and traffic using his puck-handling skills and finesse, but also advances with speed and acceleration.”

Petter Vesterheim | Norway | C | 5’11” | 170 lbs
FCHockey Midterm rank: NR

Petter Vesterheim is arguably the least-known prospect in this group. Rated as a possible late-round pick, he aims to convince scouts that he can compete against international competition and is worth a shot in the draft. Given that Norway will likely be the underdog against most opponents, he will probably find himself in a more defensive role in the bottom-six. However, he also has the tools to produce offensively, particularly against weaker opponents.

“He is not the most flashy player on the ice, but he is very smart and reliable,” Haak said. “Vesterheim is especially good defensively, but he can also contribute on offense when given the chance. He is extremely consistent from game to game, and once he gets a bit bigger and stronger, I think there’s clear upside to him as an all-around player.”

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