Round 1 of the 2023 NHL Draft didn’t really get going until the second overall pick.
Then came the Anaheim Ducks right after, but their pick didn’t quite settle well within the hockey spectrum.
So, who came away as winners and who stumbled as losers from the first round? Let’s skate through five:
Winner: Chicago Blackhawks
Let’s start with the easy one. The Blackhawks phased away from the Patrick Kane era and immediately into the Connor Bedard one.
Lottery luck was the reason that dream became a reality, and now Bedard is bringing an elite skill set to the table after logging 71 goals and 72 assists in 57 games with the WHL’s Regina Pats in 2022-23.
Bedard, 17, doesn’t need acres of space to thrive. His dribbling and puck-striking abilities are simply extraordinary for his age, and his output statistics are mesmerizing from an analytics perspective.
There was no way the Blackhawks could fumble this pick, and they effortlessly exit the draft as clear winners. And that’s before they landed Oliver Moore at No. 19, a player who could’ve cracked the top 10 based on his pure skating prowess.
Loser: Anaheim Ducks
It was known for quite some time that Bedard would go to Chicago. That made the Ducks’ selection at No. 2 overall the real intrigue. And they provided it.
Anaheim currently is in a five-year playoff drought and needs potential stars through the draft to help accelerate its rebuild. The Ducks then drafted center Leo Carlsson, which came across as quite confusing.
It’s not on Carlsson, who was generally considered a top-five prospect entering the draft, but rather Anaheim passing on a player like Adam Fantilli, who could’ve been the top pick himself had it not been for Bedard.
Carlsson, best known for his playmaking and creativity, will need to add a legitimate goal-scoring bag down the line to justify the Ducks’ decision to grab him this high.
Columbus has been around as an NHL franchise for 22 years since its founding in 2001. But it has only made the playoffs six times and currently is in a three-year drought.
For a small-market team, getting high draft picks right is the healthiest way to climb up the standings. Fortunately for Columbus, Anaheim’s decision to pass on Fantilli made the Blue Jackets’ job much easier.
Fantilli, boasting a 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame, has immense physical strength that doesn’t hinder his speed when skating around the ice. The Michigan product recorded 1.81 points per game as a freshman, the most by a draft-eligible player since Paul Kariya in 1992-93.
His output is already solid for his age, but considering his mechanics and shot angles could benefit from enhancing, Fantilli falling to the No. 3 overall pick was an unbelievably colossal win for the Blue Jackets.
General managers on Wednesday didn’t have much to do besides making selections.
In terms of draft-night trades, there were none. All 32 picks passed by and none moved to another team.
Winner: Philadelphia Flyers
Philadelphia had quite a special talent fall in its lap. Matvei Michkov was widely seen as a clear-cut top-five pick, with the potential of going at No. 3. However, he dropped to the Flyers at No. 7.
There were a couple of reasons for his slide that involved his availability to play in the NHL since he’s currently under contract with KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg in Russia through the 2025-26 season.
But the Flyers have a scout based in Russia, Ken Hoodikoff, who has watched prospects there in person, per NBC Sports Philadelphia. So landing a talent like Michkov, even though it’s not transparent when and if he’ll able to transition to the NHL, at No. 7 has the potential to be a crucial win in the long run.
Source: Yahoo Sports