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NHL Mock Draft 2023: Connor Bedard goes to Blackhawks; Matvei Michkov falls out of top 5 in final projections

The waiting is nearly over. Soon, the future of 224 players in the 2023 NHL Draft class will be determined at this year’s draft.

The two-day event is set to take place in Nashville. It’s the first big event of the offseason, as teams look to stock their prospect pools.

The Blackhawks won the 2023 NHL Draft lottery, receiving the No. 1 pick in this summer’s class. Barring a catastrophic, fireable-worthy decision, Connor Bedard, one of the most hyped-up prospects in years, will be joining the Original Six franchise in the fall.

However, Bedard isn’t the only franchise-altering prospect available. This draft class is overflowing with elite talent and while no one can compare to Bedard, there are still plenty of players capable of making an impact in the NHL.

MORE: Watch the 2023 NHL Draft on Fubo: Sign up today!

With the draft this week The Sporting News presents its final 2023 NHL Mock Draft.

2023 NHL Mock Draft

There were a multitude of trades involving first-round picks at the 2023 trade deadline. As a result, the Avalanche, Coyotes, Red Wings, Predators, Blackhawks, Flyers and Sharks all have two selections in the first round, and the Blues own three.

The Senators, Islanders, Oilers, Lightning, Kings, Devils, Stars and Bruins all traded away their first-round draft picks and don’t have a selection within the first 32 spots.

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

At the end of one era starts another. With the Blackhawks winning the draft lottery, Chicago gets its next superstar in Bedard. Between his historic World Juniors performance and his dominance in the WHL, there’s no denying who’s going No. 1 this year. The Blackhawks’ rebuild speeds up about two, maybe three years with the addition of the talented center.

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

The Ducks held the highest odds at landing the No. 1 pick, but Anaheim lost the lottery and will pick second. Fantilli is an excellent consolation prize. The University of Michigan product led all NCAA skaters in points, averaging just under two points per game, and finished tied for first in goal last season. The 2023 Hobey Baker winner joins a young Ducks core of Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, Mason McTavish, Jamie Drysdale and Olen Zellweger.

MORE: Who will be selected No. 2 in the 2023 NHL Draft?

3. Columbus Blue Jackets: Will Smith, C, USA U18 (NTDP)

No one has risen as far up draft boards over the back half of the season as Smith has. He is one of the most versatile players in the draft, and the USA U18 product owns one of the silkiest pairs of mitts you will find. He dominates in tight areas with his crafty hands and is a creative playmaker. While I could see Columbus choosing Leo Carlsson, the Blue Jackets take Smith instead to pair with Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine.

4. San Jose Sharks: Leo Carlsson, C, Örebro HK (SHL)

While Matvei Michkov makes a ton of sense for the Sharks at No. 4, if Carlsson is still on the board, there should be no hesitation to take him. The Swedish center is big, he’s skilled and he’s got speed to pair. Carlsson is a talented playmaker that carries a high hockey IQ. He makes a lot of plays look effortless and never seems to be phased, no matter the competition. He’s a great get for San Jose, who can be the No. 2 center behind Tomas Hertl while the team rebuilds.

5. Montreal Canadiens: Ryan Leonard, RW, USA U18 (NTDP)

Montreal is a candidate to take Michkov, however considering where they are in their rebuild, I think they’d rather have someone who can help the club sooner. One of a number of prospects from the national program, Leonard did the dirty work on a line with the skilled Smith and Perreault. He gets to the front of the net to wreak havoc in the crease and also has a strong shot that can beat goalies from distance. Montreal can use a versatile option like Leonard in its lineup.

6. Arizona Coyotes: Matvei Michkov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)

Michkov is a top-three player in the draft, but with his contract with SKA St. Petersburg delaying his arrival to North America, some experts and scouts feel he could drop in the draft. The Russian winger is a bit undersized, but he is overflowing with elite skill. He’s been a consistent producer no matter where he has played and is arguably the second-best goal scorer in the class behind Bedard. Michkov is signed with SKA until the 2025-26 season, and the Coyotes are one of the few teams that aren’t going to be competitive anytime soon and can play the waiting game.

7. Philadelphia Flyers: Dalibor Dvorsky, C, AIK (HockeyAllsvenskan)

The Flyers desperately need a future No. 1 center, especially after going with Cutter Gauthier, a wing, at No. 5 in 2022. They get a center this year in Dvorsky. Last year felt like the start of a serious Slovak movement in the NHL, and once again, the country has a top-10 prospect this year. The center brings a strong, well-rounded game and the Flyers would be smart to snag Dvorsky.

8. Washington Capitals: David Reinbacher, D, Kloten (Swiss National League)

Reinbacher may have entered the 2022-23 season as a fairly unknown prospect, but there’s now a strong chance he’s the first defenseman off the board in 2023. The Austrian was one of the lone bright spots for his country at the 2023 World Juniors. He’s a steady, two-way blue liner who has already shown he can eat up minutes. The Capitals need defensive prospects, so it may come as a reach at No. 8, but Reinbacher is one of the top two defensemen in this draft.

MORE: How close Alex Ovechkin is to breaking Wayne Gretzky’s career goal record

9. Detroit Red Wings: Gabe Perreault, LW, USA U18 (NTDP)

Perreault’s historic 2022-23 shot him up draft boards over the last few months. He is a point-producing machine, as he led the U18 national team in scoring this season on a line with Smith and Ryan Leonard. The Boston College commit is constantly creating offensive chances for himself or creating space and finding his teammates.

10. St. Louis Blues: Zach Benson, LW, Winnipeg (WHL)

Benson is a winger that carries a high hockey IQ and is a threat both to shoot and pass with efficiency. At 5-9, he’s another undersized forward and that I think will cause teams to pass on him at the top of the draft board. That’s good news for the Blues, who can snag the talented playmaker at No. 10.

11. Vancouver Canucks: Oliver Moore, C, USA U18 (NTDP)

If a team needs a center that can forecheck hard and play at an elite level in his own zone, then Moore is your guy. The Canucks add the hard-nosed University of Minnesota commit with the 11th pick. He has a great motor and utilizes his speed all over the ice. While the Canucks are a prime candidate to trade their pick, if they hang onto it, they should take Moore if he’s on the board.

12. Arizona Coyotes (from Ottawa Senators): Axel Sandin Pellikka, D, Skelleftea (SHL)

The Coyotes don’t have much coming through the system on the back end. Similarly to Reinbacher at No. 8, Sandin Pellikka is a bit of a reach at No. 12, but Arizona can take the risk with its second pick in the first round. The Swedish defenseman has shot up draft boards and is considered to be one of the top blueliners at the draft. He’s mobile and has the makings of a potential power play quarterback in the NHL.

13. Buffalo Sabres: Matthew Wood, RW, UConn (NCAA)

Buffalo picked three smaller, skilled forwards in the first round of last year, so the club switches gears and goes with Wood this year. He’s a big power forward that has high-end scoring ability and skill, despite standing at 6-3. It may take a bit for Wood to develop, but that’s fine with the Sabres, who are overflowing with promising prospects and don’t need Wood to immediately hit. Plus, UConn products have worked out pretty well for Buffalo recently (Tage Thompson, anyone?).

14. Pittsburgh Penguins: Nate Danielson, C, Brandon (WHL)

It feels like Danielson does everything well. He plays a smart, two-way game and can be deployed in all situations. Danielson has a keen eye to read plays and get in position to make a play before it’s developed. The Penguins eventually need to replace Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin down the middle and get a responsible center in Danielson.

15. Nashville Predators: Brayden Yager, C, Moose Jaw (WHL)

Yager’s stock has dropped over the last few months of the season, and the Predators take advantage, nabbing him at No. 15. The versatile center plays a strong two-way game and has one of the best shots of the draft. His release is quick, the puck gets on goaltenders at a high speed and most importantly, it’s accurate.

16. Calgary Flames: Tom Willander, D, Rögle BK (J20 Nationell)

Willander’s stock has risen quite a bit since the U18 Worlds, making him a candidate to be one of the first few defensemen off the board. The Swedish prospect is a confident, two-way defender who is excellent in his own zone. Calgary does not have a ton of prospects coming up on the back end and can use the injection of Willander.

17. Detroit Red Wings (from New York Islanders): Eduard Sale, RW, HC Kometa Brno (Czech Extraliga)

The Red Wings inject some more offensive power into their prospect system with the selection of Sale. The Czech winger’s play has some consistency concerns, but when Sale is on, he’s on. He’s an all-offensive threat with a knack for playmaking and scoring. Detroit has a recent history of using first-round picks on Europeans and that trend stays alive in 2023 after taking Perreault at No. 9.

18. Winnipeg Jets: Mikhail Gulyayev, D, Omskie Yastreby (MHL)

Winnipeg has used its last four first-round picks on forwards, so the Jets go to the blue line in 2023. Gulyayev is one of the top Russian prospects in this class, profiling as a smooth distributor of the puck. The Jets don’t generate a ton of offense from the back end outside Josh Morrissey, and adding someone like Gulyayev could eventually help open up the offense more.

19. Chicago Blackhawks (from Tampa Bay Lightning): Daniil But, LW, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)

I mentioned Wood earlier as a winger with size and skill. There’s a Russian version of that in this draft class and it’s But. The intriguing forward is 6-5 and over 200 pounds already. His shot is what scouts are drawn to, but he is also a force along the boards and down low. But needs to work on his skating, but the Blackhawks can add a player of his size to help create space for Bedard.

20. Seattle Kraken: Lukas Dragicevic, D, Tri-City (WHL)

The Kraken went heavy on forwards in 2022, so they use their first pick in 2023 on a defenseman. Dragicevic is always looking to create offense from the back end, whether that be by jumping up in the rush or creeping down low from the point. There aren’t a ton of defensive prospects in Seattle systems, so it gets a boost with Dragicevic.

21. Minnesota Wild: Samuel Honzek, LW, Vancouver (WHL)

There’s a strong argument to be made that no one has drafted better in recent years than the Wild, and they take another great selection in Honzek. The Vancouver Giant may have gone higher if not for a leg injury keeping him out for two months, but Minnesota can take advantage and snag him at No. 21. He’s a well-rounded prospect that has the skills to make plays and can be a nuisance in front of the net.

22. Philadelphia Flyers (from Kings via Blue Jackets): Dmitri Simashev, D, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)

After securing Dvorsky at No. 7, the Flyers go defense at No. 22 and select Simashev. The Russian defenseman has size to him at 6-4 and can cover a ton of ice. He’s mobile for his height and has shown flashes of offensive potential. But he projects out more to be a physical, stingy defender, someone that John Tortorella would love to have on his blue line.

23. New York Rangers: Calum Ritchie, C, Oshawa (OHL)

The Rangers have gone wing-heavy with their top picks in the last few drafts, so they go down the middle in 2023. Ritchie’s appeal is his build, he stands at 6-2 as a center. He is more than capable of making an impact as both a scorer and a passer and is reliable in all three zones.

24. Nashville Predators (from Edmonton Oilers): Quentin Musty, LW, Sudbury (OHL)

The Predators already took a center, so Nashville goes wing and takes Musty. The winger plays hard, as he’s not afraid to throw the body around on the forecheck and muck it up in front of the net. But he also can beat defenders one-on-one with skill. I thought Musty was going to shoot up draft boards at the beginning of the year, but he didn’t quite explode in his draft year as expected.

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

Bonk, the son of former NHLer Radek Bonk, has entered into the first-round conversation with a strong end to the OHL season. The talented two-way defender is mobile and defensively sound. His passing is crisp and there is plenty of offensive potential in his game. The Blues could bolster their blue line prospect group by taking the London Knight.

26. San Jose Sharks (from New Jersey Devils): Colby Barlow, RW, Owen Sound (OHL)

After going with Carlsson, a center, at No. 4, the Sharks use the second of their two first-round picks on Barlow, a wing. He is a natural goal scorer whose speed stands out the most. I think with teams making runs on defensemen, some forwards like Barlow are going to fall lower than expected, which is why he’s still available for San Jose at No. 26.

27. Colorado Avalanche: Andrew Cristall, LW, Kelowna (WHL)

Cristall is all over draft boards. He hasn’t raised his stick as much as others have, but he is still a skilled scorer. As a result, the Avalanche take Bedard’s childhood friend from North Vancouver at No. 27. Cristall is crafty and willing to try different things in 1 on 1 coverage. Considering how barren the Avs’ prospect pool is, they take the best player available.

28. Toronto Maple Leafs (from Boston Bruins): Otto Stenberg, C, Frölunda HC (J20 Nationell)

Stenberg has yo-yoed in his draft year. At one point, he was seen as the second-best Swedish prospect behind Carlsson, but a so-so 2022-23 campaign has caused scouts to pump the brakes a bit. He’s a crafty stickhandler with an accurate shot. Stenberg is a smooth skater who has a knack for creating space for himself. The Leafs don’t have many prospects down the middle and can use this year’s first-rounder that they acquired from the Bruins on him.

29. St. Louis Blues (from Dallas Stars): Jayden Perron, RW, Chicago (USHL)

Last year, the Blackhawks and Coyotes both reached with their third selections of the first round to draft projects, and I think the Blues follow a similar path by drafting Perron. The North Dakota commit has entered into the first-round conversation and makes perfect sense for the Blues to take with their final first-round pick. He’s a smart, shifty player that can make defenders miss.

30. Carolina Hurricanes: Koehn Ziemmer, RW, Prince George (WHL)

The Hurricanes need to add scoring and physicality to their organization. Ziemmer fits both roles. He loves to shoot the puck, and when he does, he can let it fly. The Prince George winger also can play physically and as an older player out of the group, has flexed his strength when needed.

31. Colorado Avalanche (from Panthers via Canadiens): Charlie Stramel, C, Wisconsin (NCAA)

A big power forward, Stramel isn’t guaranteed to be a first-rounder like he was a year ago. He’s coming off an average freshman season at Wisconsin, but there is a lot to like about his potential. He has NHL size already, along has smarts and solid vision with the puck. The Avalanche have had success implementing bigger forwards into their system, and can get a different skillset in Stramel than their Cristall pick.

32. Vegas Golden Knights: Gavin Brindley, C, Michigan (NCAA)

After drafting Michigan product Brendan Brisson in 2020, Vegas grabs another Wolverine in 2023, selecting Brindley with the last pick in the first round. Brindley is versatile as he can play both center and wing. His intelligence on both ends of the ice is what makes him stand out among his peers. He’s got the skill to produce in the top-six, however, he’s also proven he can be an effective player in a bottom-six role.

When is the 2023 NHL Draft?

  • Day 1 date: Wednesday, June 28
  • Day 1 start time: 7 p.m. ET
  • Day 2 date: Thursday, June 29
  • Day 2 start time: 11 a.m. ET

The 2023 NHL Draft will span two days. The first round will take place Wednesday, June 28, with representatives from all 32 teams in Nashville.

On Thursday, June 29, the picks in Rounds 2-7 will be made.

Where is the 2023 NHL Draft?

  • Venue: Bridgestone Arena
  • City: Nashville, Tenn.

Bridgestone Arena, home of the Predators, will be the location of the 2023 NHL Draft.

This is the second time that Nashville will host a draft. The city was the site of the 2003 draft.

Complete list of No. 1 overall picks in NHL history

The last time the Blackhawks owned the No. 1 pick in the draft was in 2007, when Chicago took Patrick Kane first overall.

Picking first isn’t always easy and many teams have failed to identify the best player in the draft while picking first.

Here’s a list of every No. 1 overall pick in NHL Draft history.

List of every No. 1 overall pick in NHL Draft history Year Team Player Previous 1963 Montreal Canadiens Garry Monahan St. Michael’s Juveniles 1964 Detroit Red Wings Claude Gauthier Rosemount 1965 New York Rangers Andre Veilleux Montreal Ranger Jr. B 1966 Boston Bruins Barry Gibbs Estevan Bruins 1967 Los Angeles Kings Rick Pagnutti Garson-Falconbridge 1968 Montreal Canadiens Michel Plasse Drummondville Rangers 1969 Montreal Canadiens Rejean Houle Montreal Junior Canadiens 1970 Buffalo Sabres Gilbert Perreault Montreal Junior Canadiens 1971 Montreal Canadiens Guy Lafleur Quebec Remparts 1972 New York Islanders Billy Harris Toronto Marlboros 1973 New York Islanders Denis Potvin Ottawa 67’s 1974 Washington Capitals Greg Joly Regina Pats 1975 Philadelphia Flyers Mel Bridgman Victoria Cougars 1976 Washington Capitals Rick Green London Knights 1977 Detroit Red Wings Dale McCourt St. Catharines Fincups 1978 Minnesota North Stars Bobby Smith Ottawa 67’s 1979 Colorado Rockies Rob Ramage Birmingham Bulls 1980 Montreal Canadiens Doug Wickenheiser Regina Pats 1981 Winnipeg Jets Dale Hawerchuk Cornwall Royals 1982 Boston Bruins Gord Kluzak Billings Bighorns 1983 Minnesota North Stars Brian Lawton Mount St. Charles High School 1984 Pittsburgh Penguins Mario Lemieux Laval Voisins 1985 Toronto Maple Leafs Wendel Clark Saskatoon Blades 1986 Detroit Red Wings Joe Murphy Michigan State 1987 Buffalo Sabres Pierre Turgeon Granby Bisons 1988 Minnesota North Stars Mike Modano Prince Albert Raiders 1989 Quebec Nordiques Mats Sundin Nacka 1990 Quebec Nordiques Owen Nolan Cornwall Royals 1991 Quebec Nordiques Eric Lindros Oshawa Generals 1992 Tampa Bay Lightning Roman Hamrlik Zlin ZPS AC 1993 Ottawa Senators Alexandre Daigle Victoriaville Tigres 1994 Florida Panthers Ed Jovanovski Windsor Spitfires 1995 Ottawa Senators Bryan Berard Detroit Jr. Red Wings 1996 Ottawa Senators Chris Phillips Prince Albert Raiders 1997 Boston Bruins Joe Thornton Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 1998 Tampa Bay Lightning Vincent Lecavalier Rimouski Oceanic 1999 Atlanta Thrashers Patrik Stefan Long Beach Ice Dogs 2000 New York Islanders Rick DiPietro Boston University 2001 Atlanta Thrashers Ilya Kovalchuk Spartak 2002 Columbus Blue Jackets Rick Nash London Knights 2003 Pittsburgh Penguins Marc-Andre Fleury Cape Breton Screaming Eagles 2004 Washington Capitals Alex Ovechkin Dynamo 2005 Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby Rimouski Oceanic 2006 St. Louis Blues Erik Johnson USA U18 2007 Chicago Blackhawks Patrick Kane London Knights 2008 Tampa Bay Lightning Steven Stamkos Sarnia Sting 2009 New York Islanders John Tavares London Knights 2010 Edmonton Oilers Taylor Hall Windsor Spitfires 2011 Edmonton Oilers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Red Deer Rebels 2012 Edmonton Oilers Nail Yakupov Sarnia Sting 2013 Colorado Avalanche Nathan MacKinnon Halifax Mooseheads 2014 Florida Panthers Aaron Ekblad Barrie Colts 2015 Edmonton Oilers Connor McDavid Erie Otters 2016 Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews Zurich 2017 New Jersey Devils Nico Hischier Halifax Mooseheads 2018 Buffalo Sabres Rasmus Dahlin Frolunda 2019 New Jersey Devils Jack Hughes USA U18 2020 New York Rangers Alexis Lafreniere Rimouski Oceanic 2021 Buffalo Sabres Owen Power University of Michigan 2022 Montreal Canadiens Juraj Slafkovsky TPS

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