FCHockey’s Midterm Mock of the 2023 NHL Draft
The Columbus Blue Jackets are, at this point, on the clock.
The Blue Jackets, last in the National Hockey League standings, would have the best odds at winning the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery and the right to select first in the 2023 NHL Draft with an 18.5% likelihood of getting the luxury of snapping up consensus top pick Connor Bedard of the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League.
And, with FCHockey’s Midterm ranking for the 2023 draft dropping, now would be a good time to mock up the 2023 NHL Draft class.
So, without further adieu, welcome to the way-too-early 2023 NHL Draft Mock.
- Bedard, ranked No. 1, is the odds-on favorite to be the first overall selection in 2023 and for good reason. Being touted as a potential generational talent, he has all the makings of a franchise center. Bedard has the entire package — a dynamic skater with elite puck skills who can create in any situation. Once he irons out a few minor issues defensively he will become an elite all-around player. His production has been through the roof in Regina this year, with 91 points (45 goals, 46 assists) in 38 games, good for tops in the WHL
- Fantilli, No. 2 on FCHockey’s board, has emerged as the leading contender to challenge Bedard for the top spot in the 2023 draft. The Michigan center is off to a historic start to his freshman season in the NCAA. His 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in 24 games leads the Wolverines. Fantilli has a complete package — he’s big, skilled and extremely strong. He can play a full two-way game and has the ability to pull off jaw dropping plays every time he touches the puck. He has every tool that NHL GMs covet and is having a better Freshman year than Jack Eichel had during his draft year.
- Michkov, ranked No. 3, has bounced around Russia so far this year. Playing three games for SKA in the KHL before being sent down to the VHL for a successful stint. Now on loan with HK Sochi (KHL), Michkov is reminding people why he’s been such a highly touted prospect. His offensive skillset is something to marvel at, he has a great shot, elite shiftiness with the puck on his stick and has the vision and passing ability to be a great playmaking threat. The Russian factor will surely come into play for his draft stock but based purely on playing ability, but Michkov should probably be a top-3 selection in the 2023 draft.
- Carlsson, slotted in at No. 4, is having a fantastic season in the SHL. He has 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in 34 games for Orebro and had a fantastic showing for Sweden at the World Juniors. He’s a talented offensive player, and when he has the puck on his stick he has a knack for getting through traffic and taking the puck to the prime scoring areas. With his big body and offensive prowess, we wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up getting picked ahead of Michkov — especially if his success continues in the SHL — but right now I have him slotted just below him.
- The Winnipeg Ice are loaded with high-end forward talent and there is a legitimate argument that draft eligible Benson, No. 5, is their best player. He is a multi-dimensional offensive player with great puck skills and a knack for creating high-quality offensive chances, whether it be for himself or his teammates. He leads the Ice in production by a wide margin, 72 points (27 goals and 45 assists) and has shown the ability to drive play from the wing, which isn’t a common ability in today’s NHL.
- Smith, ranked No. 6, is a high-end playmaking center who has great hands and elite elusiveness with the puck on his stick. He has been solid for the NTDP, producing a ton of points (69 points in 37 total games) and has played his way into a potential top-5 conversation if he can continue his level of offensive play. There are some flaws in his defensive game and skating that may give scouts some pause, but when you look at his elite offensive skill and ability to elevate his teammates level of play in the offensive zone, he has the potential to be a top-six center for a long time.
- Yager, slotting in at No. 7, has made a name for himself this year with his shot release and ability to make plays in space in the offensive zone. He has high-end potential as a playmaking threat, showing the ability to create off the rush and through the cycle. There have been improvements in his two-way game throughout the year and if he continues to make strides his all-around game will allow him to translate his game to the NHL much easier. Yager might end up as a winger in the NHL, but his ability to create offensive chances and his improving defensive game make him an intriguing option in the top-10.
- Sale is a smart, offensive-minded winger who thrives with the puck on his stick. When you watch him play, you quickly see how well he understands the game. He consistently puts himself in the best possible position to make a positive play. While there were some uncharacteristically low moments for him at the World Juniors, he has shown how talented of a player he can be with his play in the Czechia men’s league. Sale has six goals and 11 points for HC Brno, which leads all U19 players in the league.
- Sandin Pellikka, No. 12, was so impressive at the World Juniors for Sweden, forcing his way to a big role and getting playing time in the most crucial moments. He is an offensive-minded defender who thrives with the puck on his stick. He can process the game quickly and make split-second decisions under pressure. Sandin Pellikka isn’t an overly flashy player, he just knows what decisions to make and when to make them. He uses his skating and body positioning well to jump into the rush on offense and help negate any quality chances on defense. He might not become a high-end point producer from the back end, but what he can do is play multiple roles and provide solid on-ice impacts in all situations. He may play his way to a potential top-10 selection by the time the draft comes around.
- Cristall is such a gifted offensive player, he has the high-end speed and puck skills that allow him to push the pace of play when he picks up the puck in stride. Even when he has a quiet game, he shows that he just needs one chance in order to make an impact. Cristall has 62 points (26 goals, 36 assists) in 36 games for Kelowna. Despite some gaps in his defensive game, it is impossible to ignore the potential explosive upside that he possesses.
- It’s been a tough year for Ritchie, ranked No. 10. Despite the poor team performance, Ritchie has been very effective for Oshawa this year. He is second on the team in points with 47 points (20 goals, 27 assists) in 46 games and has been able to showcase his high-end offensive game. He is a natural offensive creator, finding ways to get the puck into high-danger areas either by himself, or hitting teammates for prime scoring chances on a regular basis. Ritchie is the best all-around offensive talent the OHL has in this class, and should still firmly be a potential top-15 pick.
- Dvorsky, No. 11, is a talented offensive player who possesses a high-level shot and the offensive instincts to become a consistent scoring threat at the NHL level. He has the ability to navigate in tight spaces with his low center of gravity and quick lateral movement. While his foot-speed may be a tad concerning, his ability to move laterally and puck handling ability allow him to negate any issues caused by his lack of elite speed. He has the potential to be an effective scorer and solid two-way player which will be intriguing for teams picking in the top-15.
- Brindley, slotted in at No. 14, is a playmaking winger who uses his speed and vision to create chances for his teammates. He’s a deceptive player, he can beat defenders in one-on-one situations by attacking the outside lane with speed, or he can use his puckhandling to quickly change direction and create separation. Brindley possesses a pass-first mentality and, while there are times he should shoot more often, his skillset is a great fit for an organization with a lot of shooting talent.
- Moore, No. 13, is a quick and creative two-way forward who constantly looks to generate offense through his pace and ability to create space for himself. His ability to push the pace of play as a puck-carrier makes him an effective rush player, and he uses his skating and puckhandling to create separation from his opponent. He can be a little reckless at time due to his confidence, but as he gets older, he will learn when to pick his spots. Moore has the potential to be an effective top-six forward and getting that potential in the middle of the first round is extremely tough to pass on.
- Reinbacher, FCHockey’s No. 20-ranked prospect, is the highly touted right shot two-way defenseman that NHL GMs love. He is able to impact the game in all three zone with his high IQ and poise. Reinbacher has high-end awareness and decision-making with the puck on his stick, and shows a knack to not rush decisions under pressure and take what the opposition is giving him rather than forcing a play for the sake of making a play. He reminds us a lot of Lian Bichsel last year — a steady defender who might not have the most eye-popping counting stats but has the physical tools that NHL teams covet. He might go higher than expected, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him develop into a top-four defender in the future.
- An exciting, offensive-minded defender, Gulyayev, No. 15, play revolves around his ability to move the puck effectively. He’s an explosive skater, generating power with his first few steps allowing him to easily keep up with the pace of play at either end. Defensively there are some hiccups, losing coverage too easily at times and allowing himself to become too puck focused which leads to defensive collapses. While the defensive issues can’t be ignored, his offensive upside and skating ability make him a perfect offensive-defender to take a chance on in the back half of the first round.
- Heidt, No. 19, has immense skill and has the ability to disguise himself in the offensive zone before navigating his way to the soft parts of the defensive coverage and putting himself in the prime position for a quality scoring chance. He’s the type of player that just seems to find the puck in high-quality scoring areas. Heidt is a creative player who can make special plays every time the puck touches his stick. With his ability to push the pace of play and serve as a multi-dimensional offensive threat he could potentially push for a higher draft position, but grabbing him in the middle of the first-round is great value.
- When Barlow, No. 16, is actively engaged, he is a handful to play against. He has the size and shooting ability to be a great power forward at the NHL level. Barlow is the straw that stirs the Owen Sound offensive drink, and when he gets into the slot area there is not a lot that the opposing team can do to stop him. He’s an elite shooter and can get the puck off his stick in the blink of an eye. He would probably be ranked much higher if the consistency was there. When Barlow is on, there is no denying him so if he can find that consistency in his game he is going to turn into a top-six scoring winger that is beloved by his teammates and fanbase.
- The best way to describe Perron, ranked No. 17, is that he is an offensive weapon with the puck. He is a slippery skater that can turn defenders inside out by changing his pace or direction quickly. Perron may be a bit undersized but because of his skating, puckhandling, and vision on the ice he has no issues driving play and creating offensive chances for everyone on the ice. Adding strength and working on his two-way game will be paramount for Perron, but there is not denying his offensive upside and going to an organization that will allow him multiple years to develop will be the perfect scenario for him.
- Danielson, No. 18 on FCHockey’s board, is a plug-and-play center who has an impact in all three zones. He is a smooth skater who has the ability to make quick decisions with the puck on his stick, often knowing where he wants to go with the puck before it’s on his stick. He has a mature defensive game, knowing when to support his teammates down low and when to provide a safety outlet. He may not be the flashiest player, but his all-around game makes him a potential middle-six center who can play all situations, easily worth a late first-round pick.
- Gauthier, No. 23, is a two-way winger who plays a responsible game. His smarts allow him to consistently position himself as an outlet for his teammates, and he rarely holds onto the puck too long. He rarely tries to play outside of his skillset, he keeps the puck moving and wants to get himself open so he can use his powerful shot. He can provide a strong net-front presence and his game should translate well to the NHL. He could be considered a safe pick, but he is making a case to be a first-round pick.
- Stenberg, No. 21, is a skilled two-way forward who has the skill and hockey IQ to be a consistent contributor at both ends of the ice. He can find the soft spots in the offensive zone and has the ability to create offensive chances, both on and off the puck. His off-puck work allows him to be effective in the defensive zone, knowing where his assignments are and consistently being able to stick with them to negate their impact. He has some limitations that might prevent him from being a top-six forward, but his two-way ability makes him a viable middle-six guy in the future.
- Musty, slotted in at No. 24, is an offensive winger who can create offensive in a variety of ways. He has a lethal shot but has turned into an excellent facilitator and has shown the ability to elevate his linemates. When healthy he has been one of the Wolves’ most dynamic forwards, and he has shown flashes of a power element that you wouldn’t expect from a player with his skill. The OHL doesn’t have the strongest presence at the top of the 2023 draft, but Musty belongs in the conversation for the best in this class. Getting him in the 20s is an excellent outcome.
- Halttunen, No. 26, has a nice blend of skill and power in his game. Using his skating and size to push play in transition and drive the puck to the dangerous areas. He actively goes to the net and consistently gets himself open in the scoring areas. When he gets the puck in open space, he will make you pay. He will need to learn to create space for himself at the NHL level, but he has all the tools you want in a scoring winger. He could be a higher selection come the summer but getting him as a late first-round pick is extremely good value.
- Perreault, No. 22, is a dynamic offensive weapon who uses his puckhandling ability to carry the puck into the prime scoring areas. His creativity and puck control make him a lethal rush player, consistently beating players in one-on-one situations. Perreault has a shooter’s mentality, rarely passing up the ability get off a shot attempt. The key for Perreault will be adding explosiveness to his skating ability and filling out his frame. His dynamic upside should make him a potential high-reward selection in the later half of the first round.
- Leonard, No. 25, is a well-rounded forward who impacts the game because of his high compete level. He always gives his best effort on the ice, is a strong forechecker, and is never afraid to throw his weight around on the ice. His puck skills might not be the flashiest, but with his mobility and effort he finds his way to the prime scoring areas with regularity. Leonard is a high-floor, lower-ceiling type of prospect and likely caps out as a top-nine forward who can play five-on-five and on the penalty kill. He is a safe bet in the back half of the first round if he keeps up his current level of play.
27th overall Chicago Blackhawks – Matthew Wood, RW, UConn (NCAA)
- Wood, No. 27, is one of the more intriguing prospects in this class. He has all the tools you want in an NHL player but has some glaring question marks that could scare off some scouts. He’s a big-bodied forward with a great shot and strong puck skills. His awareness and processing are a step behind, as he can often skate himself into danger and turn the puck over, or miss a chance at making a key play. The upside outweighs the issues in his game, and with his physical tools there will be a ton of interest in him making him a potential boom-or-bust option in the latter half of the first round.
- Molendyk, No. 28 on FCHockey’s board, is a two-way force that uses his skating and quick decision-making to impact the game at either end of the ice. He can jump into the rush at any given moment, and even help push the play from the back end. Defensively, his skating allows him to maintain solid gap control and won’t allow attackers to beat him easily. He has top-four potential, but even if he ends up as a third pair guy he can play multiple situations and be an effective blueliner for years to come.
- An undersized forward who has the potential to be a dynamic skilled player, Whitelaw has elite straight-line speed and with his puck control will thrive in a high-event system that loves to generate chances in a variety of ways. He has the ability to impact the game at 5v5 and feast on the power play. Whitelaw, No. 29, makes quick decisions and knows how to create space for himself and will fit in nicely in the middle-six of a team’s forward group. He will probably end up going higher in my opinion but grabbing him this late in the first round would be a great pick.
- A highly skilled player who can act as a scoring and playmaking option. Pinelli, ranked No. 31, is a player that excels with the puck on his stick. He knows how to get it into the high-danger areas. He plays on a good team in Ottawa but has shown great versatility and that he can play up and down their lineup. His upside and versatility will make him an appealing option late in the first round because teams will know they can use him in a variety of ways. He has been fantastic this year and will be able to make an impact in a variety of ways at the NHL level.
- Stramel, on FCHockey’s board at No. 32, is a sizeable right-shot center whose entire package might be more than the sum of his individual parts. He know show to use his size and strength to keep himself between the puck and the opposing players. He has plus level puck skills, showcasing a quick release and basic playmaking ability. Given that he is not the fastest skater and needs to refine some of his defensive game he would be considered a quality late first-round selection with middle-six potential.
- Nadeau, No. 33, has the potential to be a dynamic offensive weapon. H has the patience and IQ to be an effective puck carrier who dominates the transition game. Nadeau has high-level puck skills, allowing him to be an effective shooter and playmaker. He can spot lanes and attack them with confidence on a regular basis. There are minimal skating concerns but if he irons those out he can be a great offensive threat in a team’s top-six. He is one of the BCHL’s best players and would be a great fit for a team picking at the end of the first round.