FCHockey
Staff
June 28, 2023

FCHockey’s pre-2023 NHL Draft mock draft

The 2023 NHL Draft is upon us as we look at our final mock draft before the big night.

The stage at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville is set as potentially the best draft classes since 2003 have arrived in Music City. With intrigue throughout the entire draft, it will be interesting to see where the dominos fall as general managers from the NHL’s 32 member clubs step up to the podium to make their selection.

Connor Bedard may be the only pick currently set in stone, as the draft can go in several directions, with over 40 prospects capable of hearing their names called in the first round.

Let’s check out how things played out in this mock draft:

1 . CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS – CONNOR BEDARD, C, REGINA (WHL)
FINAL RANK: NO. 1 

The least surprising pick will come first overall, as the Chicago Blackhawks knew they’d select Connor Bedard the moment their placard was turned over on May 8th at the NHL lottery. A generational talent, Bedard will become the player Chicago builds around in the post-Kane and Toews era. There’s little belief Bedard will become anything but a star in the NHL, as it wouldn’t be a shock to see him finish with 30-plus goals and 70-plus points in his rookie campaign.

2. ANAHEIM DUCKS – ADAM FANTILLI, C, MICHIGAN (NCAA)
FINAL RANK: NO. 2

It may not be as easy a pick as No.1, but Adam Fantilli has been the consensus no. 2 rated prospect for most of the draft process. Fantilli fits superbly into what the Anaheim Ducks are trying to build alongside Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish. With one of the top prospect pools in the NHL, the Ducks are bound to become a must-watch team every night.

3. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS – LEO CARLSSON, C, OREBRO HK (SHL)
FINAL RANK: NO. 4

Likely debating between three prospects, Leo Carlsson stands out with a skill set and  NHL-ready body. After an abysmal 2022-23 season, the Columbus Blue Jackets will be healthier with a new top prospect wings, as Carlsson is capable of becoming a top-line center, creating for Johnny Gaudreau for years to come. Carlsson is your prototypical power forward with the hands and creativity of a playmaker. 

4. SAN JOSE SHARKS – MATVEI MICHKOV, RW, HK SOCHI (KHL)
FINAL RANK: NO. 3

The San Jose Sharks end the waiting early in the night as they select the draft’s biggest wild card in Matvei Michkov. Once considered Bedard’s biggest contender as the draft’s top prospect, Michkov’s seen his stock drop due to reasons beyond his control. A threat to become a 100+ point producer at some point in his career, Michkov is the type of player worth the three-year wait for his KHL contract to end. The Sharks are a ways away from becoming contenders again, so having Michkov join the team at 21 may be perfect timing.

5. MONTREAL CANADIENS – WILL SMITH, C, USA U18 (NTDP)
FINAL RANK: NO. 5

The top American in the draft and MVP of this year’s U-18 World Championship, Will Smith heads north to the Montreal Canadiens, joining a compelling young forward core. Smith is an exciting playmaker, capable of turning nothing into something magical. He can potentially spend the next decade-plus alongside Cole Caufield or Juraj Slafkovsky (or both), raking in the assists and returning this hockey-crazed market back to prominence. 

6. ARIZONA COYOTES – DAVID REINBACHER, D, EHC KLOTEN (NL)
FINAL RANK: NO. 10

With the first of their three first-round selections, the Arizona Coyotes elect to take the future of their blue line at No. 6. Despite being FCHockey’s second-ranked defenseman, David Reinbacher has the size and skill set to become a top-pairing defenseman for the Desert Dogs. Reinbacher is a force on both sides of the ice as he embraces the physical aspect of the game while remaining creative with the puck.

7. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS – RYAN LEONARD, RW, USA U18 (NTDP)
FINAL RANK: NO. 22

The second member of the USNTDP’s exceptional top-line, Ryan Leonard, plays a gritty game that looks to be the perfect match for the Philadelphia Flyers. Heading to Boston College next season with his NTDP linemates, Leonard will join Flyers’ top prospect Cutter Gauthier. Leonard is an undersized power-forward willing to do anything to help the team – a style John Tortorella will fall in love with. 

8. WASHINGTON CAPITALS – DALIBOR DVORSKY, C, AIK (ALLSVENSKAN)
FINAL RANK: NO. 7

In a few years, we could potentially be looking at Dalibor Dvorsky as a steal for the Washington Capitals at No. 8. One of the most dangerous offensive forces in the class of 2023, Dvorsky is capable of scoring with the best of them. Adept at putting up massive offensive numbers, Dvorsky is inconsistent, leaving much to be desired. A more consistent effort each night will see him become even more of a threat. Representing Slovakia at the WJC and U-18 WC this year, Dvorsky is set to join fellow countrymen Slafkovsky and Simon Nemec as highly drafted first-rounders out of the small European nation.  

9. DETROIT RED WINGS – ZACHARY BENSON, LW, WINNIPEG (WHL)
FINAL RANK: NO. 6

One of the most productive players in the WHL this season, the Detroit Red Wings scoop up Zach Benson – one of the most heralded players throughout the draft process. Finishing as the WHL’s third-leading scorer with 98 points, Benson has proven his worth, outscoring teammates and former first-round picks Matthew Savoie and Conor Geekie. Benson has the skating, shot, and puck-handling ability to compete with the best of them. The only thing holding him back is his size. With how the game is now played, size is less of an issue, and if anyone can get the best out of Benson, it’s Steve Yzerman.

10. ST. LOUIS BLUES – AXEL SANDIN PELLIKKA, D, SKELLEFTEA (SWE. JR)
FINAL RANK: NO. 8

The St. Louis Blues elect to refortify their blue line by selecting Axel Sandin Pellikka to round out the top 10. ASP will add an element of offense to the Blues’ defensive corps that has been missing for some time. One of the draft’s best puck movers among defensemen, Sandin Pellikka has become more reliable on the defensive end, turned to more than any of his teammates in crunch time of this year’s World Junior Championship.

11. VANCOUVER CANUCKS – GABRIEL PERREAULT, RW, USA U18 (NTDP)
FINAL RANK: NO. 14

The greatest single-season point producer wearing a USA sweater, Gabriel Perreault, winds up with the Vancouver Canucks. An offensive dynamo, Perreault does everything on the offensive end of the ice exceptionally well but isn’t necessarily high-end in any specific category. What Perreault does better than anyone else is racking up the points. He always finds himself in the right place at the right time – and playing alongside Elias Pettersson in the future he’ll have every opportunity to continue his puck-hawking ways.

12. ARIZONA COYOTES – NATE DANIELSON, C, BRANDON (WHL)
FINAL RANK: NO. 27

Perhaps one of the first real surprises of the draft, the Arizona Coyotes elect to take two-way center Nate Danielson with the No. 12 pick. The Yotes have Logan Cooley, who will likely slot into that 1C position when finished at the University of Minnesota, with Danielson centering a line right behind him. Danielson is heady in all three zones and has one of the highest floors in the draft. At worst, he should be able to center a third line.

13. BUFFALO SABRES – OLIVER MOORE, C, USA U-18 (NTDP)
FINAL RANK: NO. 9

One of the more exciting young teams in the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres add an element of speed by selecting Oliver Moore. The team is currently constructed with plenty of power at the forward position led by Tage Thompson. Moore, considered the draft’s top skater, can add another dimension to this team that can potentially take them to the next level.

14. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS – COLBY BARLOW, OWEN SOUND (OHL)
FINAL RANK: NO. 13

The Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t getting younger anytime soon, needing someone to replace all the points one-day exiting the arena between Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Colby Barlow is an excellent shooter of the puck with terrific hockey sense. Barlow has the body (and beard) to allow him to deal with the physicality of the NHL sooner than later. With a prospect pool needing some key additions, Barlow will jump to the top of the Penguins’ list.

15. NASHVILLE PREDATORS – OTTO STENBERG, C, FROLUNDA (SWE-JR.)
FINAL RANK: NO. 12

One of the biggest climbers among forwards from the mid-term rankings, Otto Stenberg, becomes the Nashville Predators’ first draft pick not made by David Poille. As Barry Trotz takes the reins as the Predators GM in what looks like a bit of a rebuild, Stenberg becomes the organization’s shiny new toy. Stenberg has a fantastic set of mitts with a quick release to boot. He’ll need to improve in the defensive end, which he’ll work on while playing in the SHL

16. CALGARY FLAMES – BRADYDEN YAGER, C, MOOSE JAW (WHL)
FINAL RANK: NO. 18

In what looks to become a long off-season for the Calgary Flames, Craig Conroy adds Brayden Yager as his first pick in charge of the organization. One of the draft’s top goal scorers, Yager has an elite shot capable of scoring from anywhere on the ice. He projects to become a force on the power play as he’ll hopefully replace some of the firepower leaving/potentially leaving Calgary this summer.

17. DETROIT RED WINGS – MATTHEW WOOD, C, UCONN (NCAA)
FINAL RANK: NO. 17

The “Yzerplan” keeps working its magic as the Detroit Red Wings select NCAA freshman Matthew Wood. Finishing third in scoring among college hockey’s draft eligibles, Wood bested his team in points this season at the University of Connecticut. Wood checks all the boxes for scouts, as he has the size and potential to become a high-end power forward in the NHL. He’ll still need time to develop and may potentially become more dominant during his second season at UCONN.

18. WINNIPEG JETS – TOM WILLANDER, D, ROGLE (SWE-JR.)
FINAL RANK: NO. 37

Tom Willander has flown up the draft rankings of late, landing himself inside the top 20 with the Winnipeg Jets. A high-flying defenseman out of Sweden, Willander is one of this draft’s top skating defensemen, with high-end, four-way mobility, using his speed and edges to his advantage in all three zones. More of a puck mover in the offensive end, Willander needs to continue developing his shot as he’s not too much of a threat to score. With a bleak defensive group in Winnipeg’s prospect pool, the Jets will lean on Willander to eventually become a top-four d-man.

19. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS – SAMUEL HONZEK, C, VANCOUVER (WHL)
FINAL RANK: NO. 36

Perhaps the thunder to Bedard’s lightning, the Blackhawks fortify their top-6 at center for the next decade, selecting Samuel Honzek. At 6’4”, Honzek skates incredibly well for his size, particularly through the neutral zone. He carries the puck exceptionally well, using his length to protect the puck. He can still put on some considerable size, making it even more difficult to be pushed off the puck. Honzek and Bedard can one day become one of the more formidable one-two punches in the league.

20. SEATTLE KRAKEN – DIMITRI SIMASHEV, D, YAROSLAVL (RUS-JR.)
FINAL RANK: NO. 24

The second Russian to walk across the stage in the first round, the Seattle Kraken add Dimitri Simashev to their core of future NHLers. After knocking off the defending Stanley Cup Champions and advancing to the second round of the playoffs in just their second season, the Kraken will look to fortify their blue line with this pick. Simashev, who’s body is NHL-ready right now at 6’4” and over 200 lbs, is a shutdown defender with high-end skating capabilities. It will be a few years until he’ll make his NHL debut, but he can potentially be the guy the coaching staff turns to shut down the opposition’s top line.

21. MINNESOTA WILD – EDUARD SALE, LW, BRNO (CZE)
FINAL RANK: NO. 11

The Minnesota Wild have had some highly ranked prospects fall to them over the past few drafts – this time, finding themselves selecting Eduard Sale at No. 21. One of the draft’s most skilled players, Sale can skate, score, and create, but finds himself falling outside the top-20. Sale’s defensive game can use some serious work while learning to use his teammates more often instead of trying to develop something himself. His inconsistencies drop him this low, but with proper development, he can become a steal for Minnesota.

22. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS – OSCAR FISKER MOLGAARD, LW, HV71 (SHL)
FINAL RANK: NO. 40

While there is an obvious necessity for incredibly skilled players amid a rebuild, there’s also a requisite for dependable two-way players who can be counted on in all situations. At No. 22, that’s what the Philadelphia Flyers elect to do, picking Oscar Fisker Molgaard. A two-way center who can process the game quickly, Molgaard may not be the flashiest of players, but he gets the job done with room to continue his development. Remaining in Sweden for the time being, the Flyers will hope to unlock the next level of Molgaard’s offensive skill set.

23. NEW YORK RANGERS – CALUM RITCHIE, C, OSHAWA (OHL)
FINAL RANK: NO. 26

After a disappointing first-round playoff exit, the New York Rangers decide to take a center in Calum Ritchie at No. 23. The Rangers, who have been potent on offense as Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin have led the team over the past two seasons – have been missing a crucial element down the center of the ice. Ritchie is a high-floor, high-ceiling center, capable of potentially centering a top-line if he can check off all the necessary boxes or becoming a solid third-line center who can play both the man advantage and penalty kill.

24. NASHVILLE PREDATORS – GAVIN BRINDLEY, C, MICHIGAN (NCAA)
FINAL RANK: NO. 15

The American speedster Gavin Brindley is the Nashville Predators’ second pick of the first round. Making the US roster at the WJC, Brindley has been steadily climbing the ranks since his freshman season in the NCAA began. Brindley flies around the ice at a breakneck pace throughout the game. At 5’9”, he fits through tight spaces as a highly offensive-minded forward. 

25. ST. LOUIS BLUES – OLIVER BONK, D, LONDON (OHL)
FINAL RANK: NO. 43

The son of Radek Bonk, who played 969 NHL games after being drafted third overall in 1994, Oliver Bonk works his way into the first round, selected by the St. Louis Blues. Joining ASP as the second defenseman taken by St. Louis, Bonk is a two-way defenseman who’s shown the potential to develop into a top-four role. Sound in his own end, Bonk’s offensive production has seen him jump in the rankings as a prospective first-round pick.

26. SAN JOSE SHARKS – DAVID EDSTROM, C, FROLUNDA (SWE-JR)
FINAL RANK: NO. 28

David Edstrom is as solid as they come in terms of centers, proficient on both ends of the ice. While we have the San Jose Sharks selecting Michkov earlier in round one, Enstrom can become a future linemate capable of covering up Michkov’s defensive deficiencies. He’s a player who can contribute on both special teams units while always maintaining a calmness to his game. 

27. COLORADO AVALANCHE – QUENTIN MUSTY, LW, SUDBURY (OHL)
FINAL RANK: NO. 20

One of the more compelling prospects in this draft, Quentin Musty, makes his way into the first round joining the Colorado Avalanche. A top-notch goal scorer and playmaker, Musty’s offensive skills should garner him much higher consideration, but his all-around game needs improvement. He can become a power play specialist, especially with the pieces surrounding him in Colorado, and has the potential to become one of the league’s top offensive prospects.

28. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS – DANIIL BUT, RW, YAROSLAVL (RUS-JR.)
FINAL RANK: NO. 31

With nearly all the offensive skills in the world, the Toronto Maple Leafs elect to get bigger and stronger, selecting Daniil But. One of the biggest players available regardless of position, But is a playmaking big man with a great pair of hands. But uses his body to his advantage at every opportune moment with an uncanny ability to protect the puck. If the Leafs’ core remains intact over the next few years, But is a player that can create time and space for the team’s stars.

29. ST. LOUIS BLUES – RILEY HEIDT, C, PRINCE GEORGE (WHL)
FINAL RANK: NO. 21

After taking two defensemen, Doug Armstrong and the Blues have one of the draft’s best playmakers in Riley Heidt fall into their lap. Tying Bedard in assists this season in the WHL with 72, Heidt is fearless with the puck and skillful enough to make everyone around him better. Heidt’s hockey IQ is through the roof and can make a potent, young forward core in St. Louis even more dangerous.

30. CAROLINA HURRICANES – KASPER HALTTUNEN, RW, HIFK (FIN)
FINAL RANK: NO. 23

Still unable to get over the playoff hump, the Carolina Hurricanes take the best shooter available in Kasper Halttunen. It’s safe to say Halttunen’s shot can be classified as elite, as he uses all of his 6’3” 200 lbs body to generate force through his stick. With playmakers like Sebastian Aho and Martin Necas, Halttunen can potentially one day become the goal scorer they’ve been searching for.

31. COLORADO AVALANCHE – BRADLY NADEAU, C, PENTICTON (BCHL)
FINAL RANK: NO. 35

After shipping off Alex Newhook to Montreal, the Avalanche add his future replacement in Bradly Nadeau. Playing in the BCHL, Nadeau took the league by storm, working his way into first round consideration. Nadeau is as dangerous as they come with the puck on his stick as he’s capable of becoming a 30+ goal-scorer in the NHL. Nadeau will head to the University of Maine next season where he’ll test his skills against higher competition.

32. VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS – ANDREW CRISTALL, LW, KELOWNA (WHL)
FINAL RANK: NO. 19

The Stanley Cup Champion Vegas Golden Knights take an offensive guru with the last pick of the first round in Andrew Cristall. Cristall was one of the WHL’s top performers this season, finishing with 95 points. He thinks the game at nearly an elite level, but his feet are what let him down. He has trouble keeping up with the pace of play, and with a game that’s getting faster every year, it may be difficult for Cristall to find his niche at the NHL level.


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