NHL mock draft 2.0: Post trade-deadline edition
Connor Bedard is obviously the gem of the 2023 NHL Draft, but there's plenty of potential franchise-changers available at No. 2 and beyond.
The NHL trade deadline came and went with a frenzy of big names including Jakob Chychrun, Timo Meier, Tyler Bertuzzi, Patrick Kane, and Mattias Ekholm, among others, changing teams. Alongside rostered players, dozens of 2023 NHL Draft picks also changed hands.
Following that shuffle, it’s a good time to look at where the first round of the 2023 NHL Draft sits, and what teams will have the best chances to add talent.
The first round is loaded with elite forwards, led by the quartet of Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Matvei Michkov, and Leo Carlsson, but others are closing that gap, making the Top 10 a skill-filled grouping.
Here is Yahoo’s second 2023 Mock NHL Draft, looking at how round one could play out based on Tankathon’s current draft order. You can also check out our midterm NHL draft rankings to compare where these top prospects stood back in January.
1. Columbus - Connor Bedard, C, Regina (WHL)
The opening round will be dominated, barring trades, by a cluster of teams with two or more first-round picks. The Columbus Blue Jackets are the current frontrunners, followed closely by Chicago and San Jose, to land the first overall pick… and Connor Bedard.
A generational talent, Bedard is poised to become a human highlight reel in the McDavid echelon. A brilliant skater, Bedard will immediately factor onto a top line. After Columbus’ dismal season, the addition of Bedard would be a franchise altering selection.
2. San Jose - Adam Fantilli, C, Michigan (NCAA)
Fantilli has been dominant in his historic rookie season in the NCAA. He’s big, powerful, intelligent, and responsible at both ends. While Bedard is the clear number one, Fantilli is no consolation prize. He also possesses franchise altering capabilities as a potential top-line center. Whoever “loses” the draft lottery will win with Fantilli.
3. Chicago - Matvei Michkov, RW, Sochi (KHL)
Michkov forced his hand in Russia, asking for a change of scenery, and when he got it with HK Sochi, he answered every early season question surrounding his ranking. If Michkov was eligible to come to North America next season, there’s a good chance he’d challenge Fantilli to go higher. Playing in one of the world’s top pro leagues, the KHL, Michkov has emerged as a difference maker. Chicago is in a full rebuild, and considering they have multiple first-round picks, taking Michkov will prove worth the wait.
4. Anaheim - Leo Carlsson, C/LW, Orebro (SHL)
While the Ducks are stacked down the middle with Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish, Carlsson looks like a lock to be shifted to the wing in the NHL, a position he’s seen a lot of time at in the SHL. His stats in Sweden, combined with his 6-foot-3 frame, will excite Anaheim fans, who have to notice the glaring holes on their wings.
Most points by a draft-eligible skater in SHL history:
• Daniel Sedin 42
• Henrik Sedin 34
• Elias Lindholm 30
• Nicklas Backstrom 26
• Leo Carlsson 25*
*Two games remaining on the schedule
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) March 4, 2023
For a team with young talent already in the NHL, Carlsson is a perfect player as his play against pros as a teenager suggests he’s closer to the NHL than many in this draft — particularly given he’s a late 2004 prospect. He doesn’t have the flash of those above, or below him in this draft, but he’s deadly around the net, and always produces.
5. Arizona - Will Smith, C, USNTDP
No one has the assets of the Arizona Coyotes, and they’ll need to bring their forthcoming prospects to the NHL in waves if they want to manage future cap implications. Their cap has been a point of concern lately, and someday they could be at the other end of the spectrum with the number of high picks they’re accumulating. Smith fits this bill, as Arizona can allow him to marinate at Boston College for a season, or two, before bringing him in. Smith is deceptive with the puck and can make goaltenders and defenders look silly with his quick hands. The natural center is also one of the better all around players at the top of the draft.
6. Montreal - Zach Benson, W, Winnipeg (WHL)
Ryan Suzuki, Cole Caufield, Juraj Slafkovsky, and Kirby Dach. It’s a great start up front for Montreal who also have prospects like Joshua Roy, Filip Mesar, Riley Kidney and Owen Beck coming for their forward group. But you can’t have too much of a good thing. Benson is a play driver who makes his linemates better, but also reads and feeds off the strengths of his teammates to position himself for offensive opportunities. He doesn’t get enough praise in this draft loaded with offensively gifted players.
7. Vancouver - Andrew Cristall, RW, Kelowna (WHL)
Goodbye Bo Horvat, goodbye a first rounder to the Detroit Red Wings, hello Andrew Cristall. He’s electric; the kind of player who will bring Canucks fans out of their seats. He’s a great shooter who is a threat from everywhere and has the potential to step into Vancouver’s forward corps, most likely on the wing in a top-six role flanking Elias Pettersson or JT Miller (if he remains with the team) in future seasons. If there’s a knock, it’s his size (5'10", 165 lbs), but he makes up for it in almost every way, including a high compete level.
8. Philadelphia - Axel Sandin-Pellikka, D, Skelleftea AIK (J20 Nationell)
Things aren’t great in Philadelphia. Their prospect pool is so-so and their culture is in question. While there are top-end forwards available at this point in the draft, the question marks on Philadelphia’s blueline now, and into the future, are too big to ignore.
They shopped Ivan Provorov, and it appears the trial run with Tony DeAngelo is coming to an end. Aside from current NHLer Cam York and prospect Emil Andrae, there aren’t a lot of organizational sure things on the blueline. Sandin-Pellikka can log major minutes, he’s an excellent skater, and loves to have the puck — all assets Philadelphia should covet.
9. St. Louis - Eduard Sale, W, Brno (Czechia)
While St. Louis’ biggest organizational need is likely on the blueline (meaning they could grab Sandin-Pellikka here), with three picks in the first round, they have room to get positional later and look for the best player available with their top pick. A tremendous skater who has excelled internationally, and gained valuable experience this year playing professionally, Sale still needs some time, but he looks like the real deal. Perhaps more of a playmaker than a goal scorer at this point, Sale has the offensive tools to impact a top six.
10. Detroit - Oliver Moore, C, USNTDP
Moore’s stock has risen all season, and imagining his speed alongside Dylan Larkin, or centering Lucas Raymond, should get Red Wings fans smiling. Detroit needs scoring power, particularly after previous top-10 forward selections have failed to turn into offensive game changers. Moore, a University of Minnesota commit, thrives off pushing the pace, and looks like an excellent future NHLer.
11. Washington - Dalibor Dvorsky, C, AIK (HockeyAllsvenskan)
Washington signaled a new stage in their organization at the deadline, selling off parts en masse. Dvorsky will not be another Alex Ovechkin, but fans will love his release, which often ends up in the back of the net. He’s had an up and down season, and needs someone to push him to become more engaged every shift, but Dvorsky’s talent verges on top five, although he needs to learn the consistency of a professional.
12. Montreal (via Florida) - Mikhail Gulyayev, D, Omskie Yastreby (MHL)
A prototypical modern defender, Gulyayev is undersized but progresses the puck using his skating and passing skills, and defends using his mobility. Likely selecting a forward first, Montreal could go back to the well of talented scorers, or choose one of the few first-round worthy defenders. Gulyayev won’t come to North America until at least 2025-26, meaning he’ll have time to mature before entering Montreal’s pressure cooker environment.
13. Buffalo - Riley Heidt, C, Prince George (WHL)
The options are endless here, whether it’s Heidt, Ryan Leonard, or Brayden Yager. This will be an interesting pick for Buffalo, who likely goes with whomever they feel is the best available as they’ve amassed depth at every prospect position. Heidt is creative, finding seams where seemingly none exist, manipulating passing and shooting lanes, and finishing with a cannon. Pass on Heidt if you’d like, as some rank him lower in Round 1, but he’s the type of prospect that could very well make NHL clubs regret their choices in a few seasons.
14. Arizona (via Ottawa) - David Reinbacher, D, Kloten (NL)
Name a young defender who is making an impact on Arizona’s blueline… I’ll wait. Jakob Chychrun is gone and Maveric Lamoureux is the best prospect they have at the position. Arizona will almost be forced to take a forward with their first selection (unless they trade down), so the second pick should be a defender. Reinbacher could surprise some with his nearly NHL-ready game. He’s six-foot-two, and flashing offensive upside against top pros in Switzerland as a teenager. If the draft order changes here, there will be a plethora of teams (see Detroit Red Wings) waiting to take Reinbacher.
Here are some examples of David Reinbacher breaking the puck out of his own end using a variety of different skills including carrying the puck, short passes and stretch passes.
6’2” right-shot defenceman.#2023NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/nlTfqika6J
— 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 Faber 🔥🎙 (@ChrisFaber39) February 22, 2023
15. Calgary - Ryan Leonard, C/RW, USNTDP
Perhaps Calgary chooses Yager, or even Leonard’s linemate Gabe Perreault who has exploded offensively, but Leonard drives play, and makes those around him better. The success of many on the USNTDP roster can be attributed in part to Leonard who, although he’s not likely to be a top-line scorer in the NHL, looks like a second-line contributor. Calgary has been dreadfully slow, to the point of detriment, in bringing prospects to the NHL, so perhaps choosing an NCAA player who can stay where he is for longer is wise. If Nashville comes to the board with Leonard available, it’s worth noting his brother John has played games with the Predators this season.
16. Nashville - Brayden Yager, C, Moose Jaw (WHL)
If this draft had been decided in the preseason, Yager would be a top 10 pick, and he could still pan out that way when redrafting this cohort in the future. At the moment however, Yager’s game, while still filled with offensive zone dominance when he has the puck, has shown a few signs of inconsistency. Some nights Yager is the best player in the building, some nights you wonder if you’re watching the same player. In the right environment he’ll flourish, but he’ll need to learn the consistency of a professional, otherwise he reads like a player who will bounce between the AHL and NHL for a few seasons before really figuring it out.
17. Detroit (via NYI) - Otto Stenberg, C/W, Frolunda (J20 Nationell)
Detroit is building a winner, which means selecting one-dimensional players won’t cut it. Otto Stenberg can play into a high-paced puck possession game, but when it gets to playoff time and tight games against contenders, he can also flat out be annoying off the puck. If he doesn’t have the biscuit, he’s in pursuit and when he arrives, he thrives in puck battles. When you’re building a contender, players like Stenberg — who can flash such diverse traits — are crucial.
18. Pittsburgh - Gabe Perreault, W, USNTDP
There are portions of Perreault’s game, primarily his two-way acumen, that make me believe he’s more of a late first round or early second-round pick. That said, when you look at his production among a dearth of first rounders on the USNTDP, leading the team in scoring by a mile, it would be hard for a team like Pittsburgh — who is watching the sands of time tick down on the Crosby and Malkin era — to pass on him. He needs to be in a top six given his current defensive deficiencies, and that’s exactly where Pittsburgh needs future help.
19. Winnipeg - Colby Barlow, W, Owen Sound (OHL)
Watching Colby Barlow, I sometimes question portions of his game, primarily decision making with the puck…but then it ends up in the back of the net, more often off his stick than not. His shooting ability makes up for his shot selection choices, or the times he tries to force plays, which are concerns that could plague him at the NHL level. On a power play, or with responsible linemates however, Barlow could fill the net — especially with time spent analyzing video and under the wing of veteran mentors. He’s a high-risk, high-reward prospect, not dissimilar to Brad Lambert, who the Jets chose last year.
20. Nashville (via Edmonton) - Dmitri Simashev, D, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (MHL)
After selecting once already in the opening round, Nashville gets a second crack early. What they’ll do with it is anyone’s guess, but timing is everything with this organization who will watch Yaroslav Askarov take over the reins soon, and for years to come in net. After shipping Mattias Ekholm out of town, perhaps the Predators will use this pick acquired in exchange for a top defender to draft another.
The problem is, following Sandin-Pellikka, Reinbacher, and Gulyayev, there’s no clear answer to who is a first-rounder and who isn't. Dmitri Simashev is perhaps the next closest thing to a sure-fire future NHL blueliner. He’s a massive 6-foot-4 shutdown defender, but his ability to transport the puck hints that, as he develops, there is also offensive potential there.
21. Colorado - Gavin Brindley, RW, Michigan (NCAA)
Already in the NCAA with the University of Michigan, Brindley is a step ahead of the development curve. He doesn’t look like his elite teammate Adam Fantilli, but the attributes he brings to the ice, including playing with pace, forcing turnovers, and seemingly always being in the play, will lend well to a team like the Avalanche who could infuse Brindley to their roster as an affordable depth option before giving him offensive space to excel.
22. Minnesota - Calum Ritchie, C, Oshawa (OHL)
Calum Ritchie bolsters Minnesota’s future down the middle, and although he may go off the board much earlier, Minnesota needs to take the best player available to help their future cap woes on a friendly entry-level deal. Ritchie plays a two-way game that would look nice on the third line, with top-six scoring potential. He’s big, he can score, and he looks like one of the safer bets in the middle of the first round.
23. Seattle - Matthew Wood, RW, Connecticut (NCAA)
With Matty Beniers and Shane Wright in the system, it probably doesn’t make sense to go back to the middle. Wood is a big winger with a thundering shot. Within his 6-foot-4 frame, he’s got exceptionally soft hands. Playing with UConn in the NCAA this season, Wood is closer to NHL ready than many prospects in this draft. He could step into a third-line role following next season and look fine. At the same time, if one of the first-round defenders slip, GM Ron Francis should pounce as they have less depth at the position.
I'm a surprised that Matthew Wood isn't getting more buzz as a top prospect for the 2023 draft
Not only is he the ONLY 2005-born player in the NCAA, he's also scoring near a point-per-game, which hasn't happened for a 17/18 year-old since Jonathan Toews
Raw, but awesome upside pic.twitter.com/xKsFPa4gmo
— Derek Neumeier (@Derek_N_NHL) February 27, 2023
24. New York Rangers - Lukas Dragicevic, D, Tri-City (WHL)
What the Rangers want, traditionally, the Rangers get. So to say there is any distinct “need” in their organization would be an overstatement, but the blueline is a point where New York could benefit from adding. Dragicevic is a 6-foot-2 right-shot defender who can activate from the back end, and will figure into future powerplay plans. Actually defending is a point of concern, but he has the tools to do it.
25. Columbus (via Los Angeles) - Quentin Musty, LW, Sudbury (OHL)
Almost certain to land Bedard or Fantilli with their opening pick, shifting to the wing for their second pick of round one brings Musty into play. Some people question Musty, as he sometimes seems single minded with the puck, but he’s powerful, drives the net, and at one point in the evaluation cycle, was considered a top-10 pick. Long term, particularly in a burgeoning Columbus schema, he could still achieve that potential.
26. Chicago (via Tampa Bay) - Bradley Nadeau, C/W, Penticton (BCHL)
Saying goodbye to generational players, Chicago is all-in for a long-term rebuild. Taking a swing at one of the more skilled players in this draft with a longer timeline for arrival makes sense in pacing their build. It almost seemed unfair to watch Nadeau dart in and out of the competition this year in the BCHL before finishing with pinpoint accuracy. Any team selecting Nadeau knows there’s a fixed development path at the University of Maine. He’s a few years off, but has a unique skill package.
27. St. Louis (via Toronto) - Nate Danielson, C, Brandon (WHL)
Danielson’s game is so refined you almost forget how good he actually is. There is very little flash to Danielson, but he’s capable everywhere on the ice — whether he’s manufacturing offensive chances or providing pressure on the backcheck and in his own zone. He projects as a player who will quietly advance into a top-nine role and contribute without much fanfare, but could be a very successful NHLer.
28. San Jose (via New Jersey) - Jayden Perron, RW, Chicago (USHL)
It’s hard to imagine whoever this pick becomes ever challenging to replace Timo Meier. With that in mind, taking a crack at a higher ceiling prospect like Jayden Perron is worth the risk. He’s an elite passer who effectively manipulates passing and shooting lanes both with his skating and his hands. Headed to the University of North Dakota, San Jose can be patient with Perron who has top six potential. He’s undersized and has excelled on a strong USHL team, so there’s no guarantee his transition to the NCAA will be smooth, but with patience, he has high-level potential.
29. St. Louis (via Dallas) - Samuel Honzek, C/W, Vancouver (WHL)
It would not be surprising to see St. Louis grab a defender or goaltender with this selection, even if they believe better players are on the board. Staying with the best available, Samuel Honzek, who has been climbing boards with his consistent scoring — wrapped into a 6-foot-4 package — looks like a keeper. As he fills out that frame, his skating and hands will become even more dangerous when coupled with added strength.
30. Carolina - Alex Ciernik, W, Södertälje (J20 Nationell)
Carolina is in contention now, but their core will soon need an infusion of young talent. Alex Ciernik, a blazing skater with offensive upside who could play a checking-line role as a penalty killer — or as he continues to progress could find his way higher into the lineup — is a versatile option. He’s an intelligent player coming out of an ever-improving pool of Slovakian players.
31. Vegas - Koehn Ziemmer, RW, Prince George (WHL)
Physically mature, Ziemmer is a goal-scorer’s goal-scorer. My initial thought is he’s a second-round pick, but within the depth of this draft, picks 25-55 are almost interchangeable based on team needs and wants. Ziemmer has remained one of the top pure scorers in this draft, with a heavy shot, mixed with the ability to explode and beat defenders one-on-one. At some point, Vegas needs to look at affordable, homegrown top-six options, and Ziemmer could become that down the line.
32. Toronto (via Boston) - Charlie Stramel, C/W, Wisconsin (NCAA)
There’s a reason many consider Matthew Knies untouchable in the Leafs organization, and it’s due to the attributes he brings and brand of hockey he plays that the Leafs have struggled to find at the NHL level. With that in mind, adding Charlie Stramel, a 6-foot-3 University of Wisconsin forward who isn’t afraid to play physically, and takes pucks straight to the middle of the ice, is a perfect fit in Toronto. He can be expedited to the NHL as a bottom-six forward who adds physical energy to the game, keeping the pace high while Toronto’s stars are resting.
Other first-round candidates: Kasper Halttunen, Daniil But, Luca Pinelli, Noah Dower Nilsson, Ethan Gauthier, Luca Cagnoni, William Whitelaw, Michael Hrabal.