Draft Order NHL: 2023 NHL Draft Order: Round 1: 1. Chicago Blackhawks: 26-49-7 59 points, 2. Anaheim Ducks: 23-47-12 58 points, 3. Columbus Blue Jackets: 25-48-9 58 points, 4. San Jose Sharks: 22-44-16 60 points, 5. Montreal Canadiens: 31-45-6 68 points, 6. Arizona Coyotes: 28-40-14 70 points, 7. Philadelphia Flyers: 31-38-13 75 points, 8. Washington Capitals: 35-37-10 80 points, 9. Detroit Red Wings: 35-37-10 80 points, 10. St. Louis Blues: 37-38-7 81 points, 11. Vancouver Canucks: 38-37-7 83 points, 12. Arizona Coyotes (from Ottawa Senators): 39-35-8 86 points, 13. Buffalo Sabres: 42-33-7 91 points, 14. Pittsburgh Penguins: 40-31-11 91 points, 15. Nashville Predators: 42-32-8 92 points, 16. Calgary Flames: 38-27-17 93 points, 17. Detroit Red Wings (from New York Islanders): 42-31-9 93 points, 18. Winnipeg Jets: 46-33-3 95 points, 19. Chicago Blackhawks (from Tampa Bay Lightning): 46-30-6 98 points, 20. Seattle Kraken: 46-28-8 100 points, 21. Minnesota Wild: 46-25-11 103 points, 22. Philadelphia Flyers (from Los Angeles Kings): 47-25-10 104 points, 23. New York Rangers: 47-22-13 107 points, 24. Nashville Predators (from Edmonton Oilers): 50-23-9 109 points, 25. St. Louis Blues (from Toronto Maple Leafs): 50-21-11 111 points, 26. San Jose Sharks (from New Jersey Devils): 52-22-8 112 points, 27. Colorado Avalanche: 51-24-7 109 points, 28. Toronto Maple Leafs (from Boston Bruins): 65-12-5 135 points, 29. St. Louis Blues (from Dallas Stars): 47-21-14 108 points, 30. Carolina Hurricanes: 52-21-9 113 points, 31. Colorado Avalanche (from Florida Panthers): 42-32-8 92 points, 32. Vegas Golden Knights: 51-22-9 111 points















2023 NHL Mock Draft: Final Mock 7 Rounds




Round 1 Picks 1-16



The 2023 NHL Entry Draft is a forward heavy draft. Three centers headline the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.



Chris Ransom follow @DraftUtopia Last Updated: June 28, 2023.


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

    Chicago traded Patrick Kane, a player they drafted first overall back in 2007 to the New York Rangers at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline. Chicago Blackhawks team captain Jonathan Toews is not coming back next year even though Chicago could bring him back as an unrestricted Free Agent.


    Chicago Blackhawks 2020 first round pick Lukas Reichel, who was drafted seventeenth overall that year finally developed enough to earn a first line winger role on the Chicago Blackhawks this season. Chicago had a league worst 202 goals scored in the 2022-2023 NHL Season and needs Connor Bedard in the worst way possible with their defenders having talent despite being extremely inconsistent along with both their starting and backup goalie in their thirties.


    Only three centers had back-to-back seasons with 100 points in junior hockey the last twenty years. Those three centers are Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby who was drafted first overall in 2005, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid who was drafted first overall ten years after Crosby in 2015, and Regina Pats center Connor Bedard. Bedard scored his 100th point in the WHL this season on the same exact day McDavid reached 100 points in the NHL about a back in Febuary ago.


    The 5-9 185 lb Connor Bedard had 12 goals, 16 assists, 28 points, and a +9 +/- ratio while winning WHL rookie of the year in 2020-2021. Connor Bedard had 51 goals, 49 assists, and 100 points in 62 games with the Regina Pats in 2021-2022. Connor Bedard had 71 goals, 72 assists, and 143 points in 2022-2023. Bedard was kept scoreless in the 2023 CHL Prospects Game. Connor Bedard had 10 goals, 10 assists, and 20 points in 7 games with the Regina Pats in the opening round of the 2023 WHL Playoffs.


    Connor Bedard was the first WHL player in history to be granted exceptional status before the Regina Pats drafted him first overall in the 2020 WHL Draft. which allowed Bedard play junior hockey at the age of 15 rather than the normal age where most junior hockey players start at age 16. You can also read about other players from the 2020 WHL Draft besides Bedard by clicking that link. Sidney Crosby was denied exceptional status in Canada prior to his draft year in 2005 during the NHL Lockout. That led to players like John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, and Connor McDavid being granted exceptional status. As McDavid made the jump to the OHL in 2012 three years before being eligible for the NHL Draft in 2015.


    Connor Bedard has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. He's one of five blue chip prospects in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft as well as the top prospect that headlines this class.


    Connor Bedard is special and his 144 points this year were 24 more points than the 120 points McDavid posted in his draft year leading up to the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Connor Bedard got a higher rating than Connor McDavid as an 18-year-old on EA Sports NHL Videogame franchise too. Connor Bedard was the first CHL player to win the David Branch Player of the Year, Top Scorer Award, and Top Draft Prospect Award in the same season.


    Chicago probably needs Bedard more than any other team in the NHL if the Blackhawks would prefer a two year rebuild compared to a five year rebuild. Chicago's future first line will feature Lukas Reichel as the first line left winger, Connor Bedard as the first line center, and Frank Nazar a player Chicago drafted at right winger thirteenth overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft to be the future first line right winger. A line with Reichel, Bedard, and Nazar will do a lot of damage down the road, but Nazar is returning to Michigan after missing most of this freshman season recovering from hip surgery and Taylor Raddish is a good stop gap until Nazar has enough experience to make the jump from the NCAA to the NHL.


    Chicago will have Taylor Hall as their first line left winger, Connor Bedard as their first line center, and Lukas Reichel as their first line right winger.


    Chicago will have Tyler Johnson as their second line left winger. Andreas Athanasiou led Chicago with 20 goals, 20 assists, and 40 points meaning he will be the second line center behind Connor Bedard. It also wouldn't surprise me if he was Chicago's captain for a year or two before the Blackhawks make Bedard their permanent captain. Jason Dickinson will be Chicago's second line right winger. It's not a great core, but Athanasiou is a good two year stop gap before Colton Dach or a future first round pick gets that role down the road. Nick Foligno gives the Chicago Blackhawks a short-term answer as the third line left winger with Taylor Raddysh as their third line right winger.


    Chicago needs Seth Jones and Caleb Jones the two sons of Popeye Jones to improve defensively. Connor Timmins anchors the second line, but Alex Vlasic, a defender with first line potential did enough with the Rockford IceHogs to earn a promotion to the NHL where he's now on Chicago's second line. Third line defender Nikita Zaitsev has a no movement clause just like Seth Jones and Connor Timmins who anchor the first and second lines of the blue line. Once Kevin Korchinski, a defender Chicago drafted seventh overall gets promoted to the NHL, Chicago should have their core defenders on all three lines to take pressure off of the offense. I think there's a chance Kevin Korchinski gets a 8 game trial on Chicago at the very worst next season. Goalie Drew Commesso signed his rookie contract and will be in the AHL next season, but Chicago will need a stop gap until he develops.


    Chicago is getting a superstar and blue chip player with Connor Bedard. Bedard will consistently get 100 points in the NHL as long as he's healthy just like Connor McDavid currently does. The downside is Chicago may not be a playoff team until Kevin Korchinski, Frank Nazar, and Drew Commesso make the NHL since Chicago has so many holes on offense outside of Bedard and Reichel. Luckily, Chicago has up to $41-million in cap space that the Chicago Blackhawks can spend in Free Agency.


    Connor Bedard's floor for player comparisons is Connor McDavid. His ceiling is Sidney Crosby. Whether Connor Bedard becomes as good as either player remains to be seen.


  2. Anaheim Ducks: Adam Fantilli, C, Michigan

    Anaheim should get a goal scoring winger after having 206 goals which was the second fewest with only Chicago getting fewer goals. Adam Fantilli the consensus second best player in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft is versatile enough to play left wing, center, or right wing with his versatility. Adam Fantilli also has Jack Eichel's floor and Nate MacKinnon's ceiling if you're looking for a player comparison for Adam Fantilli here.


    Anaheim has drafted good centers like Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish in the top 10 of the 2019 and 2021 NHL Entry Drafts. Anaheim added another defenseman in Pavel Mintyukov before drafting a third center in Nathan Gaucher during the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Anaheim adds another center in Adam Fantilli with the second overall pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.


    Adam Fantilli has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. He's one of five blue chip prospects in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft as well as the consensus top prospect not named Connor Bedard. In most draft years he would be in discussion to be the first overall pick, but he's in the same draft year as Connor Bedard.


    The Anaheim Ducks get the second of five blue chip players in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft here with Adam Fantilli. Adam Fantilli is good enough to challenge Trevor Zegras to be Anaheim's first line center, but it's more likely that Fantilli starts out as a second line center even though the potential to be the Anaheim Ducks first line center down the road is certainly there.


    The 6-2 195 lb Adam Fantilli had 30 goals, 35 assists, and 65 points in 2022-2023. Adam Fantilli was the first true freshman since Jack Eichel to win the Hobey Baker Award as a true freshman at Michigan. Anaheim Ducks first line center Trevor Zegras also had 65 points in 2021-2022 with the Ducks after being drafted ninth overall by the Anaheim Ducks in the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The 2023 NHL Entry Draft already looks similar to the 2015 NHL Entry Draft when Connor McDavid went first overall before Hobey Baker Award Winner Jack Eichel went second overall that year. The 2023 NHL Entry Draft looks very similar to the 2015 NHL Entry Draft with Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli headlining this draft class.


    Adam Fantilli was supposed to go first overall in the 2020 OHL Draft., but fell in the OHL Draft after reports surfaced that Adam Fantilli wanted to play with his older brother on the Chicago Steel in the USHL. Chicago ended up tendering Adam Fantilli by giving up a first round pick in the 2020 USHL Draft.


    Fantilli is bigger than Bedard. Fantilli turned down the OHL in Canada to play in the USHL with the Chicago Steel in the USA.


    The Chicago Steel had a stacked first line in 2020-2021 with Adam Fantillli as the first line left winger, Sean Farrell as the first line center, and Matthew Coronato as the first line right winger. Adam Fantilli only had 18 goals, 18 assists, 36 points, and a +17 +/- ratio during the regular season. Adam Fantilli had 8 goals, 1 assist, and 9 points in 8 games during the 2021 USHL Playoffs winning Clark Cup Playoffs MVP as a rookie with the Chicago Steel.


    Adam Fantilli improved his point total from 36 in his first year with the Steel in 2020-2021 to having 37 goals, 37 assists, and 74 points in his final season with the Chicago Steel in 2021-2022 prior to enrolling at Michigan where he had 30 goals, 35 assists, and 65 points while leading Michigan to a 2023 Frozen Four appearance in 2022-2023.


    Anaheim should still have Adam Henrique as their first line left winger, Trevor Zegras as their first line center, and Troy Terry as the first line right winger. Anaheim will have Max Jones as their second line left winger, Adam Fantilli as their second line center, and Frank Vatrano as their second line right winger. Mason McTavish did well as a second line center last year, but will either be a second line left winger or third line center moving forward.


    Anaheim will have Cam Fowler and Jamie Drysdale as their first line defenders as both Fowler and Drysdale are capable of anchoring the blue line. Simon Benoit and Drew Helleson will play on the second line of Anaheim's blue line. Helleson was Colorado's 2019 second round pick, but got sent to Anaheim in the trade that sent Josh Manson to Colorado. Colton White will anchor Anaheim's third line entering the final year of his contract before becoming a UFA next season in 2024-2025 and Jackson LaCombe, Anaheim's 2019 second round draft pick is the final defenseman on this roster. Once Colton White's contract is up, Anaheim can bring up Pavel Mintyukov, the defenseman that the Anaheim Ducks drafted tenth overall to replace Colton White. Anaheim has good short-term and long-term stability to compliment their core forwards.


    John Gibson should be back as the starting goalie for the Anaheim Ducks. Gibson remains under contract with the Ducks for four more years despite speculation about him getting traded. With all the pieces the Ducks are going to have, I don't see Anaheim blowing up their roster to move starting goalie John Gibson.


    Anaheim has a very bright future. The Anaheim Ducks just need to hire a head coach that will put everything together.



  3. Columbus Blue Jackets: Leo Carlsson, C, Orebro HK (Elitserien)

    The first two picks in the 2023 NHL Draft are pretty much locked in with Connor Bedard to Chicago and Adam Fantilli to Anaheim. Columbus has narrowed their options at 3 down to 7 players. John Davidson, President Of Hockey Operations for the Columbus Blue Jackets came out and said that Columbus is finally getting their first line center at three. Right now, Leo Carlsson is the favorite to go third overall with Will Smith from the United States National Team Developmental Program in the USHL also drawing serious consideration at three.


    The Columbus Blue Jackets finally get their first line center in Orebro HK center Leo Carlsson as the Columbus Blue Jackets need a first line center in the worst way possible. Leo Carlsson has gotten compared to Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov, Vancouver Canucks first line center Elias Petersson, and Pittsburgh Penguins second line center Evgeni Malkin having Petersson's floor and Malkin's ceiling as far as player comparisons go. I think the Aleksander Barkov comparison is too unrealstic for me, but Leo Carlsson is versatile enough to play all three forward roles like Mitch Marner or Mikko Rantanen.


    The 6-3 198 lb Leo Carlsson is versatile enough to play left wing, center, and right wing with his versatility. Leo Carlsson played as a first line left winger on Orebro HK in the SHL once known as Elitserien. He also played a first line center role when watching him on film. Leo Carlsson played first line center with Alexander Nylander the seventh pick in the 2020 NHL Draft as his first line left winger and Lucas Raymond as his first line right winger in the World Junior Championships. Leo Carlsson also surpassed Nicklas Backstrom as the youngest player to play for Sweden in the World Junior Championships. Leo Carlsson had 10 goals, 15 assists, and 25 points with Orebro HK in 2022-2023.


    Leo Carlsson has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. He's one of five blue chip prospects in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft and the favorite to go third overall behind Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli.


    Leo Carlsson has the playmaking and goal scoring that you want in both a center and a winger. TSN's Bob McKenzie called Carlsson a blue chip prospect and you can make an argument for him over Matvei Michkov at 3. NHL Central Scouting ranked Leo Carlsson ahead of Matvei Michkov on their final European rankings.


    Leo Carlsson is under contract with Orebro HK until 2024-2025. I do believe Columbus could buy him out of his contract as early as after the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Unless Columbus wants to continue their rebuild wasting the prime years of Johnny Gaudreau, Patrik Laine, and Zach Werenski it makes no sense not to buy out Leo Carlsson of his current deal. With those star players on Columbus, it's hard to see Columbus doing poorly enough to land center Macklin Celebrini the projected first overall pick in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft or center Michael Misa the projected first overall pick in the 2025 NHL Entry Draft even if Carlsson returned to Orebro HK for the next two seasons. I am going to say Leo Carlsson ends up playing on Columbus right away next season along with the top two picks because of the urgency to assemble a contender with lots of core players still in their prime.


    Columbus would have Johnny Gaudreau at left wing, Leo Carlsson at center, and Patrik Laine at right winger on their first line either in 2023-2024, 2024-2025, or 2025-2026 at the very latest assuming the Blue Jackets don't end up winning one of the next two NHL Draft Lotteries in 2024 or 202 where a center is projected to go first overall. Columbus would have Kent Johnson their fifth overall pick from the 2021 NHL Entry Draft who got promoted from the third line in limited action as a rookie to the second line, Jack Roslovic as the second line center, and Boone Jenner as the second line right winger where Jenner initally excelled early in his NHL career. Having those guys as the top six forwards is a massive improvement over what Columbus currently has now that Cole Sillinger, the twelfth overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft got demoted to the Cleveland Monsters in the AHL.


    Zach Werenski the best defenseman on Columbus suffered a season ending injury very early in the regular season this year after suffering a season ending injury near the end of last year too that was minor compared to this seasons injury Werenski suffered. Columbus traded Vladislav Gavrikov their first line defenseman that complimented Werenski in a contract year to the Los Angeles Kings for the Kings 2023 first round pick, but then traded that pick to the Philadelphia Flyers for Ivan Provorov giving Columbus a first line that features Werenski and Provorov. Columbus also traded for New Jersey Devils defenseman Damon Severson who was projected to be the top unrestricted Free Agent giving up only a third round pick for Severson before giving him an eight year extension to anchor the second line of the Columbus Blue Jackets third line withh Jake Bean complimenting Damon Severson. David Jiricek the sixth overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft will anchor the third line of the Columbus Blue Jackets third line with Adam Boqvist complimenting him on the third line of the Columbus Blue Jackets defense.


    All of these defensemen being injured or not playing along with a lack of a first line center is why Columbus sucked in 2022-2023. That will change next season with the three good lines of defense Columbus has assembeled for next season. If Leo Carlsson makes the Blue Jackets as a first line center as an 18-year-old, then the Blue Jackets will improve enough to exit the bottom ten.


    Columbus could bring Denton Mateychuk, the twelfth overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft to anchor the third line in Columbus after he improved with the Moose Jaw Warriors once he got promoted to team captain. Denton Mateychuk had 64 points with the Moose Jaw Warriors leading up to the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Mateychuk had 65 points in 2022-2023 once he got promoted to team captain. Once David Jiriceck and Denton Mateychuk the two defensemen Columbus drafted in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft make the NHL, this team could finally start competing as long as starting goaltender Elvis Merzlikins stays on Columbus. Elvis currently has a modified no trade clause on his contract and should end up doing a lot better on Columbus .


    Columbus hired Mike Babcock as their head coach. I think Columbus has an incredibly bright future.


  4. San Jose Sharks: Will Smith, C, USNTDP (USHL)

    San Jose hired Mike Grier as their new General Manager. Mike Grier didn't say a word when being asked about Russian right winger Matvei Michkov on SKA Saint Petersburg whose the best player on the board at 4. Mike Grier sounded really eager when talking about Will Smith. Grier also mentioned that Will Grier went to the same High School as his oldest son.


    Will Smith is the sixth best player on my board, and while I see him as a guy who has All Star potential, I don't see a blue chip prospect with Will Smith if San Jose opts to draft him at 4. Will Smith is a guy who has the floor of Patrice Bergeron and the ceiling of Jack Hughes when I think of player comparisons for Will Smith. He's got the tools to be a first line center in the NHL, but needs to get stronger.


    The 5-11 180 lb Will Smith had 51 goals, 76 assists, and 127 points in 60 games in 2022-2023 with the US-Under 18 Team. Will Smith had 15 goals, 27 assists, 42 points, and a +18 +/- ratio with the United States National Team Developmental Program in 20 USHL games. Will Smith was the first line center with both the US-Under 18 Team and the United States National Team Developmental Program that plays in the USHL.


    Will Smith has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. While Will Smith checks off every box you want a blue chip player to check off, some believe his teammate Oliver Moore is a better center despite playing on the second line. Will Smith also got knocked on his ass three times in the first six minutes against the Youngstown Phantoms in a USHL game meaning he needs to add 10 to 15 lbs of muscle when he goes to Boston College before making the jump to teh NHL. The UNSTDP won that game 3-2 in overtime with Will Smith getting a 1 goal, 0 assists, 1 point, and a +2 +/- ratio.


    San Jose has Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl on their first two lines at center in the NHL. Logan Couture San Jose's 2007 first round pick is under contract for four more years of his eight year contract while Tomas Hertl San Jose's 2012 first round pick is under contract with the Sharks for seven more years after signing an eight year extension last year. This means that Will Smith will be San Jose's third line center unless Tomas Hertl permanently moves to left wing once Will Smith arrives in the NHL since Hertl is versatile enough to play left wing or center.


    San Jose should have Tomas Hertl as their first line left winger, Logan Couture as their first line center, and William Eklund as their first line right winger in 2023-2024. The rest of San Jose's lines will be bad unless Hertl moves to the second line. Will Smith probably won't see the NHL until 2024-2025 or 2025-2026. Will Smith will be a second line center on Boston College behind Cutter Gauthier in 2023-2024. If San Jose wants Will Smith to prove himself as a first line center before giving him an NHL contract, then the earliest he would be in the NHL is 2025-2026 and Smith would either be a second line center if Tomas Hertl plays left wing on the top line or Smith would be a third line center if Couture and Hertl are the top two centers.


    San Jose has Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson on their blue line anchoring the blue line. Henry Thrun could end up complimenting Karlsson on the top line next year. Right now Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture, William Ekblad, Erik Karlsson, and Henry Thrun are the five impact players with one superstar in Erik Karlsson and one star in Logan Couture. San Jose needs more bodies at both forward and defense to compliment those players as well as a goalie. Until the Sharks figure that out, the San Jose Sharks will remain in a rebuild.


    Other top prospects outside of those five Shakir Mukhamadullin the New Jersey Devils 2020 first round pick at defenseman who was traded to San Jose in the Timo Meier trade. Thomas Bordeleau a 2020 second round pick has a chance to be a fourth line center if San Jose drafts a center at 4 and could be a third line center if San Jose passes on a center at four. Martin Kaut the sixteenth pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft that the Colorado Avalanche drafted is now a prospect for the San Jose Sharks, but I wasn't high on him. San Jose got Kaut when trading Ryan Merkley to Colorado at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline. Filip Bystead was San Jose's 2022 first round pick, but I'm not confident in his development since he only had 2 points against men in the SHL.



  5. Montreal Canadiens: Ryan Leonard, RW, USNTDP (USHL)

    Montreal will likely take Ryan Leonard or Zach Benson at 5 if the top four is Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson, and Will Smith since I doubt they draft the best player in Matvei Michkov at 5 with him in the KHL for three more years. I think Zach Benson is a blue chip prospect, but I think Montreal goes for Ryan Leonard because he's a guy that one of Montreal's USHL scout raved about at the World Junior Championships this year leading up to teh 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Cole Caufield who just got an eight year extension after being the Montreal Canadiens 2019 first round pick was also a memeber of the United States National Team Developmental Program in the USHL prior to the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, so Montreal's USHL scout probably has some input after helping numerous GMs in Montreal hit big time on Caufield who went fifteenth back in 2019.


    The three players Montreal is being rumored to taking at 5 are Will Smith whose been selected by San Jose, Ryan Leonard, and David Reinbacher the top defenseman in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. I think Will Smith is Montreal's top guy at 5, but I believe Mike Grier takes Smith at 4 with Leonard as plan B assuming the top three of Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, and Leo Carlsson at 5.


    Montreal is getting a player that has Matthew Tkachuk's floor and Patrick Kane's ceiling with Ryan Leonard. Also, Ryan Leonard would be a second line right winger behind Cole Caufield.


    Ryan Leonard has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. While Ryan Leonard checks off every box you want a blue chip player to check off, you want to see him post more points. He does have All Star potential like Will Smith despite not being a blue chip prospect.


    The 5-11 190 lb Ryan Leonard had 51 goals, 43 assists, and 94 points in 57 games in 2022-2023 with the US-Under 18 Team. Ryan Leonard had 11 goals, 9 assists, 20 points, and a +20 +/- ratio with the United States National Team Developmental Program in 17 USHL games. Ryan Leonard was the first line center with both the US-Under 18 Team and the United States National Team Developmental Program that plays in the USHL.


    Ryan Leonard is versatile enough to play right wing, center, or left wing with his versatility. Ryan Leonard is versatile enough to play all three forwrad roles, but right wing is the position that suits him best.


    Ryan Leonard will probably be a first line right winger right away next season. I won't be surprised if Ryan Leonard gets to the NHL before Will Smith because if Leonard starts out on the first line while Will Smith plays on Boston College's second line, it lowers the learning curve for Ryan Leonard giving him more time to develop while improving his point total at Boston College.


    Montreal will have Mike Hoffman as their first line left winger, Nick Suzuki as their first line center, and Cole Caufield as their first line right winger in 2023-2024. Juraj Slafkovsky will be the second line left winger with Kirby Dach as the second line center. Slafkovsky, the first pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft will move up to the first line in 2024-2025 once Mike Hoffman's contract expires. I'm also willing to bet Ryan Leonard is on Montreal by this point as a second line right winger.


  6. Arizona Coyotes: Zach Benson, LW, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)

    Arizona can draft one of two blue chip players here at 6 in Matvei Michkov or Zach Benson. I feel like Arizona goes for Zach Benson at 6 because of the contract complications with Matvei Michkov's KHL contract.


    Arizona will have Nick Schmaltz as their first line left winger, Barrett Hayton will be the first line center for one more year with Logan Cooley returning to Minnesota, and Clayton Keller will be the first line right winger on the Arizona Coyotes next season in 2023-2024 after Arizona drafted Logan Cooley third overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.


    Matias Maccelli will be Arizona's line 2 left winger with no quality second line center until Barrett Hayton gets demoted to this line once Logan Cooley arrives, and Lawson Crouse as the line 2 right winger. Arizona has their top six forwards. It's also possible that Logan Cooley is on this line if Barrett Hayton impresses again next season.


    Arizona's third line could feature Zach Benson as the third line left winger, Connor Geekie the eleventh overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft as the third line center, and Dylan Guenther, Arizona's 2021 first round pick that was selected ninth overall as the third line right winger. With those nine players, the Arizona Coyotes offense might finally have an identity assuming everyone stays healthy while Schmaltz, Maccelli, Hayton, and Crouse continue their level of play. Benson is the fourth of five players that I'm projectin to make the NHL right away at the age of 18.


    Zach Benson was Winnipeg's 2020 first round pick in the 2020 WHL Draft. He played with Matthew Savoie and Connor Geekie who were drafted first and second overall in the 2019 WHL Draft. Savoie and Geekie were both picked in the top eleven of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. The crazy thing is Benson played on the first line and second line of the Winnipeg Ice complimenting both centers.


    The 5-9 170 lb Zach Benson versatile enough to play left wing, center, and right wing with his versatility. He can line up everywhere at forward and played on the first line with the Winnipeg Ice at left winger. You can argue that Zach Benson is the most versatile forward in the top six overall.


    Zach Benson has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. He's one of five blue chip prospects in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.


    Zach Benson had 25 goals, 38 assists, and 63 points in 2021-2022 during his rookie season in the WHL. Zach Benson had 9 goals, 14 assists, and 23 points during the 2022 WHL Playoffs. Benson broke out this season as Zach Benson had 36 goals, 62 assists, and 98 points in 2022-2023. Zach Benson has 7 goals, 10 assists, and 17 points in the 2023 WHL Playoffs.


    Outside of height and improving his face off percentage from 38.5% there are no weaknesses in Zach Benson's game. I see a player with Evander Kane's floor and Patrick Marleau's ceiling. He's fifth overall on my big board and a steal with the sixth overall pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.



  7. Philadelphia Flyers: Matvei Michkov, RW, SKA Saint Petersburg (KHL)

    Philadelphia gets my fourth best player in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft at seven with Matvei Michkov because his KHL contract requires him to remain on SKA Saint Petersburg in the KHL until 2026. Washington is the one team I can see trying to buy out his contract right away. Philadelphia would patiently wait until 2026, but would have their first line right winger of the future by that time ready to play in the NHL. If Arizona took Michkov he could exercise his fourth and fifth year options with SKA Saint Petersburg which keep him in the KHL until 2028-2029 if he excersises those options. That's the biggest reason why Matvei Michkov fell to seven in this mock despite being the fourth best overall player on my board in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.


    The 5-10 148 lb Matvei Michkov had 10 goals, 4 assists, and 14 points in the MHL. Matvei Michkov had 9 goals, 11 assists, and 20 points in the KHL in 2022-2023 as well. Matvei Michkov passes like Nikita Kucherov and shoots like Alexander Ovechkin. Coincidentally, he's got Kucherov's floor and Ovechkin's ceiling as a first line right winger in the NHL.


    Matvei Michkov has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. He's one of five blue chip prospects in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft and the final blue chip prospect left on the board making him an ideal candidate to be selected seventh overall by the Philadelphia Flyers.


  8. Washington Capitals: Dalibor Dvorsky, C, AIK IF (Elitserien)

    Washington drafts a center with potential to be a first line center down the road. Dalibor Dvorsky is only under contract with AIK IF for one more season. Then he can sign his NHL entry level deal in 2024-2025.


    The 6-1 200 lb Dalibor Dvorsky is versatile enough to play left wing, center, or right wing. His main position is center. Dalibor Dvorsky had 6 goals, 8 assists, and 14 points with AIK IF in 2022-2023. He entered the season as a potential top 5 pick, but now looks more like a top 10 pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.


    Dalibor Dvorsky has Mika Zibanejad's floor and Nicklas Backstrom's ceiling. It's possible that Washington develops Dvorsky for one or two years and then brings him up to the NHL as a potential replacement to Backstrom when his contract expires.


    Dalibor Dvorsky has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. He's great in every category as far as offense, defense, and skating goes, but not elite or dominant in any category.


    Washington will have Alexander Ovechkin as their first line left winger, Nicklas Backstrom as their first line center, and T.J. Oshie as their first line right winger next year. Washington will have Sonny Milano as their second line left winger, Dylan trome as their second line center, and Tom Wilson as their second line right winger. It's possible that Ivan Miroshnichenko is Washington's third line left winger next season after signing his entry level deal with the Washington Capitals as Washington's 2022 first round pick. Evgeny Kuznetsov is the third line center and Nic Dowd is the fourth line center next season.


    Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Nic Dowd are all Free Agents in 2025. I think Dalibor Dvorsky plays on AIK IF in 2023-2024. He then goes to the Hershey Bears in the AHL in 2024-2025. Then he will end up replacing either Backstrom, Kuznetsov, or Dowd in 2025 when their contracts expire as a member of the Washington Capitals in 2025-2026 once Dalibor Dvorsky arrives in the NHL unless Washington starts Dalibor Dvorsky out as a winger in 2024-2025.



  9. Detroit Red Wings: Colby Barlow, LW, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)

    Detroit traded first line left winger Tyler Bertuzzi. Detroit now has to go back to the drawing board and get a first line left winger to compliment first line center Dylan Larkin and first line right winger Lucas Raymond in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. The good news for Detroit Red Wings General Manager Steve Yzerman can draft preseason top 10 pick Colby Barlow or Kelowna Rockets first line left winger Andrew Kristall. Either player would be a major asset for the Detroit Red Wings with the ninth overall pick. Colby Barlow checks off more boxes than Andrew Cristall making him the pick for the Detroit Red Wings. Cristall is special offensively, but is a project when it comes to defending and skating. That's the biggest reason I went with Colby Barlow at 9.


    The 6-0 195 lb Colby Barlow is a goal scoring sniper that passes well, defends well, and skates well. Colby Barlow was Owen Sound Attack's first round pick that was drafted eighth overall in the 2021 OHL Draft.


    Colby Barlow has the floor of Taylor Hall and the ceiling of Gabriel Landeskog. Colby Barlow is the best left winger that I've seen defend plays since Gabriel Landeskog was in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Kitchener Rangers left winger Gabriel Landeksog was praised for his defense before the Colorado Avalanche drafted Gabriel Landeskog second overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Barlow's defensive ability for a left winger is quite exceptional.


    Colby Barlow has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. Colby Barlow isn't a blue chip prospect, but he's got All Star traits as well as All Star potential. Colby Barlow really didn't showcase any glaring weaknesses when I saw him on tape. You can make an argument that Colby Barlow should be ranked as high as the sixth best prospect and as low as the tenth best prospect in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.


    Colby Barlow had 30 goals, 17 assists, and 47 points as a rookie with 5 goals, 1 assist, and 6 points in 7 OHL Playoff games as a rookie during the 2021-2022 OHL Season. That promising season had Barlow locked into the top 10 heading into his second season. Barlow has only continued to improve with 46 goals, 33 assists, and 79 points in 2022-2023 heading into the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Barlow also had 3 goals and 3 points in 4 games during the 2023 OHL Playoffs.


    Colby Barlow is a surprise dark horse candidate to make the NHL right away as an 18 year old. I think the top three picks in this draft Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, and Leo Carlsson all make the NHL next season. Zach Benson is my fourth player that could make the NHL right away. My surprise candidate to make the NHL right out of the gate at the age of 18 is Colby Barlow. If Barlow does get picked by Detroit and cracks their roster as an 18-year-old, then the Detroit Red Wings have a great chance to go to the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Derek Lalonde's second year as Detroit's head coach.


    Detroit has Colby Barlow who I mocked right here at nine as a first line left winger as my dark horse to make the NHL right away at the age of 18 after being drafted by Detroit in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, Dylan Larkin their team captain who got an eight year extension as their first line center, and Lucas Raymond as their first line right winger. Detroit would have David Perron as their second line left winger, Andrew Copp as their second line center, and Dominik Kubalik as their second line right winger. Detroit will have Jonatan Berggren as their third line left winger, Joe Veleno as their third line center, and Michael Rasmussen as their third line right winger. Detroit will have Robby Fabbri as their fourth line left winger, Marco Kasper their 2022 first round pick as their fourth line center, and Filip Zadina as their fourth line right winger. That's a solid core of forwards if your core guys can avoid injuries.


    Detroit will have Moritz Seider anchoring the first line of Detroit's defense on the blue line with Jake Walman complimenting Seider on that top line. Ben Chiarot and Olli Maatta will play defense for Detroit on the Red Wings second line of defense. This means that Gustav Lindstrom and Simon Edvinsson, Detroit's 2021 first round pick who has yet to play in the NHL will play on Detroit's third line next season.


    Right now Ville Husso is the starting goalie. Backup goalie is a short-term need for 1-2 years before Detroit promotes 2021 first round pick Sebatian Cossa to the NHL. Cossa got demoted from the AHL on the Grand Rapids Griffins to the ECHL, but made tremendous progress after getting settled in to the ECHL.


  10. St. Louis Blues: Oliver Moore, C, USNTDP (USHL)

    St. Louis traded Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O'Reilly away for first round picks. However, St. Louis may land a viable replacement to Ryan O'Reilly with this tenth overall pick as the one top 10 player still on my board is Oliver Moore.


    Oliver Moore has the floor of Trevor Zegras and the ceiling of Dylan Larkin. This makes him a viable replacement ot Ryan O'Reilly at ten. He told an NHL reporter that the Spongebob ride at the Mall Of America was his favorite ride at the Mall Of America. Take this with a grain of salt because Moore's talent outweighs the type of rides he enjoys at Mall Of America which is why I'm not concerned with what Moore does off the ice.


    The 5-11 195 lb Oliver Moore had 31 goals, 44 assists, and 75 points in 61 games with the US-Under 18 Team. Oliver Moore had 8 goals, 17 assists, and 25 points in 23 USHL games. Oliver Moore will be a second line center on Minnesota behind Logan Cooley. Moore might spend two years at Minnesota one as the second line center and one as the first line center before signing his rookie deal with the St. Louis Blues. There's a chance Oliver Moore is on the same line as St. Louis Blues 2022 first round pick Jimmy Snuggerud.


    Oliver Moore has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. Oliver Moore isn't a blue chip prospect, but he's got All Star potential. Oliver Moore needs to improve his stick handling and get stronger. He could be a member of the St. Louis Blues by 2025 if he does these two things during his two seasons of College at Minnesota.


    The reality is Zachary Bolduc could end up being Ryan O'Reilly's replacement following two straight seasons of 99 and 110 points after being drafted by the Blues in the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft while Oliver Moore replaces Pavel Buchnevich once Buchnevich's contract expires in 2025-2026. St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong said Zachary Bolduc will have an opportunity to compete for an NHL roster spot this Fall. This would make Bolduc and Moore the Blues top two centers then, if both guys pan out. That's the earliest I see the Blues contending again, but the Blues contending comes down to how Bolduc and Moore develop.



  11. Vancouver Canucks: Andrew Cristall, LW, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

    The Vancouver Canucks have Phillip di Guiseppe as their first line left winger, Elias Petersson as their first line center as Petersson the fifth overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft finally put together a 100 point regular season, and J.T. Miller as their first line right winger assuming that nobody wants to trade for J.T. Miller before July 1st. The best player on the board here is Andrew Cristall who I plan on mocking to Vancouver at eleven and see him as an upgrade over Phillip di Guiseppe once Phillip di Guiseppe's contract expires in 2025 because Cristall is special offensively to the point where he can play on the first line once he gets to the NHL, but needs to improve his defense and skating in the WHL for two more seasons while Phillip di Guiseppe plays out his contract.


    Vancouver has Andrei Kuzmenko as their second line left winger despite the fact that Kuzmenko led Vancouver's left wingers in points, Sheldon Dries is Vancouver's second line center in a contract year, and Connor Garland is now the Canucks second line right winger because he did a better job defensively than Brock Boeser despite getting paid less.


    Vancouver has Dakota Joshua as a third line left winger in a contract year, Nils Ahman Vancouver's third line center will be an RFA, and Brock Boeser Vancouver's 2015 first round pick got demoted to the Canucks third line after finishing fifth on the Canucks in points because his +/- ratio was -20 this past season. I do believe Jonathan Lekkerimaki, Vancouver's 2022 first round pick, who I had graded in the top 10 of last years NHL Draft displays a much higher ceiling than Conor Garland or Brock Boeser down the road since Boeser's contract is up in 2025 while Garland's deal expires in 2026. However, Lekkerimaki agreed to a loan with Orebro HK next season in the SHL despite signing his NHL entry level contract with the Vancouver Canucks. My guess is Lekkerimaki will go to the Abbostford Canucks in 2024 which happens to be Vancouver's AHL team before arriving on the Canucks roster at some point in 2025.


    Vancouver has Anthony Beaulivier as a fourth line left winger in a contract year, Jack Studnicka as their fourth line center in a contract year before he becomes an RFA, and Ilya Mikheyev as their fourth line right winger. Vancouver also has Tanner Beason as a fifth left winger for depth in a contract year and Vasiliy Podkolzin their 2019 first round pick for insurance at right wing for one more season before he becomes an RFA in 2024. Vancouver also has 2019 second round pick Nils Hoglander who got demoted to the AHL and Nils Hoglander is now an RFA.


    Vancouver has Quinn Hughes on the blue line, but nobody next to him thanks to buying out Oliver Ekman-Larsson's contract. Tyler Myers and Filip Hronek are both second line defensemen on Vancouver. Myers ranked third among defensemen in points trailing only Hughes and Ekman-Larsson while Vancouver gave the Red Wings their 2023 first round pick from the New York Islanders to acquire Hronek. Vancouver's got a decent second line of defense when their top four defensemen are healthy. Tucker Poolman is an effective third line defenseman who can anchor the third line for Vancouver and Cole McWard an Ohio State defensemen had 1 goal in 5 games anchoring the third line of Vancouver's defense during Poolman's injury. Vancouver's blue line can be effective, but Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Filip Hronek, and Tucker Poolman all dealt with injuries on the first, second and third lines near the end of the season after starting goalie Thatcher Demko was out from the end of November to the middle of March.


    Vancouver has Thatcher Demko back as their starting goalie. Arturs Silovs a 2019 sixth round pick from Latvia helped Latvia get third place in the IIHF World Championships. Arturs Silovs also made a ton of progress developing as the starting goalie for the Abbotsford Canucks in the AHL. I believe Silovs is good enough to be a backup goalie in the NHL now and could potentially unseat Thatcher Demko next season if he continues to play like he did in the AHL as well as Latvia once he arrives in the NHL.


    Vancouver needs to free up at least $2-million in cap space to get under the cap. Vancouver might need to free up another million or two to extend an RFA on defense whether that's Ethan Bear, Akito Hirose, Travis Dermott, or Noah Juulsen to be the number six defenseman on Vancouver short-term unless you believe Cole McWard can play that role moving forward. Vancouver has an abundance of wingers and will have to move one in a trade to get under the cap. Vancouver will have to free up $7 to $8 million if they want to extend Filip Hronek who is an RFA. Hronek currently makes $4.4 million. My guess is Hronek will cost around $5 to $7 million with Vancouver willing to pay up to $6-million a year to keep him in Vancouver if they can get a team to take on J.T. Miller or Brock Boeser's contract once a trade occurs.


    Vancouver will draft one of two players at 11 here if they keep this pick. Andrew Cristall is special offensively, but is a project as far as defense and skating goes. Cristall is a first line player if he fixes those two areas of his game at a position of need at left winger. The other player Vancouver could take is David Reinbacher whose the top defender in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. I have Vancouver taking Andrew Cristall due to his upside, but it's a very close call and there are a lot of rumors linking Reinbacher to Vancouver here. That seems like a smokescreen in hopes of a top 10 player dropping to Vancouver at 11.


    Vancouver drafts a first line left winger who actually started out as a center prior to being drafted by the Kelowna Rockets in the first round of the 2020 WHL Draft. Andrew Cristall is the player you take at 11 if everyone projected in the top ten goes in the top ten of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Andrew Cristall has the versatility to play everywhere at forward whether it happens to be at left winger, center, or right winger.


    The 5-9 175 lb Andrew Cristall had 28 goals, 41 assists, and 69 points in 2021-2022. Andrew Cristall posted 4 assists and 4 points during the 2022 WHL Playoffs. Andrew Cristall had 39 goals, 56 assists, and 95 points in 2022-2023. Cristall had 1 goal in 4 games during the 2023 WHL Playoffs.


    Andrew Cristall has the playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, and offensive awareness to succeed in the NHL. Andrew Cristall needs to spend two more years in the WHL fixing his defense and skating, but he's a guy who could be a really good first line left winger next to first line center Elias Petersson and first line right winger J.T. Miller in 2025-2026 on the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL.


    Andrew Cristall is versatile enough to play left wing or center. He seems like he's better off at left wing though due to his size.


  12. Arizona Coyotes: David Reinbacher, D, Kloten Flyers (National League A)

    Ottawa sent a 2023 first round pick to Arizona for defenseman Jakob Chychurn. Arizona got Clayton Keller and Jakob Chychurn in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. It's also amazing that Arizona hit on both of those players despite their questionable history with draft picks.


    When Arizona won in the qualifying round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs over Nashville, they had two viable first line defensemen in team captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Jakob Chychurn. Arizona traded Oliver Ekman-Larsson for the ninth pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft selecting Dylan Guenther in Bill Armstrong's first season as General Manager. Arizona moved Jakob Chychurn at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline.


    Arizona has Calgary Flames 2017 first round pick Juuso Valimaki as their number one defenseman now. Connor Mackey who played with Juuso Valimaki in Calary compliments Valimaki on the first line. J.J. Moser, the Arizona Coyotes 2021 second round pick is now in the NHL anchoring the second line with Sean Durzi who Arizona traded a 2024 second round pick to get complimenting him. Victor Soderstrom, Arizona's 2019 first round pick is now in the NHL on the third line giving Arizona five defensemen the team is optimistic about while th rest of the league is eager to expose this blue line. Maveric Lameroux, who Arizona drafted twenty ninth overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft on the Drummondville Voltigeurs is still developing in the QMJHL for one more year. Arizona does have the rights to Shea Weber's contract for three more years if he decides to unretire, but I don't expect Weber to play which essentially gives Arizona more cap space if he's not on their active roster. Arizona is a team desperate for a first line defenseman by what I've described.


    The 6-2 194 lb David Reinbacher is the only top 3 defenseman in the 2023 NHL Draft with the rest of the draft class being top 4 defenseman that project as a second line players. Bob McKenzie of TSN believes David Reinbacher is the only top line defenseman in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. There's not a top 2 defenseman with first line potential in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. David Reinbacher is the best defensive defenseman in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.


    Worst case scenario, David Reinbacher anchors Arizona's second line down the road. Best case scenario, David Reinbacher becomes Arizona's number one defenseman on the first line that anchors the blue line.


    David Reinbacher had 3 goals, 19 assists, 22 points, and a +7 +/- ratio in 2022-2023. David Reinbacher was second among defenseman on the Kloten Flyers trailing only Lukas Ekestahl-Jonsson in points.


    David Reinbacher has the skating, playmaking, passing, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. David Reinbacher's burst and top end speed as a skater will improve as he adds more muscle. David Reinbacher also needs to improve his shooting power on wrist shots and slap shots.


    David Reinbacher will be a number three defenseman anchoring a second line if he doesn't improve in those categories. If Reinbacher improves in one of those two categories he can crack Arizona's first line. If he improves in both categories than he could potentially anchor the Arizona Coyotes blue line down the road as their first line defenseman.


    David Reinbacher's contract with the Kloten Flyers expires after this season. I think it's possible that David Reinbacher goes to the Tuscon Roadrunners in the AHL right away because he's not NHL ready yet, but he's someone who could sign their NHL entry level deal right away with his National League A contract with the Kloten Flyers set to expire. There have been rumors about David Reinbacher going to Arizona at 6 which is why I doubt he gets past pick 12.


    The NHL player that David Reinbacher has been compared to is Detroit Red Wings first line defenseman Moritz Seider, the sixth overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Seider developed in Germany for two years, but ended up becoming the number one defenseman on the Detroit Red Wings blue line anchoring that blue line. If you think David Reinbacher has the ceiling of Moritz Seider you have to take him in the top 10. I personally don't believe his ceiling is that high, but if you feel that way take your guy.



  13. Buffalo Sabres: Quentin Musty, LW, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)

    Buffalo has the thirteenth pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. I'm going to examine the line combinations of the Buffalo Sabres before I decide which player I'm going to mock to the Buffalo Sabres.


    Buffalo has Jeff Skinner as their first line left winger, Tage Thompson as their first line center, and Alex Tuch as their first line right winger. Buffalo has Victor Olafsson as their second line left winger, Dylan Cozens as their second line center, and Jack Quinn as their second line right winger. Buffalo will have Jordan Greenway as their third line left winger, Casey Middlestadt as their third line center, and John Jason Petreka as their third line right winger. Buffalo has Lukas Rousek as their fourth line left winger, Peyton Krebs as their fourth line center, and Kyle Okposo as their fourth line right winger after Okposo agreed to a one year extension before the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.


    Buffalo has two first overall picks on their blue line. Rasmus Dahlin will continue to anchor the blue line. Owen Power could end up playing with Dahlin on the first line next season. Henri Jokiharju played with Dahlin on the top line, but he could anchor the second line if Power and Dahlin play on the top line with Ilya Lyubushkin. Mattias Samuelson and Riley Stillman will remain the third line defensemen on the Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo has Jacob Bryson their 2017 fourth round pick as a number seven defenseman for depth.


    Buffalo wil have Devon Levi is their starting goalie next year. Eric Comrie and Ukko-Pekka Lukkonen last years two goalies competing for Buffalo's starting job competing to be the backup to Devon Levi.


    Buffalo has an incredibly bright future once right winger Isak Rosen and center Matthew Savoie arrive. The best player on the board is Moose Jaw Warriors center Brayden Yager, but Buffalo drafted three centers with their three first round picks in Matthew Savoie, Noah Ostlund, and Jiri Kulich in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft and frankly the Sabres have four centers they can play on their NHL roster next season. Those guys will develop for one more season with Matthew Savoie being the only one of those three that I can see on Buffalo by 2024 if injuries occur. When Casey Middelstadt and Peyton Krebs are both restricted Free Agents in 2024, I think one of those two gets extended and the other gets moved in a trade allowing Matthew Savoie the ninth overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft to arrive in the NHL after finishing his development in the WHL unless both guys continue to play at a high level next season while Ostlund and Kulich end up on the Rochester Americans which happen to be the Buffalo Sabres AHL team. Savoie was a top five player that fell to 9, so Buffalo will end up bringing Savoie up to the NHL in the next two seasons.


    If Buffalo doesn't draft another center or right winger at 13 that leaves left wing and defense as the two lone needs. Buffalo has all six of their defensemen under contract and Jacob Bryson can replace Ilya Lyubushkin when Lybushkin becomes an unrestriced Free Agent. Victor Olafsson enters a contract year in 2023-2024 as Buffalo's second line left winger and Jordan Greenway enters a contract year the following season in 2024-2025 as Buffalo's third line left winger.


    The 6-1 200 lb Quentin Musty was the first overall pick in the 2021 OHL Draft. He's been a cornerstone player for the Sudbury Wolves, and he is a player that's a great fit for the Buffalo Sabres at 13.


    Quentin Musty has the playmaking, passing, stick handling, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, and offensive awareness to succeed in the NHL. He's a great forechecker despite not always having top notch defensive awareness. His skating isn't a weakness, but it certaintly needs improvement as he refines his stride by showcasing more burst and top end speed when gliding on the ice as a skater. Musty can go back to the OHL for a season. Buffalo can bring him up as a replacement to Victor Olafsson in 2024-2025 or Musty can be a replacement to Jordan Greenway in 2025-2026 with two years of development in the OHL.


  14. Pittsburgh Penguins: Brayden Yager, C, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)

    The Pittsburgh Penguins have Jake Guentzel back as their first line left winger in a contract year, Sidney Crosby remains the face of the franchise as the first overall pick from 2005 enters year 18 with Pittsburgh, and Bryan Rust is Pittsburgh's first line right winger. Pittsburgh's second line left winger Jason Zucker is an unrestricted Free Agent, but with over $20-million in cap space, I got a feeling the Penguins extend him before the 2023 NHL Entry Draft like Pittsburgh did with Malkin and Letang before the 2022 NHL Entry Draft since Zucker tied first line right winger Bryan Rust for 46 points while playing in 78 games with this front 6 being the healthest it's been for the Pittsburgh Penguins in recent memory. If Jason Zucker isn't extended, then Reilly Smith from the Vegas Golden Knights could take over as the second line let winger after being a third line left winger on the 2023 Stanley Cup Champion Vegas Golden Knights. Evgeni Malkin the second pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft is in his seventeenth season with the Pittsburgh Penguins as a second line center behind Sidney Crosby. Rikard Rakell is the second line right winger on the Pittsburgh Penguins.


    Pittsburgh has Mikael Granlund as their third line left winger, but if I were Kyle Dubas I'm not entirely opposed to trading him if I need extra cap space if I'm trying to bring back both Jason Zucker and other supporting players as Pittsburgh has more valuable UFA's as well as RFA's compared to Granlund. Ryan Poehling actually took the third line center job from Jeff Carter after Pittsburgh traded for Montreal's 2017 first round pick whose now an RFA. Pittsburgh has former Buffalo Sabres 2016 first round pick Alexander Nylander as their third line right winger whose got one more year on his two-way contract before becoming an RFA in 2024.


    Pittsburgh has Drew O'Conner as their fourth line left winger whose now an RFA, Jeff Carter is now the fourth line center after beginning last season as the third line center, and Samuel Poulin, Pittsburgh's 2019 first round pick from the Sherbrooke Phoenix who was drafted twenty first overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins will probably take over for Danton Heinen whose an unrestricted Free Agent next season.


    The Pittsburgh Penguins have Kris Letang their 2005 third round pick back for a seventeenth NHL season in Pittsburgh and this feels like his fifteenth NHL season as the number one defenseman on the Pittsburgh Penguins and if I'm wrong please correct me on this. Brian Dumoulin has been the biggest asset on Pittsburgh's blue line outside of Kris Letang, but I feel like Pittsburgh is going to prioritize Zucker, Jarry or whatever goalie they get, and RFA's over him only re-signing Dumoulin if he agrees to a team friendly deal on those terms. Jeff Petry was Pittsburgh's second line defenseman last season, but with him getting paid more than Kris Letang, he's likely getting first line minutes in 2023 if Dumoulin goes elsewhere. Marcus Petersson would anchor the second line on the Pittsburgh Penguins if Brian Dumoulin leaves with Pierre Oliver-Joseph complimenting him. Jan Rutta and Chad Ruhwedel would play on the third line for the Pittsburgh Penguins if Pittsburgh moves on from Brian Dumoulin which I think is likely with him being 32-years-old. Dumoulin's been great during his prime years with Pittsburgh, but Carolina moved on from their 2009 second round pick while ago and if the Hurricanes wanted him back they could bring him back since they got more cap space than th Penguins.


    Starting goalie Tristan Jarry is an unrestricted Free Agent while backup Casey DeSmith remains under contract for one more year. If Pittsburgh moves on from Jarry they will either trade for a goalie or get one in Free Agency since the Penguins have an abundance of cap space.


    Pittsburgh needs to draft a successor for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jeff Carter at center with all three of those centers in their thirties. Luckily for Pittsburgh this draft actually has a first line center that the Pittsburgh Penguins can groom for the future with this pick. Brayden Yager is my pick here, but you can make a case for Riley Heidt the Prince George Cougars center or Nate Danielson of the Brandon Wheat Kings center for Pittsburgh at fourteen. Pittsburgh seems like a strong candidate to take a WHL center that can be groomed as a successor to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.


    The 5-11 170 lb Brayden Yager was a top three pick in the 2020 WHL Draft that featured Connor Bedard and Riley Heidt going first and second overall as Yager was drafted third overall by the Moose Jaw Warriors. Brayden Yager reminds me of Carolina Hurricanes first line center Sebastian Aho.


    You can argue he needs to put on some muscle, but his production speaks for itself. Yager had 34 goals, 25 assists, and 59 points in 2021-2022 after improving on his 18 points in 24 games in limited action winning both the WHL rookie of the year and CHL Rookie Of The Year after Connor Bedard won WHL rookie of the year the previous season. Yager had 3 goals, 4 assists, and 7 points in 10 games during the 2022 WHL Playoffs. Yager has 28 goals, 50 assists, and 78 points for the Moose Jaw Warriors as a first line center in 2022-2023. Brayden Yager had 6 goals, 10 assists, and 16 points in 10 games during the 2023 WHL Playoffs.


    Brayden Yager has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. Brayden Yager needs to improve his decision making at times and clean up passes despite modeling his game after Colorado Avalanche center Nate MacKinnon. He's good at offense, defense, and skating, but not great in any of those categories.


    Brayden Yager could arrive in Pittsburgh as early as 2024 if he can beat out 2018 second round pick Filip Hallander for an NHL roster spot when Jeff Carter is a Free Agent. The latest Yager would be in the NHL is 2026 since Evgeni Malkin would be a UFA in 2026. Sidney Crosby's contract is up in 2025, but if he remains healthy like he has the last two seasons, the Penguins might re-sign Crosby letting him remain a Penguin and play into his early to mid forties the same way former Penguin Jaromir Jagr played in the NHL until he's 45 on various NHL teams. Jagr still plays for Rytiri Kladno which is one of the Extraliga teams in the Czech Republic at the age of 51 as the team owner of Rytiri Kladno which is nuts.


    As much as I love Evgeni Malkin, if Kyle Dubas has to choose between a 40 year old second line center that's just finished his twentieth season in Pittsburgh entering 2026 versus a 21 year old center he drafted in his very first draft in 2023 with the Penguins, whose been patiently developing for an NHL role after being drafted fourteenth overall at the age of 18, I see Dubas picking Yager over Malkin at that point for better or worse. You can love the big 3 of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang. I don't see it lasting past 2026 if Pittsburgh takes a center with the fourteenth pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft though.



  15. Nashville Predators: Gracyn Sawchyn, C, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)

    Nashville has Filip Forsberg as their first line left winger and Matt Duchene as their first line center when fully healthy. Phillip Tomasino, Nashville's 2019 first round pick played on Nashville as the first line right winger down the stretch when Forsberg and Duchene were injured.


    Nashville's second line left winger Zach Sanford who took over for Forsberg on the top line during Forsberg's injury is a Free Agent. Cody Glass will probably be Nashville's second line center with Luke Evangelista a former captain of the London Knights and Nashville's 2020 second round pick already in the NHL.


    Yakov Trenin isn't a bad third line left winger and he'll enter next season for Nashville in a contract year. Thomas Novak, Nashville's third line center who saw second line minutes this year due to injuries will have something to prove. Juuso Parssinen actually showed promise as the third line right winger for Nashville with 6 goals, 19 assists, and 25 points after being a seventh round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.


    Nashville's fourth line left winger Cole Smith has one year left on his contract. Mark Janikowski is Nashville's fourth line center. The fourth line right winger spot is a competition between Rasmus Asplund who had 0 points in 19 games whose currently an RFA, Michael McCarron a former 2013 first round pick who wasn't good enough to remain with the Montreal Canadiens, and Joakim Kemell. It's entirely possible that those three compete for that fourth line right winger role. I could see Asplund and McCarron both competing to keep that role with a midseason call up for Joakim Kemell next season.


    Nashville has Roman Josi anchoring the blue line and 2016 first round pick Dante Fabbro complimenting him on the top line. Ryan McDonagh anchors the second line after being an effective second line defenseman on the three Tampa Bay Lightning teams that made the Stanley Cup from 2020-2022 with Tyson Barrie complimenting Ryan McDonagh. Jake Livingston and Cal Foote the oldest son of Adam Foote as well as Tampa Bay's 2017 first round pick are the third line defensemen on Nashville.


    Nashville has Jusse Saros as their starting goalie and Kevin Lakinen as the backup goalie with Kevin Lakinen entering a contract year. Yaroslav Askarov, the former eleventh overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft spent two more years in Russia prior to signing his NHL entry level contract. Askaraov has been spectacular with the Milwaukee Admirals in his rookie season in the AHL after being drafted eleventh overall back in 2020 despite struggling in his NHL debut where Askarov made 31/35 saves in a road loss against the Montreal Canadiens on January 12, 2023 prior to the injuries that the Montreal Canadiens endured down the stretch. Askarov will start in Milwaukee once again next season, but Nashville may entertain the idea of promoting Askarov to the active roster if either Saros or Lakinen is injured. Askarov will be in the NHL by 2024 at the very latest starting out as a backup to Jusse Saros when Saros enters his contract year. Goalie is clearly not a need for Nashville as Saros has picked up right where Pikka Rinne left off following Rinne's retirement. Rinne and Saros have both spent their entire NHL careers in Nashville who hosts the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.


    Nashville will go with the best player on their board, but I'm thinking a center at 15 and a right winger at 24, then Nashville can go for value as the Nashville Predators use their remaining picks to stockpile their prospect pool. Thomas Novak and Mark Jankowski enter contract years, so it's possible that Nashville reloads at center by drafting one for the future at 15. Nashville has Matt Duchene as their first line center, Cody Glass as their second line center, Ryan Johansen as their third line center, and Colton Sissions as their fourth line center. Glass is the only one of those four centers that is in position to get a long-term contract. Duchene and Sissions are locked up until 2026. Ryan Johansen will be a Free Agent in 2025.


    The 5-10 155 lb Gracyn Sawchyn had 18 goals, 40 assists, 58 points, and a +36 +/- ratio with the Seattle Thunderbirds in 2022-2023. Gracyn Sawchyn had 3 goals, 8 assists, and 11 points so far during the 2023 WHL Playoffs. Gracyn Sawchyn got his team to the 2023 Memorial Cup by helping the Seattle Thunderbirds win the WHL Playoffs.


    Gracyn Sawchyn has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. He's good at offense, defense, and skating, but not great in any of those categories. He rotated between the first, second, and third lines at center with Brad Lambert and Colton Dach on the Seattle Thunderbirds this season. He showed he could be a first line center on film though. Gracyn Sawchyn was teammates with left winger Reid Schaefer on the Seattle Thunderbirds when Schaefer was a 2022 first round pick for the Nashville Predators.


  16. Calgary Flames: Axel Sandin Pellikka, D, Skelleftea AIK (Elitserien)

    The Calgary Flames have Jonathan Huberdeau as their first line left winger, Elias Lindholm as their first line center with Lindholm in a contract year, and need a first line right winger after trading Tyler Toffoli for the eightieth pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft unless Matthew Coronato the thirteenth pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft does well enough to get promoted to Calgary's top line. Calgary has Dillon Dube as a second line left winger, Mikael Backlund as a second line center in a contract year, and Andrew Mangiapane as their second line right winger.


    Calgary has Jakob Pelletier as their third line left winger, Nazem Kadri is their third line center after leaving Colorado a Stanley Cup Champion as the second line center only to be Calgary's third line center, and Matthew Coronato the thirteenth pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft as the third line right winger. Calgary has William Stromgren their 2021 second round pick as a potential replacement to UFA Milan Lucic who was the fourth line left winger on Calgary last year, Connor Zary, Calgary's 2020 first round pick could replace Trevor Lewis who played all 82 games with Calgary as the fourth line center, and Blake Coleman who Calgary lured away from the Tampa Bay Lightning is the fourth line right winger on the Calgary Flames.


    Calgary has Rasmus Andersson anchoring the blue line on the Calgary Flames first line of defense. Noah Hanifin whose a line 2 defenseman at best is complimenting Rasmus Anderson on Calgary's top line of defense, but Hanifin enters a contract year. Calgary has MacKenzie Weegar anchoring the second line of their defense with Nikita Zadorov whose in a contract year complimenting Weegar on the second line of this Calgary Flames defense. Calgary has Chris Tanev who helped Vancouver upset the St. Louis Blues in a contract year entering the final year of his contract with Tanev anchoring the third line with Oliver Kylington Calgary's 2015 second round pick complimenting Chris Tanev on Calgary's third line also in a contract year like Chris Tanev.


    Calgary has Jacob Markstrom their starting goalie under contract until 2026. Daniel Vladar the backup goalie is under contract until 2025. Dustin Wolf, Calgary's 2019 seventh round pick has done well enough to warrant a promotion to the NHL, but Calgary would have to trade Markstrom or Vladar to make that happen.


    Calgary has 7 players entering a contract year in 2023. All seven players told Calgary's owner in confidence they were walking when their contracts were up if the Calgary Flames didn't fire head coach Darryl Suter. That's what led to Suter being terminated.


    Calgary could use a center, right winger, or defender at 16. I considered Riley Heidt here at center with both of Calgary's top two centers entering contract years, Matthew Wood at right winger with Calgary's first line right winger entering a contract year, and Axel Sandin Pellikka as a defenseman with Noah Hanifin entering a contract year. I narrowed this pick down to Heidt and Axel Sandin-Pellika and ultimately went with Axel Sandin Pellikka because some NHL scouts have told the Athletic's Scott Wheeler that Axel Sandin-Pellikka has traits to be a special player despite his size. There are questions about his height particularly whether he's 5-9 or 5-11, but Axel Sandin Pellikka is the best offensive defenseman in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft based on the tape I've seen showing flashes of a young Erik Karlsson despite his size. At the same time, this feels like a boom or bust pick similar to Adam Boqvist who went in the top 10 of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.


    The 5-11 180 lb Axel Sandin Pellikka had 16 goals, 20 assists, and 36 points in 31 games with Skellefttea AIK's Under 20 Team in 2022-2023. Axel Sandin Pellikka had 2 goals, 3 assists, and 5 points in 22 SHL games against men on Skelleftea AIK in the league once known as Elitserien.


    Axel Sandin Pellikka has the speed, explosion, burst, agility, skating, foot speed, playmaking, passing, sniping, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to succeed in the NHL. Elite Prospects has him at 5-11 while Hockey Database has him at 5-9. We'll find out which site is correct at the 2023 NHL Combine since this is a guy with the traits to be a difference maker for Calgary once his contract in Sweden expires following the 2024-2025 SHL Season. Calgary can bring Axel Sandin-Pellikka up to the NHL in two years from now in 2025-2026.


    The NHL player that Axel Sandin Pellikka has been compared to is Vancouver Canucks first line defenseman Quinn Hughes, the seventh overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Quinn Hughes was a freshman at Michigan prior to the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, but he went back to Michigan for his sophomore season and dominated there before signing his entry level deal with the Vancouver Canucks for the final five games of the 2018-2019 NHL Season. If you think Axel Sandin Pellikka can be as good as Quinn Hughes you draft him in the top 10 and get your guy. I don't think his ceiling is that high and see more of an Adam Boqvist type player, but we'll see what happens here.












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