FCHockey’s post Stanley Cup mock for the 2023 NHL Draft
It’s time to mock up the first round of the 2023 NHL Draft.
With the Vegas Golden Knights capturing their first Stanley Cup on Tuesday, attentions will turn to the next major NHL event — the NHL Draft. There’s no shortage of intrigue when it comes to the annual selection process, with several questions set to be answered on June 28-29 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
Who will go first isn’t one of them. That’s all but been determined. It seems No. 2 is all but locked in as well. However, with several polarizing prospects dotting the first round, anything is set to happen at the 2023 draft.
Here’s how we’ve mocked it up:
1. Chicago Blackhawks – Connor Bedard, C, Regina (WHL)
Final rank: No. 1
There’s absolutely nothing to overthink here as the Chicago Blackhawks will select Connor Bedard first overall. With the departure of their former No. 1 pick and franchise cornerstone in Patrick Kane at the deadline, Chicago immediately fills that void with Bedard, who has the potential to be just as good — if not better — than Kane. There’s little to say about Bedard that hasn’t already been said; he’s a dynamic offensive talent who will step into the league with one of the deadliest shot releases in hockey and has all the makings of a future NHL superstar, and it will now be Chicago’s job to continue to surround their new superstar with a potential core including Frank Nazar and Kevin Korchinski.
2. Anaheim Ducks – Adam Fantilli, C, Michigan (NCAA)
Final rank: No. 2
Despite falling from the top spot in the lottery, Adam Fantilli is hardly a consolation prize as the Anaheim Ducks add a player who would be worthy of a No. 1 pick in most other drafts. In Fantilli, the Ducks get a very well-rounded and complete hockey player, as he has a large, pro-ready frame, strong two-way smarts, and a complete offensive package including skill, playmaking vision, and a heavy shot. Fantilli projects as a complete first line NHL center and will provide Anaheim with another high-end offensive piece alongside Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish.
3. Columbus Blue Jackets – Leo Carlsson, C/LW, Orebro HK (SHL)
Final rank: No. 4
This is the selection where the draft truly begins, with multiple options that would be worthy of the No. 3 pick, and Leo Carlsson stands out as a player that would make a world of sense for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Carlsson is a remarkably skilled and creative playmaking forward who blends the soft skill of a small forward with the frame of a prototypical power forward. Carlsson is a natural playmaker due to his vision and distribution skills, but also has a very underrated shot as well, and could round out into a dual-threat top line center alongside veteran forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine.
4. San Jose Sharks – Will Smith, C, USA U18 (NTDP)
Final rank: No. 5
With their first top-five selection since the late 90s, the San Jose Sharks go for the top American born skater available in this year’s class in Will Smith. Smith is one of the most skilled and creative players available, his elite puck skills and east-west problem solving ability allow him to break down opposing defenses and generate high-danger scoring chances for himself and his linemates. Smith has the potential to be the elite first-line center the Sharks have been missing since the decline of Joe Thornton and would be a marquee cornerstone they’re currently missing in their rebuild.
5. Montreal Canadiens – David Reinbacher, D, EHC Kloten (NL)
Final rank: No. 10
The Montreal Canadiens take a bold bet on David Reinbacher, a steady two-way right-shot blueliner to stabilize their backend for the future. Reinbacher is seen by some to be among the most NHL-ready prospects available in this year’s draft, as he plays a poised and steady style of game with hints of physicality and high-end playmaking vision. Reinbacher would be poised to step into Montreal’s top four in short order, and would round out the future of the defensive core alongside Boston University standout Lane Hutson.
6. Arizona Coyotes – Matvei Michkov, RW/LW, HK Sochi (KHL)
Final rank: No. 3
Matvei Michkov is the biggest wild card in the first round of the 2023 draft, and the Arizona Coyotes make sense as a fit for the Russian winger. In Michkov, the Coyotes add an elite scoring presence who has been talked about as arguably a top-two talent in his age group since he was 15 years old. Michkov is shifty, creative, and owns an excellent shot, and appears poised to become a top goalscorer in the NHL once his KHL contract expires following the 2025-26 season.
7. Philadelphia Flyers – Ryan Leonard, RW, USA U18 (NTDP)
Final rank: No. 22
The Philadelphia Flyers added a Boston College skater to their pool with their selection of Cutter Gauthier a year ago, and here they add another with Ryan Leonard. Leonard would quickly become a fan favorite in Philadelphia with his high motor and willingness to drive and compete in hard areas on the ice, while also having the skill and shot to contribute on the score sheet. In Leonard, the Flyers get a productive top-six forward who is willing to do whatever it takes to win.
8. Washington Capitals – Dalibor Dvorsky, C/W, AIK (Allsvenskan)
Final rank: No. 7
The Washington Capitals select Slovak center Dalibor Dvorsky, who had a stellar showing at the 2023 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. Dvorsky is a mature two-way forward who thinks the game well at both ends of the ice. He reads plays well and gets himself into the interior of the ice to contribute offense, boasting a quick shot release and strong hands that allow him to play in tight spaces. Dvorsky would be a significant addition for the Capitals future as they look to retool with the likes of recent first round picks Hendrix Lapierre and Connor McMichael.
9. Detroit Red Wings – Zachary Benson, LW, Winnipeg (WHL)
Final rank: No. 6
At ninth overall, the Detroit Red Wings add another high-end offensive piece with Zachary Benson, a cerebral and highly-skilled playmaking winger who set the WHL ablaze this past season with 98 points (36 goals, 62 assists) in 60 games. Benson has incredibly vision with the puck on his stick, able to recognize passing lanes and attacking routes at a moments notice and is consistently making his linemates better. As Detroit looks to push to the next level, Benson could be a key cog alongside Lucas Raymond and Dylan Larkin in the Red Wings forward core.
10. St. Louis Blues – Axel Sandin Pellikka, D, Skelleftea AIK (SHL)
Final rank: No. 8
The St. Louis Blues begin to reshape their defensive group with the selection of Axel Sandin Pellikka, a smooth-skating offensive defenseman with a developing two-way game. Sandin Pellikka still has work to do in his own end to become a true 200-foot player, but he owns a high ceiling with his offensive game as his playmaking vision and offensive awareness with the puck on his stick make him a natural power play quarterback. Sandin Pellikka is also a natural puck mover, which will allow the Blues to get the puck up and out of their zone to their talented forwards more efficiently.
11. Vancouver Canucks – Matthew Wood, RW, Connecticut (NCAA)
Final rank: No. 17
Just outside the top-10, the Vancouver Canucks select the youngest player in the NCAA this past season with local product Matthew Wood. Wood is a big-bodied power winger with a high skill level and offensive touch. He owns a heavy shot and underrated playmaking ability and vision, allowing him to both set up linemates for scoring chances or bury them himself. Wood projects as a top-six offensive contributor with an even higher ceiling if he’s able to improve his skating, and would be a strong addition alongside Elias Pettersson.
12. Arizona Coyotes (via OTT) – Dmitri Simashev, D, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL)
Final rank: No. 24
The Coyotes add their second Russian of the first round with Dmitri Simashev, a big-bodied defenseman with a sky-high ceiling. Simashev has a large, pro-ready frame at 6-foot-4 and 201 pounds, enabling him to play physical in own zone, clear the net-front, and break up plays with his long reach, while also having a long, smooth skating stride which allows him to transition pucks with ease. Simashev showed a blossoming offensive game and confidence in the second half of this season, and could be just what the doctor ordered for the Coyotes blue line.
13. Buffalo Sabres – Tom Willander, D, Rogle BK (J20)
Final rank: No. 37
To play opposite former first overall picks Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power, the Buffalo Sabres select right-shot Swedish defenseman Tom Willander. Willander’s game is built upon his mobility, as he’s a smooth, effortless skater that can control gaps effectively to break up zone entries and defend in transition while also being able to transition pucks and jump up into the play when the opportunity presents itself. He’s a hard worker who shows commitment in his own zone, and would be an excellent fit alongside a high-octane partner like Dahlin.
14. Pittsburgh Penguins – Quentin Musty, LW, Sudbury (OHL)
Final rank: No. 20
After missing the postseason for the first time since 2006, the Pittsburgh Penguins sit in unfamiliar territory with a top-15 pick, and spend it here on American winger Quentin Musty. After watching Matthew Tkachuk in these playoffs, Musty’s style of play is very much en vogue; he’s a highly-competitive, tenacious winger with a high skill level. Musty is adept at playing in tight spaces and can both dish and finish, and would be an excellent piece for the future in Pittsburgh.
15. Nashville Predators – Brayden Yager, C, Moose Jaw (WHL)
Final rank: No. 18
The Nashville Predators look to add a potential future top-six center with the selection of Brayden Yager, a two-way center with a deadly shot. Yager’s offensive package is highlighted by his elite shot, his release is lightning quick and deceptive, allowing him to catch netminders off guard and score from distance when the puck rockets off his blade in an instant. Yager is also a capable distributor and play driver, allowing him to create for his linemates and make those around him better.
16. Calgary Flames – Colby Barlow, LW/RW, Owen Sound (OHL)
Final rank: No. 13
The Calgary Flames look to add more scoring punch to their lineup with the selection of Colby Barlow, a heavy and mature forward that already looks the part of a future middle-six NHL forward. Barlow boasts a pro-ready frame and habits, as he doesn’t shy away from playing in hard areas in the offensive zone and can win pucks around the crease to bury pucks while also having the ability to score from the circles with his hard, accurate shot.
17. Detroit Red Wings (via NYI) – Oliver Moore, C, USA U18 (NTDP)
Final rank: No. 9
With their second first round pick, the Red Wings add another forward to their ranks with American forward Oliver Moore. Moore is a two-way playmaking center who is among the best skaters available in the 2023 draft. He’s blazingly quick in a straight line and can carry the puck through the neutral zone and make plays at top speed, or pressure opponents on the backcheck and forecheck to generate turnovers, allowing him to make a difference at both ends of the ice.
18. Winnipeg Jets – Nate Danielson, C, Brandon (WHL)
Final rank: No. 27
The Winnipeg Jets add another piece to the future of their forward group with the selection of Nate Danielson, a well-rounded two-way center with a versatile toolkit. Danielson is an easily projectable player, as he has a prototypical pro frame and can absorb contact in contested areas on the ice and is committed to both ends of the ice. He owns a quick and powerful snapshot and can release it in stride, allowing him to score on the rush while also having strong playmaking vision to set up linemates.
19. Chicago Blackhawks (via TB) – Gabriel Perreault, LW, USA U18 (NTDP)
Final rank: No. 14
The Blackhawks’ first selection to help surround Bedard with talent comes in the form of Gabriel Perreault, a highly-skilled playmaking winger who is a local product of the Chicago Mission. Perreault set a single-season record for the National Team Development Program this past season with 132 points (53 goals, 79 assists) in 63 games with his advanced processing game; he makes quick decisions with the puck and can find linemates with difficult passes and can beat defenders to open up space with smooth puckhandling ability.
20. Seattle Kraken – Oscar Fisker Molgaard, C, HV71 (SHL)
Final rank: No. 40
The Seattle Kraken were able to push their first trip to the playoffs to a Game 7 in the second round due to their wave-after-wave, relentless identity, and Oscar Fisker Molgaard fits that identity perfectly. Fisker Molgaard is a speedy two-way center who is a very projectable pro due to his steady two-way smarts and excellent decision making. He is an excellent north-south player who can push the pace of play with his speed and can get in on the forecheck to force turnovers.
21. Minnesota Wild – Gavin Brindley, RW/C, Michigan (NCAA)
Final rank: No. 15
The Minnesota Wild add to a deep group of forward prospects with the selection of Gavin Brindley, a cerebral and hard-working forward who put up a strong freshman season at Michigan this season. Brindley is an intelligent and versatile player, capable of lining up at both center and wing, and does an excellent job of utilizing his teammates to effectively generate offense and drive possession. He owns excellent playmaking vision and can find linemates with difficult passes, and would fit naturally alongside prospects like Liam Ohgren.
22. Philadelphia Flyers (via LA) – Samuel Honzek, LW, Vancouver (WHL)
Final rank: No. 36
The Flyers add another forward to help rebuild their hard-to-play-against image with Slovak winger Samuel Honzek. Honzek is a rangy and versatile winger who moves well for a player his size, able to play a very effective north-south game with his 6-foot-3 frame to get in on forechecks and drive play to hard areas. Honzek does an excellent job protecting pucks deep in the offensive zone and is a natural at creating offense off the cycle.
23. New York Rangers – Calum Ritchie, C, Oshawa (OHL)
Final rank: No. 26
These playoffs made one thing clear for the New York Rangers — they have to get better at driving at even-strength. Look no further than Calum Ritchie, a highly intelligent center with a pro-ready frame and strong playmaking ability and soft skill. Ritchie does an excellent job playing off his teammates, reading and reacting in both zones to support pucks and maintain possession of the puck. He can find teammates with crisp passes, and show flashes of high-end one-on-one skill and can beat defenders and goaltenders with finesse.
24. Nashville Predators (via EDM) – Mikhail Gulyayev, D, Omskie Yastreby (MHL)
Final rank: No. 16
Barry Trotz laid out his marching orders for his scouts at this year’s draft — they’re going to take big swings on upside, and Mikhail Gulyayev is a perfect representation of what it means to swing big on skill and ceiling. Gulyayev may have work to do in his own end as he transitions to full-time pro hockey, but few defensemen in this class come close to the Russian defenseman in terms of offensive skill and playmaking ability. Gulyayev commands play from the offensive blue line, able to open up passing and shooting lanes with his mobility and hands and can deliver crisp passes through tight windows to find teammates.
25. St. Louis Blues (via TOR) – Eduard Sale, LW, HC Kometa Brno (Czechia)
Final rank: No. 11
With the Blues’ second pick of the first round, they take a big shot on offensive upside in Czech winger Eduard Sale. Sale is a crafty dual-threat winger who sees the offensive zone beautifully with the puck on his stick. He can pick apart defenses with difficult seam passes to linemates, shake checks with his puck skill, or finish chances with his capable wrist shot. Sale will need to round out his game to reach his full potential, but has the ceiling of a true impact top-six winger.
26. San Jose Sharks (via NJD) – Oliver Bonk, D, London (OHL)
Final rank: No. 43
After swinging big on skill with their first pick, the Sharks add a steady presence to the future of their blue line with Oliver Bonk. Bonk may not be the sexiest pick in the draft, but it’s easy to see why many believe you need players like him to win. Bonk is a steady two-way presence who excels in his own zone, showing a physical edge and strength around his own net, strong ability as a penalty killer, and can reliably transition pucks out of his own zone with accurate outlet passes.
27. Colorado Avalanche – Andrew Cristall, LW, Kelowna (WHL)
Final rank: No. 19
The Colorado Avalanche replenish the cupboards of their forward prospect pool with Andrew Cristall, a remarkably creative playmaking winger who was among the top scorers in junior hockey this season. Cristall is an incredibly shifty and slippery player with a pair of the slickest hands in the draft as he often looks to challenge defenders with his one-on-one skill to open up space in the offensive zone. He’s excellent at opening attacking lanes with his skill and can make quick reads with the puck to distribute to wide open teammates for high-danger chances.
28. Toronto Maple Leafs (via BOS) – Otto Stenberg, C, Frolunda (J20)
Final rank: No. 12
The Toronto Maple Leafs add more organizational depth at the center position with the selection of Otto Stenberg, an intelligent center who combines skill with flashes of two-way acumen. Stenberg sees the ice around him very well, allowing him to support his defensemen in coverage when playing away from the puck or find linemates in the offensive zone with crisp passes. He owns an excellent dual-threat package with a quick, accurate shot and shows flashes of dynamic one-on-one skill to open up space for himself.
29. St. Louis Blues (via DAL) – Tanner Molendyk, D, Saskatoon (WHL)
Final rank: No. 34
The Blues add another piece to their defensive group with their final first round pick, selecting left-shot defenseman Tanner Molendyk. Molendyk is among the most gifted skaters in the class with incredibly edgework and smooth pivots that allow him to effortlessly control gaps when defending the rush or push the pace when attacking in transition. He’s shifty and difficult to contain when handling the puck, and may have an extra gear to his offensive game if he’s able to more consistently harness his tools in the offensive zone.
30. Carolina Hurricanes – Riley Heidt, C, Prince George (WHL)
Final rank: No. 21
The Carolina Hurricanes add more offensive punch their system with the selection of Riley Heidt, who is among the top pure playmakers available in this year’s draft. Heidt’s game is highlighted by his high-end hockey sense, as he sees the ice incredibly well and can identify open passing lanes to teammates at a moment’s notice. He utilizes his teammates very well and can distribute with crisp passing ability, while also having a capable shot that he can finish with in tight spaces.
31. Montreal Canadiens (via FLA) – Daniil But, LW, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
Final rank: No. 31
The Canadiens take a big swing on a toolsy Russian winger in Daniil But, a towering winger who plays with a combination of soft and hard skill to score goals. But is a scoring power winger through and through, as he owns a heavy but accurate shot that he can score from range with while also being able to fight through checks in hard areas to bury pucks around the goal mouth. But also has soft, smooth hands for a player his size, allowing him to corral pucks in tight and show flashes of strong one-on-one skill.
32. Vegas Golden Knights – Bradly Nadeau, LW/C, Penticton (BCHL)
Final rank: No. 35
The Stanley Cup Champion Vegas Golden Knights close out the first round with the selection of Bradly Nadeau, a skilled dual-threat forward with a bullet of a shot. Nadeau excels as a goal scorer with his elite shot; the puck rockets off his stick with a quick, snappy release on his shot and can pick corners on netminders from the circles. Nadeau moves well and shows strong puck handling ability, and can distribute effectively as well with crisp passes and creative plays in the offensive zone.