June 28, 2023

On the board: FCHockey’s remaining top picks for Day 2 at the 2023 NHL Draft

With the first round of the 2023 NHL Draft wrapping up Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, some high-end prospects remain available heading into the second round on Day 2 on Thursday.

As teams chose the players ranked highest on their big boards, players selected in the second round or later who believed they’d done enough to warrant a first-round selection will now play with a chip on their shoulder as they hope to prove the non-believers wrong.

Here are some of the top prospects passed on in the first round:

Gavin Brindley, C, Michigan (NCAA)
Final Rank: No. 15

A high-flying freshman playing with one of the NCAA’s top programs, Gavin Brindley climbed the rankings in the second half of the season but failed to hear his name announced on day one. Brindley is a compelling playmaker capable of finding teammates along the ice in all situations. He’s competent in all three zones, never sacrificing defense to turn up ice before his teammates secure the puck. His size may have scared away teams in round one, as he’s listed at just 5’9”. He’ll return to Michigan next season, taking on more responsibilities in his sophomore season.

Scout’s quote: “For an undersized kid playing his draft year at the NCAA level, Brindley just did about everything he could to impress night in and night out. The complete effort was always there, along with some solid playmaking tendencies as well that led to some good production. While overshadowed by Fantilli throughout the season, his play and overall year didn’t go unnoticed.” – FCHockey regional scout Douglas Larson

Andrew Cristall, LW, Kolowna (WHL)
Final Rank: No. 19

Andrew Cristall was among the highest point producers in the CHL among all draft-eligible players, totaling 95 points in 54 games. Cristall has proven capable of scoring with the best the draft has to offer with his quick release and accuracy terrorizing goaltenders. He’s comfortable with the puck in possession, creating for himself or his teammates. Cristall’s skating keeps him from being considered one of the top prospects. Graded at below-average, he has trouble keeping up with play and will need to improve if he hopes to compete in an NHL that seems to get faster every year.

Scout’s quote: “There are few prospects in this draft more polarizing than Cristall. On one hand, he is one of the most creative and unique offensive talents available. On the other, he is an undersized winger with a very awkward and clunky skating stride. His prolific production screams NHL superstar yet his physical profile points to a minor-leaguer. He’s a potential home run swing.”– FCHockey chief Western scout Donesh Mazloum

Riley Heidt, C, Prince George (WHL)
Final Rank: No. 21

On par with Connor Bedard in the WHL assist column, Riley Heidt’s 72 assists were tied for the league’s best with the top overall pick. In the offensive zone, there are few players as skilled with the puck or think the game on the same level. Heidt is a risk-taker on offense, often trying to force a pass that may not entirely be there. He’s particularly useful on the power play as a set-up-man working from the half-wall. There’s a good chance Heidt doesn’t stick around long on day two, as he has future top-six potential.

Scout’s quote: “If you are looking for a facilitator there are few more adept in this draft class than Heidt. He possesses excellent vision and shows an enhanced ability to thread the puck through tight spaces. He seems to revel in setting up teammates however he is far from a one-trick pony. His smooth ands, crisp edgework, and potent one-timer round out his game, and his skill level should track well to the pro game.” – Mazloum

Kasper Halttunen, RW, HIFK (FIN)
Final Rank: No. 23

From a physicality standpoint, there are few forwards in this year’s draft as imposing as Kasper Halttunen. At 6-foot-3 and 207 pounds, Halttunen is a power forward maintaining arguably the most lethal shot among all prospects. He uses his entire frame to leverage power into his shot, capable of beating goaltenders from distance. It takes a bit to get his big body going, as his quickness can use some improvement though his straight-line speed isn’t terrible. Goal scoring is his specialty and something teams always covet, making him a candidate to be an early second-round selection.

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

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