Bleacher Report's Way-Too-Early 2023 NHL Mock Draft

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 25, 2022

Bleacher Report's Way-Too-Early 2023 NHL Mock Draft

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    EDMONTON, AB - AUGUST 17: Connor Bedard #16 of Canada warms prior to the game against Switzerland in the IIHF World Junior Championship on August 17, 2022 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (Photo by Andy Devlin/ Getty Images)
    Connor Bedard playing for Canada at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship (Andy Devlin/ Getty Images).

    Nashville will host the 2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bridgestone Arena. The first round will be held on Wednesday, June 28, 2023, with rounds two through seven on Thursday, June 29.

    Like the 2022 draft, it will be an ongoing return to normalcy from the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The management and scouting staff from all 32 NHL clubs will be in attendance, as will many of 2023's top prospects and their families.

    It also means another full season for draft-eligible players in North America and Europe to be evaluated by NHL scouts. Central Scouting has not released their early evaluations of this season's prospects, but the early buzz has Connor Bedard of the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League (WHL) as the favorite to become the top prospect for 2022-23.

    With NHL training camps in full swing and the 2022-23 regular season on the horizon, it's time to stage our annual way-too-early NHL Mock Draft. With no regular-season standings to draw upon for our first-round draft positions, we'll be relying on our latest Bleacher Report Power Rankings of where each club stands entering training camp.

    Do you agree or disagree with our mock draft selections? Feel free to express your views on this topic in the comments section below.

    We've drawn our info from The Hockey News' early top-40 prospects as well as preseason ranking by The Athletic and Dobber Prospects. Each team's prospect needs are determined in part by The Athletic's Pipeline Rankings with additional info via Elite Prospects and Cap Friendly.

1. Arizona Coyotes: Connor Bedard

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    EDMONTON, AB - DECEMBER 26: Connor Bedard #16 of Canada skates against Czechia in the second period during the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Place on December 26, 2021 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
    Connor Bedard playing for Canada at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship (Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

    The Arizona Coyotes have been rebuilding over the past two seasons. They finished last season with the second-worst record, earning the third-overall pick in the 2022 draft lottery. Their ongoing rebuild could see them win the 2023 lottery and the opportunity to draft Connor Bedard of the WHL's Regina Pats.

    Bedard, 17, is ranked the top prospect for 2023 by The Hockey News' Ryan Kennedy and The Athletic's Scott Wheeler. In a July 9 interview with NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale, Peter Sullivan of NHL Central Scouting praised the 5'9”, 181-pound center's elite hockey sense and skill.

    Sullivan's colleague Joey Tenute singled out Bedard's hard, quick, accurate shot and ability to produce offense. The youngster led the Pats with 51 goals and 100 points last season and finished fourth among the WHL's leading scorers. Bedard also had eight points in seven games playing for Canada at the 2022 World Junior Championship.

    The Athletic's ranking of the Coyotes pipeline indicates they already possess three centers among their top-five prospects in Logan Cooley, Barrett Hayton and Connor Geekie. However, they probably won't pass up the opportunity to land a potential franchise player like Bedard.

2. Seattle Kraken: Zach Benson

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    In their first two NHL drafts, the Seattle Kraken added two promising centers in Matty Beniers and Shane Wright as well as right wingers Jagger Firkus and Jani Nyman. However, they lack prospect depth on left wing. To address that issue, they could turn to Zach Benson of the WHL's Winnipeg Ice.

    The 5'10", 159-pound Benson may be slight in stature but more than held his own in the WHL last season. He tallied 25 goals and 63 points in 58 regular-season games along with a team-leading 23 points in 15 playoff contests. The young winger had seven points for Canada as they won the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

    Scott Wheeler of The Athletic considers Benson to be a "multi-dimensional forward." He cited Winnipeg Ice head coach James Patrick calling the young winger “one of the smartest young players I've ever seen," praising his skills at both ends of the ice. Dobber Prospects' Sebastian High called Benson an "elite playmaker" with strong goalscoring instincts.

    Benson has the skills and potential to become a top-six NHL left winger. He could be a good fit skating alongside Beniers or Wright to form a future one-two offensive punch for the Kraken.

3. Philadelphia Flyers: Adam Fantilli

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    The Philadelphia Flyers made few notable offseason changes to their roster. With stars Sean Couturier and Ryan Ellis sidelined, they could end up with a high pick in the 2023 draft. Adam Fantilli of the University of Michigan could be on their radar.

    Fantilli spent the past two seasons in the United States Hockey League (USHL) with the Chicago Steel. The Nobleton, Ontario native led his club last season with 37 goals and finished second in points with 74. He also had six points in four games for Canada at the 2022 IIHF Under-18 (U18) World Championship.

    At 6'2” and 187 pounds, Fantilli already possesses big-league size. NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale cited Greg Rajanen of Central Scouting citing the young center's skating and puck movement. “Fantilli will be in the discussion for No. 1 overall,” he said.

    The Flyers lack centers among their top-eight prospects. Fantilli could prove to be an important selection for them at this position in the draft. They must soon start considering eventual replacements for veterans such as Couturier and Kevin Hayes.

4. Chicago Blackhawks: Matvei Michkov

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    ST  PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - 2022/05/05: Matvei Michkov (No.39) of Russia U20 seen in action during the Liga Stavok St. Petersburg Cup, hockey tournament match between Russia and Russia U20 at Jubilee Arena in Saint Petersburg.
(Final score; Russia 4:2 Russia U20). (Photo by Maksim Konstantinov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
    Matvei Michkov (Maksim Konstantinov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

    Under first-year general manager Kyle Davidson, the Chicago Blackhawks are rebuilding their roster. With two potentially two picks in the first round, Davidson could be well-positioned to land a couple of quality prospects. One of them could be Matvei Michkhov of SKA St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).

    A small forward at 5'9” and 159 pounds, Michkov is a highly-skilled offensive winger. NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale observed the 17-year-old right winger had 22 goals and 38 points in 22 games and 17 points (including 13 goals) in 17 playoff games leading St. Petersburg's minor-league team to a championship.

    Morreale cited NHL director of European Scouting Goran Stubbs currently considers Michkov “the No. 1 prospect from Europe in the 2023 draft.” He praised his acceleration, hockey sense and passing abilities.

    The Hockey News' Ryan Kennedy points out that Michkov's KHL contract could keep him from the NHL for several years. However, the Blackhawks' lack of right-wing prospect depth could force Davidson to select the young Russian and wait patiently as he develops his game among KHL professionals.

5. Montreal Canadiens: Matthew Wood

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    By choosing Juraj Slafkovsky with the first-overall pick in the 2022 draft, the Montreal Canadiens have a potential superstar on left wing. However, they're lacking a skilled right winger among their top-10 prospects. They could be in a good position to address that issue if they end up among the top five in the 2023 draft.

    Matthew Wood of the Victoria Grizzlies in the British Columbia Hockey League could be someone worth watching for the Canadiens. He was the BCHL's leading scorer last season with 45 goals and 85 points in 46 games. Wood also has good size for a 17-year-old at 6'3” and 190 pounds.

    The Athletic's Scott Wheeler observed Wood's quick hands, playmaking ability and marksman's shot. He needs a little more quickness in his skating but that's something that should improve as he matures. Dobber Prospects' Evan Pace believes Wood's size enables him to play well through traffic.

    Wood will play this season for the University of Connecticut, where he'll get a great opportunity to develop his game among NCAA talent. His size and offensive abilities could make him an enticing top-10 prospect.

6. Buffalo Sabres: Cameron Allen

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    Defensemen Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power are former first-overall selections by the Buffalo Sabres. With a number of forwards filling out most of their top-10 prospect depth, they could consider adding another young blueliner such as Cameron (Cam) Allen of the Ontario Hockey League's Guelph Storm.

    The Hockey News' Ryan Kennedy considers the 5'11”, 190-pound Allen the top defenseman thus far among the 2023 draft class. So does The Athletic's Scott Wheeler, pointing out he was the OHL's Rookie of the Year last season.

    Allen enjoyed a fine debut with the Storm in 2021-22, finishing among their top-10 scorers with 37 points in 65 games. Kennedy noted that he also captained Canada to a gold medal at the 2022 Hlinka-Gretzky Cup with seven points in five games.

    A mobile defenseman, Allen plays a solid game at both ends of the rink. He possesses a hard slapshot from the point and passes the puck well. His production and overall performance should improve this season with the Storm.

7. New Jersey Devils: Dalibor Dvorský

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    The New Jersey Devils have two good young players centering their top-two lines with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. They're currently loaded with wingers, defensemen and goaltenders among their top prospects but could use another center. Perhaps Dalibor Dvorský of AIK HockeyAllsvenskan will prove a tempting option.

    NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale considers Dvorský among four blue-chip players projected to be chosen early in the first round of the 2023 draft. He pointed out that the 6'1”, 205-pound center had 20 goals and 20 assists for 40 points in 33 regular-season games and six points in six playoff games as a 16-year-old playing for AIK's Junior-20 league in 2021-22.

    A native of Slovakia, Dvorský played for his country's Under-18 squad in international play. He also saw action in four games at the World Under-20 (U20) Championship, collecting two points in four games.

    The Athletic's Scott Wheeler and The Hockey News' Ryan Kennedy both cited Dvorský's hockey sense and adept puckhandling abilities. Those skills should improve in the coming season while playing with professional talent in Sweden.

8. San Jose Sharks: Brayden Yager

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    With Tomas Hertl now 28 and Logan Couture 33, the San Jose Sharks must continue to draft and develop their future replacements. Brayden Yager of the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors could be someone worth monitoring for this year's draft.

    Yager played well in his first full WHL campaign. He finished second among the Warriors with 34 goals and fourth with 59 points. The 17-year-old also had seven points in 10 playoff contests.

    Standing 6'0 and 165 pounds, Yager is tall and slender but possesses strong offensive abilities. He was the CHL Rookie of the Year and also produced five goals and nine points in five games for Canada in the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

    The Hockey News' Ryan Kennedy praised his hard shot and quick release as well as his improved playmaking skills. NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale believes Yager could be among the prospects chosen early in the first round of the 2023 draft.

9. Anaheim Ducks: Leo Carlsson

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    The rebuilding Anaheim Ducks are loaded with centers and defensemen among their top-10 prospects but need promising young wingers with the potential to crack their lineup in a few years. Addressing that issue could become their priority in the 2023 draft.

    Leo Carlsson of Örebro HK in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) could be someone their scouts follow this season. A versatile forward who can play center or wing, the 6'3”, 194-pounder is considered by The Athletic's Scott Wheeler as the top Swedish prospect in the 2023 draft class.

    Carlsson had 27 points in just 14 games playing for Örebro HK's J20 squad. He also added nine points in 35 games with their parent club seeing regular ice time. Dobber Prospect's Eetu Siltanen cited his terrific puckhandling skills, vision and hockey smarts.

    Given his size and impressive skill set, Carlsson could become a top-10 draft pick, perhaps even going in the top-five if he plays well this season against Swedish pros. He could prove too tempting for the Ducks to pass up if he's still available by this stage of the first round.

10. Winnipeg Jets: Mikhail Gulyayev

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    LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND - JANUARY 22: #8 Mikhail Gulyayev of Russian Federation in action during Men's 6-Team Tournament Gold Medal Game between Russia and United States of the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympics on January 22, 2021 in Lausanne, Switzerland. (Photo by RvS.Media/Monika Majer/Getty Images)
    Mikhail Guljayev in action with the Russian Federation team in 2021. RvS.Media/Monika Majer/Getty Images

    Defense has been a sore spot for the Winnipeg Jets in recent years. Last season, their 75.0 penalty-killing percentage ranked 29th while giving up the eighth-most shots-against per game (33.2). While promising Ville Heinola could be promoted this season, they could use more defensemen among their top-10 prospects.

    One option could be Mikhail Gulyayev of MHL club Omskie Yastreby in Russia. A slick puck-moving defenseman, the 5'10”, 170-pound blueliner tallied 35 points in 54 points last season as a 16-year-old rookie. Now 17, he's already played four games this season for parent club Avangard Omsk in the KHL.

    The Athletic's Scott Wheeler considers Gulyayev the second-best Russian prospect in the 2023 draft. Dobber Prospects' Jordan Harris praised his mobility and puckhandling skills as well. He also noted the young Russian plays a smart defensive game by using his speed and stick to break up plays.

    As a Russian player, it could be several years before Gulyayev will be able to sign with an NHL team. Nevertheless, he could be worth the wait as he develops his game among professional players in the KHL. By that point, he could become a ready-made top-four defenseman for the Jets.

11. Columbus Blue Jackets: Eduard Sale

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    The Columbus Blue Jackets have a good mix of forwards and defensemen among their top prospects. They also have promising 23-year-old goaltender Daniil Tarasov in their system who could one day share the goalie duties with Elvis Merzlikins.

    They could consider adding another winger in this year's draft. Eduard Sale of HC Kometa Brno in the Czech Republic would be a good choice for them. The 17-year-old left winger tallied 42 goals and 89 points with Brno's Under-20 squad last season. He also tallied six points in five games for Czechia in the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

    Dobber Prospects' Sasha Lagarde cited Sale's offensive abilities and speed, considering him among the more enticing wingers of this draft class. The Athletic's Scott Wheeler liked his skating, vision and knack for making big plays.

    At 6'1” and 168 pounds, Sale has a projectable frame and should fill out more as he matures. His skills will also improve as he plays a full season with professionals this season.

12. New York Islanders: Andrew Cristall

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    KELOWNA, BC - MARCH 26:  Andrew Cristall #28 of the Kelowna Rockets skates against the Victoria Royals at Prospera Place on March 26, 2021 in Kelowna, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)
    Kelowna Rockets winger Andrew Cristall (Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

    A lack of first-round picks in the last three drafts left the New York Islanders prospect pipeline in need of restocking. With no left wings among their top-five prospects, perhaps they'll give consideration to Andrew Cristall of the WHL's Kelowna Rockets.

    The Athletic's Scott Wheeler and Dobber Prospects' Chris Horvat both observed Cristall's ability as a creative, slippery playmaker. They also liked how smart he is with the puck and his ability to read plays.

    Cristall had an impressive first full season in the WHL in 2021-22 with 28 goals and 69 points in 61 regular-season games. The 17-year-old winger finished third among the Rockets' leading scorers. He also had six points in five games for Canada at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

    At 5'10” and 165 pounds, Cristall isn't very big and doesn't play a physical game. However, Horvat pointed out he plays a responsible defensive game with the puck. He could be right at home with the Islanders given their adherence to a strong two-way game.

13 Ottawa Senators: Kasper Halttunen

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    Several years of rebuilding have given the Ottawa Senators a deep pool of prospects that has steadily produced talent for their roster. They could add to it by choosing Kasper Halttunen of HIFK in Finland's Elite League (Liiga).

    The Senators have young talent at center in Josh Norris and Tim Stützle on their roster along with Brady Tkachuk on left wing. Alex DeBrincat could join them if he signs a contract extension. A promising young right winger such as Halttunen could have a chance to become part of this young core.

    At 6'3” and 207 pounds, Halttunen is a big, strong forward who netted 24 goals and 38 points in 41 games with Jokerit's Under-20 team last season. Dobber Prospects' Eetu Siltanen and The Athletic's Scott Wheeler believe the 17-year-old Finnish winger has power-forward potential.

    Already possessing impressive size with a heavy shot and a willingness to play a physical game, Halttunen's style of play would provide additional offense and snarl to the Senators' lineup. He could be a good complement to the agitating Tkachuk on the same line.

     

14. Vancouver Canucks: Otto Stenberg

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    The Vancouver Canucks could use additional blue-line depth in their prospect pipeline. However, the promising defensemen in the 2023 draft thus far appear thin. They also appear set at center for the foreseeable future with J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson.

    They could instead shift their focus toward adding more depth on left wing. Otto Stenberg of Frölunda HC J20 in Sweden might prove a worthwhile option.

    Capable of playing center or left wing, the versatile Stenberg tallied 16 goals and 35 points in 38 games last season as a rookie with Frölunda HC J20 to finish fifth among their leading scorers. The 17-year-old also played well at the 2020 Hlinka-Gretzky Cup with nine points in five games.

    Dobber Prospects' Eetu Siltanen called the 5'11”, 181-pound Stenberg an energetic and creative offensive forward. The Athletic's Scott Wheeler praised his stickhandling abilities and accurate shot. Those attributes could make him a fine future addition to the Canucks' offense.

15. Detroit Red Wings: Calum Ritchie

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    OSHAWA, ONTARIO - JANUARY 23: Calum Ritchie #21 of the Oshawa Generals skates against the Kingston Frontenacs at Tribute Communities Centre on January 23, 2022 in Oshawa, Ontario. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
    Oshawa General center Calum Ritchie (Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)

    Patient rebuilding by general manager Steve Yzerman has provided the Detroit Red Wings with an enviable pool of prospects. Current young NHL stars such as Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond have already emerged, with promising blueliner Simon Edvinsson expected to make his NHL debut this season.

    The Wings also have a potential NHL-caliber two-way center in 2022 first-round pick Marco Kaspar. They could buttress their prospect depth at that position by choosing Calum Ritchie of the OHL's Oshawa Generals.

    The 6'2”, 187-pound Ritchie enjoyed a fine rookie season in the OHL in 2021-22, finishing with 45 points in 65 regular season games and seven points in six playoff games. He also played well for Canada at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup with 10 points in five games.

    Scott Wheeler of The Athletic considers Ritchie among the craftier offensive players to come along in years. The Hockey News' Ryan Kennedy believes his combination of size and skill could make him the first OHL player chosen in the 2023 NHL draft.

16. Vegas Golden Knights: Will Smith

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    In recent years, the Vegas Golden Knights have traded away promising young talents such as Nick Suzuki and Peyton Krebs for more established NHL talent. It's left them with a prospect pool in need of restocking.

    One option could be Will Smith of the US National Team Development Program (USNTDP). Evan Pace of Dobber Prospects praised the 17-year-old center as a crafty playmaker with two-way upside. The Athletic's Scott Wheeler observed he was the most productive 2005-born player at the national program last year.

    The 6'0", 172-pound Smith netted 37 points in 35 games with the U.S. National U17 team along with 27 points in 28 games with the Under-18 squad. Skating with the USNTDP Juniors in the USHL, he tallied 27 points in 28 games.

    A native of Lexington, MA, Smith will attend Boston College in 2023-24. Another year with the development program followed by skating in the NCAA will further hone his skills. By the time he's 20, he could be ready to become a promising addition to the Golden Knights.

17. Nashville Predators: Charlie Stramel

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    LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND - JANUARY 18: #16 Charlie Stramel of United States celebrates his team goal during Men's 6-Team Tournament Preliminary Round - Group A Game between United States and Finland of the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympics on January 18, 2020 in Lausanne, Switzerland. (Photo by RvS.Media/Basile Barbey/Getty Images)
    Charlie Stramel (RvS.Media/Basile Barbey/Getty Images)

    Charlie Stramel spent the past two seasons with the USNTDP and will be playing this season with the University of Wisconsin. He could draw the attention of the Nashville Predators if he's still available by this stage of the first round.

    The Predators could use a center in their prospect pool with top-six forward potential who plays with a physical edge to his game. The Hockey News' Ryan Kennedy called the 6'3”, 216-pound Stramel “big, mean and skilled” while The Athletic's Scott Wheeler believes he has the tools to become an effective power forward.

    Stramel missed the first half of last season recovering from offseason surgery. Upon his return, he had 22 points in 26 games with the USNTDP U18 team and 15 points in 16 games with their Junior squad in the USHL.

    Wheeler believes Stramel must improve his playmaking and skating while Kennedy believes he could find it challenging playing for Wisconsin this season. However, if he can build up his game facing NCAA competition it could bolster his stock among this season's draft class.

18. New York Rangers (via Dallas Stars): Nate Danielson

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    The New York Rangers received the Dallas Stars' 2023 first-round pick as part of the return in the Nils Lundkvist trade. If the pick is a top-10 selection it will revert to Dallas' unprotected 2024 first-rounder. We'll assume the Rangers will get this pick and use it to select Nate Danielson of the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings.

    At 6'1” and 185 pounds, Danielson already has the promising size for a potential NHL player. In his first full season with the Wheat Kings, he tallied 23 goals and 57 points to finish fourth among their scoring leaders.

    Dobber Prospects' Nick Richard calls Danielson a well-rounded center with good size and mobility. The Athletic's Scott Wheeler singled out his two-way abilities, including his penalty-killing and hardworking style.

    The Rangers lack a promising center among their top-10 prospects. If Filip Chytil doesn't pan out as their third-line center, Danielson could prove a worthwhile candidate for that role down the road.

19. Washington Capitals: Colby Barlow

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    With Alex Ovechkin now 37 years old and T.J. Oshie turning 36 on Dec. 23, the Washington Capitals must draft and develop their next wave of top-six wingers. Colby Barlow of the OHL's Owen Sound Attack could be an enticing candidate.

    Barlow possesses promising size at 6'1” and 187 pounds. Listed as a left winger, The Athletic's Scott Wheeler indicates he can also play right wing. He cited the youngster's NHL-caliber shot, good overall speed and penalty-killing ability.

    With 30 goals and 47 points in his OHL debut, Barlow tied for the goal-scoring lead among Attack players. He also had a team-leading five goals in six playoff games and five points in as many games playing for Canada in the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

    Barlow will draw considerable attention in the 2023 draft if he can build on last season's OHL rookie performance. He might be a good fit with the Capitals as a future power forward.

20. Los Angeles Kings: Daniil But

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    Several years of rebuilding have given the Los Angeles Kings one of the best prospect pools in the league. Daniil But of Loko Yaroslavl in Russia's MHL could be a solid addition to their cast of promising youngsters.

    The Kings possess a good mix of centers and defensemen among their top-10 but could use more depth on left wing. The 6'5”, 203-pound But would bring considerable size and promising offensive abilities.

    But enjoyed a strong rookie performance with Loko Yaroslavl last season with 17 goals and 42 points in 46 games. He also played in five games for Russia at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

    The Athletic's Scott Wheeler indicated scouts are drawn to But's combination of size and skill. The young Russian needs to work on his skating but with ongoing improvement could become an attractive first-round prospect.

21. Pittsburgh Penguins: Riley Heidt

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins have a shallow pool of prospect talent following several years of trading away draft picks and promising prospects for veterans. With Sidney Crosby now 35 years old and Evgeni Malkin 36, it's imperative that they start finding their eventual replacements through the draft.

    Riley Heidt of the WHL's Prince George Cougars could be a promising option for the Penguins. The 5'11”, 179-pound center tallied 21 goals and 58 points in 65 games in his first full WHL season. Skating for Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, the 17-year-old had six points in five games.

    Dobber Prospects' Nick Richard pointed out Heidt took on a prominent role for the Cougars last season, praising his playmaking and skating. The Athletic's Scott Wheeler took note of his hardworking style of play.

    Heidt won't be a can't-miss superstar like Crosby and Malkin. Still, he has the potential to become a top-six NHL forward. A strong effort in the WHL this season could push him toward the upper half of the 2023 draft class.

22. Boston Bruins: Oliver Moore

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    Sitting 32nd on The Athletic's prospect pipeline rankings, the Boston Bruins must focus on adding as much promising young talent as possible. With Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci in their late-30s, their focus should be on building up their depth at center.

    Oliver Moore of the USNTDP has the potential to become a worthwhile top-six center. Dobber Prospects' Nick Richard praised his speed and ability to read plays while The Athletic's Scott Wheeler singled out his playmaking and one-timer from the right side.

    Skating with the National U17 team last season, Moore scored 24 goals and 39 points in 43 games. The 5'11” 176-pounder also had 26 points in 32 games with their Junior squad in the USHL and netted seven points in 11 games with the U18 team.

    Moore is expected to play for the University of Minnesota in 2024-25 so the Bruins would have to be patient waiting for his development. It could be worth it in the long term given his skills and potential.

23. St. Louis Blues: Ryan Leonard

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    Skating with the USNTDP U18 team this season, Ryan Leonard is a promising center who can also play on the wing. His versatility and energy could make him a good fit with the St. Louis Blues.

    The Blues lack a potential top-six center among their top-five prospects. With Ryan O'Reilly now 31 and eligible for unrestricted free agent status next summer, it would be worthwhile to shore up their depth at that position.

    Leonard had 10 goals and 20 points in 26 games with the USNTDP U17 squad last season, 16 goals and 23 points in 36 contests with the U18 team and 10 goals and 15 points in 33 games with their Junior team in the USHL. He also had five goals and six points for the United States at the World Under-18 Championship.

    The Athletic's Scott Wheeler likes Leonard's scoring ability and his scrappy, energetic style. Alexander Annun of Dobber Prospects praised his puck-possession skills and hockey instincts in all three zones. Those traits should make the 5'11”, 181-pounder a prized commodity in the 2023 draft class.

24. Minnesota Wild: Quentin Musty

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    OSHAWA, ONTARIO - NOVEMBER 07: Quentin Musty #27 of the Sudbury Wolves skates against the Oshawa Generals at Tribute Communities Centre on November 07, 2021 in Oshawa, Ontario. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
    Sudbury Wolves winger Quentin Musty (Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)

    Blessed with a prospect pool among the league's best, the Minnesota Wild have a good mix of promising youngsters. Still, they could use a big, skillful left wing with top-six potential among their top-five prospects.

    One option potentially available at this stage of the opening round is Quentin Musty of the OHL's Sudbury Wolves. The 6'2”, 205-pounder already has NHL size and has promise as an offensive left winger.

    Musty tallied 12 goals and 31 points in 50 games as an OHL rookie last season to finish fifth among the Wolves. He also had five points in four games playing for the United States at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

    Dobber Prospects' Sebastian High and The Athletic's Scott Wheeler praised Musty's raw potential as a scoring winger. If he can build on last season's promising rookie campaign and improve his overall game with the Wolves, the big winger should become one of this season's top NHL prospects.

25. Edmonton Oilers: Gavin Brindley

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    LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND - JANUARY 22: #11 Gavin Brindley of United States in action with #3 Vladislav Sapunov of Russian Federation during Men's 6-Team Tournament Gold Medal Game between Russia and United States of the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympics on January 22, 2021 in Lausanne, Switzerland. (Photo by RvS.Media/Monika Majer/Getty Images)
    Gavin Brindley (left) of the United States (RvS.Media/Monika Majer/Getty Images)

    The Edmonton Oilers' have spent the past several years attempting to add a reliable scoring right winger among their top-two forward lines. Xavier Bourgault and Raphael Lavoie are among their notable prospects but neither are among their top five.

    Gavin Brindley of the University of Michigan could be worth monitoring this season. He had 42 points in 51 games in 2021-22 with the USHL's Tri-City Storm along with nine points in 15 games with the USNTDP U18 team. The 5'7', 157-pounder also had four points in six games playing for the United States in the World Under-18 Championship.

    Despite his small stature, Brindley plays a skillful, fast-paced game. Alexander Annun of Dobber Prospects praised his skating ability and his shot while The Athletic's Scott Wheeler noted he has the tools to play a good defensive game.

    Brindley's game will only improve skating against NCAA talent this season. His growth physically and skill-wise could see his stock rise in the 2023 draft.

26 New York Rangers: Caden Price

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    Having projected the Rangers selecting center Nate Danielson with the No. 18 pick received from the Dallas Stars, they could shift their focus toward a defenseman with this selection. Caden Price of the WHL's Kelowna Rockets could be worth consideration.

    The 6'1”, 181-pound Price had 21 points in 47 games with the Rocket as a WHL rookie as well as five points in as many games playing for Canada at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Dobber Prospects' Nick Richard praised Price's skills as a puck-moving defenseman as well as his vision and creativity with the puck.

    The Athletic's Scott Wheeler believes Price could be comparable to Kevin Korchinski, who rose from fringe first-rounder to getting selected seventh overall in this year's draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. He also singled out the young blueliner's vision and puck-handling skills.

    Price could end up becoming a top-10 pick in the 2023 Draft if he plays well with the Rockets this season. He has the skills to one day become an NHL top-four defenseman.

27. Montreal Canadiens (via Florida Panthers): Alex Čiernik

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    The Montreal Canadiens acquired the Florida Panthers 2023 first-round pick in last season's Ben Chiarot trade. We have them projected to select right winger Matthew Wood with their own first-rounder earlier in this round.

    With the Panthers' pick, the Canadiens might consider adding another winger, perhaps focusing on the left side given their current depth in young centers such as Nick Suzuki and Kirby Dach with Jan Mysak and Owen Beck also in their pipeline.

    Alex Čiernik could be an interesting option for the Canadiens at this stage of the first round. A versatile Slovakian forward who can skating on either wing, the 5'10”, 179-pounder put up 20 goals and 47 points in 43 games skating with Sweden's Södertälje SK J20 team before moving on to Södertälje SK in the HockeyAllsvenskan league.

    The Athletic's Scott Wheeler called Ciernik an up-tempo playmaker and a dynamic skater. He also admires his transition game. Those attributes could make him an enticing prospect in this year's draft.

28. Calgary Flames: Hunter Brzustewicz

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    LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND - JANUARY 21: #2 Hunter Brzustewicz of United States battles for the puck with #11 Matthew Savoie of Canada during Men's 6-Team Tournament Semifinals Game between United States and Canada of the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympics on January 21, 2020 in Lausanne, Switzerland. (Photo by RvS.Media/Monika Majer/Getty Images)
    Hunter Brzustewicz (Monika Majer/Getty Images)

    The Calgary Flames are among the teams that must restock their prospect pipeline, especially among their defensemen. Hunter Brzustewicz of the OHL's Kitchener Rangers could be someone worth targeting in this year's draft.

    Brzustewicz spent last season skating with the USNTDP U18 team, netting 20 points in 55 games. He also saw action with their junior squad in the USHL with nine points in 35 games. The 6', 187-pounder also played for the United States in the World Under-18 Championship.

    The Athletic's Scott Wheeler cited Brzustewicz's strength, mobility and puck control. Sebastian High of Dobber Prospects doesn't consider him the flashiest player but calls him an effective defenseman.

    High also pointed out Brzustewicz will get a chance to develop his offensive skills skating this season in the OHL. If he makes the most of this opportunity it could make him an enticing blueline prospect.

29. Toronto Maple Leafs: Ethan Gauthier

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    BOISBRIAND, QC - DECEMBER 12:  Ethan Gauthier #79 of the Sherbrooke Phoenix skates during warmups prior to the game against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada at Centre d'Excellence Sports Rousseau on December 12, 2021 in Boisbriand, Quebec, Canada.  The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada defeated the Sherbrooke Phoenix 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
    Ethan Gauthier of the QMJHL's Sherbrooke Phoenix (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

    Skating for the Sherbrooke Phoenix of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Ethan Gauthier shows promise as a hardworking, energetic right winger. He could be a solid addition to the Toronto Maple Leafs if he's available at this point in the draft.

    The 5'11”, 176 pound Gauthier had 18 goals and 39 points in 65 games as a QMJHL rookie. He also had six goals and seven points in five games for Canada at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

    Dobber Prospects' Hadi Kalakeche praised Gauthier's combination of work ethic and creativity. Kalakeche believes the young right winger has top-six NHL potential if he can improve his overall game.

    Gauthier will have another season in the QMJHL to build up his skill set. Significant development on his part this season could make him an attractive prospect for a club like the Leafs.

30. Chicago Blackhawks (via Tampa Bay Lightning): Theo Lindstein

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    The Chicago Blackhawks acquired the Tampa Bay Lightning's 2023 first-rounder in last seasons' Brandon Hagel trade. If the Lightning's pick is among the top 10, they instead send their unprotected 2025 first-rounder to the Blackhawks, Considering the Lightning remain a Stanley Cup contender, we'll assume this pick will will belong to the Blackhawks.

    We have the Blackhawks choosing right winger Matvei Michkov with their own pick earlier in this round. They could use this selection to build up their depth in defense prospects by selecting Theo Lindstein of the SHL's Brynäs IF.

    Lindstein played most of last season playing for Brynäs IF's J20 squad with four points in 34 games. The 6', 176-pounder also spent 12 games with the parent club. Playing for Sweden in the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, the 17-year-old blueliner had six points in five games.

    Alexa Potack of Dobber Prospects praised Lindstein's skating and positioning, believing he has the potential to unlock his offensive capabilities. The Athletic's Scott Wheeler singled out his poise and two-way game.

31. Carolina Hurricanes: Gabe Perreault

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    Gabe Perreault had a fine performance last season in his debut with the USNTDP. The son of former NHL forward Yanic Perreault, his playmaking abilities could make him an enticing prospect for the Carolina Hurricanes.

    The Hurricanes could use more depth in skilled left wingers among their top prospects. Scott Wheeler of The Athletic considers Perreault a clever playmaker while Dobber Prospects' Alexander Annun praised his forechecking and decision-making.

    Perreault had 50 points in 51 games with the USNTDP's U17 club. He also netted 27 points in 40 games with their Junior squad in the USHL and saw seven games of action with the U18 team.

    Though slender at 5'10” and 154 pounds, his offensive skills and ability to read plays could make him a worthwhile prospect for the Hurricanes. He's bound to improve as his body matures and he become more confident in his abilities.

32. Colorado Avalanche: Koehn Ziemmer

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    As defending Stanley Cup champions, the Colorado Avalanche have to be considered the favorite to win it all again next season. Assuming they do and haven't traded this pick to bring in a rental player for the playoffs, Koehn Ziemmer of the WHL's Prince George Cougars could be a good addition to their prospect depth.

    Playing his first full season with the Cougars in 2021-22, Ziemmer tallied a team-leading 30 goals. He also finished second with 57 points. At 6' and 194 pounds, the 17-year-old right winger already has promising NHL size.

    The Athletic's Scott Wheeler cited Ziemmer's hard shot and slick stickhandling skills. Nick Richard of Dobber Prospects believes he still has room for improvement but also praised his offensive abilities.

    Ziemmer should continue to blossom with the Cougars this season. His combination of size and offensive flare could prove too tempting for the Avalanche to pass up.

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