June 22, 2023

Ranking the top right wing options at the 2023 NHL Draft

The 2023 NHL Draft has a lot of high-end right wing candidates available, and Matvei Michkov sits well above the rest.

Mickhov, No. 3 in FCHockey’s Final ranking for the 2023 draft, is an elite-level talent who likely won’t be selected in a position his skill set warrants. After all that has been made of his contract situation in Russia, along with a fear of him never making it to North America, teams at the top of the draft will likely opt for safer picks.

Outside Michkov, there are eight other right-wing options with first-round projections, including the all-time points leader in the history of the National Team Development Program in Gabriel Perreault. Finishing his season with 132 points (53 goals, 79 assists) in 63 games, Perreault finds his name in the NTDP record books ahead of names like Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane, and Jack Hughes.

As goal scoring has over the years, teams are always searching for the league’s next top sniper. GMs will rarely pass on goal-scoring come the draft, with plenty to be had this year.

Here’s a look at the right-wing position at the NHL Draft, in recent history:

  • 2022: 14 in the top 100, 31 in the top 200. 37 taken overall
  • 2021: 17 in the top 100, 31 in the top 200. 33 taken overall
  • 2020: 19 in the top 100, 36 in the top 200. 39 taken overall
  • 2019: 16 in the top 100, 38 in the top 200. 41 taken overall
  • 2018: 17 in the top 100, 27 in the top 200. 30 taken overall

Here’s a look at the top-10 right-wing candidates to go at the 2023 draft, as projected by FCHockey’s scouting staff:

2023 NHL Draft Guide A

Matvei Michkov | SKA St. Petersburg (RUS) | 5’10″ | 172
30 GP | 9 G | 11 A | 20 P
FCHockey rank: 3

Michkov is an exciting prospect with undeniable skill, featuring seamless hands and a killer shot. He has a knack for scoring on seasoned goalies, hinting at a future smooth NHL transition. His playmaking skills are somewhat under the radar but add another layer to his game. On the downside, his defensive game needs work, with a bad habit of risky passes that lead to turnovers. Some concerns linger about his athletic development and skating, which is solid but not exactly showstopping. Yet, his top-tier offensive potential and ability to impact the scoresheet make him a fascinating draft pick.

Scout’s quote: “Michkov may have the highest offensive ceiling in the entire draft. He has a lethal shot that can already beat pro goalies clean, his playmaking ability is almost as potent, and his puckhandling is near the top as well. He can become a serious offensive powerhouse for any team.” – FCHockey crossover scout Jake Janso

Gabriel Perreault | USA U18 (NTDP) | 5’11” | 165
55 GP | 46 G | 64 A | 110 P
FCHockey rank: 14

Perreault is a gifted offensive winger with awesome stickhandling and playmaking skills. His ability to read plays and deliver accurate passes quickly is thanks to his amazing vision on the ice. While not super fast, Perreault’s stride is powerfully explosive, and he never hesitates to get the puck on net. Despite being more of a pass-first kind of guy, he still has a fantastic shot. He’s a bit on the small side and could use some speed boost, which would definitely create more scoring chances for him. Although there are a few rough edges, with the right training, Perreault could shine as a dynamic player in the NHL. His potential makes him a pretty tempting choice for the upcoming draft.

Scout’s quote: “Perreault had somewhat of an unexpected record-setting season at the NTDP recording the most points in a single season by a player. But after seeing his entire toolkit of offensive tools after a couple of viewings, I wasn’t that shocked. He’s very shifty with possession and a creative playmaker as well. He’s the type that could go in the top ten, or fall into the late first round.” – FCHockey regional scout Douglas Larson

Matthew Wood | UCONN (H-EAST) | 6’4″ | 193
35 GP | 11 G | 23 A | 34 P
FCHockey rank: 17

Matthew Wood is a strong player with a knack for scoring goals. With his size, he’s got a mature game and ticks a lot of boxes for scouts. He’s got a powerful shot and a great eye for developing plays, but his skating could use some work. He’s okay in defense, using his reach effectively, and isn’t afraid to finish checks. Wood’s got some rough edges, sure, but if he can pull it all together, he could be a real asset on the power play. This guy’s a serious finisher, but he’s smart enough not to force shots when they’re not on. He could become a fantastic power forward.

Scout’s quote: “Wood, one of the more polarizing prospects in this class, brings a heck of a shot and hands to the table that makes him able to contribute on offense. But skating will be a huge question mark going forward with his development. I think he’ll end up going in that 10-20 range, but personally would hold off until the early second round.” – Larson

Ryan Leonard | USA U18 (NTDP) | 6’0″ | 192
49 GP | 42 G | 34 A | 76 P
FCHockey rank: 22

Ryan Leonard is a tenacious forward known for his top-notch goal scoring and power-forward style. He’s got a sharp hockey brain that allows him to process play and create opportunities for teammates. He’s super quick, can mix up his shots and is a master of winning battles to score. He’s a tough player with an incredible shot and nifty hands that help him fool defenders. However, his playmaking skills and off-puck play could use a bit of work to help him stand out even more at the pro level. Despite some areas needing improvement, he’s a robust forechecker and not scared to get stuck into the tough areas on the ice. While his potential growth could see him scooped up early on draft day, his current skill set already brings a lot to the table.

Scout’s quote: “An absolute bulldozer on the ice is exactly what I think of when watching Leonard. His big frame, skill, and willingness to lay the body whenever an opportunity presents itself are quite entertaining to watch. There are some questions with his game like many, but his floor and NHL future should be one of an impact player on a every night basis.” – Larson

Kasper Halttunen | HIFK (FIN) | 6’3″ | 207
27 GP | 0 G | 1 A | 1 P
FCHockey rank: 23

Kasper Halttunen is a skilled power forward with top-notch shooting instincts, making him a real asset when it comes to power play. He’s brave, loves to be in transition, and can easily push into risky areas. His offensive skill shines through his wicked wrist shot. He’s big and not afraid to play a physical game, getting involved in corner battles and landing big hits. Although his top speed is decent, his acceleration could do with a bit of work. Despite his many strengths, he does need to step up his defensive game and learn to keep his eye on more than just the puck. If Halttunen can improve his defensive skills and consistently deliver on his offensive potential, he has a great chance to become a standout player in the NHL.

Scout’s quote: “Top asset is clearly his shot, but he needs improvement in his decision making in my opinion since he tends to force plays from time to time. Could improve his first steps and edgework, too, but once he gets up to speed he can blow by you. His hands, shot, and frame definitely make him an intriguing prospect though.” – FCHockey regional scout Rasmus Tornqvist

Jayden Perron | Chicago (USHL) | 5’9″ | 163
60 GP | 24 G | 47 A | 71 P
FCHockey rank: 31

Jayden Perron is a small yet talented playmaker who’s got dynamic off-the-rush gameplay down pat. While he’s already a good skater, a bit more explosiveness wouldn’t hurt. He needs to beef up a bit to hold his own at the NHL level, but he’s got the brains to manipulate defenders and make some seriously dangerous passes. He’s great at positioning and works hard at his two-way game. His strength and quickness could do with some work for more consistent play, and his shot needs a bit of oomph. But there’s no denying that his offensive prowess and his knack for puck distribution and solid shooting shine through. Although he’s sometimes a little shaky on simpler plays, his potential is clear and makes him an exciting prospect. His skills suggest he could be a strong second-line winger and a reliable offensive producer.

Scout’s quote: “One of the better pure playmakers in this class with a touch of scoring to go along with it when needed. He’s dynamic with the puck and can make defenders miss with ease. An exciting player to watch who put together a nice season . Expect him to be a Day One selection.” – Larson

Ethan Gauthier | Sherbrooke (QMJHL) | 5’11″ | 175
66 GP | 30 G | 39 A | 69 P
FCHockey rank: 29

Ethan Gauthier is a versatile winger who brings power and a strong two-way style to his game. He’s a hard worker with a knack for getting the puck away from opponents. His fantastic skating skills and quick shot release make him a scoring threat, especially near the net. Despite not being super tall, he’s got some serious lower-body strength that helps him protect the puck. He’s not afraid to get physical and his varied skill set makes him a valuable all-rounder. He needs to work on his explosiveness, lateral mobility, pass selection, and defense, but his strong play and goal-scoring abilities make him a hot prospect. If he can improve on his weak points, Gauthier could be a significant asset to any team looking for a versatile middle-six winger.

Scout’s quote: “For me, it’s all about Gauthier’s ability to adapt to various situations and elevate his play to make an impact in all three zones. He has some jam in his game and the compete level to take pucks through high-traffic areas and into the middle of the ice. He’s also defensively aware and has a bit of an underrated shot. I think this is a skill set that will transfer nicely to the next level.” – FCHockey chief Eastern scout Shaun Richardson

William Whitelaw | Youngstown (USHL) | 5’9″ | 173
60 GP | 35 G | 25 A |60 P
FCHockey rank: 30

William Whitelaw is a dynamic, albeit undersized, forward who really shines on offense. He plays with non-stop energy, showing off excellent puck control and vision. He’s a wizard at getting the puck through neutral territory and into the offensive zone, and his quick shot makes him a serious scoring threat. Even though he’s not the biggest guy on the ice, he’s not scared to get physical or go to the net. He’s got some skills on defense, too, especially when backchecking. His awareness of the ice and the positions of his teammates is a real highlight of his game. He’s the guy you want carrying the puck in a rush. He does need to work on his defensive effort, but his offensive skills and tireless work rate make him a very appealing prospect.

Scout’s quote: “An undersized, electric Whitelaw played a huge role in Youngstown winning the Clark Cup in the USHL this year. With tons of offensive skill in his arsenal he was relied upon to be a key contributor on offense, and he did that throughout his entire year. He’s got everything to succeed in the NHL, although his size may scare away some teams.”  – Larson

Roman Kantserov | Magnitogorsk (RUS Jr.) | 5’9″ | 176
45 GP | 27 G | 27 A | 54 P
FCHockey rank: 32

Roman Kantserov is a skillful offensive winger with a knack for finding open ice. He’s a pro at creating scoring opportunities and uses his quick release and accurate shooting to be a constant threat. While he’s not the biggest player, he’s really good at using his body, and his edgework and mobility add to his game. Defensively, he’s a nuisance, constantly stealing pucks from the opposition. He could be stronger and work on his two-way game, but he’s a good passer and has a keen sense of where to be. He tends to play more of a supporting role but could become a big contributor if he improves his consistency. While he has areas to work on, his offensive skills make him an exciting prospect to watch.

Scout’s quote: “Kantserov is a shifty winger who oozes offensive skill. His puckhandling and playmaking ability are both remarkable. Don’t sleep on this kid, he brings a lot of skill to the table!” – Janso

Koehn Ziemmer | Prince George (WHL) | 6’0″ | 202
68 GP | 41 G | 48 A | 89 P
FCHockey rank: 46

Koehn Ziemmer is a high-skill power forward with excellent puck control and an impressive ability to frustrate opponents. Although his foot-speed and stride could use improvement, his powerful wrist shot, quick release, and agility on skates make him a formidable presence. He excels at scoring in small areas and has a high offensive zone awareness. His relentless energy and strong forecheck pressure make him a constant threat on the ice. He can create his own space and take advantage of attacking opportunities. While there’s room for stride development and fluidity enhancement, his high hockey IQ, goal-scoring abilities, and relentless determination make him a promising prospect.

Scout’s quote: ¨Ziemmer will be a fascinating case study to follow as he progresses to the pro ranks as I think he’s a player with a high ceiling if he hits but with serious risks due to his suspect skating stride. His game is extremely reminiscent of Jason Robertson’s where his offensive instincts and ability to be in the right place at the right time serve him extremely well at the junior level but his hunched-over stride and lack of separation gear in open ice is a scary proposition to take early in the draft. If he can develop like Robertson the sky is the limit and I’ll be following closely to see if this type of player can succeed when they follow that blueprint.” – FCHockey chief Western scout Donesh Mazloum

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