2023 NHL Draft Results
Round 1 Picks 1-16
The 2023 NHL Draft is a forward heavy draft at the top in the first round. Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson, and Matvei Michkov headline this draft class.
Chris Ransom follow @DraftUtopia Last Updated: June 28, 2023.
Chicago Blackhawks: Connor Bedard, C, Regina Pats (WHL) A+ Grade
- Chicago traded Patrick Kane, a player they drafted first overall back in 2007 to the New York Rangers at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline. Chicago Blackhawks team captain Jonathan Toews is not coming back next year even though Chicago could bring him back as an unrestricted Free Agent.
- Chicago Blackhawks 2020 first round pick Lukas Reichel, who was drafted seventeenth overall that year finally developed enough to earn a first line winger role on the Chicago Blackhawks this season. Chicago had a league worst 202 goals scored in the 2022-2023 NHL Season and needs Connor Bedard in the worst way possible with their defenders having talent despite being extremely inconsistent along with both their starting and backup goalie in their thirties.
- Only three centers had back-to-back seasons with 100 points in junior hockey the last twenty years. Those three centers are Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby who was drafted first overall in 2005, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid who was drafted first overall ten years after Crosby in 2015, and Regina Pats center Connor Bedard. Bedard scored his 100th point in the WHL this season on the same exact day McDavid reached 100 points in the NHL about a back in Febuary ago.
- The 5-9 185 lb Connor Bedard had 12 goals, 16 assists, 28 points, and a +9 +/- ratio while winning WHL rookie of the year in 2020-2021. Connor Bedard had 51 goals, 49 assists, and 100 points in 62 games with the Regina Pats in 2021-2022. Connor Bedard had 71 goals, 72 assists, and 143 points in 2022-2023. Bedard was kept scoreless in the 2023 CHL Prospects Game. Connor Bedard had 10 goals, 10 assists, and 20 points in 7 games with the Regina Pats in the opening round of the 2023 WHL Playoffs.
- Connor Bedard was the first WHL player in history to be granted exceptional status before the Regina Pats drafted him first overall in the 2020 WHL Draft. which allowed Bedard play junior hockey at the age of 15 rather than the normal age where most junior hockey players start at age 16. You can also read about other players from the 2020 WHL Draft besides Bedard by clicking that link. Sidney Crosby was denied exceptional status in Canada prior to his draft year in 2005 during the NHL Lockout. That led to players like John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, and Connor McDavid being granted exceptional status. As McDavid made the jump to the OHL in 2012 three years before being eligible for the NHL Draft in 2015.
- Connor Bedard has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. He's one of five blue chip prospects in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft as well as the top prospect that headlines this class.
- Connor Bedard is special and his 144 points this year were 24 more points than the 120 points McDavid posted in his draft year leading up to the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Connor Bedard got a higher rating than Connor McDavid as an 18-year-old on EA Sports NHL Videogame franchise too. Connor Bedard was the first CHL player to win the David Branch Player of the Year, Top Scorer Award, and Top Draft Prospect Award in the same season.
- Chicago probably needs Bedard more than any other team in the NHL if the Blackhawks would prefer a two year rebuild compared to a five year rebuild. Chicago's future first line will feature Lukas Reichel as the first line left winger, Connor Bedard as the first line center, and Frank Nazar a player Chicago drafted at right winger thirteenth overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft to be the future first line right winger. A line with Reichel, Bedard, and Nazar will do a lot of damage down the road, but Nazar is returning to Michigan after missing most of this freshman season recovering from hip surgery and Taylor Raddish is a good stop gap until Nazar has enough experience to make the jump from the NCAA to the NHL.
- Chicago will have Taylor Hall as their first line left winger, Connor Bedard as their first line center, and Lukas Reichel as their first line right winger.
- Chicago will have Tyler Johnson as their second line left winger. Andreas Athanasiou led Chicago with 20 goals, 20 assists, and 40 points meaning he will be the second line center behind Connor Bedard. It also wouldn't surprise me if he was Chicago's captain for a year or two before the Blackhawks make Bedard their permanent captain. Jason Dickinson will be Chicago's second line right winger. It's not a great core, but Athanasiou is a good two year stop gap before Colton Dach or a future first round pick gets that role down the road. Nick Foligno gives the Chicago Blackhawks a short-term answer as the third line left winger with Taylor Raddysh as their third line right winger.
- Chicago needs Seth Jones and Caleb Jones the two sons of Popeye Jones to improve defensively. Connor Timmins anchors the second line, but Alex Vlasic, a defender with first line potential did enough with the Rockford IceHogs to earn a promotion to the NHL where he's now on Chicago's second line. Third line defender Nikita Zaitsev has a no movement clause just like Seth Jones and Connor Timmins who anchor the first and second lines of the blue line. Once Kevin Korchinski, a defender Chicago drafted seventh overall gets promoted to the NHL, Chicago should have their core defenders on all three lines to take pressure off of the offense. I think there's a chance Kevin Korchinski gets a 8 game trial on Chicago at the very worst next season. Goalie Drew Commesso signed his rookie contract and will be in the AHL next season, but Chicago will need a stop gap until he develops.
- Chicago is getting a superstar and blue chip player with Connor Bedard. Bedard will consistently get 100 points in the NHL as long as he's healthy just like Connor McDavid currently does. The downside is Chicago may not be a playoff team until Kevin Korchinski, Frank Nazar, and Drew Commesso make the NHL since Chicago has so many holes on offense outside of Bedard and Reichel. Luckily, Chicago has up to $41-million in cap space that the Chicago Blackhawks can spend in Free Agency.
- Connor Bedard's floor for player comparisons is Connor McDavid. His ceiling is Sidney Crosby. Whether Connor Bedard becomes as good as either player remains to be seen.
Anaheim Ducks: Leo Carlsson, C, Orebro HK (Elitserien) A+ Grade
- The Anaheim Ducks take Orebro HK center Leo Carlsson second overall over the consensus second best player in Adam Fantilli, but Carlsson is still a top three prospect despite this. Leo Carlsson has gotten compared to Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov, Vancouver Canucks first line center Elias Petersson, and Pittsburgh Penguins second line center Evgeni Malkin having Petersson's floor and Malkin's ceiling as far as player comparisons go. I think the Aleksander Barkov comparison is too unrealstic for me, but Leo Carlsson is versatile enough to play all three forward roles like Mitch Marner or Mikko Rantanen.
- The 6-3 198 lb Leo Carlsson is versatile enough to play left wing, center, and right wing with his versatility. Leo Carlsson played as a first line left winger on Orebro HK in the SHL once known as Elitserien. He also played a first line center role when watching him on film. Leo Carlsson played first line center with Alexander Nylander the seventh pick in the 2020 NHL Draft as his first line left winger and Lucas Raymond as his first line right winger in the World Junior Championships. Leo Carlsson also surpassed Nicklas Backstrom as the youngest player to play for Sweden in the World Junior Championships. Leo Carlsson had 10 goals, 15 assists, and 25 points with Orebro HK in 2022-2023.
- Leo Carlsson has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. He's one of five blue chip prospects in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft and the favorite to go third overall behind Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli.
- Leo Carlsson has the playmaking and goal scoring that you want in both a center and a winger. TSN's Bob McKenzie called Carlsson a blue chip prospect and you can make an argument for him over Matvei Michkov at 3, but I'm not sure you can make an argument for him over Adam Fantilli at 2. NHL Central Scouting ranked Leo Carlsson ahead of Matvei Michkov on their final European rankings.
- Leo Carlsson is under contract with Orebro HK until 2024-2025. I'm not sure if the Anaheim Ducks will bring Leo Carlsson up to the NHL this season or if they will let him return to Sweden to develop him. I had Adam Fantilli at two on my big board, but I had Carlsson at three and you can make the argument that Carlsson is just as deserving of an A+ grade as Fantilli with this being an A grade at the very worst. I'll give this an A+ grade because Adam Fantilli and Leo Carlsson were 2A and 2B if we're being honest.
- Anaheim should still have Adam Henrique as their first line left winger, Trevor Zegras as their first line center, and Troy Terry as the first line right winger. Anaheim will have Max Jones as their second line left winger, Leo Carlsson as their second line center, and Frank Vatrano as their second line right winger. Mason McTavish did well as a second line center last year, but will either be a second line left winger or third line center moving forward.
- Anaheim will have Cam Fowler and Jamie Drysdale as their first line defenders as both Fowler and Drysdale are capable of anchoring the blue line. Simon Benoit and Drew Helleson will play on the second line of Anaheim's blue line. Helleson was Colorado's 2019 second round pick, but got sent to Anaheim in the trade that sent Josh Manson to Colorado. Colton White will anchor Anaheim's third line entering the final year of his contract before becoming a UFA next season in 2024-2025 and Jackson LaCombe, Anaheim's 2019 second round draft pick is the final defenseman on this roster. Once Colton White's contract is up, Anaheim can bring up Pavel Mintyukov, the defenseman that the Anaheim Ducks drafted tenth overall to replace Colton White. Anaheim has good short-term and long-term stability to compliment their core forwards.
- John Gibson should be back as the starting goalie for the Anaheim Ducks. Gibson remains under contract with the Ducks for four more years despite speculation about him getting traded. With all the pieces the Ducks are going to have, I don't see Anaheim blowing up their roster to move starting goalie John Gibson.
- Anaheim had multiple interviews with Leo Carlsson who was the top International player in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Anaheim interviewed Adam Fantilli at the 2023 NHL Combine, but I'm not sure the Ducks gave Fantilli a second interview, so that may have separated Leo Carlsson from Adam Fantilli.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Adam Fantilli, C, Michigan A+ Grade
- Adam Fantilli has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. He's one of five blue chip prospects in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft as well as the consensus top prospect not named Connor Bedard. In most draft years he would be in discussion to be the first overall pick, but he's in the same draft year as Connor Bedard.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets get the second of five blue chip players in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft here with Adam Fantilli. Adam Fantilli is good enough to come into Columbus and take the first line center job as an 18-year-old.
- The 6-2 195 lb Adam Fantilli had 30 goals, 35 assists, and 65 points in 2022-2023. Adam Fantilli was the first true freshman since Jack Eichel to win the Hobey Baker Award as a true freshman at Michigan. The 2023 NHL Entry Draft already looks similar to the 2015 NHL Entry Draft when Connor McDavid went first overall before Hobey Baker Award Winner Jack Eichel went second overall that year. The 2023 NHL Entry Draft looks very similar to the 2015 NHL Entry Draft with Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli headlining this draft class except Fantilli fell to third overall because Anaheim took Leo Carlsson second overall.
- Adam Fantilli was supposed to go first overall in the 2020 OHL Draft., but fell in the OHL Draft after reports surfaced that Adam Fantilli wanted to play with his older brother on the Chicago Steel in the USHL. Chicago ended up tendering Adam Fantilli by giving up a first round pick in the 2020 USHL Draft.
- Fantilli is bigger than Bedard. Fantilli turned down the OHL in Canada to play in the USHL with the Chicago Steel in the USA.
- The Chicago Steel had a stacked first line in 2020-2021 with Adam Fantillli as the first line left winger, Sean Farrell as the first line center, and Matthew Coronato as the first line right winger. Adam Fantilli only had 18 goals, 18 assists, 36 points, and a +17 +/- ratio during the regular season. Adam Fantilli had 8 goals, 1 assist, and 9 points in 8 games during the 2021 USHL Playoffs winning Clark Cup Playoffs MVP as a rookie with the Chicago Steel.
- Adam Fantilli improved his point total from 36 in his first year with the Steel in 2020-2021 to having 37 goals, 37 assists, and 74 points in his final season with the Chicago Steel in 2021-2022 prior to enrolling at Michigan where he had 30 goals, 35 assists, and 65 points while leading Michigan to a 2023 Frozen Four appearance in 2022-2023.
- Columbus would have Johnny Gaudreau at left wing, Adam Fantilli at center, and Patrik Laine at right winger on their first line either in 2023-2024 or 2024-2025 at the very latest assuming Fantilli returns to Michigan rather than going straight to the NHL after winning the Hobey Baker Award. Columbus would have Kent Johnson their fifth overall pick from the 2021 NHL Entry Draft who got promoted from the third line in limited action as a rookie to the second line, Jack Roslovic as the second line center, and Boone Jenner as the second line right winger where Jenner initally excelled early in his NHL career. Having those guys as the top six forwards is a massive improvement over what Columbus currently has now that Cole Sillinger, the twelfth overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft got demoted to the Cleveland Monsters in the AHL. Right now Columbus has Liam Foudy as their third line left winger, Cole Sillinger as their third line center, and Emil Bemstrom as their third line right winger. Columbus still needs fourth line guys to round out their core.
- Zach Werenski the best defenseman on Columbus suffered a season ending injury very early in the regular season this year after suffering a season ending injury near the end of last year too that was minor compared to this seasons injury Werenski suffered. Columbus traded Vladislav Gavrikov their first line defenseman that complimented Werenski in a contract year to the Los Angeles Kings for the Kings 2023 first round pick, but then traded that pick to the Philadelphia Flyers for Ivan Provorov giving Columbus a first line that features Werenski and Provorov. Columbus also traded for New Jersey Devils defenseman Damon Severson who was projected to be the top unrestricted Free Agent giving up only a third round pick for Severson before giving him an eight year extension to anchor the second line of the Columbus Blue Jackets third line withh Jake Bean complimenting Damon Severson. David Jiricek the sixth overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft will anchor the third line of the Columbus Blue Jackets third line with Adam Boqvist complimenting him on the third line of the Columbus Blue Jackets defense.
- All of these defensemen being injured or not playing along with a lack of a first line center is why Columbus sucked in 2022-2023. That will change next season with the three good lines of defense Columbus has assembeled for next season. If Leo Carlsson makes the Blue Jackets as a first line center as an 18-year-old, then the Blue Jackets will improve enough to exit the bottom ten.
- Columbus could bring Denton Mateychuk, the twelfth overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft to anchor the third line in Columbus after he improved with the Moose Jaw Warriors once he got promoted to team captain. Denton Mateychuk had 64 points with the Moose Jaw Warriors leading up to the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Mateychuk had 65 points in 2022-2023 once he got promoted to team captain. Once David Jiriceck and Denton Mateychuk the two defensemen Columbus drafted in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft make the NHL, this team could finally start competing as long as starting goaltender Elvis Merzlikins stays on Columbus. Elvis currently has a modified no trade clause on his contract and should end up doing a lot better on Columbus .
- Columbus hired Mike Babcock as their head coach. I think Columbus has an incredibly bright future. Getting Adam Fantilli at three thanks to the Ducks getting Leo Carlsson at two only strengthens this offseason. When Adam Fantilli got drafted his praised players on Columbus that went to Michigan. He also talked about how much he enjoyed that Michigan VS Ohio State College Hockey Stadium Series at First Energy Stadium in Cleveland Ohio and at that moment he wanted to either go to the Columbus Blue Jackets or the Detroit Red Wings. Columbus had the third pick and Detroit picked ninth
San Jose Sharks: Will Smith, C, USNTDP (USHL) A- Grade
- San Jose hired Mike Grier as their new General Manager. Mike Grier didn't say a word when being asked about Russian right winger Matvei Michkov on SKA Saint Petersburg whose the best player on the board at 4. Mike Grier sounded really eager when talking about Will Smith. Grier also mentioned that Will Grier went to the same High School as his oldest son.
- Will Smith is the sixth best player on my board, and while I see him as a guy who has All Star potential, I don't see a blue chip prospect with Will Smith if San Jose opts to draft him at 4. Will Smith is a guy who has the floor of Patrice Bergeron and the ceiling of Jack Hughes when I think of player comparisons for Will Smith. He's got the tools to be a first line center in the NHL, but needs to get stronger.
- The 5-11 180 lb Will Smith had 51 goals, 76 assists, and 127 points in 60 games in 2022-2023 with the US-Under 18 Team. Will Smith had 15 goals, 27 assists, 42 points, and a +18 +/- ratio with the United States National Team Developmental Program in 20 USHL games. Will Smith was the first line center with both the US-Under 18 Team and the United States National Team Developmental Program that plays in the USHL.
- Will Smith has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. While Will Smith checks off every box you want a blue chip player to check off, some believe his teammate Oliver Moore is a better center despite playing on the second line. Will Smith also got knocked on his ass three times in the first six minutes against the Youngstown Phantoms in a USHL game meaning he needs to add 10 to 15 lbs of muscle when he goes to Boston College before making the jump to teh NHL. The UNSTDP won that game 3-2 in overtime with Will Smith getting a 1 goal, 0 assists, 1 point, and a +2 +/- ratio.
- San Jose has Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl on their first two lines at center in the NHL. Logan Couture San Jose's 2007 first round pick is under contract for four more years of his eight year contract while Tomas Hertl San Jose's 2012 first round pick is under contract with the Sharks for seven more years after signing an eight year extension last year. This means that Will Smith will be San Jose's third line center unless Tomas Hertl permanently moves to left wing once Will Smith arrives in the NHL since Hertl is versatile enough to play left wing or center.
- San Jose should have Tomas Hertl as their first line left winger, Logan Couture as their first line center, and William Eklund as their first line right winger in 2023-2024. The rest of San Jose's lines will be bad unless Hertl moves to the second line. Will Smith probably won't see the NHL until 2024-2025 or 2025-2026. Will Smith will be a second line center on Boston College behind Cutter Gauthier in 2023-2024. If San Jose wants Will Smith to prove himself as a first line center before giving him an NHL contract, then the earliest he would be in the NHL is 2025-2026 and Smith would either be a second line center if Tomas Hertl plays left wing on the top line or Smith would be a third line center if Couture and Hertl are the top two centers.
- San Jose has Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson on their blue line anchoring the blue line. Henry Thrun could end up complimenting Karlsson on the top line next year. Right now Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture, William Ekblad, Erik Karlsson, and Henry Thrun are the five impact players with one superstar in Erik Karlsson and one star in Logan Couture. San Jose needs more bodies at both forward and defense to compliment those players as well as a goalie. Until the Sharks figure that out, the San Jose Sharks will remain in a rebuild.
- Other top prospects outside of those five Shakir Mukhamadullin the New Jersey Devils 2020 first round pick at defenseman who was traded to San Jose in the Timo Meier trade. Thomas Bordeleau a 2020 second round pick has a chance to be a fourth line center if San Jose drafts a center at 4 and could be a third line center if San Jose passes on a center at four. Martin Kaut the sixteenth pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft that the Colorado Avalanche drafted is now a prospect for the San Jose Sharks, but I wasn't high on him. San Jose got Kaut when trading Ryan Merkley to Colorado at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline. Filip Bystead was San Jose's 2022 first round pick, but I'm not confident in his development since he only had 2 points against men in the SHL.
- Nashville offered San Jose 15, 24, and Yaroslav Askarov the goalie they drafted eleventh overall in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft for the fourth pick. San Jose turned that down wanting one more first round pick in 2024, 2025, and 2026.
- Only two other NHL Drafts had centers go in the top 4. Those NHL Drafts were the 1981 NHL Draft that had Ron Francis go to the Hartford Whalers fourth overall and the 2015 NHL Entry Draft that had Connor McDavid going to Edmonton first overall, Jack Eichel going to Buffalo second overall, Dylan Strome going third overall to Arizona, and Mitch Marner going fourth overall to Toronto before converting to winger in the NHL.
Montreal Canadiens: David Reinbacher, D, Kloten Flyers (National League A) C Grade
- Montreal goes for a second line defenseman in a draft that has much less defenseman that project as top line defensemen compared to the 2024 NHL Entry Draft. David Reinbacher is the best defenseman in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, but came in on my big board at 12.
- The 6-2 194 lb David Reinbacher is the only top 3 defenseman in the 2023 NHL Draft with the rest of the draft class being top 4 defenseman that project as a second line players. Bob McKenzie of TSN believes David Reinbacher is the only top line defenseman in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. There's not a top 2 defenseman with first line potential in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. David Reinbacher is the best defensive defenseman in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
- David Reinbacher had 3 goals, 19 assists, 22 points, and a +7 +/- ratio in 2022-2023. David Reinbacher was second among defenseman on the Kloten Flyers trailing only Lukas Ekestahl-Jonsson in points.
- David Reinbacher has the skating, playmaking, passing, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. David Reinbacher's burst and top end speed as a skater will improve as he adds more muscle. David Reinbacher also needs to improve his shooting power on wrist shots and slap shots.
- David Reinbacher will be a number three defenseman anchoring a second line if he doesn't improve in those categories. If Reinbacher improves in one of those two categories he can crack Montreal's first line by 2025. If he improves in both categories than he could potentially anchor the Montreal Canadiens blue line down the road as their number one defenseman on thier first line.
- David Reinbacher's contract with the Kloten Flyers expires after this season. I think it's possible that David Reinbacher goes to the Laval Rocket in the AHL right away because he's not NHL ready yet, but he's someone who could sign their NHL entry level deal right away with his National League A contract with the Kloten Flyers set to expire. There's an outside chance David Reinbacher is on Montreal's opening day roster for this defense.
- There are five defensemen projected to go in the top 10 of the 2024 NHL Entry Draft and all five of those defenseman have higher ceilings than David Reinbacher. Montreal got the best defenseman in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, but passed on seven forwards with the ceiling to be All Star players. Montreal drafted Jesperi Kotkaniemi going for need over value back in 2018 and then Montreal was too cheap to keep Kotkaniemi so he ended up on Carolina. To be fair, if a defenseman from the 2023 NHL Draft becomes an All Star it will be David Reinbacher, but it's still a massive reach at 5 when you consider there were seven players with higher ceilings than Reinbacher despite Montreal needing to improve their blue line in the worst way possible.
- The Kloten Flyers head coach told SportsNet that the Montreal Canadiens and the Arizona Coyotes were the two teams that asked him the most questions about David Reinbacher when sending team scouts to games in the Switzerland. David Reinbacher is now tied with Thomas Vanek for the highest Austrian in NHL Draft history. David Jiricek also said he wanted to go back to Kloten for one more year show he could be a first line defenseman there and then make the jump to the NHL in 2024 similar to how Miro Heiskanen developed in Finland before joining the Dallas Stars in 2018 after being the third pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Arizona Coyotes: Dmitri Simashev, D, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL) C- Grade
- Dmitri Simashev is good, but he isn't even the best Russian in this draft. Also, this is a forward heavy draft. While Arizona is deep at forward and thin at defense, that's no reason to pass up on a top 10 talent for a position of need that I mocked at twenty.
- The 6-4 201 lb Dmitri Simashev is the best skating defenseman in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Dmitri Simashev had 1 goal, 9 assists, and 10 points in the MHL. Dmitri Simashev had 0 points in 18 KHL games, but he showed his ability to be an impact player and got over 10 minutes in the KHL which is rare for an 18-year-old since most players that age in the KHL get 1 or 2 shifts a game sometimes sitting on the bench against grown men in Russia for the entire game.
- Dmitri Simashev has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. Dmitri Simashev can play on the power play or the penalty kill. He needs to develop his shot more in the KHL, but he's under contract with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the KHL until the 2024-2025 KHL Season ends. Arizona has zero identity on the blue line, so while taking a player that was twentieth in my mock draft at six is a reach, from a need standpoint the worst grade I can give this is a C- grade.
- Dmitri Simashev has the size and athletic traits you want a first line defenseman to have. He's a great passer and forechecker. He can block shots at will too. He just needs to refine his shooting power and shooting accuracy on slap shots and wrist shots. That's the only thing holding him back from the NHL and with two more years to develop in the KHL he should be ready to anchor the Arizona Coyotes blue line by 2025-2026.
Philadelphia Flyers: Matvei Michkov, RW, SKA Saint Petersburg (KHL) A+ Grade
- Philadelphia gets my fourth best player in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft at seven with Matvei Michkov because his KHL contract requires him to remain on SKA Saint Petersburg in the KHL until 2026. Washington is the one team I can see trying to buy out his contract right away. Philadelphia would patiently wait until 2026, but would have their first line right winger of the future by that time ready to play in the NHL. If Arizona took Michkov he could exercise his fourth and fifth year options with SKA Saint Petersburg which keep him in the KHL until 2028-2029 if he excersises those options. That's the biggest reason why Matvei Michkov fell to seven in this mock despite being the fourth best overall player on my board in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
- The 5-10 148 lb Matvei Michkov had 10 goals, 4 assists, and 14 points in the MHL. Matvei Michkov had 9 goals, 11 assists, and 20 points in the KHL in 2022-2023 as well. Matvei Michkov passes like Nikita Kucherov and shoots like Alexander Ovechkin. Coincidentally, he's got Kucherov's floor and Ovechkin's ceiling as a first line right winger in the NHL.
- Matvei Michkov has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. He's one of five blue chip prospects in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft and the final blue chip prospect left on the board making him an ideal candidate to be selected seventh overall by the Philadelphia Flyers.
Washington Capitals: Ryan Leonard, RW, USNTDP (USHL) A Grade
- Washington drafts a right winger with potential to be a first line right winger next to Alexander Ovechkin as early as next season.
- Ryan Leonard has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. While Ryan Leonard checks off every box you want a blue chip player to check off, you want to see him post more points. He does have All Star potential like Will Smith despite not being a blue chip prospect.
- The 5-11 190 lb Ryan Leonard had 51 goals, 43 assists, and 94 points in 57 games in 2022-2023 with the US-Under 18 Team. Ryan Leonard had 11 goals, 9 assists, 20 points, and a +20 +/- ratio with the United States National Team Developmental Program in 17 USHL games. Ryan Leonard was the first line center with both the US-Under 18 Team and the United States National Team Developmental Program that plays in the USHL.
- Ryan Leonard is versatile enough to play right wing, center, or left wing with his versatility. Ryan Leonard is versatile enough to play all three forwrad roles, but right wing is the position that suits him best.
- Ryan Leonard will probably be a first line right winger right away next season. I won't be surprised if Ryan Leonard gets to the NHL before Will Smith because if Leonard starts out on the first line while Will Smith plays on Boston College's second line, it lowers the learning curve for Ryan Leonard giving him more time to develop while improving his point total at Boston College.
- Washington will have Alexander Ovechkin as their first line left winger, Nicklas Backstrom as their first line center, and T.J. Oshie as their first line right winger next year. Washington will have Sonny Milano as their second line left winger, Dylan trome as their second line center, and Tom Wilson as their second line right winger. It's possible that Ivan Miroshnichenko is Washington's third line left winger next season after signing his entry level deal with the Washington Capitals as Washington's 2022 first round pick. Ryan Leonard could be Washington's second line right winger in 2024 when Tom Wilson is a UFA and he could be the first line right winger by 2025 when T.J. Oshie is a UFA.
- Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Nic Dowd are all Free Agents in 2025. I think Dalibor Dvorsky plays on AIK IF in 2023-2024. He then goes to the Hershey Bears in the AHL in 2024-2025. Then he will end up replacing either Backstrom, Kuznetsov, or Dowd in 2025 when their contracts expire as a member of the Washington Capitals in 2025-2026 once Dalibor Dvorsky arrives in the NHL unless Washington starts Dalibor Dvorsky out as a winger in 2024-2025.
Detroit Red Wings: Nate Danielson, C, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) C- Grade
- Detroit traded first line left winger Tyler Bertuzzi. Detroit now has to go back to the drawing board and get a first line left winger to compliment first line center Dylan Larkin and first line right winger Lucas Raymond in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. The good news for Detroit Red Wings General Manager Steve Yzerman can draft preseason top 10 pick Colby Barlow or Kelowna Rockets first line left winger Andrew Kristall. Zach Benson who was a blue chip player and my fifth best overall player fell to nine. Instead, Steve Yzerman drafts another center in Nate Danielson.
- The 6-1 186 lb Nate Danielson is the team captain of the Brandon Wheat Kings as Danielson had 33 goals, 45 assists, 78 points, and a -12 +/- ratio in 68 WHL games in 2022-2023. Steve Yzerman passed on Matthew Savoie for Marco Kasper and now he passes on a blue chip player in Zach Benson and an All Star potential player in Colby Barlow for a guy with the ceiling of a third line center.
- Nate Danielson has the skating, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, offensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. Nate Danielson isn't always accurate with his passing and his decision making needs to be refined. Sometimes he doesn't put enough velocity on his passes. At the same time this first line center has a lot of coachable traits.
- Nate Danielson has a lot of impressive traits. He's also extremely raw to the point where he's a third line center which is why I cannot stand this pick.
- Detroit still has the seventeenth pick. Right now this is a C- grade at nine, but that is subject to change.
St. Louis Blues: Dalibor Dvorsky, C, AIK IF (Elitserien) A Grade
- The 6-1 200 lb Dalibor Dvorsky is versatile enough to play left wing, center, or right wing. His main position is center. Dalibor Dvorsky had 6 goals, 8 assists, and 14 points with AIK IF in 2022-2023. He entered the season as a potential top 5 pick, but now looks more like a top 10 pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
- Dalibor Dvorsky has Mika Zibanejad's floor and Nicklas Backstrom's ceiling. It's possible that Washington develops Dvorsky for one or two years and then brings him up to the NHL as a potential replacement to Backstrom when his contract expires.
- Dalibor Dvorsky has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. He's great in every category as far as offense, defense, and skating goes, but not elite or dominant in any category despite winning 57 percent of his face offs.
- The reality is Zachary Bolduc could end up being Ryan O'Reilly's replacement following two straight seasons of 99 and 110 points after being drafted by the Blues in the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft while Oliver Moore replaces Pavel Buchnevich once Buchnevich's contract expires in 2025-2026. St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong said Zachary Bolduc will have an opportunity to compete for an NHL roster spot this Fall. This would make Bolduc and Dvorsky the Blues top two centers then, if both guys pan out. I think both guys will be in the NHL by 2024 next season and if both guys hit their stride the St. Louis Blues could be a dark horse for the 2025 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Vancouver Canucks: Tom Willander, D, Rogle BK (Elitserien) C- Grade
- The 6-1 180 lb Tom Willander had 4 goals, 21 assists, and 25 points on Rogle BK's Under 20 Team in 2022-2023. Tom Willander played 2 SHL games producing no points in 2022-2023. Tom Willander has the floor of a second line AHL defenseman on the Abbotsford Canucks in the AHL, but also has the ceiling of a second line defenseman on the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL. He can help this defense, but he's not a guy with the traits to be a first line defenseman. Vancouver is kidding themselves if they think this guy is a replacement to Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
- Tom Willander has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, and foot speed you want in a defenseman. The athletic traits are there. He's just got to refine his game offensively and defensively. I've seen Tom Willander mocked as high as seventeenth overall to Detroit with Craig Button of TSN giving Willander a top 10 grade.
- This was a reach because I had Tom Willander in the second round prior to Ivan Provorov being traded to Columbus. Vancouver needed a defenseman, so instead of waiting for a guy in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft with five defensemen, Vancouver took their top defenseman now because the Canucks believe they might be able to contend next season.
- Tom Willander was a huge fan of Henrik and Daniel Sedin growing up in Sweden. Vancouver drafted him at eleven while it's a reach his passion for the Vancouver Canucks growing up is one reason to be optimistic about this pick if you are a Vancouver Canucks fan.
- Tom Willander is going from SHL once known as Elitserien to Boston University in the NCAA. I initally gave this pick a D+ grade, but bumped it up to a C- after finding out he was a Vancouver Canucks fan growing up. Taking the NCAA route gives Tom Willander the most time to potentally develop into a first line defenseman. Realistically, I see him as a second line defenseman who will replace Tyler Myers when the contract of Tler Myers expires in 2025.
Arizona Coyotes: Daniil But, LW, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL) D Grade
- The 6-5 203 lb Daniil But had 15 goals, 11 assists, and 26 points in the MHL. Daniil But had 2 goals, 0 assists, 2 points, and a -1 +/- ratio in 15 KHL games.
- Daniil But has the playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. Daniil But has to improve his skating and athletic traits, but everything else you want in a future left winger is there.
- I had a second round grade on Daniil But and there are better wingers available like Zach Benson and Colby Barlow. The only reason I spared the Coyotes from their first F grade is because NHL Network had Daniil But in their top 10. This is still a massive reach at twelve.
- Arizona had a chance to take a blue chip player at six and the best player on their board at 12. Instead they reach for a defenseman in a weak defenseman draft at six and take a second round prospect at twelve.
Buffalo Sabres: Zach Benson, LW, Winnipeg Ice (WHL) A+ Grade
- Buffalo has the thirteenth pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. I'm going to examine the line combinations of the Buffalo Sabres before I decide which player I'm going to mock to the Buffalo Sabres.
- Buffalo has Jeff Skinner as their first line left winger, Tage Thompson as their first line center, and Alex Tuch as their first line right winger. Buffalo has Victor Olafsson as their second line left winger, Dylan Cozens as their second line center, and Jack Quinn as their second line right winger. Buffalo will have Jordan Greenway as their third line left winger, Casey Middlestadt as their third line center, and John Jason Petreka as their third line right winger. Buffalo has Lukas Rousek as their fourth line left winger, Peyton Krebs as their fourth line center, and Kyle Okposo as their fourth line right winger after Okposo agreed to a one year extension before the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
- Buffalo has two first overall picks on their blue line. Rasmus Dahlin will continue to anchor the blue line. Owen Power could end up playing with Dahlin on the first line next season. Henri Jokiharju played with Dahlin on the top line, but he could anchor the second line if Power and Dahlin play on the top line with Ilya Lyubushkin. Mattias Samuelson and Riley Stillman will remain the third line defensemen on the Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo has Jacob Bryson their 2017 fourth round pick as a number seven defenseman for depth.
- Buffalo wil have Devon Levi is their starting goalie next year. Eric Comrie and Ukko-Pekka Lukkonen last years two goalies competing for Buffalo's starting job competing to be the backup to Devon Levi.
- Buffalo has an incredibly bright future once left winger Zach Benson, center Matthew Savoie arrive, and right winger Isak Rosen arrive. This is the third year in a row that the Buffalo Sabres got a blue chip prospect that was in my top 5 with Owen Power in 2021, Matthew Savoie in 2022, and Zach Benson in 2023.
- The 5-9 170 lb Zach Benson versatile enough to play left wing, center, and right wing with his versatility. He can line up everywhere at forward and played on the first line with the Winnipeg Ice at left winger. You can argue that Zach Benson is the most versatile forward in the top six overall.
- Zach Benson has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. He's one of five blue chip prospects in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
- Zach Benson had 25 goals, 38 assists, and 63 points in 2021-2022 during his rookie season in the WHL. Zach Benson had 9 goals, 14 assists, and 23 points during the 2022 WHL Playoffs. Benson broke out this season as Zach Benson had 36 goals, 62 assists, and 98 points in 2022-2023. Zach Benson has 7 goals, 10 assists, and 17 points in the 2023 WHL Playoffs.
- Outside of height and improving his face off percentage from 38.5% there are no weaknesses in Zach Benson's game. I see a player with Evander Kane's floor and Patrick Marleau's ceiling. He's fifth overall on my big board and a steal at thirteen in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Honestly, I won't be shocked if the Buffalo Sabres make a Stanley Cup later this decade.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Brayden Yager, C, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL) A+ Grade
- The Pittsburgh Penguins have Jake Guentzel back as their first line left winger in a contract year, Sidney Crosby remains the face of the franchise as the first overall pick from 2005 enters year 18 with Pittsburgh, and Bryan Rust is Pittsburgh's first line right winger. Pittsburgh's second line left winger Jason Zucker is an unrestricted Free Agent, but with over $20-million in cap space, I got a feeling the Penguins extend him before the 2023 NHL Entry Draft like Pittsburgh did with Malkin and Letang before the 2022 NHL Entry Draft since Zucker tied first line right winger Bryan Rust for 46 points while playing in 78 games with this front 6 being the healthest it's been for the Pittsburgh Penguins in recent memory. If Jason Zucker isn't extended, then Reilly Smith from the Vegas Golden Knights could take over as the second line let winger after being a third line left winger on the 2023 Stanley Cup Champion Vegas Golden Knights. Evgeni Malkin the second pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft is in his seventeenth season with the Pittsburgh Penguins as a second line center behind Sidney Crosby. Rikard Rakell is the second line right winger on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
- Pittsburgh has Mikael Granlund as their third line left winger, but if I were Kyle Dubas I'm not entirely opposed to trading him if I need extra cap space if I'm trying to bring back both Jason Zucker and other supporting players as Pittsburgh has more valuable UFA's as well as RFA's compared to Granlund. Ryan Poehling actually took the third line center job from Jeff Carter after Pittsburgh traded for Montreal's 2017 first round pick whose now an RFA. Pittsburgh has former Buffalo Sabres 2016 first round pick Alexander Nylander as their third line right winger whose got one more year on his two-way contract before becoming an RFA in 2024.
- Pittsburgh has Drew O'Conner as their fourth line left winger whose now an RFA, Jeff Carter is now the fourth line center after beginning last season as the third line center, and Samuel Poulin, Pittsburgh's 2019 first round pick from the Sherbrooke Phoenix who was drafted twenty first overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins will probably take over for Danton Heinen whose an unrestricted Free Agent next season.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins have Kris Letang their 2005 third round pick back for a seventeenth NHL season in Pittsburgh and this feels like his fifteenth NHL season as the number one defenseman on the Pittsburgh Penguins and if I'm wrong please correct me on this. Brian Dumoulin has been the biggest asset on Pittsburgh's blue line outside of Kris Letang, but I feel like Pittsburgh is going to prioritize Zucker, Jarry or whatever goalie they get, and RFA's over him only re-signing Dumoulin if he agrees to a team friendly deal on those terms. Jeff Petry was Pittsburgh's second line defenseman last season, but with him getting paid more than Kris Letang, he's likely getting first line minutes in 2023 if Dumoulin goes elsewhere. Marcus Petersson would anchor the second line on the Pittsburgh Penguins if Brian Dumoulin leaves with Pierre Oliver-Joseph complimenting him. Jan Rutta and Chad Ruhwedel would play on the third line for the Pittsburgh Penguins if Pittsburgh moves on from Brian Dumoulin which I think is likely with him being 32-years-old. Dumoulin's been great during his prime years with Pittsburgh, but Carolina moved on from their 2009 second round pick while ago and if the Hurricanes wanted him back they could bring him back since they got more cap space than th Penguins.
- Starting goalie Tristan Jarry is an unrestricted Free Agent while backup Casey DeSmith remains under contract for one more year. If Pittsburgh moves on from Jarry they will either trade for a goalie or get one in Free Agency since the Penguins have an abundance of cap space.
- Pittsburgh needs to draft a successor for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jeff Carter at center with all three of those centers in their thirties. Luckily for Pittsburgh this draft actually has a first line center that the Pittsburgh Penguins can groom for the future with this pick. Brayden Yager is my pick here, but you can make a case for Riley Heidt the Prince George Cougars center or Nate Danielson of the Brandon Wheat Kings center for Pittsburgh at fourteen. Pittsburgh seems like a strong candidate to take a WHL center that can be groomed as a successor to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
- The 5-11 170 lb Brayden Yager was a top three pick in the 2020 WHL Draft that featured Connor Bedard and Riley Heidt going first and second overall as Yager was drafted third overall by the Moose Jaw Warriors. Brayden Yager reminds me of Carolina Hurricanes first line center Sebastian Aho.
- You can argue he needs to put on some muscle, but his production speaks for itself. Yager had 34 goals, 25 assists, and 59 points in 2021-2022 after improving on his 18 points in 24 games in limited action winning both the WHL rookie of the year and CHL Rookie Of The Year after Connor Bedard won WHL rookie of the year the previous season. Yager had 3 goals, 4 assists, and 7 points in 10 games during the 2022 WHL Playoffs. Yager has 28 goals, 50 assists, and 78 points for the Moose Jaw Warriors as a first line center in 2022-2023. Brayden Yager had 6 goals, 10 assists, and 16 points in 10 games during the 2023 WHL Playoffs.
- Brayden Yager has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. Brayden Yager needs to improve his decision making at times and clean up passes despite modeling his game after Colorado Avalanche center Nate MacKinnon. He's good at offense, defense, and skating, but not great in any of those categories.
- Brayden Yager could arrive in Pittsburgh as early as 2024 if he can beat out 2018 second round pick Filip Hallander for an NHL roster spot when Jeff Carter is a Free Agent. The latest Yager would be in the NHL is 2026 since Evgeni Malkin would be a UFA in 2026. Sidney Crosby's contract is up in 2025, but if he remains healthy like he has the last two seasons, the Penguins might re-sign Crosby letting him remain a Penguin and play into his early to mid forties the same way former Penguin Jaromir Jagr played in the NHL until he's 45 on various NHL teams. Jagr still plays for Rytiri Kladno which is one of the Extraliga teams in the Czech Republic at the age of 51 as the team owner of Rytiri Kladno which is nuts.
- As much as I love Evgeni Malkin, if Kyle Dubas has to choose between a 40 year old second line center that's just finished his twentieth season in Pittsburgh entering 2026 versus a 21 year old center he drafted in his very first draft in 2023 with the Penguins, whose been patiently developing for an NHL role after being drafted fourteenth overall at the age of 18, I see Dubas picking Yager over Malkin at that point for better or worse. You can love the big 3 of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang. I don't see it lasting past 2026 if Pittsburgh takes a center with the fourteenth pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft though.
Nashville Predators: Matthew Wood, RW, Connecticut B- Grade
- The 6-4 197 lb Matthew Wood is versatile enough to play right wing or left wing. Matthew Wood had 11 goals, 23 assists, 34 points, and a +7 +/- ratio in 35 games with Connecticut as a true freshman while leading Connecticut in scoring as a true freshman.
- Matthew Wood has the playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. Matthew Wood can develop at Connecticut during his sophomore year and then you can sign him for the 2024-2025 NHL Season or the 2025-2026 NHL Season after his junior season as a potential second line right winger.
- I mocked Matthew Wood at 17, but there are five players still graded ahead of Matthew Wood on my big board. This is a reach, but it's also good enough of a value pick to avoid a C grade.
Calgary Flames: Samuel Honzek, LW, Vancouver Giants (WHL) C- Grade
- The 6-3 195 lb Samuel Honzek had 23 goals, 33 assists, 56 points, and a +17 +/- ratio in 43 WHL games in 2022-2023. Samuel Honzek had 1 goal, 3 assists, and 4 points in 4 games during the 2023 WHL Playoffs.
- Samuel Honzek has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. Samuel Honzek checks off nearly every box as far as traits go, but he still needs to do a better job attacking the corners of the net and the five hole. I have Honzek getting picked in the second round, but there a ton of mock drafts slotting him in the first round.
- Samuel Honzek felt like a reach with the talent at left wing that was still available. Calgary also had bigger needs at center, right wing, and defensenman too which is why this pick got a C- grade.
Other 2023 NHL Mock Drafts