Updated 2023 NHL Mock Draft After the World Junior ChampionshipsJanuary 13, 2023
Updated 2023 NHL Mock Draft After the World Junior Championships
The 2023 IIHF World Junior Championships provided the hockey world with a first look at some of the world's most promising young prospects.
Connor Bedard was the standout star. A 17-year-old center with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League (WHL), he entered this tournament considered by a number of experts to be the top prospect in the 2023 NHL draft.
Bedard's performance should erase any lingering doubts about his status as this season's No. 1 prospect. He exceeded expectations, finishing as the tournament's leading scorer and most valuable player by leading Canada to its 20th World Juniors gold medal.
Now that the World Juniors is over and the NHL's 2022-23 season is at its midpoint, it's worth revisiting and updating our 2023 mock draft. The order is based on where the teams are in the league standings as of Jan. 11, 2023.
We've based our updated mock draft on the most recent rankings of the top prospects provided by TSN's Craig Button, Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino, The Hockey News' Tony Ferrari and The Athletic's Corey Pronman and Scott Wheeler. Player info is provided by Elite Prospects, and team needs are from Pronman's most recent Pipeline Rankings.
You can weigh in with your thoughts on our mock draft in the comments section below.
1. Chicago Blackhawks: Connor Bedard
Mired at the bottom of this season's NHL standings, the Blackhawks would have the best odds of winning the draft lottery if it were held today. Connor Bedard of the WHL's Regina Pats could be just what they need to accelerate their rebuilding process.
As we noted in the introduction, the 17-year-old is the consensus selection as this season's top prospect among NHL experts. In addition to being the scoring leader by a wide margin at this year's World Junior Championship with 23 points in just seven games, the 5'10", 185-pound center is also the WHL's leading scorer with 70 points in 29 games.
TSN's Darren Yourk called Bedard the "crown jewel of this year's prospect class." The Athletic's Scott Wheeler praised the young center's shooting ability, dynamic playmaking skills, creativity with the puck, speed and feistiness. Sportsnet's Jason Bukala calls him "the best prospect I have seen in several years."
Bedard has the potential to become the most impressive player to come out of the NHL draft since the Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid in 2015. He has the skills to become an invaluable foundation piece for any rebuilding franchise.
2. Columbus Blue Jackets: Adam Fantilli
A freshman center at the University of Michigan, Adam Fantilli may not come with the same hype or skill as Connor Bedard. Nevertheless, the 18-year-old center is a fine consolation prize for the Columbus Blue Jackets if they end up with the second overall selection in this year's draft.
The Athletic's Scott Wheeler considered the 6'2", 187-pound Fantilli to be the best skater in this class. His colleague Corey Pronman singled out his willingness to play a physical game as well as his high-end skills.
Fantilli is already having a positive effect on the University of Michigan Wolverines. He is their leading scorer with 26 points in 16 games. The Toronto native also tallied five points in seven games for Canada at this year's World Junior Championships.
A big, skilled center with power-forward abilities could be just what the Blue Jackets need for their long-term roster plans. Fantilli will likely spend at least another season in the NCAA developing his skills, meaning the Jackets will have a more mature young player ready to make the leap to the NHL.
3. Anaheim Ducks: Matvei Michkov
Russia's banishment from IIHF events over its invasion of Ukraine prevented an international audience from seeing promising youngsters such as Matvei Michkov at this year's World Juniors. Nevertheless, the 18-year-old right winger with SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) continues to impress scouts and draft experts.
Michkov could be a solid addition to the Anaheim Ducks' rebuilding roster. Though Elite Prospects lists him at 5'10" and 148 pounds, The Athletic's Corey Pronman has him weighing in at a sturdier 172.
Pronman noted that an injury sidelined Michkov from the opening month of this season. However, he called the winger "an electric offensive player," singling out his skating ability and hockey sense. He had 10 goals and 14 points in 12 games with SKA St. Petersburg's minor league affiliate. On loan to HK Sochi, Michkov has two points in eight games.
Being under a KHL contract means it could be two or three years before Michkov could join the Ducks. However, the young Russian could be well worth the wait. The time he'll spend among professionals could turn him into an immediate NHL star as it did for the Minnesota Wild's Kirill Kaprizov.
4. Arizona Coyotes: Zach Benson
In his third season with the Winnipeg Ice, Zach Benson is well ahead of last season's 63-point performance, leading his club with 56 points in 34 games to sit third among WHL scorers. On pace to reach 100 points, the 17-year-old left wing could draw the interest of the Arizona Coyotes in this year's draft.
The Coyotes possess considerable prospect depth at center with 2022 first-rounders Logan Cooley and Connor Geekie already in their system. They also have promising right-winger Dylan Guenther on their roster this season. They could use Benson to bolster their prospect depth at left wing.
A versatile forward who can also play at center, Benson is described by The Hockey News' Tony Ferrari as "manipulative, intelligent, and lethal with the puck on his stick." Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino considers him surprisingly adept at protecting the puck despite his slender 5'10", 159-pound frame.
A lack of offensive depth has plagued the Coyotes for years. Adding Benson could potentially provide them with a balanced attack in the near future that finally helps this forever-rebuilding team become a serious playoff contender.
5. San Jose Sharks: Leo Carlsson
The San Jose Sharks selected a winger with top-six potential in William Eklund in the 2021 NHL draft. They could further bolster their future forward depth by selecting Leo Carlsson of Örebro HK in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL).
A center who can also skate at left wing, the 18-year-old Carlsson scored three goals and six points in seven games for Sweden at the 2023 World Junior Championships. In his sophomore campaign with Örebro HK, he has a respectable 15 points in 26 games.
The Athletic's Corey Pronman liked how Carlsson uses his 6'3", 194-pound frame to win puck battles. "His skill, hockey sense and compete level are all excellent," he writes. Pronman believes the big Swede has the potential to become an NHL star. The Hockey News' Tony Ferrari considered him the top European player in this year's draft.
With the Sharks likely to miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season, first-year general manager Mike Grier could start transitioning his roster toward younger talent. He'll need a well-stocked prospect pipeline to do so. Carlsson and countryman Eklund could form the vanguard of that change.
6. Montreal Canadiens: Eduard Sale
Right winger Eduard Sale put up a respectable six points in seven games for Czechia at the 2023 World Junior Championships. The 6'1", 168-pounder also has seven points in 27 games in his first full season with HC Kometa Brno in the Tipsport Extraliga.
In need of skilled right-wing depth among their top prospects, the Montreal Canadiens could target Sale to add more depth to their right wing. Having chosen Juraj Slavkovsky with the first-overall pick last year and with Cole Caufield among their leading scorers, they could be set for the future at left wing.
The Athletic's Scott Wheeler indicated that Sale can play on either wing and considers him to be a smooth skater with superb vision. Tony Ferrari of The Hockey News called him "one of the more intelligent players in the draft," going on to praise his improving shot and ability to finish plays in high-to-medium danger areas of the ice.
Given the Canadiens' focus on rebuilding and with several young players already in their lineup, Sale will be given the time needed to continue developing his game. He could prove to be a solid future asset in Montreal.
7. Vancouver Canucks: Andrew Cristall
After netting 69 points in 61 games in his first full season with the Kelowna Rockets, Andrew Cristall sits second to Connor Bedard among WHL scorers this season with 62 points in 36 games. The 17-year-old left winger might become a tempting draft target for the Vancouver Canucks.
The Canucks could be seeking a future scoring winger if they end up trading Brock Boeser by this year's trade deadline or in the offseason. The development of young wingers Vasily Podkolzin and Nils Höglander appears to have stalled with both players in the minors following their promising performances last season.
Tony Ferrari of The Hockey News called Cristall "one of the most talented playmakers in junior hockey already." The Athletic's Scott Wheeler pointed out how easily the 5'10", 165-pounder avoids getting checked as well as his shiftiness with the puck.
Cristall has the ability to become a top-six winger in the NHL. The Canucks could use someone like him should they part ways with Boeser and if Podkolzin and Höglander fail to develop as hoped.
8. Ottawa Senators: Axel Sandin Pellikka
The Ottawa Senators' prospect pipeline has produced several gifted forwards such as Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stützle and Drake Batherson. However, they're currently thin in talented right-shot defensemen on their roster and among their prospects.
Axel Sandin Pellikka could be just what they're looking for in this year's draft. Now in his first season with SHL team Skellefteå AIK, the 17-year-old blueliner has five points in 14 games thus far this season. He also collected an assist in seven games playing for Sweden at this year's World Junior Championships.
The Hockey News' Tony Ferrari singled out Sandin Pellikka's agility and puck-moving abilities, suggesting he may be the best passer of any defenseman in this year's draft. Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino wrote that his skating and lateral mobility make him effective at both ends of the rink.
At 5'11" and 181 pounds, Sandin Pellikka's average frame may have been a concern in previous draft years. With NHL stars such as the Colorado Avalanche's Cale Makar and the New York Rangers' Adam Fox blazing the trail for smaller, smooth-skating defensemen with strong puck-handling skills, he could blossom into a star on the Senators blue line.
9. Philadelphia Flyers: Brayden Yager
Changes could be coming to the Philadelphia Flyers if they end up missing the playoffs for the third straight year. With injuries leaving core veterans such as Sean Couturier and Ryan Ellis facing uncertain futures, management could be forced to rebuild with youth, especially at the center position.
Brayden Yager, 18, of the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors could be on the Flyers' radar at this position in the draft. The 6'0, 165-pound center had 59 points in 63 games in 2021-22 with the Warriors along with seven points in 10 playoff games. For his efforts, he was named CHL Rookie of the Year.
Yager is well on his way to exceeding last year's regular-season stats. With 50 points in 40 games, he sits second among his teammates in scoring and among the WHL's top 15 scorers.
Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino observed that Yager has been "remarkably consistent in his production." He also praised his improvement in the faceoff circle. The Athletic's Corey Pronman was impressed with Yager's speed, puck-carrying abilities and work ethic.
10. Detroit Red Wings: Mikhail Gulyayev
Moritz Seider and Filip Hronek provide the Detroit Red Wings with two skilled defensemen patrolling the right side of their blue line. General manager Steve Yzerman could consider bolstering the left side with Mikhail Gulyayev of the MHL's Omskie Yastreby in Russia.
The Wings have a promising left-shot blueliner within their system in Simon Edvinsson, who's in his first season with their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids. Gulyayev could provide them with another highly skilled puck-mover on that side.
Gulyayev, 17, had 35 points in 54 games last season as an MHL rookie along with five points in 13 playoff games. The 5'10", 170-pound rearguard split time this season between Omskie Yastreby and Omskie Krylia in the VHL. He also saw 12 games in the KHL with Avangard Omsk.
Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino compared Gulyayev's hands to that of a skilled forward, while The Hockey News' Tony Ferrari praised his breakout ability and passing skills. The Athletic's Scott Wheeler called the young Russian his top-ranked defenseman in this year's draft.
11. Montreal Canadiens (from Florida Panthers): Ryan Leonard
The Montreal Canadiens acquired this pick from the Florida Panthers last March. With this choice, they could opt for a versatile forward such as Ryan Leonard of the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP).
Leonard, 17, is a skilled forward who can skate at center or right wing. The 5'11", 181-pounder has 22 goals and 42 points in 28 games with the U.S. National Under-18 team as well as three points in five games with the USNTDP squad in the United States Hockey League (USHL).
The Athletic's Corey Pronman cited Leonard's versatility as well as strong skating and ability to make highly skilled plays at high speed. Tony Ferrari of The Hockey News is impressed by his ability to drive the lane with the puck in the offensive zone.
Leonard is slated to attend Boston College next season. That will allow him the opportunity to improve his skills at the NCAA level. He has the potential to become a top-six forward with the Canadiens once he completes his college career.
12. Buffalo Sabres: Colby Barlow
Thanks to a crop of homegrown young talents such as Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, Dylan Cozens and John-Jason Peterka, the Buffalo Sabres could become a playoff contender this season. They could look to add winger Colby Barlow of the Owen Sound Attack in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) to their ranks.
With Cozens and Peterka now entrenched on the Sabres roster, general manager Kevyn Adams could seek to maintain his club's depth in skilled prospect forwards. Barlow could be a good addition to that group with the potential to one day fill a top-six role on their roster.
Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino called Barlow a threat to score from distance and off the rush. The Athletic's Scott Wheeler praised the 17-year-old winger's great hands, overall speed and NHL-caliber shot.
As a rookie in 2021-22 with the Attack, Barlow had 30 goals and 47 points in 59 games. This season, he's reached 47 points in just 32 games to become the Attack's leading scorer. Barlow's also among the OHL's top 15 scorers.
13. Colorado Avalanche: Dalibor Dvorský
The Colorado Avalanche could be looking for more centers among their top prospects now that Alex Newhook is a full-time part of their roster. Thanks to his solid performance for Slovakia at the 2023 World Junior Championship, Dalibor Dvorský of AIK in Sweden's HockeyAllsvenskan could be a good fit here.
At 6'1" and 201 pounds, the 17-year-old Dvorský already has good NHL size. The Athletic's Corey Pronman observed the young Slovakian has split this season between AIK and their J20 squad but noted that he's looked good playing against men in the SHL.
Dvorský has eight points in 21 games with AIK as well as eight points in five games on the J20 team. He also had three points in five games for his home country in the World Juniors.
On Nov. 11, NHL.com's Michael G. Morreale reported Dvorský earned an "A" rating on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary list. NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb called the young Slovak "a creative and reliable prospect".
14. Nashville Predators: Otto Stenberg
With Ryan Johansen turning 31 in July and only two center prospects in their pipeline, the Nashville Predators could be looking to shore up that position at this stage in the draft. They could consider Otto Stenberg of the SHL's Frölunda HC as an enticing choice.
Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino called the 17-year-old Stenberg "a complete player who can excel in any system where transitional play is the emphasis." The Hockey News' Tony Ferrari wrote that the 5'11', 181-pounder is a "dynamic presence," singling out his speed and skill.
Those assets could one day make Stenberg a solid addition to the Predators. He's split this season between Frölunda HC and their J18 and J20 squads. While he has no points in nine games with the parent club, he has 10 points in three games with the J18 team and 15 points in 20 games with the J20 team.
Stenberg will spend the next season or two in Sweden with Frölunda HC building up his skills against professionals in the SHL. He could become a valuable future asset for the Predators if he reaches his full potential.
15. St. Louis Blues: Will Smith
With Ryan O'Reilly set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, the St. Louis Blues could attempt to bolster their long-term depth at center in this year's draft. With just one center among their top seven prospects, they could consider the USNTDP's Will Smith as a viable option.
Tony Ferrari of The Hockey News called Smith the top player from the USNTDP this season, praising his puckhandling skills. Corey Pronman of The Athletic singled out his strong skating and goal-scoring ability.
Smith has 22 goals and 54 points in 30 games with the U.S. National Under-18 team and also has 10 points in eight games with the USNTDP Juniors in the USHL. He is slated to attend Boston College next season.
At 6'0" and 172 pounds, the 17-year-old Smith still has plenty of time to fill out his frame and become even stronger on his skates and with the puck. He could prove to be a future star with the Blues once he completes his NCAA career.
16. Edmonton Oilers: Matthew Wood
A lack of reliable scoring punch at right wing has plagued the Edmonton Oilers for several years. Once-promising Jesse Puljujärvi failed to play up to expectations as a scorer, and it remains to be seen if current prospects Xavier Bourgault and Raphael Lavoie will make the cut.
The Oilers could seek more immediate help at right wing via trades or free agency while looking for long-term depth in the draft. One option could be Matthew Wood of the University of Connecticut.
At 6'3" and 190 pounds, Wood already has impressive size for a 17-year-old. He's third among UConn Huskies' skaters with 17 points in 22 games this season.
Corey Pronman of The Athletic considered Wood to be a gifted offensive player. His colleague Scott Wheeler liked how he uses his size and long reach to control the puck, as well as his quick hands. With more time in the NCAA, he could develop the potential to become a dangerous NHL scorer.
17. Calgary Flames: David Reinbacher
A big, skillful defenseman, David Reinbacher has garnered attention this season for his performance with EHC Kloten in Switzerland's National League. The 6'2", 187-pounder could be a good fit within the Calgary Flames system.
Reinbarcher has 14 points in 29 games with EHC Kloten, making him their second-highest-scoring defenseman this season. The 17-year-old Austrian also performed well for his country in the 2023 World Junior Championship, collecting two points in five games.
Corey Pronman of The Athletic noted that Reinbacher is playing a significant role for his club in all situations against men in Switzerland's top league. Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino wrote that he's having plenty of success on both sides of the puck.
The Flames lack a defenseman with Reinbacher's two-way skills among their top prospects. He could one day play a significant role on their blue line.
18. New York Islanders: Quentin Musty
Limited scoring depth has plagued the New York Islanders in recent years. They have promising forwards among their top five prospects in William Dufour and Aatu Räty. They're also waiting for 22-year-old winger Oliver Wahlstrom to reach his potential as a scorer finally.
Nevertheless, the Islanders could use another scoring winger within their prospect pipeline, and Quentin Musty of the OHL's Sudbury Wolves could help them address that need.
Scott Wheeler of The Athletic called the 6'2", 205-pound Musty a big, sturdy athletic net-driving winger, praising his puckhandling and skating. The Hockey News' Tony Ferrari also noted his wicked shot, ability to use his size to attack down low and vision to pass out of double teams.
Musty had a slow start to the season, but he's ramped up his production since early November. With 48 points in 32 games, he's second on the Wolves in scoring this season and among the OHL's top 15 scorers.
19. Minnesota Wild: Gabe Perreault
In his first full season with the U.S. National Under-18 team, Gabe Perreault has a team-leading 26 goals and 59 points. The son of former NHL center Yanic Perreault, the 17-year-old left winger could be a worthwhile addition to the Minnesota Wild's prospect pool.
Perreault also has 15 points in 10 games this season with the USNTDP Junior squad. Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino pointed out the 5'11", 170-pounder has elite vision and playmaking abilities.
The Athletic's Scott Wheeler pointed out Perreault led the under-17 team in assists (32) and points (50) last season. He also noted that the youngster lacked his father's defensive acumen but praised his hockey smarts and offensive skills.
Those attributes could make Perreault enticing for the Wild. They already have a superstar left wing in Kirill Kaprizov, but it wouldn't hurt to have someone with top-six potential to perhaps provide more scoring punch from that side down the road.
20. Pittsburgh Penguins: Riley Heidt
We had Riley Heidt of the WHL's Prince George Cougars chosen by the Pittsburgh Penguins in our September 2022 Mock Draft. Given their ongoing need to build up their prospect depth, the 17-year-old center could still be a good fit here for the Penguins at this stage of the first round.
After tallying 58 points in 65 games last season with the Cougars, the 5'11", 179-pound Heidt already has 52 points in 36 games. He sits among his club's leading scorers and is also in the top 10 WHL scorers.
The Hockey News' Tony Ferrari singled out Heidt's creativity as a passer. Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino suggested that he doesn't get enough credit as a shooter, while The Athletic's Scott Wheeler praised his skating ability.
Heidt has the tools to become an offensive star in the NHL. Perhaps he will one day be the eventual replacement for Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin when they eventually retire.
21. Chicago Blackhawks (via Tampa Bay Lightning): Dmitri Simashev
Chicago acquired the Tampa Bay Lightning's 2023 first-rounder prior to last season's NHL trade deadline. Given the Lightning's current placement in the standings, it won't be among the top 10 selections and therefore will belong to Chicago.
General manager Kyle Davidson has done well thus far in restocking Chicago's prospect depth. With his second selection in this round, he could turn to Dmitri Simashev of the Russian MHL squad Loko Yaroslavl.
A big defenseman at 6'1" and 201 pounds, the 17-year-old Simashev has also spent time this season with KHL club Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. He has six points in 22 games with Loko.
The Hockey News' Tony Ferrari felt that Simashev has the size and mobility NHL teams crave on the blue line and plays a responsible defensive game. Corey Pronman of The Athletic praised his puckhandling skills and believes he has pro potential.
22. Washington Capitals: Daniil But
Alex Ovechkin continues to be a highly productive NHL scorer, but the day is approaching when the Washington Capitals will have to find a top-six left winger to take his place. Perhaps they'll turn to another Russian, such as Daniil But of the MHL's Loko Yaroslavl.
A big winger at 6'5" and 203 pounds, But has split time this season with Loko Yaroslavl and their KHL parent club, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. He has 13 goals and 22 points in 22 games with Loko along with one goal in 11 games with Lokomotiv.
The Athletic's Scott Wheeler cited But's shooting mechanics and his ability to use his large frame to protect the puck, and Corey Pronman noted that the 17-year-old is a strong skater with very good hands and vision.
The Capitals have done well choosing talent out of Russia in Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov. Perhaps But will be part of continuing that lineage. He could provide additional left-wing depth to their prospect ranks along with fellow Russian Ivan Miroshnichenko.
23. Seattle Kraken: Alex Čiernik
In just their second season of existence, the Seattle Kraken are jockeying for playoff positioning in the Western Conference. They've done a good job of building up their current roster with veteran talent while improving their prospect depth. They will be on the lookout for more promising assets to further build up their pipeline of promising youth.
The Kraken already possesses one bright young star in Matty Beniers and another on the horizon in Shane Wright. Joining them could be Alex Čiernik of Södertälje SK in Sweden's HockeyAllsvenskan League.
Čiernik, 17, is a German-born Slovakian who's split this season between Södertälje SK (three points in nine games) and their J20 team where he netted 13 points in 10 contests. The 5'10", 179-pound winger also had two goals and three points in five games for Slovakia at the 2023 World Junior Championship.
The Hockey News' Tony Ferrari singled out Čiernik's speed and ability as well as his passing skills. Scott Wheeler of The Athletic called him an up-tempo playmaker and a dynamic skater.
24. New York Rangers : Oliver Moore
With the first of their two picks in this round, the New York Rangers might consider adding depth among their center prospects. That could make the USNTDP's Oliver Moore an intriguing option for them at this stage of the opening round.
In his first full season with the US National U-18 team, the 17-year-old Moore sits fourth among their leading scorers with 41 points in 31 games. The 5'11", 176-pounder also has a respectable 13 points in 10 contests with the USNTDP Juniors in the USHL.
Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino cited Moore's speed element that is ever-present in his game. The Athletic's Scott Wheeler was impressed by his playmaking ability as well as his shot.
Moore's speed and offensive attributes could be enticing for the Rangers. Over time, he could one day become a useful member of their top-six forward corps.
25. Winnipeg Jets: Lukas Dragicevic
Making his full-time WHL debut in 2021-22, Lukas Dragicevic had a respectable 32 points in 62 games last season with the Tri-City Americans. This season, the 17-year-old leads all WHL defensemen with 46 points in 36 games.
That type of production could draw the interest of the Winnipeg Jets at this late stage of the first round. They're still waiting for prospect Ville Heinola to finally make his NHL breakthrough as a puck-moving blueliner.
On Jan. 9, Elite Prospects' Mitch Brown reported Dragicevic recently had a 27-game points streak. He cited the 6'2", 181-pounder's ability to jump up into the play in creative ways as one of his strong suits. The Athletic's Corey Pronman also singled out his creativity in generating offense while noting his impressive production this season.
Dragicevic's offensive abilities could make him a future long-term fit with the Jets. They could use a point-producer from the blue line within their system, especially if Heinola continues to struggle in his development.
26. New Jersey Devils: Nate Danielson
In his third season with the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings, Nate Danielson is tearing it up on the score sheet. With 21 goals and 51 points in 39 games, the 18-year-old center will soon eclipse last season's 23 goals and 57 points in 53 games.
The 6'1", 185-pound Danielson is the Wheat Kings' leading scorer and among the WHL's top 10 scorers. He could be snapped up by the New Jersey Devils if he's still on the board by this stage of the opening round.
While the Devils already have two gifted young centers in Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, they don't have much depth at that position among their top prospects. Danielson could be just what they need to fill that gap and perhaps provide additional long-term depth at center on their roster.
In addition to his scoring abilities, The Hockey News' Tony Ferrari and The Athletic's Corey Pronman praised his well-rounded game and two-way abilities. Those attributes could make him a solid second or third-line center in the NHL.
27. Los Angeles Kings: Koehn Ziemmer
Koehn Ziemmer had a solid performance in 2021-22 with the WHL's Prince George Cougars, finishing with 30 goals and 57 points in 68 games. This season, he's well on his way to surpassing those numbers, sitting among the top 10 WHL scorers with 20 goals and 52 points.
Those stats could draw the attention of the Los Angeles Kings if the 18-year-old Ziemmer is still available at this stage of the opening round. He'd be a terrific addition to their already deep pool of prospect talent.
Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino believed the 6'0", 194-pound Ziemmer has power forward potential and an elite shot. The Athletic's Scott Wheeler also liked his ability to score highlight reel goals with his slick stickhandling.
Wheeler sees Ziemmer as a potential second-line NHL winger who could contribute offensively in a variety of ways. That's not a bad role to be in for any forward at the big-league level. He could go on to become an effective player for the Kings.
28. Vegas Golden Knights: Ethan Gauthier
Right winger Ethan Gauthier is having a solid sophomore season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). After netting 39 points in 65 games as a rookie in 2021-22, the 17-year-old sits second on the Sherbrooke Phoenix with 47 points in 39 games.
Gauthier could be of interest to the Vegas Golden Knights in this year's NHL draft. They need to replenish a prospect pool depleted by several years of trading away assets for veteran talent.
The Athletic's Scott Wheeler pointed out that Gauthier is a versatile hard-working and consistent forward. Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino made a similar observation, noting that he has the ability to play the game in a number of ways.
Gauthier is the son of former NHL player Denis Gauthier. Given his abilities, he could one day follow his father's footsteps into the big league ranks.
29. New York Rangers (via Dallas Stars): Samuel Honzek
This pick was acquired from the Dallas Stars by the New York Rangers as part of the return in the Nils Lundkvist trade last September. The condition was it would revert to a 2024 first-rounder if it was in the top 10 of this year's draft, but the Stars' lofty position in the standings this season ensures the Rangers will be using this pick.
The Rangers possess limited depth of centers in their prospect pool. They could use this selection to choose Samuel Honzek of the WHL's Vancouver Giants.
Honzek, 18, is playing in North America this season for the first time in his young career after coming up through the ranks in his native Slovakia. The 6'3", 181-pound center has wasted little time making a positive impression with the Giants. He's among their leading scorers with 43 points in 31 games.
The Athletic's Corey Pronman indicated that Honzek also plays at left wing. He cited his two-way abilities and pointed out the youngster plays on the Giants' special teams. That versatility and skill at both ends of the rink could make him a valuable future addition to the Rangers
30. Carolina Hurricanes: Cameron Allen
A deep defense corps played a key role in the Carolina Hurricanes' rise among the NHL's top teams in recent years. They already have some promising blueliners within their prospect pipeline. Nevertheless, they could consider adding Cameron Allen of the OHL's Guelph Storm if he's still available by this late stage of the first round.
The OHL Rookie of the Year in 2021-22 with 37 points in 65 games, Allen has 16 points in 33 games this season. Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino indicated he's shown flashes of emerging from his season-long funk.
Allen's struggles this season could be due to coping with the pressure of exceeding his promising rookie performance. The Athletic's Scott Wheeler noted that he's a mobile, active defenseman who can really drive and control the play when he's on his game.
A sophomore slump could send Allen's stock tumbling further in this year's draft. However, it could also make him a potential late-stage steal in the first round for a club with the patience to allow him to develop and improve his game.
31. Toronto Maple Leafs: Kasper Halttunen
A lack of depth among their right-wing prospects could see the Toronto Maple Leafs attempt to address that issue in this year's draft. Kasper Halttunen of HIFK in Finland's Liiga could be a player they find worthwhile for first-round selection.
At 6'3" and 207 pounds, the 17-year-old Halttunen already possesses NHL-caliber size. The Athletic's Scott Wheeler indicated he has promise as a power forward with a heavy shot and a physical style of play.
Halttunen has split time this season between HIFK and their U-20 team. While he has just one point in 17 games with the parent club, he's got 15 points in 10 games with the junior squad.
The Leafs won't be rushing any prospects they select in this year's draft into their roster. That will give Halttunen plenty of time to develop his skills with HIFK until he's ready for the NHL game.
32. Boston Bruins: Charlie Stramel
Despite sitting 32nd on The Athletic's Corey Pronman's prospect pipeline rankings, the Boston Bruins are dominating the standings and could win the Presidents' Trophy for the second time since 2020. Nevertheless, they need to restock their prospect pool if they hope to maintain that dominance down the road.
With Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci now in their late-30s, the Bruins must find some promising young centers. Charlie Stramel of the University of Wisconsin could be a good option for them.
The 6'3", 216-pound Stramel already has an NHL-worthy frame at just 18 years old. He has seven points in 19 games this season with the Badgers as well as three points in seven games for the United States at this year's World Junior Championship.
Pronman acknowledged Stramel's slow start in the NCAA this season but pointed out he lacks a good supporting cast. He praised the young center's puck skills and skating ability. Stramel's potential could make him a worthwhile pickup at this stage of the draft.