The 2023 NHL Draft is set to begin Wednesday night in Nashville, and there has already been plenty of intrigue surrounding the proceedings.
The Chicago Blackhawks took Connor Bedard as the No. 1, which was expected.
Here’s a recap of what happened, and what’s to come, in the draft.
Blackhawks draft Connor Bedard, Oliver Moore in first round
The Chicago Blackhawks came into the first round of the NHL Draft with two picks, and despite some efforts to acquire another one that’s all they ended up using as they took forwards Connor Bedard and Oliver Moore.
The Bedard move was completely expected, but still generated quite the reaction from Blackhawks fans in Nashville and at The Salt Shed in Chicago.
Bedard scored 71 goals and dished out 72 assists in 57 games with Regina last season, and is expected to join the Blackhawks for the 2023-24 season.
He is one of the draft’s most highly-touted prospects in recent memories, drawing comparisons to the talent level of Auston Matthews during the pre-draft process.
With their second pick, the Blackhawks selected Moore at No. 19.
Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson told media on Wednesday that he did not anticipate Moore being available at the 19th spot in the draft, but was thrilled that the team was able to secure one of the draft’s best skaters.
Moore, who will join 2022 Blackhawks first-round pick Sam Rinzel at Minnesota this fall, had eight goals and 17 assists for the U.S. National Development Team in the United States Hockey League last season.
First round wraps up with zero trades
The first round continued with a definite lack of drama, with zero draft-day trades consummated. Here were the final picks of the round:
Defenseman Tanner Molendyk – Nashville (No. 24)
Center Otto Stenberg – St. Louis (No. 25)
Left Wing Quentin Musty – San Jose (No. 26)
Center Calum Ritchie – Colorado (No. 27)
Right Wing Easton Cowan – Toronto (No. 28)
Defenseman Theo Lindstein – St. Louis (No. 29)
Left Wing Bradly Nadeau – Carolina (No. 30)
Defenseman Mikhail Gulyayev – Colorado (No. 31)
Center David Enstrom – Vegas (No. 32)
Blackhawks not done tonight?
According to ESPN’s Emily Kaplan, the Blackhawks are trying to get back into the first round of the draft, with seven picks left to go.
Otherwise, the Blackhawks will own the No. 35 overall pick in the second round, which begins on Thursday morning.
Gabriel Perreault goes to Rangers
The New York Rangers have selected USA U-18 forward Gabriel Perreault with the Non. 23 pick in the first round.
Perreault had 19 goals and 26 assists this season, and is one of the best power play weapons available in the draft class.
His father, Yanic Perreault, not only played for the Blackhawks, but currently works in the team’s front office.
No trades? First round continues with lack of drama
Defenseman Oliver Bonk was selected at No. 22 by the Flyers, with no draft-day trades having been made.
Blackhawks take Oliver Moore with No. 19 pick
The Blackhawks likely grabbed the best skater in the draft at No. 19, selecting USA NTDP forward Oliver Moore.
Moore appeared in 23 games last season, with eight goals and 17 assists.
You can read more about Moore here.
Two potential Blackhawks options off the board
Vancouver Giants winger Samuel Honzek was taken at No. 16 by the Calgary Flames, just one pick after the Nashville Predators took Matthew Wood with the No. 15 pick.
Both players are tall, muscular forwards, and the Blackhawks can certainly use more of that physicality within their system.
Sabres, Penguins retain picks as lack of trades continues
Hockey fans hoping for a flurry of trades at the NHL Draft are surely disappointed, as Winnipeg Ice winger Zach Benson and Moose Jaw Warriors center Brayden Yager were taken by the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins, respectively.
The Blackhawks are five picks away from their second selection of the round.
Coyotes make second pick of first round
The Arizona Coyotes had two picks in the top-12 and have now made both, as they took Russian forward Daniil But.
But, playing for Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, scored two goals in 15 KHL games. He also had 15 goals and 11 assists in 26 games for the club’s junior squad.
Top 10 wraps up with zero trades
The top-10 picks in the NHL Draft are now in the books, and there were zero trades in that set of picks.
Slovakian center Dalibor Dvorsky, the sixth center taken in the top-10, was selected by the St. Louis Blues.
Defenseman Tom Willander then was selected at No. 11 by the Vancouver Canucks.
Connor Bedard followed Kane, Toews ‘super closely’ growing up
He won’t get a chance to be a teammate of either player, but you can bet that Chicago Blackhawks forward Connor Bedard knows plenty about Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews’ time in the Windy City.
Bedard, who joined Kane as one of only two players taken No. 1 overall in the NHL Draft by the Blackhawks, said that he followed the legendary winger’s career closely while he was growing up.
“I followed them super closely. How couldn’t you with all their success, and the Stanley Cups they won,” he told media on Wednesday night.
The statistics speak for themselves. Kane and Toews won three Stanley Cups in six seasons with the Blackhawks. Kane earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP in 2013, while Toews earned the prize in 2010.
Matvei Michkov goes to the Flyers
Concerns about his KHL contract and the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine led some to question just how far forward Matvei Michkov would fall, and it turns out he fell to the No. 7 spot in the draft, where he was picked by the Philadelphia Flyers.
Michkov, who was considered a top-end prospect in this year’s class, may not make it over to the NHL until 2026 as a result of that contract, but the skill is hard to miss. He had a total of nine goals and 11 assists in 30 games with St. Petersburg SKA and Sochi HC last season.
Canadiens, Coyotes make their picks
The Canadiens ended up keeping the No. 5 overall pick, selecting defenseman David Reinbacher, and the Coyotes also kept their pick in taking defenseman Dmitri Simashev.
Connor Bedard on starting his NHL career vs. ‘idol’ Sidney Crosby, Penguins
The Chicago Blackhawks will open their 2023-24 season with a lengthy road trip, but it’s the first game of that journey that stands out to No. 1 overall draft pick Connor Bedard.
Bedard, the 17-year-old phenom who was selected by the Blackhawks on Wednesday night, says that his goal is simply to make the team’s roster right now, but if he does, then he has the team’s opening game against the Pittsburgh Penguins circled on his calendar.
Why is that? Because it just so happens that his favorite player growing up was Sidney Crosby.
“I’ve got to make it first, but that’s unreal,” he said. “He’s been my favorite player growing up and an idol of mine. If that happens, you can’t script it any better.”
‘Can’t wait to get started:’ Connor Bedard reveals goals after Blackhawks’ pick
Chicago Blackhawks forward Connor Bedard has been the subject of plenty of hype in his young life, but his short-term goals do not reflect the national narrative.
Bedard, taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft after an historic season with the WHL’s Regina Pats, told ESPN that his goals heading into the season are very simple: making the Blackhawks’ Opening Night roster.
“Right now, it’s focusing on having a good rest of the summer, and then going into camp and making the team,” he said. “Just keeping it short-term right now.”
Needless to say, Bedard shouldn’t have much of a challenge making the roster. He scored 71 goals and dished out 72 assists last season for Regina, and continued that strong play with 10 goals and 10 assists in the postseason.c
Columbus drafts Adam Fantilli No. 3 in the draft
Sports fans in Columbus are going to have to learn to root for a Wolverine, as the Blue Jackets took Adam Fantilli with the No. 3 pick on Wednesday night.
Fantilli won the Hobey Baker Award as the top collegiate player in his freshman season at Michigan, and is widely considered to be one of the top prospects in recent memory in the NHL
Aanheim swerves, takes Leo Carlsson over Adam Fantilli
Most NHL Draft experts figured that Michigan forward and Hobey Baker Award winner Adam Fantilli would be the second pick in the draft, but the Anaheim Ducks instead took Swedish forward Leo Carlsson.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are on the clock at No. 3.
The Pick Is In, and Connor Bedard is a Chicago Blackhawk
The least-well-kept secret in NHL history is finally out: the Chicago Blackhawks have taken Connor Bedard with the top pick in the NHL Draft.
Auston Matthews contract requests begin to filter out
Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews is eligible to hit free agency in 2024, but it sounds like he wants less than the eight years he could get:
Contract talks between the #LeafsForever and Auston Matthews continue, but a deal is not yet close. He loves Toronto, and he wants to win, that much is clear. I’m told his next deal will be 3, 4 or 5 years max, not beyond. Will have more on this as the week progresses.
— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) June 28, 2023
Jim Cornelison brings down the house with the National Anthem
The scene is RAUCOUS at the Salt Shed.
The Bedard family is in the house
No big deal, but Connor Bedard will probably be a Chicago Blackhawk in the next 20 minutes.
DeBrincat trade “not close,” per report
According to The Athletic’s Ian Mendes, Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion says the team is “not close” to a trade involving forward Alex DeBrincat.
They have not granted DeBrincat’s team an opportunity to discuss a new contract with other clubs, and will not do so unless they are drawing closer to a trade, according to the report.
Predators hoping to make “big splash,” report says
Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek echoes other reporting, indicating that the Nashville Predators are aiming to move up and make a splash.
“I can find you third line, fourth line guys, no problem,” Predators GM Barry Trotz reportedly told scouts. “Go get me some guys that can get people out of their seats.”
The Predators have a total of 10 picks in the first four rounds of the draft, and they could leverage some of those selections, as well as prospect goaltender Yaroslav Askarov, to move up, according to Jeff Marek.
Former Blackhawks winger Max Domi expected to hit market
According to David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period, it appears that Dallas Stars forward Max Domi will opt for free agency on July 1 rather than re-signing in Dallas.
Domi was traded to the Stars by the Blackhawks prior to the deadline, and scored two goals and five assists in 20 games. He also had three goals and 10 assists in 19 playoff games for Dallas.
The Blackhawks could conceivably bring him back on a new deal, but there is no word on which team he could pursue.
Could Canadiens trade down from No. 5?
According to multiple reports, the Montreal Canadiens could look to move out of the fifth-overall spot in the draft, and the host Nashville Predators could be looking to move up.
Frank Seravalli was one of the reporters, and he says the Predators could potentially offer up goaltending prospect Yaroslav Askarov in a trade.
The Predators could move up to No. 5, where the Canadians are. Frank Seravalli says the Preds could dangle goaltender Yaroslav Askarov there.
Golden Knights trade Reilly Smith to Pittsburgh
The Blackhawks are not the only team looking to take on salary during draft week.
The Vegas Golden Knights, fresh off winning the Stanley Cup, have sent Reilly Smith to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a third-round draft pick.
Smith carries a $5 million cap hit, and his contract runs through the conclusion of the 2024-25 season.
Could the Ducks surprise with their No. 2 pick?
The consensus going into this week’s draft is that Michigan forward Adam Fantilli is going to be the second player taken, but could Ducks GM Pat Verbeek go in a different direction?
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Verbeek has other GM’s “guessing” about what he will do with the pick.
If the Ducks don’t take Fantilli, then there are likely three other options they could consider. They could grab Will Smith or Leo Carlsson, both of whom have been projected as top-five picks, or he could surprise the NHL world and draft Russian forward Matvei Michkov, even in spite of his contract issues in the KHL and the ongoing tensions with Russia over the war in Ukraine.
Could Nashville get into the top-10?
The Predators currently have the No. 15 pick in the draft that they are hosting, but according to Friedman, they could be angling to get into the top-10.
The challenge will be finding a team willing to move their pick. The Capitals could be angling for a gamebreaking player to take advantage of the twilight of Alex Ovechkin’s career, and the Detroit Red Wings do have two first-round picks, but likely aren’t wanting to move down six spots.
JT Compher set to hit free agency
Blackhawks fans always rally behind the local guy (think Ryan Hartman and Scott Darling), and they could potentially have another player to get behind.
According to The Athletic’s Peter Baugh, Colorado Avalanche center JT Compher is expected to hit free agency this summer after skating with the Avs since 2016.
Compher, who was born in Northbrook, had 17 goals and 35 assists last season for the Avalanche. He has 88 career goals in 423 games.
Could Alex DeBrincat still be moved?
Amid reports that Alex DeBrincat isn’t interested in a long-term extension with the Ottawa Senators, trade speculation is heating up around the former Blackhawks winger.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reported that DeBrincat would welcome a trade to the Detroit Red Wings, while other reports have linked him to the Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars and even the Golden Knights after they were able to shed Reilly Smith’s contract.
Source: Yahoo Sports