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NHL Mock Draft 2023: Connor Bedard goes first, but how does rest of first round shake out?

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Today is my first estimate of how I think the first round of the 2023 NHL Draft will play out. It’s very early in the process, so information about which teams are linked to which players is limited right now as teams haven’t even had their draft meetings yet to formalize their lists. A lot of the predictions in this first mock are based on the rough range I think players will go in, plus making connections to organizations I think would make sense.

The draft order isn’t final yet due to the potential of certain teams moving around based on playoff results. I am using the projected draft order on CapFriendly as of May 10. It won’t be the actual draft order on June 28.

1. Chicago Blackhawks: Connor Bedard, C, Regina (WHL)

Bedard is the consensus No. 1 for good reason. There is no need to overthink this one; Bedard will be in Chicago.

2. Anaheim Ducks: Adam Fantilli, C, Michigan (BIG10)

The Ducks finished 32nd in the NHL and thus have had a good idea of the small pool of players they would be picking from. I think they will have to entertain the ideas of Leo Carlsson or Will Smith here, and I don’t think this pick being Fantilli is a gimme yet, but ultimately I do think this is where they will land.

3. Columbus Blue Jackets: William Smith, C, USA U-18 (NTDP)

Smith’s stock has been on the rise throughout the draft season and I do think no matter who picked here, he would be the slight betting favorite to be the No. 3 pick. Leo Carlsson obviously should strongly be in the mix here as well.

4. San Jose Sharks: Leo Carlsson, C, Orebro (SWEDEN)

In our staff mock draft, Corey Masisak took Matvei Michkov at No. 4 here. I have the Sharks going in a somewhat different direction taking Carlsson. I’m doubtful currently that any NHL team will take Michkov over the consensus premium names in this draft.

5. Montreal Canadiens: David Reinbacher, D, Kloten (SWISS)

In the staff mock, Michkov going No. 4 led to Reinbacher getting to Arizona at No. 6. In this scenario, I think Montreal jumps at the top defense prospect in the class. Either way, I don’t think Reinbacher lasts very long on draft day.

6. Arizona Coyotes: Dalibor Dvorsky, C, AIK (SWEDEN-2)

After getting Logan Cooley and Conor Geekie with high picks last season, I’m sure Arizona would love to add Reinbacher to their mix. In this situation, though, a forward becomes the best player available. It could be Michkov here, but I think Dvorsky is considered a premium name by enough people in the league that he could go ahead of him.

7. Philadelphia Flyers: Ryan Leonard, RW, USA U-18 (NTDP)

Leonard’s stock is high right now with NHL teams. It’s not uncommon to hear team sources discuss him in the same light as teammate Will Smith, and I suspect he will be gone quite early. Michkov is still part of the consideration here, but my lean is that Leonard goes over him if the draft were held today. Boston College teammates Leonard and Cutter Gauthier could form a line one day.

8. Washington Capitals: Matvei Michkov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (RUSSIA)

I think this is the alleyway where a Michkov pick becomes realistic, plus or minus one or two picks. In very early discussions with people around the league on him, Washington or Detroit are considered the betting favorites for his landing spot. Does anyone really have a clue though? No. He could be long gone by this pick, or possibly he could drop further.

9. Detroit Red Wings: Samuel Honzek, LW, Vancouver (WHL)

This is the point where the draft opens up and a lot of different options present themselves. Honzek checks a lot of the boxes the Wings look for in a prospect while also being a player who is highly thought of around the league.

10. St. Louis Blues: Tom Willander, D, Rogle Jr. (SWEDEN-JR.)

I have a hard time seeing St. Louis walk away from the No. 10 pick without getting a center or defenseman, something their system desperately needs. Willander’s stock is way up right now and he could be a top-four defenseman in the league for a while.

11. Vancouver Canucks: Nate Danielson, C, Brandon (WHL)

I think the Canucks ideally would like to add a defenseman, but if Willander goes at 10 it becomes tougher. Axel Sandin Pellikka is very good, but is he what a team with Quinn Hughes needs right now? There is an organizational need for centers as well and Danielson is a very good center to get at 11.

12. Arizona Coyotes (via Ottawa Senators): Matthew Wood, RW, UConn (H-EAST)

Wood’s stock has ticked up in the second half and after a strong U18 worlds. I’m sure Arizona would like to leave this draft with a defenseman; I can see Willander here if available, Sandin Pellikka or Dmitri Simashev. I think Wood just goes higher in the draft order, though, and he would provide a lot of scoring and size to Arizona.

13. Buffalo Sabres: Zach Benson, LW, Winnipeg (WHL)

This is a tough pick to mock. I think the Sabres would prefer a player with size, especially a defenseman. I don’t know if there’s an obvious choice based on the board though. This organization values skill high in the draft and Benson is full of it — especially at 13 it could be too much to pass up.

14. Pittsburgh Penguins: Gabriel Perreault, RW, USA U-18 (NTDP)

I think Perreault could go higher than this based on what I’m hearing from teams right now, but I have to slot him somewhere, and he ends up at 14 to Pittsburgh in Mock 1.0. He adds an elite skill type to the wing that hopefully can get to the NHL in time to help out Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

15. Nashville Predators: Axel Sandin Pellikka, D, Skelleftea Jr. (SWEDEN-JR.)

Once known as a defensemen factory, Nashville hasn’t invested a premium pick in a blueliner in a while. That trend ends now with the addition of the highly skilled and intelligent Sandin Pellikka.

16. Calgary Flames: Colby Barlow, LW, Owen Sound (OHL)

Barlow hurt his stock a little with his play down the stretch and into the U18 worlds, but he’s still well thought of around the league. He would add a scoring and two-way forward element into the Calgary system.

17. Montreal Canadiens (via Florida Panthers): David Edstrom, C, Frolunda Jr. (SWEDEN-JR.)

Edstrom’s name has been buzzing since the U18 worlds. Some scouts think he could even go higher than this slot. Montreal lacks center depth in the organization and he would be a very good add, especially if they go Reinbacher at No. 5.

18. Detroit Red Wings (via New York Islanders): Dmitriy Simashev, D, Yaroslavl Jr. (RUSSIA-JR.)

Most scouts I talk to in the league love Simashev and think on pure ability he would be a premium name in the draft. The common train of thought with the KHL-signed players is look for teams with many high-round picks, or with a history of acquiring Russians. Detroit ticks those requirements and Simashev is the kind of player they tend to covet.

19. Winnipeg Jets: Oliver Moore, C, Usa U-18 (NTDP)

Moore may end up going higher than I have him projected. I know some team sources who love him, but the sense I’ve gotten is his stock has slid slightly over the second half of the season as someone who is more likely to go 15-20. Winnipeg tends to draft USA players and Moore would provide a dynamic skating element that isn’t overly present in their farm system.

20. Chicago Blackhawks (via Tampa Bay Lightning): Brayden Yager, C, Moose Jaw (WHL)

Yager had a huge postseason for Moose Jaw and that may end up getting him higher than 20 when it’s all said and done, but I got the sense there were upside concerns around the league on this player as the year progressed. But he’s a good all-around player albeit undersized, and I still expect him to be a solid first-round pick.

21. Seattle Kraken: Quentin Musty, LW, Sudbury (OHL)

There are some in the league who think Musty could be gone by this pick, but right around 20 is the range I expect him to go. He’s a highly skilled forward with size and should be right in the mix for Seattle.

22. Minnesota Wild: Calum Ritchie, C, Oshawa (OHL)

Ritchie’s stock was sliding prior to the U18s but scouts were impressed by his play there and he should still be a firm first-round pick. He’s a big center who can skate and has legit skill, and this pick gives Minnesota more center depth.

23. Columbus Blue Jackets (via Los Angeles): Danil But, LW, Yaroslavl Jr. (RUSSIA-JR.)

Like Simashev, most evaluators in the league I talk to have But rated a lot higher than this as a hockey player, but that doesn’t mean it’s where he actually goes. Columbus has multiple picks and a history of drafting and bringing over Russian players.

24. New York Rangers: Eduard Sale, LW, Brno (CZECHIA)

I struggle to see Sale go as high as some expect him to after his lackluster performances at the February and April U18 tournaments despite having a ton of natural talent. In the 20s it starts becoming a much more tantalizing risk for teams such as the Rangers.

25. St. Louis Blues (via Dallas Stars): Charlie Stramel, C, Wisconsin (BIG TEN)

Stramel had a down season, but I still believe he will go Day 1. He would be a swing pick by St. Louis with their second pick as a big center who, as a junior player, showed snarl and skill but struggled as a college freshman.

26. Colorado Avalanche: Tanner Molendyk, D, Saskatoon (WHL)

Colorado has had a lot of success drafting exceptional skaters and Molendyk fits that bill to go with strong compete and secondary puck moving. He was a big part of Saskatoon’s WHL playoff run taking out Red Deer and helped himself in the eyes of evaluators down the stretch.

27. Nashville Predators (via Edmonton Oilers): Otto Stenberg, C, Frolunda Jr. (SWEDEN-JR.)

I had wondered if Stenberg would go Day 1 during portions of this season, but his U18 World Championships was a strong closing argument to be a late first type of selection. Joakim Kemell is a similar type of player to Stenberg, but you can’t have too much skill and goal-scoring ability.

28. Toronto Maple Leafs (via Boston Bruins): Etienne Morin, D, Moncton (QMJHL)

Morin had a great season in the QMJHL and an even better playoffs. There are mild concerns on his pro projection but he’s emerging as potentially the first QMJHL player off the board, and he has a chance to be a late first-rounder. He fits a lot of what Toronto tends to value in defensemen.

29. Vegas Golden Knights: Carson Rehkopf, LW, Kitchener (OHL)

Rehkopf ended his season well, including a good postseason in Kitchener’s sweep of No. 1-seed Windsor. There are a lot of scouts enticed by his size/speed/skill combination and I think he could be a late first selection to a team like Vegas.

30. St. Louis Blues (via Toronto Maple Leafs): Oliver Bonk, D, London (OHL)

When I started this process I figured Bonk would end up somewhere in the top 20, but as I kept going through names he worked his way closer to 30. He’s well thought of in the league but has a “boring” skill set for a first-round pick in that he’s a big, mobile defender who can move pucks but isn’t high-end at anything. Getting him and Willander in the same draft adds massive depth to the Blues’ blue line though.

31. San Jose Sharks (via New Jersey Devils): Lukas Dragicevic, D, Tri-City (WHL)

Dragicevic had a great WHL season but is slotted closer to 30 due to scouts’ concerns about his pro projection with his iffy mobility. In a lighter defense class, especially on high-end puck-movers, I still think he finds a way to sneak in there and would make a lot of sense for the Sharks, who need some quality blue line prospects.

32. Carolina Hurricanes: Bradly Nadeau, LW, Penticton (BCHL)

Nadeau has been a tough player to gauge for scouts because Penticton runs over everyone in the BCHL. He’s been a big reason for that though, and I expect him to be a late first/early second candidate in the draft because of his skating, skill and big-time shot, even if he’s undersized.

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

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