The 2023 NHL Draft in Nashville is rapidly approaching. Anticipation of Connor Bedard’s draft day will finally come to a close, and fans will learn where the next tier including Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson, and the hotly debated Matvei Michkov will land.
As the opening round progresses, teams will begin to reshape their draft boards, taking into consideration the results of interviews at the recent NHL draft combine and positional needs. Things will shuffle around, and there’s always the inclusion of a few wild cards where a team believes it has seen something in a player that others have not.
Here’s a look at how Round 1 of the 2023 NHL Draft could play out on Wednesday night with the latest intel and trade news.
Chicago Blackhawks – Connor Bedard, C, Regina (WHL) – He’s a generational talent who will make an immediate impact in Chicago. As the organization says goodbye to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, Bedard steps in as the new face of the franchise. With brilliant hands and speed, Bedard is the full package.
Anaheim Ducks – Adam Fantilli, C, Michigan (NCAA) – With Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish already down the middle, there’s no reason to rush Fantilli to the NHL. That said, he could step in and play right now. Big and skilled, Fantilli is a first-overall talent who the Ducks will be lucky enough to win at second.
Columbus Blue Jackets – Leo Carlsson, C, Orebro (SHL) – The Blue Jackets are going to have one of the better blue lines in the league moving forward, and they’ve done some work on the wings, but adding Carlsson up the middle — with the flexibility of moving the bullish forward to the wing — gives the Blue Jackets versatility up front. Carlsson brings a full tool kit with great hands, good skating, and size to boot at 6-foot-3 and climbing.
San Jose Sharks – Will Smith, C, USNTDP – A record-breaking U-18 World Championship was hard to overlook. Smith sees the ice so well and is an elite level playmaker. San Jose is in the early stages of trying to turn around its roster, and allowing Smith a season (or two) to marinate with Boston College in the NCAA fits its timeline.
Montreal Canadiens – Matvei Michkov, F, Sochi (KHL) – Based on talent alone, Michkov is a top-three pick. The fact he can’t come to North America until the 2026-27 season is a risk factor that deserves consideration. His skill is undeniable, and a team like Montreal that already boasts Juraj Slafkovsky, Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and others could be in contention when a then-matured Michkov is ready to emerge. He’ll be in North America for the draft, and if his interviews go well, he could be off the board sooner. If they go poorly, who knows?
Arizona Coyotes – Axel Sandin Pellikka, D, Skelleftea AIK (J20 Nationell) – There’s truly no guarantee David Reinbacher isn’t the first blueliner chosen, as both he and Sandin Pellikka have been on an upward trajectory all season. After picking forward after forward, the Coyotes need an elite puck-moving blueliner to help their transition and to distribute to those players. Sandin Pellika has those traits.
Philadelphia Flyers – Zach Benson, C, Winnipeg (WHL) – He can shoot the puck, varying his release point with the best in the game. Benson is the type of high-end skilled player teams should be targeting in the first round, as he has the potential to fill the net for the Flyers, who look like they’re plunging closer to a full rebuild.
Washington Capitals – David Reinbacher, D, Kloten (NL) – Washington is getting older, and the Alex Ovechkin era is creeping closer to an end. Securing a blueliner to take over for John Carlson as the team’s backbone would be a coup at this spot. Reinbacher has that potential, and can step to the AHL next season.
Detroit Red Wings – Dalibor Dvorsky, C, AIK (Allsvenskan) – Dvorsky has been a bit up and down, but he’s a scorer, and if you’re the Red Wings seeing light at the end of the tunnel, you need to swing for the fences. Dvorsky fits that bill. You can find players to contribute in other ways, but an innate talent for finding the back of the net is not a teachable trait.
St. Louis Blues – Ryan Leonard, LW, USNTDP – If you think back to the Blues’ Stanley Cup season in 2019, you can almost envision Leonard playing a multi-faceted role. He’s skilled and can drive play, but he’s relentless on the puck as well. Leonard elevates the play of those around him, and is the type of player who will thrive in must-win situations.
Vancouver Canucks – Eduard Sale, RW, Brno (Czechia) – Sale has the potential to become a steal at this position, and that’s exactly what the Canucks need. They could select a “safer” player like Oliver Moore or Matthew Wood, but this is a club in need of a home run. If either Reinbacher or Sandin Pellikka are still on the board, Vancouver has a desperate need for defensive help, which could also cause them to reach for Dmitri Simashev or Mikhail Gulyayev at this point.
Arizona Coyotes (from Ottawa Senators) – Oliver Moore, C, USNTDP – Similar to the Canucks, it would not be surprising to see the Coyotes grab a blueliner as they’ve stocked up on forwards the past few drafts. Moore, however, can contribute in multiple ways, particularly as a stellar two-way player. Headed to the University of Minnesota, he has a solid development path secured.
Buffalo Sabres – Gabe Perreault, RW, USNTDP – The Sabres have hit on so many moves — from drafting Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, Peyton Krebs, Dylan Cozens, and JJ Peterka, to acquiring Devon Levi, Tage Thompson, and Alex Tuch — that they can freely swing for the fences here. Perreault represents a swing with incredible upside as no player in the USNTDP produced like he did. Are there defensive deficiencies? Yes. Is there potential for an electric offensive player that drives the Buffalo power play? Absolutely.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Matthew Wood, LW, Connecticut, (NCAA) – Imagine if Kyle Dubas’ first pick with the Penguins is the player in this draft who perhaps most resembles Matthew Knies. Big and powerful with NCAA experience, Wood could be a valuable piece in beginning what will be a very long building process for the Penguins. It would not be a surprise to see Dubas opt for a smaller, skilled player, but Wood has attributes that are hard to pass on.
Nashville Predators – Mikhail Gulyayev, D, Omskie Yastreby (KHL) – There’s something that feels very “Nashville” about Gulyayev. A smooth-skating, puck-moving blueliner coming into an organization that is watching Roman Josi and Tyson Barrie age as their top two offensive rearguards.
Calgary Flames – Andrew Cristall, LW, Kelowna (WHL) – At the U-18s, Cristall was…okay. His vision and playmaking were still evident, but he was unable to dominate opponents like he did this season in the WHL. The blip was likely a blip, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him slide into the second half of the opening round.
Detroit Red Wings (from New York Islanders via Vancouver Canucks) – Colby Barlow, LW, Owen Sound (OHL) – Detroit must continue to shoot for high-end skill with every pick after building its stable of prospects. Barlow is a top-tier shooter with a wicked release who can pick corners from anywhere. You can’t teach scoring, and Barlow is at the top of the class.
Winnipeg Jets – Nate Danielson, C, Brandon (WHL) – Winnipeg needs to pick a center, with organizational depth there in question as Mark Scheifele ages and Pierre-Luc Dubois looks to leave town. Danielson is so polished he looks like one of the most certain NHLers in the pool. Excellent in all areas of the ice, he is a smooth skater with two-way capabilities.
Chicago Blackhawks (from Tampa Bay Lightning) – Riley Heidt, C, Prince George (WHL) – With Bedard in the bag, why not take a crack at someone who can add another punch of offense? You can never have too much skill, and Heidt has high-end vision and scoring abilities. If he were shifted to the wing, Heidt is one of the best playmakers out there and could feed Bedard in the future, or run a second line.
Seattle Kraken – Dmitri Simashev, D, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL) – After picking forwards the past two years, a 6-foot-4 defender who is mobile, transitions the puck well, and can punish opposition adds a new dimension to the Kraken.
Minnesota Wild – Samuel Honzek, C, Vancouver (WHL) – Big body, big hits, reliable two-way player. There’s a lot to like in Honzek. He’s a safe bet, although his NHL ceiling is yet to be determined.
Philadelphia Flyers (from Los Angeles Kings via Columbus Blue Jackets) – Calum Ritchie, C, Oshawa (OHL) – Coming into this season, Ritchie was a projected top 10 pick. He has size and is a consistent producer, but not to the degree many expected this year. Flyers fans will love his combination of size and scoring.
New York Rangers – Brayden Yager, C, Moose Jaw (WHL) – In all the glitz and glamor that is New York, Yager has a shot that can light the lamp and excite a fan base. He could easily be off the board by this point in the draft, but if he’s not, it will be hard for any team to pass on his skill set.
Nashville Predators (from Edmonton Oilers) – Otto Stenberg, C, Frolunda (J20 Sweden) – After an up-and-down campaign, Stenberg was brilliant at the U-18s, leaving a spectacular final impression in the minds of scouts. Nashville has a penchant for taking European players high, and Stenberg has upside worth swinging for as a second pick in the opening round.
St. Louis Blues (from Toronto Maple Leafs) – Tom Willander, D, Rogle (J20 Sweden) – After selecting a forward earlier in the draft, the Blues can diversify their selections with a player like Willander, who thrives by utilizing his skating to evade checkers and turn pucks up ice. He’ll play at Boston University next year, opening the door for an ascension to the AHL the year after.
San Jose Sharks (from New Jersey Devils) – Quentin Musty, LW, Sudbury (OHL) – He has good size and chooses his spots wisely. Opting almost equally to shoot and distribute, Musty exploded this year on a bad team.
Colorado Avalanche – Bradley Nadeau, C, Penticton (BCHL) – The team that stole Cale Makar out of the Canadian Junior A level might find another Junior A superstar. The upside in Nadeau is immense when you watch his hands and see how he reads the ice. Nadeau is headed to Maine, and could eventually turn into one of the steals of this draft.
Toronto Maple Leafs (from Boston Bruins via Washington Capitals) – Oliver Bonk, D, London (OHL) – The Leafs have tried to fix their problems externally for too long. As a minute-muncher who can contain attackers in the D-zone and quickly transition pucks up ice, Bonk is the type of blueliner the organization has looked for. There’s offensive upside in Bonk, but not at the expense of defending.
St. Louis Blues (from Dallas Stars via New York Rangers) – Daniil But, LW, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL) – With their third pick of the opening round, the Blues should continue to choose players with more upside. But combines a 6-foot-5 frame with soft hands and strong skating. If he begins using his frame more impactfully in terms of winning puck battles and if he can add even a modicum of physicality, the last portions of his potential will begin to flourish. He’s worth the risk at this point.
Carolina Hurricanes – Lukas Dragicevic, D, Tri-City (WHL) – Dragicevic doesn’t necessarily fit the mold of blueliners who have found success in Carolina in recent years, as he’s all offense with defensive deficiencies. But it’s a strong organization for him to learn the other aspects. He’s the type of defenseman who can run a power play.
Montreal Canadiens (from Florida Panthers) – Charlie Stramel, RW, Wisconsin (NCAA) – With so much high-end skill on the Canadiens’ current roster and in their prospect pool, adding a bull like Stramel who can do some of the heavy lifting and benefit from the elite players around him could be the perfect ingredient for the Canadiens.
Vegas Golden Knights – Nick Lardis, LW, Hamilton (OHL) – When you’re the Stanley Cup champions, you’ll get some grace. Lardis could be a complete bust if the first half of this OHL season is the true version of him. In the second half with Peterborough and into the U-18 Worlds, Lardis looked like something had clicked and he’d unlocked his scoring potential. There’s plenty of upside worth shooting for with the final pick of Round 1.
Source: Yahoo Sports