Winter 2023 NHL Draft Rankings

Photo Credit: Keith Hershmiller / Regina Pats

Alexander Appleyard, SpokedZ, Clare McManusMatthew SommaGray MatterBen JordanMike WrightJordan MaletteAustin Garret and Josh Tessler combined their draft rankings and put together the official Smaht Scouting 2023 NHL Draft Winter Rankings.

Below you will find the rankings and a high level summary on each player.

Published scouting reports are hyperlinked on player names. The Smaht team is working on several reports, so if you don’t see one yet, stay tuned.

1.          Connor Bedard

Connor Bedard is the most dynamic offensive threat in this draft class, period. He compliments his above average skating legs, with the ability to process the game at lightning quick rates. He already has an NHL caliber shot even from tough angles, and a ridiculously quick release. His elite hands allow him to manipulate defenders and free up time and space leading to him uncovering his desired quality offensive opportunities. With a toolbox the size of his, offensively, I see him being a star at the NHL level from day one. (Ben Jordan)

2          Adam Fantilli

Adam Fantilli has continued to impress since the preliminary rankings. While any thoughts of Fantilli challenging Bedard for the first overall selection were wiped away at the World Juniors: don’t let that damper what Fantilli has done. He continues to lead the NCAA in scoring as an 18 year old freshman, his microstat profile continues to showcase a dynamic offensive weapon, and then there’s just the wide array of highlights that you can see in his report. While others try to bite at the heels of Fantilli for the #2 spot: he continues to lead the pack at the mid-term. (Austin Garret)

3.          Leo Carlsson

Carlsson has been playing extremely well at the SHL level this season for Örebro. In the offensive zone, he will take over the cycle and will move laterally quickly to shift away from pressure as he sees that if he moves laterally he will skate into a quality passing lane that he can exploit. Carlsson’s vision and stick-handling can get him out of well-pressured jams in all three zones. He will find quality passing lanes in the neutral zone when looking for a teammate in stride to pass to and has no issue with maneuvering the puck around tight pressure. Carlsson hunts for loose pucks with speed and has the physicality to deliver quality checks along the boards to cause puck disruption in tight board battles. Carlsson is a prospect that we see being a reliable playmaker and playing in a line one role at the NHL level. (Josh Tessler)

4.          Matvei Michkov

A smart, dynamic goal-scoring winger, Michkov dictates play when he’s on the ice. With constant delays and changes of pace, baiting poke-checks to freeze defenders just enough to get by them, making up for his lack of a high-end top speed. Making give-and-go plays all along the ice, using his teammates effectively, he’s not afraid to turn back in transition in order to maintain possession and open up new opportunities. He finds open ice extremely well and always positions himself to be a great passing option in the offensive zone. All this is designed with the end goal of creating space for himself in dangerous areas to let his lethal shot fly. He may look small, but he’s not easily knocked over, and he doesn’t shy away from physical battles; his physical game has improved a lot over the course of the season as he’s gotten stronger, and it should improve even more from here. There are flashes of great playmaking ability, but it’s not consistent; his ideas and vision are great, but the execution is often poor. Overall, since moving teams, he’s been playing a much more projectable game, and not trying to do everything himself so much, which was an issue before, as well as playing a much better defensive game, though it’s still not a strength of his. He has the potential to be a game-breaking talent, but it’s not a guarantee, although I’m less concerned than I previously was. (Gray Matter)

5.          Zach Benson

The Connor Bedard Hype Train has prevented Benson from having the spotlight this year. Benson is one of the most talented players in this draft class and has true top line upside due to his elite hockey sense, work ethic and playmaking ability. If Benson can add a step or two to his skating speed, this is a player that could routinely be near the top of the league in scoring. He can truly do it all in the offensive zone and is a threat with his passing, shooting and hockey sense. What Benson lacks in explosive speed he makes up for in creativity and work ethic. There isn’t a single player in this draft class that works as hard as Benson does in all three zones. (Matthew Somma)

6.          Andrew Cristall

There are prospects that have a high-end ability to create and distribute the puck for dangerous scoring plays, then there is a gap, and then there is Andrew Cristall.  What separates Cristall from other players I’ve watched or tracked in North America is his unique ability to send players to space before a play ever develops. Cristall’s data looks sublime as well. He has completed more dangerous and total pass attempts than the next forward has attempted.  To put this in perspective: Zach Benson has attempted 59 passes and Cristall has completed 62. People will worry about his size and straight line speed, but his physical tools and playmaking ability are truly top-end for this draft class. (Austin Garret)

7.          Oliver Moore

Moore is the second most involved player in offensive transitions in North America behind Connor Bedard. He’s sending almost a quarter of his passes to dangerous areas of the ice, and is among the higher end shot generators in the class. Put this with his suberb skating and edgework, dogged mentatlity of being hard on pucks defensively, and his puck skill: Moore has risen to the top 10 of our rankings and still could climb higher. I’d like to see him carry the puck into the dangerous areas of the ice in the offensive zone and not just on the rush, but he’s been showcasing his offensive accumen the last few months. (Austin Garret)

8.         Will Smith

There isn’t much to add to his profile since the last ranking. He’s still one of the most fun players to watch with the puck on their stick in this entire draft. His small area skill and deception techniques are high end. He’s still not supporting much in the defensive zone and I don’t know if he’s going to be the main puck transporting option on an offensively minded line in the NHL. However, as a pure offensive talent with the right pieces around him, Smith could be an absolutely deadly weapon for an NHL team. (Austin Garret)

9.          Gavin Brindley

I think Brindley might be the most underrated player in this draft. He’s a great shot generator, gets into dangerous areas of the ice to take his shot, and his positive regression in puck luck has seen him soar up the scoring ranks in the NCAA. He’s a creative passer and able to thread passes under pressure to players to spring transition and shot assists. He’s involved in 47% of his line’s successful offensive transitions, which is 10% more involved than Fantilli. He’s sent 16% of his passes to dangerous areas compared to Fantilli’s 18%. Lastly, for the last month Fantilli and Brindley have been on the same line and the two of them look the part of the best two forwards Michigan has. Brindley is undersized, but he plays 3 inches bigger than he is. I want all of the Brindley stock, and I think he’s just beginning to scratch the surface of his offensive ceiling. (Austin Garret)

10,        Eduard Šalé

In terms of raw talent, the Czech winger is top five in a stacked 2023 draft. The combination of elite hockey sense, vision, anticipation, passing ability and silky hands that he has at age 17 put many current NHL 1st liners to shame. He is also a plus skater who already plays hockey at an NHL type “pace”, and can utilize his beautiful hands at high speed. Additionally, on the cycle, even without the puck, he helps create space for all his team-mates and causes head-aches for the opposition. On top of that he has an above average, if awkward at times, release, and can pick a corner at both 5v5 and on the Power-play. So how is he not in legitimate contention for top 5 in the draft right now? Well, he has been buried on the 4th line most of the season in the Extraliga, despite outplaying several forwards ahead of him. Furthermore, he needs to develop physically to be able to translate his game to the pro level, as well as iron out some kinks – often around being too aggressive and putting himself and his team in a bad position – in the defensive zone and on breakouts. But with some patience? The Brno native could turn into a franchise calibre player down the line. (Alex Appleyard)

11,        Axel Sandin Pellikka

My personal favourite player so far this year, Sandin Pellikka is a ton of fun to watch. He’s the best offensive defenceman in this class; great mobility; really quick hands; a hard, accurate shot; and most of all, exceptional passing ability. His hands make him a master of walking the line, they’re mesmerising in their quickness, and the real danger is his ability to fire a dangerous shot or a perfect pass off of any one of those moves; that freezes defenders, and essentially allows him free reign over the blue line, because no one wants to try him. If they do, it usually ends with some ankle breakage, followed by a dangerous scoring chance. High speed and mobility combines with his handling skill and deceptive fakes to make him an excellent option in transition, carrying when possible, but never ignoring passing lanes when there’s a good option. His defensive game has improved a lot over the course of the year; his rush defence was always solid, but still in the defensive zone he can struggle a bit to keep up, even at the junior level. But as I said, it’s improved, and unlike some other offensive D-men in this draft, I see no reason why he won’t become an above average–good defender. Aside from maybe defensive retrievals, where he’s not particularly deceptive and can struggle to escape pressure, which will only become more prevalent on smaller ice, and with the speed of the NHL; but I’m not too worried; I’m pretty certain that’ll improve as well. (Gray Matter)

12.        Ryan Leonard

Leonard’s jump can be attributed to his increased passing metrics in my dataset. His ability to be a finisher and his ability to be a physical presence in the defensive zone contine to highlight his impressive season. His ability to go end-to-end coupled with his his ability to fill any role needed on his line in the NTDP has allowed him to see a multitude of opportunities in different aspects of the game. (Austin Garret)

13.        Jayden Perron

If it weren’t for Andrew Cristall, Jayden Perron would be the premier playmaker available in the draft. His ability to use puck movements to pull defenders out of position and open up passing lanes is genuinely remarkable. Especially off the rush, he’ll frequently enter the offensive zone with control and scan for all options before picking the specific gap in the opposition to exploit for a dangerous chance. This playmaking and creativity are undoubtedly at the forefront of what Perron offers but combined with his shiftiness and tremendous puck skills, you’re looking at quite the offensive juggernaut. At 13th overall, it’s a home run swing, but the upside justifies it. (Jordan Malette)

14.        Nate Danielson

Danielson is a player that any coach would love to have on their team. His 200-foot game is already miles ahead of a lot of the other forwards in this draft class and he possesses some intriguing offensive tools as well. Danielson’s skating and hands are high end and he gets the puck to dangerous areas when he’s in the offensive zone. Some scouts may question his offensive ability, but Danielson has done well while having little to no support on his junior team this year. Danielson projects as a strong two-way center with second line upside. (Matthew Somma)

15.        Dimitri Simashev

In my opinion, Simashev is quite possibly the best defenceman in this draft, and by far the best defensive player. I pushed for him to be higher than this, but I’m accepting 15. He’s fluid on his skates, and very mobile, especially for a guy his size. He shuts down plays before they start; he reads and anticipates play very well, stepping up in the neutral zone with perfect timing to prevent entries without taking himself out of the play. He uses his size effectively and protects the puck really well, extending his long reach and using his free arm to shield off pressure. He’s not the most physical yet, but I think that’ll come when it’s necessary, he doesn’t really need to be right now, and he won’t take himself out of the play to throw a pointless hit. But don’t underestimate his offence either, there’s a lot more potential there than he gets credit for. If he has the puck, good luck getting it away from him; he controls the puck exceptionally well and adapts to pressure instantly, weaving through defences in transition and making it look easy. He’s a breakout wizard, great at escaping pressure with the puck, recovering it along the boards and combining his skating and puck protection to evade incoming pressure; he sniffs out contested pucks and turns them into offensive rushes in an instant. The stats still don’t suggest a very offensively skilled defenceman, but then you’ll watch him pull off like five insane plays in one shift that no other defenceman in this draft does, and you start to really see the potential that he has. To me, his upside is some of the highest in this draft, and I really believe that he can be a good #1 defenceman in the NHL some day. (Gray Matter)

16.        Mikhail Gulyayev

A dynamic and elusive offensive defenceman; with the puck on his stick, Gulyayev is a treat to watch. He’s an elite skater with great speed and mobility, I’d say he’s pretty comfortably the best skater in this draft among defencemen. This alone leads to so much offensive potential which shines in transition, adapting quickly to pressure, he extends his reach to one side before shifting to the other, giving himself extra room to manoeuvre around opponents and maintain his speed and momentum. He’s shifty and deceptive in the offensive zone, walking the line, using all kinds of fakes to open up passing lanes and showcase his offensive creativity. But the defensive side is a bit more . . . questionable. He generates speed so quickly, and is just so fast that he can get away with a lot offensively and still catch up to the opposing rush, but it’s hard to say how far that’ll take him in the NHL. His defensive game is quite far behind, he relies mostly on his skating to just zoom around the defensive zone, without a semblance of defensive structure or order in the chaos, and his play anticipation in the defensive zone is quite poor. His mobility allows him to hold his own in the MHL, but it won’t be that simple in the NHL. At the moment, his defensive game isn’t close to projectable, he doesn’t really seem to get the basics of defensive positioning or the fundamentals of defense overall, and I haven’t noticed that improve much yet. That said, it’s not impossible, and to me, the mobility and offensive skillset he possesses is too good to pass up at this spot. (Gray Matter)

17.        Riley Heidt

Riley Heidt is one of the more premier skaters in this 2023 class. He has extremely great edges and accelerates very quickly in all zones. Heidt excels with the puck on his stick when he’s using his skating ability to create separation from defenders. His skating is also an asset for him in transition where he is great at carrying the puck through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone. When Heidt is on the ice, he wants the play to run through him, and I love that. Through all my viewings thus far, I have never questioned his drive or willingness to drag himself and his teammates into the fight. With Heidt I see a player that could make the leap as a center in the NHL. Before he can make that leap he’ll want to improve his overall strength which will aid in his play along the wall and in puck battles down low. (Ben Jordan)

18.        Dalibor Dvorsky

February was the month in which we finally saw Dalibor Dvorsky start finding success with his shot at 5v5. Prior to February, the bulk of his goals were coming on the power play when he had a lot of space in front of him. But, in February, Dvorsky was doing quite a bit more off puck work in the offensive zone and that allowed him to generate open space for himself down low. Generally speaking, Dvorsky is more of a passenger than he is a play driver and playmaker at 5v5. Given that he is finding more success off-puck, should he remain at center in the future, whichever club takes Dvorsky will need to pair him with a winger who tends to lead the charge from a transitional perspective. (Josh Tessler)

19.        David Reinbacher

There has never been a draft eligible defenseman in the NLA (top Swiss league) who has been so good at aged 18. Roman Josi? Nope, the young Austrian is better at the same age, and even if he barely develops from here will be the best Austrian blue-liner of all-time. He skates well, reads the game at a high-level, has great gap control and is fantastic in transition. In fact, he has very few weaknesses. However, he also does not have the high-end, stand-out skills that make you think he has a good chance of being a legit #1 NHL defenseman. Will he reach the dizzying heights of a player like Josi as he grows and matures? Almost certainly not. But Reinbacher will very likely grow into a top four NHL defenseman, with a solid chance of being a good #2. (Alex Appleyard)

20.        Timur Mukhanov

One of the more fun players in the draft, high-skill and high-energy, Mukhanov is quick, shifty, and brings a bit of everything. He’s fast, skilled; he can thread a slick pass, or change the angle and fire a laser beam; he can forecheck, backcheck, carry in transition, support in transition, even defend decently well thanks to his high motor. He can do just about everything, and all with great intensity; the only thing he hasn’t been able to do this year is score a lot of points, but ignore those, ‘cause he’s a hell of a player; he generates so many offensive opportunities, it’s absurd that he doesn’t have more points. The only real drawback is his size and strength, he’s not gonna win a lot of physical battles right now; he gets outmuscled easily, and it’s pretty easy to imagine him being unable to drive play in the NHL, and ultimately falling flat offensively. But still, I don’t know that I’d consider him a boom-or-bust type, I’d say he’s a safer option than many. His intensity all over the ice, forechecking, defending, I think he’ll still be able to play a bottom-six role if the offence doesn’t work out. (Gray Matter)

21.        Quentin Musty

I was quite sour on Musty early on in the season, leaving him off our preliminary list. Especially at the Hlinka, he was taking on way too much trying to beat the first, second, and sometimes a third layer of defense on his own. It was backfiring almost every sequence, and watching these plays unfold was frustrating. Fast forward to today, his skill is being applied more practically now, and it is paying off for him. His creativity and puck skills allow him to beat that first layer of defense easily, but he now frequently dishes it off to a teammate rather than attempting another move. His skating will need to improve, but I don’t see a reason to believe why it can’t. There’s tons of skill and upside here, and if everything goes right, an offense-contributing top-six winger is certainly within reach. (Jordan Malette)

22.        Gracyn Sawchyn

Gracyn Sawchyn is the brains steering the ship in Seattle. There may not be another player in this draft that can think it the way Sawchyn can. In each of my viewings of him, there were multiple instances where it felt like he was plays ahead of his teammates. As you can imagine, this led to many broken plays, especially in the offensive zone for his opponents. He has such a great set of hands, and he showed this in the CHL top prospect game. His raw stickhandling ability to get out of tight areas with the puck, and ability to manipulate defenders (the top ones of his peer group) was awesome. Sawchyn seems to always be attacking the net going downhill. His play in the defensive zone is calm and refined, and always willing to make the risk adverse play to up the puck. (Ben Jordan)

23.        Brayden Yager

Brayden Yager, seemingly one of the more polarizing names brings with him a straight line, puck dominant style of play that for me is hard to overlook. Yager gets around the ice in all areas very well thanks to his elite ability to see plays unfolding. This makes up for some of the skating deficiencies that I see with Yager. There’s no denying his straight-line skill, and his ability to rip shots from wherever and whenever he has space to do so, but for Yager to work his way up this board I’m looking to see him more involved in transition. Right now he’s too much of a passenger, and when he struggles to create space for himself, he can become a ghost for many shifts at a time. (Ben Jordan)

24.        William Whitelaw

There isn’t a player in this draft that excites me as much as William Whitelaw. The pace and dynamic skill set are a lethal combination that is the exact type of player I’m looking for early on day one of the draft. He can be absolutely electric dangling through defenders and can certainly create a ridiculous highlight reel. However, what drove me to be a touch bearish on Will is prioritizing shots from low danger and the inability to access high danger consistently. Especially at the USHL level, I’d like to see him look for dangerous passing options more often rather than a low-quality perimeter shot. The tools are certainly there for a top-ten player in my books, but I want to see them applied more frequently to be willing to make that swing on the upside. (Jordan Malette)

25.        Luca Pinelli

There are many details of Luca Pinelli’s game to appreciate, but I’ll keep it brief and focus on my three favourites. Firstly, Pinelli constantly scans to find open pockets of space to sneak into. You can typically find him hovering high in the offensive zone, looking for the right time to pounce into space to be available for a dangerous pass. Once he gains that slight separation from defenders, he can unleash a one-timer that can beat the goalie from medium to long range. Next, I appreciate Luca’s tendency to keep his puck touches short and rarely overextend his possessions. He’s always looking for passing options to advance play, and the attack rarely breaks down on his stick. And finally, Luca never arbitrarily forces the puck up ice at all costs. Pinelli routinely turns back to reset to escape immediate pressure, buy time, and allow a teammate to get open for a controlled exit pass. It’s a minor detail, but it speaks to his prioritization of puck possession which is a significant component of my evaluation process. (Jordan Malette)

26.        Calum Ritchie

Ritchie is a difficult player to evaluate. At times, flashes of skill jump off the page, but they aren’t super frequent. He sometimes showcases top-end creativity and puck skills to dangle his way to dangerous areas, which excites me about his upside. Still, most of the time, I see a player who uses body positioning to protect the puck and leverages that physical advantage to extend possessions along the exterior. He offers value in transition typically as the player transporting the puck through the neutral zone which makes me think there’s a solid floor of a depth centerman at the very least. (Jordan Malette)

27.        Beau Akey

One of the players Smaht will rank significantly higher than consensus. I was pounding the table for Akey to be a backend first round pick due to his offensive ceiling. He’s one of the best passers in my dataset and shows a remarkable amount of skill for a player that is rarely talked about as a first round pick. He doesn’t activate as aggressively as some of his peers which may account for his production numbers to be slightly below some of his CHL counterparts, but he makes up for it with his four-way skating mobility and flashes of high end skill. I’ll continue to bet on a player that generates transitions and facilitates play in the offensive zone. (Austin Garret)

28.        Michael Hrabal

Hrabal is the top goaltender prospect in the 2023 NHL Draft class. He is a reliable goaltender, who has excellent size and speed. When protecting the post, Hrabal owns the post. He forces the shooter into trying to shoot for the far side as he doesn’t leave an open spot for the shooter on the short side. With his size and speed, he is quick to react to changes in puck movement. So even if a shooter thinks he has a quality backdoor option, Hrabal can react in time to take it all the space away and force the attacker to try to get the puck up towards the far post and in. When traffic intensifies right in front of him, he shifts his head around the attacker to maintain a sight line on the puck carrying attacker. He constantly moves his head to react to the attacker (the one in front of him) shifting over a bit as the attacker is looking to eliminate Hrabal’s sight lines. In addition, he has an excellent glove and will capture shots from the slot with ease. If you are looking for a reliable goaltending prospect who is already well developed, Hrabal fits the bill.  (Josh Tessler)

29.        Samuel Honzek

Honzek moves so well for his size. He does a great job getting to the inside, and possesses good hands and vision which will provide offense at the pro level. Although his skill won’t dazzle you like some others in this class, there is a pro frame with a tool box of compliments that will make him a sure fire 3rd line contributor, with middle six upside, and the tools to play center ice at the next level. (Ben Jordan)

30.        Bradly Nadeau

Nadeau continues to be one of the most involved players in successful offensive transitions in my North American dataset. While he can cheat for offense still; I do like how he’s operating on the rush with his secondary options as of late and there’s a lot of projectable tools to go along with his high-end skating. (Austin Garret)

31.        Matthew Wood

A big-framed player who has intelligence and a heavy accurate shot. He uses his body well to shield from defenders, protecting the puck, and making a quick move. Wood has the ability to be flashy, but he will have to work on his skating to make his game more well-rounded, mostly his food-speed. (Clare McManus)

32.        Colby Barlow

A heavy power forward equipped with a pro hockey frame and above average shot. There’s a lot to like with Barlow but there are many aspects of his game that I am not sold will translate to the next level. He has great hands in tight areas, and can unleash a bomb of a wrister, but to see him reach his potential, he’d benefit immensely from a centerman with vision and distribution skills. He has the body to retrieve pucks down low and win puck battles but is not super engaged in carrying the puck into the offensive zone. He can kill penalties at the next level, and could slot in on a power play unit, giving him some versatility. Would love to see Barlow develop his play off the puck, as well as the ability to stay engaged with the play in the defensive zone. (Ben Jordan)

33.       Otto Stenberg

He’s got excellent hands and mobility that he can rely on to create space for himself. Stenberg leverages his crossovers to build up quality acceleration and momentum, but then can use his pivots to shake off pressure. His handling then allows him to complete shake free of pressure and find a shooting / passing lane to use. On the forecheck, Stenberg uses his mobility and speed to get himself into position, but he isn’t using his body / frame to cause puck disruption. I’d like to him work on using his frame combined with his speed and mobility to silence oppositional puck movement. Stenberg is likely to be a winger instead of a center at the NHL level as he usually isn’t driving the rush from the back end and has a bit more success with his shot when he can establish open ice for a quality passing lane instead of driving the puck into space. I could see Stenberg in a middle six winger role at the next level. (Josh Tessler)

34.        Denver Barkey

Denver plays at a high pace which is the obvious standout in his game. His footwork enables him to navigate pressure with agility and gain separation with a few strides. He can be a pest on the forecheck, disrupting attempted zone exits and forcing turnovers. Finally, I am most impressed with his ability as a playmaker, especially off the rush. He can identify passing lanes and exploit them before they close, creating chance after chance. Denver’s combination of pace and creativity off the rush offers are great building blocks for an exciting prospect.  (Jordan Malette)

35.        Oscar Fisker Mølgaard

Simply put, Oscar Fisker Mølgaard needs to be talked about a whole lot more than he is right now. The 6’0” 165 lb center didn’t leave his home country of Denmark for Sweden until the 2021-22 season, and less than 18 months later he found himself centering the second line on HV71’s SHL squad. Fisker Mølgaard is a highly intelligent, hardworking center who displays an advanced understanding of inside play both offensively and defensively. He’s a strong skater and is constantly in motion, scanning and surveying the ice in front of him. Despite his slight frame, he’s capable of winning puck battles vs. players far bigger and heavier than he is due to his high compete level and tenacity. Though the tools and flashes of playmaking are apparent and intriguing, it’s unclear just how much point production there will be at the NHL. The playmaking can be inconsistent and he doesn’t boast an NHL calibre shot to this point. There are questions about just how much offensive upside there is at the next level, and that may be a deciding factor in whether he hears his name called on day 1 or day 2. Still, the recent upward trajectory and the high-end tools make him an intriguing player to track as we get closer to June. (SpokedZ)

36.        Lukas Dragicevic

Dragicevic is an incredibly smart defender with excellent offensive ability. He’s a fantastic playmaker and will be able to score at the NHL level as well. The biggest concerns with Dragicevic are his skating and defensive ability, which is what is keeping him out of our first round at the moment. If Dragicevic’s poor skating can improve, then it’s likely that all aspects of his game will improve. He already has strong hockey sense and offensive tools. Dragicevic’s big question will be whether or not he can keep up once he reaches the pros. If he can, then there’s potential for a top four role with some power play time as well. He could reach 40-50 points if that’s the case. If not, then he may be relegated to a third pairing or the AHL. (Matthew Somma)

37.        Tanner Molendyk

Molendyk was the best defender in the CHL Top Prospect game in my opinion, and he has continued to be one of the best CHL defenders since the preliminary rankings. He’s been great at defending the blue line with his gap control and I’ve really liked his activation strategy this past month. Given his strengths in the defensive zone and his continued development in the offensive zone he remains one of the best North American defenders in my opinion. (Austin Garret)

38.        Charlie Stramel

A physical forward who not only can bring a physical presence on ice, but also a show of offensive ability. The power-forward is strong on the rush up ice and has the ability to make it difficult for the opposition in puck battles and in front of the net. Stramel is a very versatile player and has the IQ and skills to succeed at the next level he plays at. (Clare McManus)

39.        Kalan Lind

Lind carries with him a not so common blend of physicality and scoring touch. This season he has really embraced the role of being a smart, hard to play against defensive forward, that has shown he can chip in offensively when the opportunities present themselves. Fearless screening goalies and in the defensive zone, does a great job closing off pass lanes and forcing play to the outside. (Ben Jordan)

40.        Carson Bjarnason

The tools that Bjarnason has makes him a rather intriguing goaltender prospect for the 2023 NHL Draft. The athleticism, the glove, the blocker and the puck tracking are excellent. He is showing that he can react quickly to puck movement and shut down scoring chances on routine. He extends his blocker and pads out just in time to push pucks to low danger areas. Bjarnason keeps his head on a swivel and does an excellent job of puck tracking even when traffic builds up at net front is a tool that will come in handy at the NHL level when the opposition is bigger and faster.

The area that I would like to see improvement on the most is his stance. If Bjarnason can improve his crouch and butterfly stance in net to take up more space, those tools are going to blend nicely and thus he has NHL starter potential written all over him. (Josh Tessler)

41.        Gabe Perreault

A great playmaker who possesses strong vision, Perreault is a real threat on the ice as he has good speed and the ability to be a heaven presence on the forecheck. He is a very intelligent player and brings a creative style of play when he is on the ice. In small ice or plays along the wall, Perreault tends to make smart decisions with the puck on his stick as well as his body. (Clare McManus)

42.        Alex Čiernik

If you are looking for someone who is constantly looking to key up give and go opportunities, Čiernik is someone to keep an eye on. He loves to key up give and go opportunities while driving up the neutral zone. When Čiernik is skating up the ice, he scans and looks for teammates along the boards right at the blue line. He delivers a pass to them and they drive the puck into the offensive zone. Čiernik enters the zone as the F2 and looks to establish open ice for himself in a medium and/or high danger spot. Then that allows the teammate who received the pass from Čiernik to deliver a pass back to Čiernik that could potentially generate a quality scoring chance. Prior to moving up to Allsvenskan, Čiernik had been producing at an excellent pace at 5v5 in Swedish J20 play. Since joining Södertälje in Allsvenskan, he is struggling to adapt to the amount of pressure that he is facing. The pressure at the next level is far more assertive and in his face. While he does have the stick-handling to navigate out of tight pressure, the speed that he has isn’t creating enough separation as he is netting in J20 play. But, he is doing a great job of navigating out of space and passing to high danger areas. (Josh Tessler)

43.        Caden Price

One of the more intriguing case studies thus far has been Caden Price. His play at the Hlinka left people thinking that this may be a top 10 pick in the 2023 draft. He has since had some consistency struggles in Kelowna. To me it boils down to this: this kid’s got all the tools to become a truly elite puck mover at the next level but is very early on in his development track. There are consistency concerns at this very moment. Looking strictly at the tools, he is a premier puck distributor with elite vision and creativity. In his own end he uses his agility to shake forecheckers and afford himself a bit of extra time to start breaking the puck out of his zone. (Ben Jordan)

44.        Daniil But

6’5, over 200lbs, with skill to boot? The kind of base-skill set that NHL GMs go to bed dreaming about. The giant winger’s stand-out asset is his booming shot, and can score from virtually any position, he also has quick hands that can evade pressure in tight spaces and make eye-watering moves to cross-up defensemen either on the rush or on the cycle. He is also committed defensively and rarely takes a shift off. On the power-play he can be a menace drifting between the slot and the left half-boards. He is also good at getting to weaker seams around the net to finish off chances. He has good potential, the kind that makes you think there is a 2nd line NHL winger inside somewhere. However, he will need to improve his awkward skating, play the game at a higher pace, and use his size more to fulfil that. (Alex Appleyard)

45.        Trey Augustine

Technically sound, Augustine is a fluid goalie who is good at reading the play and can move quickly to react to pucks, especially going side-to-side with his lateral movements. His glove hand is definitely one of his best abilities as he can use it in lots of different ways. He possesses decent size standing at 6 ‘1″. Overall he has solid stats and could challenge netminder to be the first goalie gone in the draft. (Clare McManus)

46.        Luca Cagnoni

Cagnoni has been very tough to get a read on throughout his draft year. Our last ranking installment I was confident we had a 1st round player on our hands. I have not seen his offensive game develop quite how I’d had hoped. His mobility and edge work is undeniably a strength, but where he struggles is the starts and stops going north south. His mobility and four-way skating has allowed him to keep up defensively and be positionally sound while doing so, but once in transition and carrying the puck up ice, I have grown less confident in the player. This is a scenario where team matters. Cagnoni needs to get selected to a team that has a strong development program and can help him unlock all the skating tools. If that happens, I am confident in a bottom four defenceman who can stick around for awhile at the NHL level. (Ben Jordan)

47.        Martin Mišiak

A two-way centerman, although he can play winger too, Misiak is a very competitive player who brings decent offensive skills with solid skating abilities. He has a strong shot and uses it to his ability in open ice. Misiak can also serve as a smart playmaking forward as well. He will need to get stronger as he moves on to the next level. (Clare McManus)

48.        Andrew Strathmann

An offensive minded defenseman who likes to be creative with the puck on his stick. The North Dakota commit has a few flaws in his game that will need to be fixed if he wants a shot at the pro level. He tends to give up the puck in dangerous areas which can lead to turnovers. He can skate well and use his shot to his best ability. But sometimes gives up a passing opportunity because of his poor decision making. (Clare McManus)

49.        Matthew Mania

Jumping into the rankings is Matthew Mania. His dataset has been good all year for me, but I’ve questioned his skill level a lot for the first 4-5 months of the year. While he’s able to facilitate transitions at a level worthy of the ranking; I’m not quite sure he possesses above-average NHL skill levels to be deceptive enough to be a threat in the offensive end in the NHL. However, he does flash moments where he’s able to manipulate oncoming defenders and move into space to create plays. (Austin Garret)

50.        Aydar Suniev

Aydar Suniev has been lighting the lamp for the Pentiction Vees routinely throughout the season. Suniev has an excellent shot from range even in contested situations. But, he can also create space for himself by pushing play around pressure at open ice and then quickly using the space that he created by putting a quality shot on net. When Suniev is off-puck in the offensive zone, he is looking to establish open ice down low and that has led to quite a few high danger passes coming his way. (Josh Tessler)

51.        Alexander Rykov

An energetic, smart, and defensively responsible forward, Rykov probably won’t have a massive offensive impact in the NHL, but he’ll bring some decent speed and a good motor, along with a smart, well-rounded, and relatively low-risk game. He doesn’t excel at any one particular thing, but he’s just solid across the board, and he thinks the game well. He’s elusive, especially along the boards, he spins off checks well and accelerates quickly to escape pressure. He’s a good skater, but he plays a bit too fast at times, particularly away from the puck, not slowing down in space and just skating full speed in a straight line; but this isn’t a frequent occurrence in his game, and I don’t see it as a long-term concern. He puts himself in good spots offensively without the puck, and he’s a skilled passer, able to adapt his passes to different situations. He reads play well, and he probably won’t wow you very often, but he’ll just make smart, simple plays all the time; and bring a great motor, always active and making an effort at both ends of the ice. (Gray Matter)

52.        Noah Dower Nilsson

If drafts were just about skill, creativity and talent then the Swedish pivot would be locked-in as a first round pick. He has deft and deceptive hands, the vision to pick out a perfect pass from no-where, great touch in any situation, and a plus shot to boot. This combination has led to him decimating the J20 Swedish Junior league this season. His 52 points places him top 10 all-time in u-18 scoring in the league with games left to play. However, there is more to hockey than just an offensive skill-set, and these areas are where Dower Nilsson must improve. His skating is not “bad” but merely average, but what is more concerning at times for such a high-skilled player are his poor decisions with the puck and lack of intensity. If he can rectify those issues in the coming years then he can certainly become a very good 2nd liner at the NHL level. (Alex Appleyard)

53.        Theo Lindstein

While the points don’t necessarily jump off the page, left-shot defenseman Theo Lindstein has put together quite the impressive draft year in Sweden. He’s featured in 32 SHL games for Brynas, often times playing upwards of 16 minutes in a top-4 role. He’s a beautiful skater with a fluid stride and uses that skating to his advantage both offensively and defensively. He flashes patience and deception when moving the puck up the ice, either skating out of trouble himself or finding a teammate with open ice in front of him to skate into with the puck. Lindstein defends well in transition and against the rush with good gap control and a disciplined stick. He’s also a tremendous passer capable of finding passing lanes and creating his own. He occasionally has issues with in-zone defending and needs to add a decent bit of strength before taking his game to the next level defensively. At times, he can be guilty of being overly patient carrying the puck up ice and will take too long in his decision making. This can lead to turnovers and odd-man rushes the other way, but should be correctable as he continues to mature. (SpokedZ)

54.        Tom Willander

Tom Willander is a big, mobile, right shot defenseman playing for Rögle BK. He’s a very intelligent defenseman who uses his high-end mobility to evade forechecking pressure and make life easy for teammates with a successful first pass. He’s solid defensively both in-zone and against the rush, and he plays a conservative style that enables him to play relatively mistake free hockey. That conservative style is effective in his own end, but it also limits his projection from an offensive standpoint. He oftentimes will rely on hopeful shots from the point instead of experimenting with the tools in his arsenal, ultimately hindering his ability to be an offensive threat on a consistent basis. That being said, he’s currently second in points among draft-eligible defenseman playing in the J20 with 23 in 37 games. If he can occasionally step outside of his comfort zone and add a layer of unpredictability in his offensive game, he has a chance to be drafted early in the second round. (SpokedZ)

55.        Lenni Hämeenaho

The Finnish winger is the type of player that you can’t help but liking. Does he have a great shot? Yes. A high skill-level? Yes. Good passing? Yes. But it is his compete level and attention to details that make you want to root for him. He is a joy to watch on the boards and in puck-battles, despite being physically underdeveloped. He often comes out of a pile with the puck, and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time in close. His IQ is impressive for his age, and he is rarely out of position in any zone. He is well-rounded and mature, and this has led to him more than holding his own in Liiga this season. His skating still needs some work, and he will also need to play faster on smaller ice, but if he keeps developing he will be a very good NHL 3rd liner with a chance of featuring on a 2nd line. (Alex Appleyard)

56.        Felix Nilsson

The Stockholm native is a player who has came on leaps and bounds over the course of this season. His game is centered around his high IQ. Nilsson is a facilitator. He links up everyone around him on ice, and is virtually always free to relieve a team-mate from pressure. Play is rarely ever stuck in his teams end when he is on the ice as a result. You often get the sense that he would do the job of both his defensemen and his wingers better than they can, and know what they will do before they themselves know. He drives play, and is a plus passer and shooter, while being aware and engaged in the defensive zone. He might not be “elite” in any area, but he is above average virtually everywhere. Down the line he could grow into a reliable 3C in the NHL who can play with anyone and prosper. (Alex Appleyard)

57.        Nick Lardis

Nick Lardis has a fantastic shot which has been at the forefront of his success in Hamilton. Either off the rush or catch and release, Nick is a threat to score from almost any angle or distance. Lardis is always hovering around the offensive zone, looking to find a split second of open space to be open for a pass that will allow him to unleash a shot quickly. He plays at a high pace and can push defenders on their heels, which makes for the occasional highlight reel goal when combined with his slick hands. It’s an upside swing, but one that makes sense as we get into the mid to late 2nd round. (Jordan Malette)

58.        Carter Sotheran

Carter Sotheran is having an impressive rookie campaign with Portland in the WHL this season. He has been the perfect partner for Luca Cagnoni on the blue line, providing excellent defensive play and physicality. Sotheran is able to create all of the space necessary for Cagnoni to work in all three zones and has largely been underrated because of it. Sotheran’s size, strong straight line speed and elite work in his own end make him a very projectable draft prospect. With his skating and defensive play, it’s easy to see how he could be a top four defenseman. The only real question our staff has about Sotheran’s game is whether or not his offensive game will ever be good enough for a top four role. Right now, he shows that he can make simple passes and smart decisions with the puck, but he doesn’t take risks and is limited offensively. (Matthew Somma)

59.        Coulson Pitre

Pitre is a versatile forward that has shown the ability to play up and down the lineup and on both special teams units. In the CHL top prospects game, he spent time on a line with Connor Bedard and did not seem out of place. He’s very strong on his skates, and has a mechanically sound stride that makes it difficult for opponents to turn the puck over. He has strong board play, where he has a strong stick retrieving loose pucks and winning 50-50 battles. When in transition he moves the puck accurately and quickly and does a decent job reading the play. There are times, especially when Flint  has been down late in games where he has forced the issue a bit and force fed passes into areas that led to turnovers. (Ben Jordan)

60.        Étienne Morin

I love Morin with the puck on his stick. He’s one of the best in the QMJHL offensively, forward or defenseman, at creating scoring opportunities by reading plays and manipulating defenders. His data set is a bit of a roller coaster and almost all of it is due to a lack of physicality and poor acceleration as a skater. Morin doesn’t pass well under physical duress and struggles to separate from forecheckers and defenders when escaping pressure that he is too prone to turnovers. However, with a bit more strength and skating development he could turn out to be a PP2 QB you find in the second round. (Austin Garret)

61.        Quinton Burns

Quinton Burns is a solid rush defenseman. He usually maintains good positioning. Burns stays well-aligned with the rush in the neutral zone and looks to force oppositional dump-ins into the Kingston zone. He then uses his lengthy stride to put him on the inside track to the loose puck. When the attacker who is engaged in the loose puck battle with Burns closes in on him, Burns does a good job of utilizing the boards to pass the puck off of. Burns is more of a defensive defenseman and will need to continue to work on developing his east-west speed and pivoting to ensure that he can stay aligned to puck carriers who are rather shifty. I would project Burns to be a second pairing defenseman and hopefully if he can develop stronger east-west speed that will only pave the way for more physical defending and closing out pressure at a faster rate. (Josh Tessler)

62.        Kasper Halttunen

The Finnish winger is one of the players who has seen his draft-stock fall the most over the course of the 2022-23 season. Going into the year there was some chatter of him being a potential top 10 pick. But this season he has struggled. He has not been helped by a brutal looking concussion he sustained in October from a massive hit to the head that put him out for a month, he has also not been helped by playing for the lowest scoring team in Liiga, and he certainly has been pretty unlucky. But he has also not helped himself. Despite being a big, powerful winger with good skating, great hands and a lethal shot he has just one point in 27 Liiga games, he has also not set the world on fire at the international level. His IQ has been exposed at times and it also seems like he can let frustration or boredom creep into his game and negatively impact the things he does well. Does he still have top six upside? Certainly. But he will have to mature a lot and get better in relation to the finer details of the game. (Alex Appleyard)

63.        Anton Wahlberg

Anton Wahlberg is another prospect out of Sweden who has recently seen his draft stock rise, and one who I fully expect scouts & GM’s to fall in love with thanks to his 6’4”, 190 lb frame and aggressive style. In the junior ranks, he’s able to use that size and strength to take over games and dominate against smaller players with ease. He’s also a decent skater for a player his size . He’s scored multiple highlight reel, coast to coast goals in the J20 this season due to the fact that nobody can take the puck off him. Now graduated to Malmo’s SHL team, he’s not able to rely solely on his size and strength. He’s learned to play a more calculated, mature game with more of a focus on the finer details. Over time, he’s adapted quite well and started to produce points after his recent promotion to the top six. He continues to take strides defensively as well, and has shown he can be a useful two-way forward. If he can add layers to his game offensively beyond just being a bull in a china shop, he has the foundational tools to become a decent middle-six power forward. (SpokedZ)

64.        Arvid Bergström

Arvid Bergström is a shifty mobile puck moving defenseman, who defends rather well but at a distance. He is more of a reactive defenseman, but does use his positioning well when defending against the rush to force dump and chases. Bergström has good acceleration that he leverages to get to loose pucks cleanly. Should he encounter a heave forecheck, he’s shown that he can use pivots to shake free and complete a zone exit pass. Bergström does need to work on closing out gaps quicker as sometimes he ends up giving a bit too much room. In the offensive zone, Bergström should start looking to utilize his mobility and speed while pinching to drive pucks into the slot. (Josh Tessler)

HM.      Noel Nordh

Whenever I watch Brynäs, I always come away impressed with Nordh; he seems to be flying under the radar a bit, and I quite like him. A power winger with a good motor and a nose for the net, on top of good physical tools and puck protection ability. He’s always active away from the puck and is very efficient in his off-puck routes. He does a good job of attacking the inside, actively scanning and finding lanes to the inside without the puck and positioning himself in open space, constantly adjusting his speed and repositioning to remain a passing target. The upside may not be the highest with Nordh, he lacks stand-out offensive tools, his shot is underwhelming and he doesn’t show much creativity in his playmaking; but there are moments of really impressive maneuvers to take the puck to the middle and drive the net under pressure, and his offense comes alive when he can get in tight to the net. He’s good defensively, and regardless of the offensive upside, his game should lend itself to a good 3rd line role in the NHL, and maybe more if all the stars align. (Gray Matter)

HM.     Maxim Štrbák

A valued right-handed defenseman who uses his reach and long stick to his ability to break up plays. He is very good on the defensive end of the game, applying physical pressure. He does have a show of offense as well. This past year he was an important part of team Slovakia at the World Juniors. (Clare McManus)

HM.      Matthew Soto

When it comes to Matthew Soto it’s all about what could be for me. When scouting players I often take notes of when players make me gasp or mutter in amazement. Soto is one of the players in which it’s always a treat to see what he’s going to do. He hasn’t quite put it all together in the OHL this year. Sometimes he puts himself into positions where passing options aren’t going to be ideal, and other times he makes a play no one could have possibly thought he’d pull off and he ends up without a scoring option. However, given his birthdate, I think Soto is the bet I’d make in this year’s draft where the late birthday and patience could reap benefits given the tools that he possesses. (Austin Garret)

HM.      Jacob Fowler

Another Youngstown Phantoms draft-eligible, Flower is a great positional goaltender who, like Augustine, uses his great glove hand to his ability when on the ice. Laterally he moves well and possesses decent size in net. The Florida-born netminder and Boston College commit has put up some amazing stats for the Phantoms in his two year tenure with the team. So far this year he has a record of 20-8-3. (Clare McManus)

HM.      Oliver Bonk

Oliver Bonk has been able to develop his positional awareness in the defensive zone throughout this season. He’s a great puck carrier and excels carrying the puck through the neutral zone, with the ability to make decisions on the fly, and execute accordingly. His ability to control gaps has been above average and shows great agility and control while doing so. Decent first pass defenseman that can find the outlet guy. (Ben Jordan)

1Connor BedardReginaC
2Adam FantilliUniv of MichiganC
3Leo CarlssonÖrebroC
4Matvei MichkovSKA St. PetersburgRW
5Zach BensonWinnipegF
6Andrew CristallKelownaF
7Oliver MooreUSNTDPC
8Will SmithUSNTDPC
9Gavin BrindleyUniv of MichiganC
10Eduard ŠaléBrnoLW
11Axel Sandin PellikkaSkellefteåRHD
12Ryan LeonardUSNTDPRW
13Jayden PerronChicagoF
14Nate DanielsonBrandonC
15Dimitri SimashevYaroslavlLHD
16Mikhail GulyayevOmskLHD
17Riley HeidtPrince GeorgeF
18Dalibor DvorskyAIKC
19David ReinbacherKlotenRHD
20Timur MukhanovOmskC
21Quentin MustySudburyLW
22Gracyn SawchynSeattleC
23Brayden YagerMoose JawF
24William WhitelawYoungstownC
25Luca PinelliOttawaC
26Calum RitchieOshawaC
27Beau AkeyBarrieRHD
28Michael HrabalOmahaG
29Samuel HonzekVancouverC
30Bradly NadeauPentictonC
31Matthew WoodUniv of ConnecticutF
32Colby BarlowOwen SoundRW
33Otto StenbergFrölundaC
34Denver BarkeyLondonC
35Oscar Fisker MølgaardHV71C
36Lukas DragicevicTri-City (WHL)RHD
37Tanner MolendykSaskatoonLHD
38Charlie StramelUniv of WisconsinF
39Kalan LindRed DeerF
40Carson BjarnasonBrandonG
41Gabe PerreaultUSNTDPF
42Alex ČiernikSödertäljeLW/RW
43Caden PriceKelownaLHD
44Daniil ButYaroslavlLW
45Trey AugustineUSNTDPG
46Luca CagnoniPortlandLHD
47Martin MišiakYoungstownC
48Andrew StrathmannYoungstownLHD
49Matthew ManiaSudburyRHD
50Aydar SunievPentictonLW
51Alexander RykovChelyabinskF
52Noah Dower NilssonFrölundaC
53Theo LindsteinBrynäsLHD
54Tom WillanderAIKRHD
55Lenni HämeenahoÄssätF
56Felix NilssonRögleC/W
57Nick LardisPeterboroughRW
58Carter SotheranPortlandRHD
59Coulson PitreFlintC
60Étienne MorinMonctonLHD
61Quinton BurnsKingstonLHD
62Kasper HalttunenHIFKF
63Anton WahlbergMalmöC
64Arvid BergströmDjurgårdenLHD
HMNoel NordhBrynäsRW
HMMaxim ŠtrbákSioux FallsRHD
HMMatthew SotoKingstonRW
HMJacob FowlerYoungstownG
HMOliver BonkLondonRHD

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: