Mock 2023 NHL Draft: Bedard to Blackhawks at No. 1; Ducks take Fantilli | (2024)

Chicago owns top choice after lottery; Carlsson, Michkov could go to Blue Jackets at No. 3

Mock 2023 NHL Draft: Bedard to Blackhawks at No. 1; Ducks take Fantilli | (1)

By @NHLdotcom

Following the NHL Draft Lottery on Monday, writers Adam Kimelman and Mike G. Morreale make their predictions for how the first 16 selections of the 2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft could turn out.

The Chicago Blackhawks won the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery and the No. 1 pick of the 2023 NHL Draft on Monday writers Adam Kimelman and Mike G. Morreale agree the Blackhawks will use that pick on center Connor Bedard from Regina of the Western Hockey League.

They also both believe the Anaheim Ducks will select University of Michigan center Adam Fantilli at No. 2.

Their opinions vary widely on what could happen after that.

The Columbus Blue Jackets will pick No. 3, followed by the San Jose Sharks and the Montreal Canadiens.

The first round of the 2023 draft will be held at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on June 28, with rounds 2-7 on June 29.

The 16 teams that missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs took part in the lottery drawing for the first two selections. The remaining teams were ordered based on the NHL standings.

Picks 17-32 will be determined by the results of the playoffs.

1. Chicago Blackhawks

Kimelman -- Connor Bedard, C, Regina (WHL):Bedard (5-foot-10, 185 pounds) could be the best prospect to enter the NHL since Connor McDavid, who was selected No. 1 by the Edmonton Oilers at the 2015 NHL Draft. The 17-year-old has dominated every level he's played at, and he's done it while usually being one of the younger players on his team. Bedard is a generational talent with the ability to fast-forward the Blackhawks back into Stanley Cup Playoff contention.

Morreale -- Connor Bedard:He was flawless in his draft-eligible season and is a generational talent in the making. He led the Western Hockey League in goals (71), points (143), points per game (2.51) and goals per game (1.25) in 57 regular-season games. He will be a major building block for a franchise in need of high-end talent, especially at the center position.

2. Anaheim Ducks

Kimelman -- Adam Fantilli, C, Michigan (NCAA): Fantilli dominated NCAA hockey as few 18-year-old freshmen have. He led all players in points (65) and tied for the lead in goals (30), helping Michigan reach the Frozen Four and winning the Hobey Baker Trophy as the top men's hockey player. At 6-2, 195, he has NHL-ready size and should be able to make an NHL impact next season.

Morreale -- Adam Fantilli: Fantilli has the tools required to become an elite power center in the NHL someday. It's easy to envision the 18-year-old playing alongside Trevor Zegras or Mason McTavish, possibly as soon as next season.

3. Columbus Blue Jackets

Kimelman -- Leo Carlsson, C, Orebro (SWE):Carlsson won't blow your skates off like Bedard, but he does everything exceptionally well. He's got NHL-ready size (6-3, 198) and already has two seasons of experience in the Swedish Hockey League. Carlsson has the chance to be a top-end No. 1 center in Columbus.

Morreale -- Matvei Michkov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (RUS): The 18-year-old forward had 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in 27 games on loan to Sochi in the Kontinental Hockey League. Michkov (5-10, 172) was No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of International skaters with a skill set that reminds one of Bedard in a lot of ways. The Blue Jackets realize his KHL contract runs through 2025-26, so patience will be needed but the payoff could be tremendous.

NHL Tonight on Adam Fantilli and Leo Carlsson

4. San Jose Sharks

Kimelman -- William Smith, C, USA U-18 (NTDP):Smith is a game-breaking talent who saved his best hockey for the biggest moment. In helping the United States win the gold medal at the 2023 IIHF Under-18 World Championship last month, he led the tournament with 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in seven games, matching the U.S. record set by Jack Hughes at the 2019 tournament. Smith (6-foot, 181) will likely play at least one season at Boston College but will be more than worth the wait.

Morreale -- Leo Carlsson:Carlsson, No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of International skaters, had 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) and seven power-play goals in 44 games in the Swedish Hockey League. He also had six points (three goals, three assists) in seven games playing mostly on the wing for fourth-place Sweden at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship. He knows how to manage the puck along the boards and is difficult to knock down in battles.

5. Montreal Canadiens

Kimelman -- Matvei Michkov: From a pure skill standpoint, Michkov might be second only to Bedard in this year's draft class. But his contract in the KHL runs through the 2025-26 season, so whatever team drafts him will need patience. But the Canadiens have started to put some good young pieces in place with forwards Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki, Kirby Dach and Juraj Slafkovsky, and defensem*n Kaiden Guhle, Justin Barron and Jordan Harris. They've also drafted well recently, so they're well stocked to wait for Michkov to potentially arrive at age 22 in 2026.

Morreale -- William Smith:The right-shot center is committed to playing at Boston College next season. Smith, who immediately will become the best prospect in Montreal's pipeline, creates scoring chances and can handle the puck at top speed while making plays, and the players around him, even better. The 18-year-old had 127 points (51 goals, 76 assists) in 60 games this season, second on the NTDP.

6. Arizona Coyotes

Kimelman -- Ryan Leonard, RW, USA U-18 (NTDP): Leonard's play got better as the season went on, and he was outstanding at the World U-18s, scoring eight goals in seven games, including the overtime winner in the gold-medal game. But more than the skill, Leonard (6-foot, 192) plays a feisty game, reminiscent of Matthew Tkachuk of the Florida Panthers. He is committed to Boston College for 2023-24, but with a solid season of development, he could join Video: Connor Bedard expected to land in Chicago (2022, No. 3), Video: Connor Bedard expected to land in Chicago (2022, No. 11) and Video: Connor Bedard expected to land in Chicago (2021, No. 9) as the Coyotes start putting in place some really nice offensive talents.

Morreale -- Zach Benson, LW, Winnipeg (WHL):A terrific skater and relentless contributor on the forecheck, Benson (5-9, 163) will go to the tough areas of the ice and always battle hard despite his frame. His best asset is his hockey smarts and he's improved his defensive game playing for Winnipeg coach and former NHL defenseman James Patrick.

7. Philadelphia Flyers

Kimelman -- Oliver Moore, C, USA U-18 (NTDP): Moore (5-11, 188) does everything at a high pace, with a skill set that is reminiscent of Detroit Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin. The Flyers have talked about the need to add top-end skill to their prospects group, and Moore has the ability to be a top-six center after he develops his game at the University of Minnesota for at least one season.

Morreale -- Ryan Leonard:He's a prototypical Flyer with the competitiveness, grit and willingness to be the player that stirs the pot when his team needs a spark. Leonard had 94 points (51 goals, 43 assists) in 57 games with the NTDP and he'll attend Boston College next season, where he will be teammates with Video: Connor Bedard expected to land in Chicago, who the Flyers selected with the No. 5 pick of the 2022 NHL Draft.

8. Washington Capitals

Kimelman -- David Reinbacher, D, Kloten (SUI):The Capitals have done well with adding young forwards at the top of the draft the past few seasons, with Video: Connor Bedard expected to land in Chicago (2019, No. 25) and Video: Connor Bedard expected to land in Chicago (2020, No. 22) looking like they're ready for more. Now would be a good time to address the defense, and Reinbacher (6-2, 185) appears to be the best defenseman prospect available. The Austria-born right-shot defenseman didn't look out of place playing in the top professional league in Switzerland with 22 points (three goals, 19 assists) in 46 games, and scouts have compared him to Red Wings defenseman Moritz Seider.

Morreale -- Dalibor Dvorsky, C, AIK (SWE-2): Dvorsky (6-1, 201) is a good skater, great with the puck on his stick, and has the ability to maintain possession with good vision. He can win battles in the corner and shows great skill in tight spaces, and led fourth-place Slovakia with 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in seven games at the U-18 Worlds. He's expected to become the fourth Slovakia-born player to be chosen in the first round of the draft in the past two years, following Slafkovsky (No. 1), defenseman Simon Nemec (New Jersey Devils, No. 2) and forward Video: Connor Bedard expected to land in Chicago (Canadiens, No. 26) in the 2022 draft.

9. Detroit Red Wings

Kimelman -- Zach Benson:Benson was the leading scorer (98 points in 60 games) on the best team in the WHL during the regular season, one that featured two first-round NHL draft picks, Geekie and Video: Connor Bedard expected to land in Chicago (Buffalo Sabres). His work ethic is one of his best assets, and he's fearless when it comes to going to the dirty areas to produce offense, similar to Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher.

Morreale -- Oliver Moore: Moore has elite speed and is a potential top-line NHL player someday; he'll attend the University of Minnesota next season. It's possible he's moved to wing at the next level, but he did have 75 points (31 goals, 44 assists) in 61 games with the NTDP. The left-handed shot had nine points (four goals, five assists) in seven games for the United States at the U-18 Worlds.

10. St. Louis Blues

Kimelman -- Dalibor Dvorsky:Dvorsky has the size and skill to play in the middle, but also could find a home on the wing. Wherever he ends up, the Blues will be happy to have him; Dvorsky is a high-IQ player with a really good shot that he doesn't need much room to get it off.

Morreale -- Eduard Sale, LW, Brno (CZE): A talented forward with great offensive instincts who can shoot and pass with good accuracy. Sale (6-2, 174) has proven to be active in the offensive zone and presents a challenge for opposing defenders with his size and strength. He had six points (four goals, two assists) in five games for Czechia at the U-18 Worlds.

11. Vancouver Canucks

Kimelman -- Eduard Sale: Finding depth at left wing is an organizational need for the Canucks, whose recent top draft selections have played on the right side: Video: Connor Bedard expected to land in Chicago (2022, No. 15), Video: Connor Bedard expected to land in Chicago (2021, No. 41) and Video: Connor Bedard expected to land in Chicago (2019, No. 10). Sale, who has high-end puck skills and is a smooth skater, has two seasons of experience playing against older competition in the top Czech league.

Morreale -- Brayden Yager, C, Moose Jaw (WHL):The Canucks need to add depth down the middle after the trade of Bo Horvat, and Yager (5-11, 166) is a good start. He improved his playmaking ability to complement his powerful shot this season, is responsible in all three zones and effective on face-offs. Yager had 78 points (28 goals, 50 assists) in 67 regular-season games and had 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 10 WHL playoff games.

12. Arizona Coyotes (from Ottawa Senators)

Kimelman -- Gabriel Perreault, RW, USA U-18 (NTDP):Perreault (5-11, 165), Leonard and Smith were arguably the best line in junior hockey this season, so the Coyotes will gladly take two of them after selecting Leonard at No. 6. Perreault broke Auston Matthews' NTDP U-18 single-season record with 132 points (53 goals, 79 assists) in 63 games. His hockey sense is his best asset, and it allows him to use his anticipation and puck skills to create scoring chances for himself and his teammates.

Morreale -- David Reinbacher:Reinbacher plays a strong game while looking to get involved on every shift. He's a good skater for his size and is effective in making the first pass out of his zone.

13. Buffalo Sabres

Kimelman -- Matthew Wood, RW, Connecticut (NCAA):Wood's game got better as the season went on, capped by 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in seven games for Canada at World U-18s, where he answered any questions about his skating. His size (6-4, 193) and skill make him one of the best players below the dots in this draft class. The Sabres have built an impressive array of young offensive talent, led by Tage Thompson (also a Connecticut product), Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, Dylan Cozens and Jack Quinn. Wood would make a strong group even better.

Morreale -- Nate Danielson, C, Brandon (WHL):It's a great opportunity for the Sabres to add a skilled right-handed shot with vision and patience with the puck. Danielson (6-2, 185) made one of the most significant jumps in Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, from No. 13 on the midterm list in January to No. 7, after leading Brandon with 78 points (33 goals, 45 assists) in 68 regular-season games. He can play all situations, including the power play and penalty kill.

14. Pittsburgh Penguins

Kimelman -- Nate Danielson:This is the earliest the Penguins have selected in the draft since 2012 when they selected defenseman Video: Connor Bedard expected to land in Chicago at No. 8. Danielson stood out on a Brandon team that struggled this season, and scouts were impressed with how he continued to develop the offensive side of his game to complement his responsible defensive abilities. With so many top-end forwards available in this draft class, it's imperative to find centers that can eventually replace Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and Danielson has the potential to develop into a strong top-six player.

Morreale -- Gabriel Perreault: Perreault led the NTDP in goals, assists and points this season before finishing second among all players at the U-18 Worlds with 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in seven games. The 18-year-old left-handed shot, the son of former NHL center Yanic Perreault, has great instincts, good smarts, and knows how to put himself in good areas to receive a pass or create offense.

15. Nashville Predators

Kimelman -- Axel Sandin Pellikka, D, Skelleftea Jr. (SWE-JR):The Predators haven't taken a defenseman in the first round since Dante Fabbro in 2016, and with two first-round picks, this could be the right time to address that lack of quality organizational depth. Sandin Pellikka (5-11, 176) had 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 31 games in Sweden's junior league and was able to use his outstanding skating to create scoring chances off transition. He needs to get stronger to play against NHL forwards, but his hockey sense and smart positional play should make him an asset at both ends in the NHL.

Morreale -- Axel Sandin Pellikka: Pellikka compensates for his lack of size with his hockey smarts and understanding of the game. He's quick and agile, reliable and consistent. Compared by some to Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes, Pellikka stood out in Sweden's junior league and had five points (two goals, three assists) in 22 games with Skelleftea in the SHL.

16. Calgary Flames

Kimelman -- Samuel Honzek, LW, Vancouver (WHL): Honzek's strength and hockey IQ stood out this season, his first in the WHL after coming over from his native Slovakia. He showed he could make plays off the rush and use his big body (6-4, 186) to hold off defenders to create time and space to use his quick, heavy shot.

Morreale -- Otto Stenberg, C, Frolunda Jr. (SWE-JR):An offensively gifted player with quick hands and an accurate shot, Stenberg (5-11, 180) had 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in seven games for Sweden at the U-18 Worlds. He also made his SHL debut with three points (one goal, two assists) in 23 games with Frolunda, and had 26 points (11 goals, 15 assists) in 29 games with Frolunda's junior team. A complete player with a strong work ethic and the ability to come up big in clutch situations, Stenberg can play wing or center.

Listen: Video: Connor Bedard expected to land in Chicago

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Mock 2023 NHL Draft: Bedard to Blackhawks at No. 1; Ducks take Fantilli | (2024)


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