FCHockey’s post regular-season mock of the 2023 NHL Draft
The 2022-23 regular season is complete for all 32 National Hockey League clubs, and 16 have no choice but turn their full attention to the 2023 NHL Draft.
While half the league is competing for the Stanley Cup, the remainder can begin launching head-first into NHL Draft prep, with the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery just around the corner.
The Anaheim Ducks, by way of a 23-47-12 record for a .354 points percentage after losing 13 straight to end the 2022-23 campaign, hold the draft lottery’s best odds at nabbing Bedard at 25.5%. The Columbus Blue Jackets, at 25-48-9 and a .360 points percentage, rank second at 13.5%. The Chicago Blackhawks have the third-best odds at 11.5% after struggling to the tune of a 26-49-7 record for a .360 points percentage.
Undoubtedly, it’ll be Connor Bedard that is first off the board.
After that? We take a look.
Here’s how the 2023 draft could shake down:
1. ANAHEIM DUCKS – CONNOR BEDARD | C/RW | REGINA (WHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 1
The Anaheim Ducks are blessed to select Connor Bedard with the first overall pick, a no-brainer selection. Bedard is a generational talent in the making, and his arrival alongside Trevor Zegras, Mason MacTavish, and Jamie Drysdale will give the Ducks a deadly offensive core. He may not be particularly refined defensively, but his mind-blowing acceleration, lateral mobility, lethal shot release, high-end creativity, and puckhandling, to name a few, are already elite from an NHL standpoint. He’s on his way to becoming one of the most dangerous players in the league, and the competitiveness and boldness in his game will mold him into a superstar player.
2. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS – ADAM FANTILLI | C | MICHIGAN (NCAA)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 2
The Chicago Blackhawks select their new cornerstone center in Adam Fantilli. He’s got all the tools you’re looking for in a top center: a very complete package of elite all-around skill, smartness, speed, pace, and physicality. He also possesses a high compete level and gamebreaking abilities. Fantilli will instantly become the new face of the franchise and a sweet replacement for Jonathan Toews’ departure. He’ll join Lukas Reichel and Kevin Korchinski as the franchise’s top prospects.
3. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS – MATVEI MICHKOV | LW/RW | HK SOCHI (KHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 3
This is where it gets interesting, as the Columbus Blue Jackets will have play the waiting game with Matvei Michkov. Even if he still has three years of playing in his native country, Michkov’s skillset is too impressive to pass up. A constant menace on the ice, he’s a dynamic scorer that oozes with skill and an underrated playmaker with impressive vision. He’s got elite agility and edgework to pair with superb hands in-tight and work below the dots. Michkov has that “wow” factor that not a lot of players benefit from and that defines the makings of a star player. He projects to pair with the talented Kent Johnson in a few years and give Columbus a high-powered offensive duo.
4. SAN JOSE SHARKS – LEO CARLSSON | C/LW | ÖREBRO HK (SHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 4
The San Jose Sharks accelerate their rebuild with the selection of Leo Carlsson, a big, cerebral playmaker with quick and silky hands. He sends laser beam tape-to-tape passes thanks to his superior vision. He routinely displays next-level puck management and creates a lot of space on his own, in addition to having the ability to beat defenders one-on-one. He played as a winger in Sweden this year and in the latest World Junior Championship, but he’s a safe pick as a 6-foot-3 center who drives his line and eases his linemates’ job. He’ll be added to fellow Swedish prospects William Eklund and Filip Bystedt.
5. MONTREAL CANADIENS – WILL SMITH | C | USA U18 (NTDP)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 6
The Montreal Canadiens add to their imposing prospects pool with the hyper-talented Will Smith. An incredibly skilled center, he plays with an effortless, yet flashy playing style. Smith displays incredible hand-eye coordination and silky-smooth puckhandling, while being extremely agile and elusive. He’s a smart and creative playmaker, while whipping heavy and precise shots at the net. He may look a bit nonchalant when defending though, which makes him an interesting pick to pair with Nick Suzuki as a 1-2 punch at center, with Suzuki taking the harder assignments as Smith can play with more freedom.
6. ARIZONA COYOTES – ZACHARY BENSON | LW | WINNIPEG (WHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 5
The Arizona Coyotes add a significant piece to their future with the selection of Zachary Benson at six. He’s a small but pesky forechecker who generates significant speed through his first steps. Benson possesses terrific agility and elusiveness and reveals himself as a dangerous threat off the rush. His anticipation and on-ice awareness are top-notch, and he battles very hard even with a smaller frame than average. His size may frighten a few teams, but he’s got the talent and motor to make his way on a top-six forward unit at the NHL level.
7. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS – BRAYDEN YAGER | C | MOOSE JAW (WHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 7
The Philadelphia Flyers add another fixture to their rebuild with center Brayden Yager. A superb two-way middleman, he picks up great speed with his crossovers and thrives in transition. He exhibits splendid vision and sends pinpoint accurate outlets. Yager displays great IQ and flow of the game, as he excels in all three zones thanks to his astonishing anticipation and positioning. He’s not known as a scorer but can surprise goalies with a dangerous snapshot. With his two-way prowess and offensive skillset, Yager has the profile of a future top-six center who contributes at both ends of the ice.
8. WASHINGTON CAPITALS – DALIBOR DVORSKY | C | AIK (ALLSVENSKAN)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 11
The Washington Capitals find themselves in an unknown spot picking at eight overall, missing the playoffs for the first time in almost ten years. With thin prospect depth, they will happily select Dalibor Dvorsky, a big body center with high-level skill and a great defensive game. He offers an assertive set of hands and vision, while maximizing his physique when protecting the puck or fighting for it. He skates fairly well and can unleash a hard, wicked shot from distance. Dvorsky seems destined to play a successful second-line center role at the NHL level while being used on both special teams.
9. DETROIT RED WINGS – EDUARD SALE | LW | KOMETA BRNO (CZECHIA)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 8
The Detroit Red Wings continue to add highly skilled talent to their farm system with the addition of winger Eduard Sale. A real menace off the rush, Sale displays excellent puck handling to maneuver through defenders and get the puck past goalies. He’s a dangerous scorer in all fashions, as he whips laser beam wrist shots, but can also rip it with his snapshot or send it top net with his backhand. He shows great speed through long and powerful strides, and he’s also able to set up his teammates as he scans and reads the ice genuinely well. Sale possesses untapped potential as a top-six forward and would fit like a glove in the Red Wings’ group of young European players.
10. ST. LOUIS BLUES – AXEL SANDIN PELLIKKA | D | SKELLEFTEA AIK (SHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 12
Owning three first-round picks in this draft, the St. Louis Blues can bolster their prospect pool with the first defenseman off the draft in Axel Sandin Pellikka. A remarkably mobile blueliner, Sandin Pellikka owns silky smooth skating in all directions and generates sneaky speed through his crossovers. He displays incredible poise with the puck while routinely making smart decisions with it, easily distributing precise outlets. He’s able to find holes though goalies via his wrist shot and defends very well at the other end thanks to efficient gap control and stick placement. His lack of size could be an issue, but Sandin Pellikka has the makings of a top-four, power play-leading defenseman — something the Blues lack right now.
11. VANCOUVER CANUCKS – NATE DANIELSON | C | BRANDON (WHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 18
The Vancouver Canucks will try to replace the void left by Bo Horvat’s departure with Nate Danielson, a prominent two-way center with tremendous smarts and great all-around skills. He shows very good vision and patience with the puck while continually anticipating plays ahead. Danielson generates a lot of speed wheeling through the neutral zone, using his hands and body to protect the puck and getting past defenders. He has great scoring and forechecking abilities as well. A very complete middleman, Danielson would excel on both special teams and notably improve the Canucks at both ends of the ice.
12. ARIZONA COYOTES (VIA OTT) – RYAN LEONARD | RW | USA U18 (NTDP)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 25
With their second pick of the day, the Coyotes keep replenishing their forward corps by selecting the scrappy scorer Ryan Leonard. He’s excellent at driving the net and scoring from the slot, managing to free himself and unloading accurate shots. Leonard is an active forechecker that plays physical and can obliterate opponents with some solid hits. He possesses great speed and lateral agility while frequently finding holes in defense. Leonard has the profile of a gritty up-and-down forward that can chip in some goals.
13. BUFFALO SABRES – DAVID REINBACHER | D | EHC KLOTEN (SWITZERLAND)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 20
The Buffalo Sabres add to their strong defensive unit by choosing two-way defenseman David Reinbacher. He has fluid four-way mobility to pair with his strong six-foot-two frame, plus very good vision that allows him to calmly make excellent zone-exit passes. Reinbacher also excels at defending the rush thanks to impeccable gap control and a long reach. He’ll be a solid addition to play with either Rasmus Dahlin or Owen Power, offering Buffalo a deadly ‘big 3’ on their blue line.
14. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS – OLIVER MOORE | C | USA U18 (NTDP)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 13
The Pittsburgh Penguins crucially need to inject talent into their farm system, and the selection of Oliver Moore does just that. A smooth and powerful skater, he owns incredible edgework and speed that can beat defenders from outside. Moore is a savvy dangler who controls the pace efficiently. He reads and anticipates plays ahead of most, he’s also well-disciplined defensively and supports his defenders down low. A shooting/passing dual threat, he releases a quick snapshot from the slot and from distance. Moore clearly has top-six potential and would be a heck of a pick at 14.
15. NASHVILLE PREDATORS – CALUM RITCHIE | C | OSHAWA (OHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 10
The Nashville Predators would benefit from picking a defenseman since they have no clear top prospect at this position, but there are still too many good forwards available at this point. Since they also have an array of wingers, center Calum Ritchie represents a decent option for the Predators. He’s a big-bodied, two-way center with smooth hands and superior puck protection that allows him to create a lot of space. He can beat goalies off the rush and holds his own around the net. While not the quickest, Ritchie possesses appealing skill and size to be considered a satisfying pick at 16. He projects mostly as a middle-six center with a high ceiling.
16. CALGARY FLAMES – COLBY BARLOW | LW/RW | OWEN SOUND (OHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 16
The Calgary Flames can consider themselves lucky to have Colby Barlow fall to No. 16. He is one of the best pure scorers in this draft class, unloading a deadly wrist shot with an expeditive release while also beating goalies with one-timers. Barlow is also an excellent bumper option on the power play, excelling at redirecting pucks and jumping on rebounds. He uses his thick frame to play physical along the boards and make it hard for opponents to strip him of the puck. Barlow projects as a goal-scoring power forward on a top-nine forward unit at the NHL level.
17. MONTREAL CANADIENS (VIA FLA) – ANDREW CRISTALL | LW/RW | KELOWNA (WHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 9
Since they’ve already picked earlier in the draft and possess a deep prospects group, the Canadiens can afford to take a riskier pick at 17, which leads us to the polarizing Andrew Cristall. With shifty hands and sensational creativity, the winger sets the pace thanks to his incredible poise and puck control. He can dangle his way through defenders as much as he pleases. He owns splendid vision, very agile skating, and a pro shot that can beat goalies from a distance. He tends to stay at the perimeter at times, and there are also concerns about his size and injury history, but Cristall is an offensive dynamo that can dominate a whole shift by himself. He’s got intriguing top-six potential, but there are a few ‘ifs’ attached to it.
18. DETROIT RED WINGS (VIA NYI) – MATTHEW WOOD | RW/C | CONNECTICUT (NCAA)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 27
With their second pick of this round, the Red Wings select forward Matthew Wood, an imposing forward that plays a solid north-south game with great offensive tools. He excels at winning battles in corners thanks to his 6-foot-3 frame and his reach. He has soft hands in-tight that helps him feed his teammates with pinpoint accurate outlets. He’s also armed with a dangerous one-timer from the flank. Wood isn’t the quickest guy on the ice and may lack pace sometimes, but he has decent cruising speed. Besides that, he possesses the size, hands, shooting, and passing abilities to emerge as a top-nine forward, even maybe top-six if he improves his pace.
19. WINNIPEG JETS – MIKHAIL GULYAYEV | D | OMSK (KHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 15
The Winnipeg Jets improve their defensive corps by adding puck-moving defenseman Mikhail Gulyayev. He’s a very strong skater who leverages great speed through his first strides thanks to a strong lower body and solid edgework. Gulyayev is an ace at carrying the puck out of the zone due to his elite mobility, brain, and awareness. He also defends the rush well for a small backend player by closing in aggressively on opponents, but he may lack reach at the pro level. Nonetheless, Gulyayev is a high IQ, versatile defenseman that can lead plays routinely.
20. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (VIA TBL) – RILEY HEIDT | C | PRINCE GEORGE (WHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 19
The Blackhawks continue to add talent with the acquisition of center Riley Heidt, an offensive jack-of-all-trades with some grit in his game. He possesses superb scoring abilities off the rush while also unleashing a powerful one-timer from the flank. Heidt has above-average vision and can occasionally get creative with the puck. He has very strong legs that allow him to accelerate quickly and can also deliver big hits to opponents. Heidt is a clear top-nine, plug-and-play forward who will bring both offense and toughness.
21. SEATTLE KRAKEN – GABRIEL PERREAULT | LW/RW | USA U18 (NTDP)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 22
The Seattle Kraken are looking for a highly skilled winger to play with Matthew Beniers or Shane Wright, so they choose Gabriel Perreault, an elite offensive talent with equally lethal shooting and playmaking abilities. He generates speed through quick crossovers and has the hands to match as he thrives in transition. Perreault regularly finds open spaces and unleashes precise snap shots. However, he can make sloppy plays on occasion at the other end of the ice. He definitely has the offensive prowess to land a top-six forward spot, but his size and defensive issues may limit him to a middle-six role with power play opportunities.
22. MINNESOTA WILD – GAVIN BRINDLEY | C/RW | MICHIGAN (NCAA)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 14
The Minnesota Wild select Gavin Brindley, an undersized yet smart and quick forward with a high-level skill set. He’s a creative and elusive forward with the puck who pushes the pace and always keeps his legs moving. Brindley plays a high-energy, feisty game and can deliver surprising hits despite his 5-foot-9 frame while also being defensively responsible. He fits well in a middle-six forward role with his blend of skill, quickness, and physical play.
23. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (VIA LAK) – QUENTIN MUSTY | LW | SUDBURY (OHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 24
The Blue Jackets continue to add reinforcements up front with the selection of Quentin Musty, a big and strong winger with impeccable confidence when he has the puck. He sees the ice exceptionally well and doesn’t miss passing lanes when they open up. Musty also possesses a heavy shot and can make flashy plays with the puck. He would fit naturally on a top-nine offense at the next level thanks to his imposing size, creative hands, vision, and shooting abilities.
24. ST. LOUIS BLUES (VIA NYR) – ETHAN GAUTHIER | RW | SHERBROOKE (QMJHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 23
With the second of their three first-round picks, the Blues select Ethan Gauthier, a strong winger with goal-scoring instincts who plays a scrappy, power game. He displays impressive work ethic and plays with an edge when fighting for available pucks. Gauthier is equipped with a quick snapshot that makes him very dangerous in the slot. While not being the most dynamic, he always keeps himself implicated in every play. He’s got the disruptive play and scoring abilities to become a successful middle-six winger.
25. NEW YORK RANGERS (VIA DAL) – OTTO STENBERG | C/LW | FROLUNDA (SHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 21
The New York Rangers add to their young core by picking forward Otto Stenberg, an offensive threat with superior puck skills and vision. He is a very crafty playmaker and exhibits incredible skating abilities, while beating goalies with an accurate shot from a distance. Stenberg had decent production this year that doesn’t reflect the extent of his talent. He could be a sneaky pick at 25 for a potential top-six forward that hasn’t yet exploited his potential.
26. NASHVILLE PREDATORS (VIA EDM) : ETIENNE MORIN | D | MONCTON (QMJHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 57
After adding a center, the Predators select rising prospect Etienne Morin, a two-way defenseman with high vision who contributes offensively without sacrificing too much defense. He’s an efficient puck-moving defenseman, exiting his zone with savvy and accurate outlets. Morin owns incredible timing as he knows when to jump in rushes to provide offense. After having a productive year, he seems destined for a top-four role with implications on both special teams in the future.
27. COLORADO AVALANCHE – DANIIL BUT | LW | YAROSLAVL (KHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 47
After not picking in the first five rounds of the 2022 draft, the Colorado Avalanche add winger Daniil But — a skilled power forward with soft hands. He thrives at using his body to create space for himself and winning puck battles off the wall. His size and skill make him very appealing for teams, but he’s still pretty raw in his development. But owns middle-six potential with some contribution on the power play.
28. VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS – SAMUEL HONZIK | LW | VANCOUVER (WHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 46
The Vegas Golden Knights add Samuel Honzik, a winger with an imposing frame and a great offensive skillset that can play at both ends. He has soft hands and scans the ice before making smart plays. He can also rip it from the flank on the power play. On the downside, he tends to fade away at times and could be more involved. While he can do a bit of everything, Honzik still needs some refinement to his game in order to become a serviceable, middle-six forward with size at the NHL level.
29. ST. LOUIS BLUES (VIA TOR) – JAYDEN PERRON | C/RW | STEEL (USHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 17
With their third pick in the 2023 draft, St. Louis selects Jayden Perron, an undersized forward with tons of skill. He has very good skating speed and agility to pair with impressive playmaking abilities. Some teams might be reluctant to select Perron because of his small frame, but he’s got undeniable offensive talent and could be a steal of a pick at 29. A boom-or-bust prospect, he could provide value on a top-nine forward unit.
30. SAN JOSE SHARKS (VIA NJD) – LUKAS DRAGICEVIC | D | TRI-CITY (WHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 59
After improving their offensive corps drastically with Carlsson’s addition, the Sharks add Lukas Dragicevic to their back end, a mobile defenseman that possesses all the tools to lead an offense from deep. He has prompt first strides and exceptional edgework, which gives him high-end mobility in all directions. He’s susceptible to poor defensive coverage and is a riskier prospect than some, but Dragicevic has the intelligence and elite mobility that can lead a power play in the NHL after some refinement in his game.
31. CAROLINA HURRICANES – DMITRI SIMASHEV | D | YAROSLAVL (KHL)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 37
The Carolina Hurricanes select Dmitri Simashev, a simple yet efficient defenseman with size that excels at disrupting opposing plays. He’s a smart defenseman with a successful first pass that doesn’t rush plays. Simashev has the physique and disrupting game that could land him a second pair role with a more offensive defenseman, while being the first one sent to kill penalties.
32. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (VIA BOS) – KASPER HALTTUNEN | RW | HIFK (LIIGA)
FCHOCKEY RANK – 26
The Toronto Maple Leafs round off the first round by selecting Kasper Halttunen, a skilled power forward with impressive scoring abilities. He dominates in corners and around the net thanks to his size and uses smooth hands to maneuver through opposition. Halttunen has interesting tools and, with the right development, could blossom into a solid middle-six winger with a lethal scoring release and a huge frame.