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Draft 412’s 2023 NHL Mock Draft

by Joe 412

The 2023 NHL promises to be a very deep draft, featuring a top ten or twelve prospects that

can really change a team’s fortunes. Led by generational talent, Connor Bedard, the top five draftees could all be first overall picks in other years.

The late first round and second round talent should mark a selection process filled with about

55-65 players that Draft 412 can see tallying 200+ starts in the NHL, many of whom will make strong 2nd line forwards and 3rd or 4th defensemen when they reach the league.

This year’s draft may also see a devalued market for Russian players as the Ukrainian conflict has made it tough for teams to scout players in Eastern Europe. Only teams with strong Russian ties may benefit from the curtain being pulled on many prospects, including budding Russian superstar, Matvei Michkov.

In the end, this kneejerk reaction may cost some teams, as nearly all the Russian prospects will need two to three years of development before reaching the bigs. Which teams will bite the bullet and take the risk? Which will play it safe and look elsewhere for help?

These are question Draft 412 hopes to answer in our 2023 Mock Draft. Buckle up, settle in and

let’s get to Nashville and find out.

1) Chicago Blackhawks – Connor Bedard, C, Regina (WHL)

Bedard is the NHL’s consensus “next” generational talent. Technically, he’s on the clock with the Hawks, but this has been a fait accompli since the league’s draft lottery landed in Chicago’s favor. Bedard is a complete prospect with outrageous offensive talent and should supercharge the Hawks' rebuild.

From a prospect perspective, what makes Bedard so coveted is his ability to make defenders commit and then uses his speed, hands and vision to makes plays off of their choices. More like Crosby than McDavid in that respect, Windy City fans will enjoy Bedard’s play for a decade or more. Can’t wait to watch this human highlight reel step onto NHL ice. Oh, and by the way, Chicago has two picks in round one this year…

2) Anaheim Ducks – Adam Fantilli, C, Michigan

Fantilli, in any other year, may have been the first prospect off the board, but in a draft featuring Connor Bedard, Fantilli will likely take his skill set to the west coast and play for the Ducks. Fantilli’s game is complete, and he has the potential to be a perennial all-star in the league.

As a prospect, Ducks fans will be getting a future leader of their squad and a player born for deep playoff runs. He plays hard, fast and wins battles against the walls as much as he can make plays in the open ice. Fantilli will make for a strong one-two punch with Anaheim’s Mason MacTavish on the left coast. The Ducks get their 2023 version of “Jack Eichel” in the “McDavid draft year” at the two-spot.

3) Columbus Blue Jackets – Leo Carlsson, C, Sweden

It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Carlsson goes off the board before Fantilli to Anaheim, but he’s exactly what the doctor ordered for the ailing Jackets—if he makes it passed the Ducks that is. A big-time center prospect with all-star potential, Columbus will be happy taking a jersey to the podium with a Carlsson nameplate on the back.

Carlsson is a big-bodied center that has shown the ability to control center ice, offensively or defensively. He loves taking the puck to the net, can skate around or power through traffic, and will only get stronger. Draft 412 can’t help but compare him to a younger Evgeni Malkin.

4) San Jose Sharks – Will Smith, C, US U-18 NTDP

Smith is too tempting to pass up, so the Sharks leave Matvei Michkov and his contract issues on the board and instead tap the exciting US center to lead their rebuild. Four centers in four picks shouldn’t surprise anyone, but will the Sharks regret leaving Michkov on the board? Only time will tell if this is the right decision. Smith will bring skill to the center position for the Sharks, likely grabbing the top center spot for years to come once he arrives.

5) Montreal Canadiens - Ryan Leonard, F, NTDP

Montreal debates internally the virtues of Leonard vs Michkov here but ends up conceding and taking the Brendan Gallagher look-alike—Ryan Leonard. Leonard is a rugged top-six guy that can score, hit, skate and lead. He’s the type of skater that plays better in the playoffs and in big games while not being afraid to play with a little grit when necessary. While Michkov is attractive, Leonard gets the call from the Habs.

6) Arizona Coyotes – Matvei Michkov, RW, KHL

The Yotes have two picks in the top twelve this year and waste little time getting to the podium for their pick—Matvei Michkov. Finally, the stellar Russian comes off the board and will bring his all-star talent to the desert.

Bill Armstrong has a long leash in Arizona and can afford to be patient, so waiting for Michkov’s contract to end and using his other picks to build a team around his arrival in 2026 is very possible. He will be worth the wait and perhaps grows into the second-best player in the draft behind Bedard.

7) Philadelphia Flyers – David Reinbacher, D, Sweden

Philly needs everything and will be drafting best available athletes as their draft unfolds. The new management team will have the time they need to assemble a team that looks to arrive in 2025 and 2026, not 2024.

But a prospect like Reinbacher won’t slip by them here at seven. Philadelphia traditionally has placed an emphasis on the blue line and with the lack of depth in the organization, the best defenseman in the draft comes off the board here and packs his bags for Broad Street.

8) Washington Capitals – Zach Benson, LW/RW, Winnipeg (WHL)

Benson may be the best two-way player in this draft class. He’s got a high hockey IQ, finds open lanes with his speed, anticipates openings in the defense and has a knack for knowing when to shoot or when to pass. He’s fast, smooth on his skates and knows when to pass the puck. However, his size (5’9” 160lbs) is a negative factor in his ranking. The Caps don’t mind and pull the trigger at eight.

9) Detroit Red Wings – Oliver Moore, C, USA U-18 NTDP

Speed, speed and more speed describes Oliver Moore’s game. But Moore is more than just

speed. He reminds Draft 412 of the Wings' current star, Dylan Larkin, and will help add to the pace of the future Detroit attack.

Moore is a tireless worker on and off the ice and flies around the ice at the velocity of former Hall of Famer, Pavel Bure. He is a second line center with the potential to develop into a first line guy. He will be a menace once he arrives in MoTown. Defenses beware…

10) St Louis Blues – Dalibor Dvorsky, C, Sweden

The first of three first-round choices for the Blues, Dalibor Dvorsky fits the Blues scheme very well. He’s a center that provides positional flexibility, as he’s able to play on the wing if asked. A strong two-way player already, Dvorsky brings some size with his skill, being able to light the lamp while also playing “heavy hockey” in the new NHL.

11) Vancouver Canucks – Nate Danielson, C, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

Vancouver stays put and the center they coveted falls to them at eleven. The Canucks could

use defense as well, but Danielson is too much to pass up. Danielson leaves his mark on every shift. He’s also one of the better skaters in the draft. His mechanics are second to none, and he will only improve on what is already a great skill level. Not the smoothest of scorers, Danielson will put up enough points to be a first or second line center at the next level.

12) Arizona Coyotes – Colby Barlow, LW, Owen Sound (OHL)

With Arizona’s 2nd pick in the top twelve, they select the OHL power forward, Colby Barlow.

Barlow can score pretty, and he can score ugly. He will be a first line power play guy, wreaking havoc in the crease, providing a battle level and net front presence that all teams desire. Barlow will develop into a playoff beast with his work ethic and heavy style of game.

13) Buffalo Sabres – Quentin Musty, LW, Sudbury (OHL)

Local kid makes good here, as Quentin Musty brings his power game home to the Buffalo area. Musty may be a bit of a reach at thirteen and the Sabres may end up moving this pick for a defenseman like Noah Hanifin, but the fit is undeniable.

Musty will be a power forward that can make plays, not just provide a net front presence.

He’s a good stick handler that reminds Draft 412 of Craig Janney, with his “point guard” distribution mentality of pass first, shoot second.

14) Pittsburgh Penguins – Gabriel Perreault, RW, US U-18 NTDP

Kyle Dubas and the Pens have the luxury of taking the best available athlete here. They are weak down the middle, have a lack of defensive talent in the minors and no real plan for future goaltending currently in the organization. Dubas can go in many directions, but when Perreault falls to fourteen, the Pens' new GM snipes him.

Perreault is a creative playmaker, strong stickhandler and scores off the rush and on special teams. He’s great at perimeter play and already a selfless distributor of the puck. His scoring pace this season was prolific and with his quick hands, will make a top six winger in time. Not as flashy or as fast as some of his teammates, Perreault is the kind of prospect that makes his team better, is always in the right place at the right time and tends to be the guy the other teams hate to play against.

15) Nashville Predators – Daniil But, RW, Russia

Barry Trotz has some latitude and has publicly told his scouts he wants to take calculated risks and big swings. At 6’3,” But is one of those swings. Rising up draft boards over the last few weeks, But is a big winger with scoring ability who’d been hampered by the lack of scouting available in Russia due to the war in Ukraine. Gifted and big But should develop into a top six winger for the Preds, giving Trotz a potential top ten talent at fifteen.

16) Calgary Flames – Eduard Šalé, LW, Czechia

Šalé is a risk-reward play here for the Flames. Outrageously gifted but inconsistent, the winger could blossom into a top line scorer, or could struggle to find his way into the league. Šalé has great hands and is one the best stickhandlers in this class of prospects, but at the international game has been stellar at times and invisible at others. The Flames roll the dice and hope they can coach him up to reach his full potential—as a player with top ten talent.

17) Detroit Red Wings – Axel Sandin Pellikka, D, Sweden

With their second pick in the first round, the Detroit Red Wings tap their defenseman for the future, after landing forward, Oliver Moore, a few picks before. Sandin Pellikka is a smooth stickhandler that can skate, already has a penchant for carrying the puck into the offensive zone and will captain a future first or second line power play for the Wings. A powerful skater with explosive straight-line speed, he can accelerate away from opponents within a few steps. He’s able to transition from forward to backward skating flawlessly and although he’s on the smaller side, he has the four-way mobility and balance to bounce off of hits. Detroit cannot be happier that he slid to seventeen.

18) Winnipeg Jets – Dmitri Simashev, D, Russia (KHL)

The big, rangy Simashev is one of the draft’s fastest risers. For a man his size, he can skate, provide offense from the blue line and will only put on muscle, filling out his frame as he matures. The Jets are in the middle of a rebuild and can wait for Simashev to arrive, but with his size and skill, he joins a short list of first round defensemen and goes off the board to Winnipeg at eighteen.

19) Chicago Blackhawks – Matthew Wood, RW, UConn

Matthew Wood is a steal here at nineteen for the Blackhawks. A big-bodied power forward on the right wing, Wood is more than just a “heavy” in today’s game. He possesses the puck well and shows off some nifty stickwork in tight or through traffic. He will be a beast in front of the net and forces defenders to converge on him, creating space and time for his teammates. Draft 412 is reminded of former Red Wing, Johan Franzen.

20) Seattle Kraken – Brayden Yager, C, Moose Jaw (WHL)

Brayden Yager is a definite first round prospect, but some scouts question where to place him in the first round. It’s here at twenty to the Kraken.

Yager can be a force at times then go invisible for spells. If he can improve his consistency, Seattle has a real steal this far into round one. He’s got a mean, accurate shot but needs to develop a “shoot first” mentality in the NHL. If he does, he can be a middle six forward with 25 goal potential.

21) Minnesota Wild – G – Michael Hrabal, G, Omaha (USHL)

The 6’7” Hrabal marks the first goaltender off the board, making his way to the Wild to fill an obvious position of need. Sure, the goaltender position has been undervalued in recent drafts like running backs are in the NFL, but Hrabal is the best of this year’s bunch and will likely develop into Minnesota’s starter in the next few years.

For a big prospect, Hrabal is gifted athletically. He’s strong, plays rough and will be fun to watch when he skates onto an NHL sheet of ice for the first time.

22) Philadelphia Flyers – Otto Stenberg, C/W, Sweden

After going defense on their first choice in round one, the Flyers follow it up with a speedy forward in Otto Stenberg of Sweden. Stenberg is a strong two-way player in the international leagues with a wicked shot and gifted feet. He will need some time to develop but will give the Flyers a prospect that can play both center and wing.

23) New York Rangers – Riley Heidt, C, Prince George Cougars (WHL)

The Rangers nab Heidt here, adding some depth to their center position. Heidt’s a scorer with plenty of skill, but his lack of size forces him down the boards to twenty-three. Can he play? Yes. Can he stay healthy at his size, game in and game out? The Rangers roll the dice and will find out.

24) Nashville Predators – Gavin Brindley, RW, Michigan

Brindley would go higher if it weren’t for his size. He’s as tenacious as a wolverine, can skate with anyone and will light the lamp. A potential top six winger, Brindley plays urgency on every shift and at a compete level that is rarely seen. He fights for every loose puck and does not let his size diminish the fact that he will play “in your face” hockey from the opening faceoff.

Brindley has elite speed and when you combine that with his tenacity, he is not a player you want to play against. He’s agile on his skates and seems to be in a state of constant motion. For a man his size, he’s not afraid to go to the net or to do what is needed to score or help his team.

25) St. Louis Blues – Andrew Cristall, LW, Kelowna (WHL)

If the Blues keep all three of their first rounders (which is unlikely), Cristall could be next man up in St. Louis. Cristall put up strong numbers, netting 39 goals and 56 assists in 54 games. His 1.75 points per game was one of the top averages in the league. Despite missing five weeks with a quad contusion, Cristall was a consistent point producer all year.

Cristall is a winger who has excellent vision of the ice. He’s creative on the ice with a strong transition game. Despite being smaller, he plays well against the half boards and isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty.

26) San Jose Sharks – Oliver Bonk, D, London Knights (OHL)

Perhaps one of the more controversial picks, Bonk mocks out in the top twenty to lower second round. In a draft with thin depth at defense, Bonk will be attractive to someone in round one, even if he’s a reach.

The Sharks are in the process of a rebuild and can wait for Bonk and all his talent to develop, drafting for “futures” and not near-term return. He’s got NHL in his bloodlines (his father played in Ottawa among other cities) and is a strong, puck moving defenseman. He’s got a good transition game, and like Perreault, knows the game as he’s lived it his entire life. He will be a strong defender and will only continue to fill out his 6’2” frame as he adds muscle.

27) Colorado Avalanche – Samuel Honzek, LW, Vancouver (WHL)

The Avs get a big steal here as some mocks slotted Honzek in the early teens. The Russian winger can play center, too and comes off the board, taking his services to Denver. Honzek has the makings of a top six forward with skill and a nice shot.

28) Toronto Maple Leafs – Tom Willander, D,

The Leafs get a sliding Willander, securing a 3-4 defenseman for the future. Willander is a smart defenseman who understands situational play. He has a knack for knowing when the time is right to jump into the play or whether to lay back and be defensive. He is a very confident defenseman who plays with composure and confidence. He has excellent vision in leading transitions to offense and keeps his head up, avoiding hits and scanning for opportunities.

29) St. Louis Blues – David Edstrom, C, Sweden

The Blues (if they keep all three of their first rounders) are down to picking best available athlete, and here sits Sweden’s David Edstrom, a big centerman with game-savvy, skating and hands. Too much to pass up at twenty-nine.

30) Caroline Hurricanes – Calum Ritchie, C, Oshawa (OHL)

A right-handed centerman, Ritchie is ranked a little higher on most boards than on Draft 412. It’s a deep draft and Ritchie could go as high as twenty in some mocks, but here, he slides to the Hurricanes at thirty.

Ritchie is a rangy, 6’2” center who is an average skater but plays an efficient game, one that may be ordinary to watch but gets the job done on the ice. He can power through traffic and maintain control of the puck, even if he lacks some of the flash of other first rounders. He has a powerful shot but needs to work on his accuracy and passing skills.

31) Montreal Canadiens – Bradly Nadeau, LW, Penticton (BCHL)

Nadeau may be a bit underrated but is an accomplished goal scorer and too tempting to pass on at thirty-one for the Habs. Nadeau has one of the prettier and more powerful shots in this draft class but will need to get stronger to play pro hockey. He may be a hidden gem for the Canadiens this far down in round one.

32) Vegas Golden Knights – Danny Nelson, C, US U-18 NTDP

Nelson adds center depth to the Stanley Cup champions. Yes, he’s a few years away from making an impact, but he’s a strong two-way center that’s big, does well in his defensive zone and projects as a middle-six center in the league. Good value pick for the champs to round out the first crop of draftees in 2023.

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