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May 9, 2023

FCHockey’s post-Lottery NHL Draft mock of the 2023 draft

Oh yeah. It’s mock draft season in the NHL.

With the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery officially in the books — congrats to the Chicago Blackhawks — those unfortunate teams that didn’t draw the correct combo to collect Connor Bedard can turn their attentions to those whom might be the realistic prospect to call from the floor at the 2023 NHL Draft.

There’s no shortage of intriguing combinations, to say the least.

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Who’s the dark horse that’ll jump into the top five? How far, if at all, do certain prospects tumble from top consideration to slow sliders? When does the first blueliner fall off the board, and how closely does the second follow-up?

All this, and more, in our latest mock draft on the heels of the draft lottery and Bedard’s delivery to the Blackhawks:

1. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS – CONNOR BEDARD | C/RW | REGINA (WHL)
Midterm rank: No. 1

It’s a no-brainer for the Blackhawks. Bedard is going No. 1. No surprise here. No shock and awe. Bedard, the clear-cut top prospect for the 2023 NHL Draft, possesses an exceptional skill set that places him among the best 17-year-olds in hockey history. With elite puck manipulation, stickhandling, and a powerful shot, he is a dominant force on the ice. Despite being a shoot-first player, Bedard actively involves his teammates, preventing opponents from focusing solely on him. His ability to generate torque with his long stick puts him in the league of elite shooters. While his defensive play and open-ice speed are areas that need improvement, Bedard is a generational talent with room to grow. He has the potential to make a significant impact in the NHL and join the league’s elite players. Fans eagerly anticipate his continued development.

2. ANAHEIM DUCKS – ADAM FANTILLI | C | MICHIGAN (NCAA)
Midterm rank: No. 2

No rocking the boat here either, are the Anaheim Ducks. Adam Fantilli is a highly regarded prospect for the 2023 NHL Draft, thanks to his impressive combination of size, speed, and skill. His exceptional pace, solid skating mechanics, and quick acceleration set him apart from his peers. Fantilli demonstrates excellent play reading abilities and playmaking skills, while his powerful shot and speed make him a threat with the puck. His competitive nature and edginess make him a well-rounded player. Offensively, Fantilli excels in multiple areas, including puck handling at high speeds, vision, and stickhandling. His size and strength allow him to create high-danger scoring chances and excel near the net. Defensively, he shows awareness and physicality, disrupting passes and breaking up plays along the boards. Areas for improvement include acceleration, four-way mobility, and defending offensive rushes. While his role has limited his transition game and overall scoring output, Fantilli remains a highly regarded prospect due to his skill and size. Projected as a top-six center, he has the potential to provide offensive firepower to any NHL team that selects him.

3. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS – LEO CARLSSON | C/LW | ÖREBRO HK (SHL)
Midterm rank: No. 4

Alright, now that we’re through the top two, the Columbus Blue Jackets are set to have some fun following some lottery heartbreak. Is Leo Carlsson‘s upside the third-best in the 2023 draft class? Maybe not. But he’s a center without the potential eyebrow-raising, patient approach required. Carlsson is a highly skilled prospect with a combination of size, skill, and hockey IQ. As a big-bodied player, he possesses high-end puck skills, vision, and strong two-way play. His exceptional vision and IQ enable him to find passing lanes and distribute the puck with accuracy. With dazzling hands and puckhandling, he surprises opponents by varying his pace. Carlsson’s large frame, long reach, and puck protection skills make him a valuable asset in the offensive zone. While he could be more assertive in shooting the puck, his superior hands and two-way abilities make him a top-line center prospect and a top contender in the draft. Additionally, his size and elite playmaking ability make him highly sought after as a versatile winger, too.

4. SAN JOSE SHARKS – MATVEI MICHKOV | LW/RW | HK SOCHI (KHL)
Midterm rank: No. 3

Back to the regularly-scheduled program, say the San Jose Sharks. Matvei Michkov is teetering on ‘steal’ territory outside the top three, but it’s a reality with a Russian winger not blessed with size whose contractual obligations aren’t insignificant. Michkov is a polarizing prospect for the 2023 draft, known for his undeniable skill, smooth hands, and exceptional shot. His offensive ability is considered among the best in his class, with the potential for a quick impact on the scoresheet. However, he has shortcomings in his defensive game and often appears lost in his own end. He also tends to make risky passes that result in turnovers. Despite these concerns, Michkov’s production in a men’s league and advanced offensive skills make him a coveted prospect in the draft. Michkov represents a high risk/reward choice in the draft, given his offensive prowess but areas that require improvement. Overall, he is a top prospect expected to become an elite offensive player, but will need to address his weaknesses while benefiting from his exceptional talent.

5. MONTREAL CANADIENS – WILL SMITH | C | USA U18 (NTDP)
Midterm rank: No. 6

The Montreal Canadiens are gettin’ jiggy wit it. Will Smith is a dynamic forward who possesses silky-smooth hands for rapid puck movement and tight stickhandling. He excels at changing pace and creating lanes for himself and teammates and has a quick-release shot and purposeful net-front presence. Though concerns arise about his speed and game tempo, his offensive production, exceptional skating, and confidence in transitions stand out. Smith’s playmaking ability and quick wrister are notable, but his defensive play requires improvement. Nevertheless, he is a top-line forward prospect with the ability to drive play and make an impact at high speed. Smith’s raw talent and determination make him an attractive prospect.

6. ARIZONA COYOTES – AXEL SANDIN PELLIKKA | D | SKELLEFTEA AIK (SHL)
Midterm rank: No. 12

The Arizona Coyotes are set to go on the defensive with Axel Sandin Pellikka. Sandin Pellikka is an incredibly poised and smart defenseman with impressive offensive skills and strong skating abilities. Known for his calm demeanor and exceptional decision-making, he excels with the puck on his stick and remains composed on the ice. Sandin Pellikka is particularly effective on the power play and displays great skill in breaking the puck out of his own end. His technical abilities and focus make him adept at handling challenging situations. He has a fantastic first pass, high hockey IQ, and shows effectiveness against aggressive forechecking. While there are areas for improvement, Sandin Pellikka’s development and physical growth should address these concerns. Overall, he is an impressive defenseman, and his continued development will be intriguing to follow.

7. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS – DALIBOR DVORSKY | C | AIK (ALLSVENSKAN)
Midterm rank: No. 11

The Philadelphia Flyers are front and center with Dalibor Dvorsky. Dvorsky is known for his high skill level and versatility as a forward. His exceptional puck handling abilities and offensive instincts set him apart. With a powerful and accurate shot, along with impressive vision and playmaking skills, he poses a dual threat in the offensive zone. Dvorsky’s strong puck protection and cruising speed through the neutral zone further enhance his offensive capabilities. He demonstrates aggression on the forecheck and a commitment to the defensive side of the game. While concerns do exist, his intelligence, quick hands, and strong skating abilities make him formidable.

8. WASHINGTON CAPITALS – ZACHARY BENSON | LW | WINNIPEG (WHL)
Midterm rank: No. 5

Zachary Benson‘s wait is over with the Washington Capitals. Benson is a dynamic and shifty forward with exceptional offensive talents. His speed in transition and great puck skills allow him to attack defenders and create scoring opportunities. Tenacious and willing to battle in high-traffic areas, Benson drives possession and consistently makes things happen on the ice. Benson showcases maturity, too, and efficiency in his skating, along with strong vision and pre-scanning abilities. As a winger, his high pace, hockey IQ, smooth stride, and excellent puck control make him a valuable top-six forward projection. Benson’s competitiveness and character, combined with his ability to dominate the offensive zone, make him a valuable asset.

9. DETROIT RED WINGS – Z DAVID REINBACHER | D | EHC KLOTEN (NL)
Midterm rank: No. 20

The Detroit Red Wings are on the defensive, too! David Reinbacher is a big, right-handed two-way defenseman with strong skating ability and the potential to become a No. 1 rearguard in the NHL. He displays calmness and confidence when handling the puck, showing good awareness and problem-solving abilities. Reinbacher has solid puck skills, accurate passing, and the ability to generate quick shots on the power play. Reinbacher competes hard at both ends of the ice, making him a solid two-way defenseman. With strong gap control and a powerful shot, he has the potential to be the top player at his position from the 2023 draft class.

10. ST. LOUIS BLUES – OLIVER MOORE | C | USA U18 (NTDP)
Midterm rank: No. 13

The St. Louis Blues want more…as in, Oliver Moore. Moore is an exciting prospect known for his exceptional speed, intelligence, and creativity as a two-way center. His greatest strength lies in his outstanding skating ability, widely regarded as the best in the draft class, allowing him to control the game’s tempo and drive play. Offensively, Moore possesses a strong and quick-release shot, as well as impressive playmaking skills. His speed and skill allow him to exploit gaps in opposing defenses and penetrate the interior of the ice with the puck. Defensively, he shows sound positioning and a strong commitment to his own end. While he has areas to improve, Moore’s elite skating, complete offensive skill set, and ability to dominate the ice make him a highly valued prospect.

11. VANCOUVER CANUCKS – BRAYDEN YAGER | C | MOOSE JAW (WHL)
Midterm rank: No. 7

He’s not exactly the hometown kid the Vancouver Canucks were hoping for, but he is some Western Canada help nonetheless. Brayden Yager is a highly skilled winger known for his impressive shot release and prowess on the power play. He excels attacking from the right side and has shown growth as a playmaker while maintaining his shoot-first mentality. With one of the best snap shots in the 2023 draft class, Yager combines impressive velocity and accuracy, making him a scoring threat. His powerful skating, lateral movement, and ability to protect the puck effectively contribute to his success, too. Yager’s sense of timing and adaptability on the ice make him a force to be reckoned with, too.

12. ARIZONA COYOTES (VIA OTT) – CALUM RITCHIE | C | OSHAWA (OHL)
Midterm rank: No. 10

First the defenseman, now the forward for Arizona — and another Ritchie to boot! Calum Ritchie is a multi-faceted forward with exceptional puck handling and shooting abilities. His finesse and power make him a threat in the offensive zone, and he utilizes his size to disrupt defenses and create space. Ritchie is reliable defensively and displays solid positioning. While his speed could improve, his overall skating abilities are strong. As a well-rounded center, he projects as a top-six forward in the NHL, utilizing his size, puck skills, and playmaking vision. Concerns about consistency and aggressiveness in puck battles may impact his draft ranking, but his versatility and offensive tools make him a valuable prospect.

13. BUFFALO SABRES – NATE DANIELSON | C | BRANDON (WHL)
Midterm rank: No. 18

It won’t probably be the sexiest pick, but could be one of the most effective for the Buffalo Sabres. Nate Danielson is a well-rounded and versatile center with smooth skating and quick decision-making abilities. He excels in all three zones, providing support to defenders and displaying strong defensive skills with an active stick and a deterrent wingspan. Offensively, he makes smart plays and positions himself effectively in the slot. Danielson’s size, poise, and finesse in stickhandling and passing have drawn interest from scouts. His combination of size and skating ability forms a solid foundation. He consistently makes smart decisions and has the potential to develop into a quality second-line center in the NHL. Danielson’s well-rounded play, ability to contribute in multiple roles, and potential for improvement make him a valuable asset for any team.

14. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS – GABRIEL PERREAULT | LW/RW | USA U18 (NTDP)
Midterm rank: No. 22

The Pittsburgh Penguins are all about alliteration with Gabriel Perreault. Perreault, though, is all about skill. He is a highly skilled offensive winger with exceptional stickhandling and playmaking abilities. He possesses great vision and reads plays well, making accurate passes with short processing time. Perreault’s hands and skill allow him to find scoring areas on the ice, and he is a volume shooter with good shot selection. While he is a pass-first player, his shot and finishing ability are strong. Perreault’s explosive stride and agility make up for his lack of elite speed, although improving his straight-line speed and acceleration would enhance his offensive opportunities. With the right development and patience, Perreault has the potential to be a highly effective and dynamic player at the NHL level.

15. NASHVILLE PREDATORS – RYAN LEONARD | RW | USA U18 (NTDP)
Midterm rank: No. 25

The Nashville Predators and Ryan Leonard — they’re a fit. Leonard is a highly skilled and tenacious forward with elite finishing ability and a power-forward style of play. He possesses a high hockey IQ and excels in advancing play through passes and creating space for teammates. Leonard’s versatile shot, acceleration, and speed in zone entries and rushes are notable strengths. His determination and willingness to battle in tough areas stand out, and he has a quick release and good hands that allow him to fool defenders and shield the puck. While his playmaking skills and off-puck play need improvement, he is seen as a legit forward prospect who can excel on the power play and contribute at even strength.

16. CALGARY FLAMES – MATTHEW WOOD | RW/C | CONNECTICUT (NCAA)
Midterm rank: No. 27

The Calgary Flames are going to Connecticut. Matthew Wood is a dominant player with impressive size and strength, excelling in offensive exploits and demonstrating maturity in his game. He is a pro-style forward with a well-balanced offensive skill set, highlighted by his heavy shot and goal-scoring mentality. While his skating and pace of play could improve, his hands and awareness make him capable of playmaking. Wood possesses NHL-ready size, a great shot, and valuable traits such as ice scanning and open body positioning. With the right development, he has the potential to become a modern power forward with a nose for the net.


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