Scouting Report: Luca Pinelli

Photo Credit: Robert Lefebvre / OHL Images

As one would expect with a 5’9 forward, Luca Pinelli’s draft rankings have quite a wide range and follow almost no consensus, spanning from the early second round to, in some cases, unranked. Smaht is one of those outliers, ranking Pinelli at 37. It is obviously a team decision, but I was undoubtedly one of the most vocal among the team about Pinelli in that range of the draft. While he’s not a flawless prospect, my short justification is that he has too many of the qualities I seek to overlook his potential. Like every prospect, there will be hurdles for him to overcome, but they aren’t unsurmountable, and there is good reason to be optimistic about him moving forward.

Player Profile

D.O.B – April 5, 2005
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2023
Height –5’9″
Weight –161 lbs
Position – Forward
Handedness – Left

Pinelli’s Style of Play

The first and most apparent aspect of Pinelli’s game that you easily spot in the first few shifts of a viewing is his non-stop motor. He is constantly zooming around, applying persistent pressure all over the ice and is relentless in pursuit of the puck. This high-end work rate enables Luca to close down defenders, force turnovers frequently, and be a total nuisance for the opposition. At his size, he certainly isn’t a physically imposing forechecker that will lay a massive hit. Still, with his effort level and peskiness to finish checks, he can be a pain for defenders attempting to retrieve a dumped-in puck. Despite being on the smaller side, he is proficient at winning puck battles and plays along the boards from players with physical advantages over him. This rambunctious puck pressure is one of the more projectable elements of his game, as there will always be room for a player who doesn’t stop when they hit the ice and can be a pest.

The catch twenty-two here is a lot of his success in this department relies on his quickness to close down opponents, and there are valid concerns about his skating that may hinder his ability to continue to do so as competition gets bigger/faster/stronger. I am the first to admit that I am no skating mechanics expert, but still, I could spot some inefficiencies in how Pinelli moves. His stance is slightly wider than ideal, he kicks his heel up after stride extension, and his recovery is a bit of a stomp rather than a smooth glide into his next stride. All of these issues make him an inefficient skater, especially on his stride recoveries and seamlessly chaining strides together. It’s certainly not a hindrance at the junior level, but the question mark is how much better can his skating get to keep pace at the professional level.

I won’t dive too much further into the details here, but the takeaway for me is that if I were on a scouting staff, this is a situation where you consult your development team on how much improvements can be expected to be realized. Skating may be a long-term hurdle for Pinelli, but if your dev team is optimistic that they can work with him to become more efficient, there is reason to believe he can overcome it and succeed at the NHL level. Especially with his non-stop hustle, if Pinelli can keep getting quicker, he could continue to be that irritating forechecker as he climbs the hockey ladder.

The second aspect I adore in Pinelli’s game is his puck management and creativity. Almost every time he possesses the puck, he can smartly spot the correct route to a controlled exit, entry, or a pass to the dangerous parts of the ice. He doesn’t shy away from using delays, resetting, regrouping, or whatever the situation calls to ensure his team maintains controlled possession of the puck. Especially along the boards and exterior of the offensive zone, Pinelli controls the puck for long stretches, smartly circles the perimeter, causing the defence to shift out of position, and attacks the gaps created with clever passing to set up teammates for quality chances. Rarely do you see Luca crumble under pressure, and frequently will he play with a defender on his back and come out of the situation with an advantage after a quick turn or smart pass. The only knock I have in the puck management area of his game is there are moments when he can be a bit trigger-happy to fire a puck on net from distance. It’s not a major red flag, as shot selection can easily be refined, but something worth noting as a potential development opportunity.

The final facet of Pinelli’s game that stands out is his ability to find space in the offensive zone. He is continuously rotating around and looking to time himself into open pockets of space. Luca will pop in and out of the slot to make himself available for dangerous passes, and once he’s open, he can make the opposition pay. He is a great catch-and-release shooter who can fire pucks with one-timers or after a quick touch to gather control and rifle it home. These two abilities work perfectly together, as Pinelli is always finding open space to receive passes, and when he’s hit with a pass, he is a lethal shooter. This is another projectable element of Pinelli’s game as a player who understands offensive rotations, spacing, and timing is one that can surely find success as he continues to advance in his hockey career.

Under this same positioning theme, I always found when he’s rotating in the offensive zone, Pinelli is aware of his defenders who are activating and will smartly fill in their spots and cover for them. It’s a minor detail, but one worth mentioning to further paint this picture of a player with excellent hockey sense and awareness.

To quickly recap, we have a player today who plays with a high-end motor, is a great puck manager, is a creative playmaker, and has a high-end hockey sense. The essential question to answer is how it will translate to the professional level when the competition level is significantly more challenging.


This is where evaluators come to a fork in the road with Pinelli. It’s not up for debate that he is an excellent junior player, and the issue lies within projecting how he’ll succeed at the pro ranks. For some, they are hesitant that he will overcome his size and skating limitations and may top out as a decent AHL scorer who never breaks through at the NHL level. I can’t say I necessarily disagree, and I acknowledge that it is a possible outcome, but I still think he’s worth the bet and won’t deter me from selecting him. That may seem a bit counterintuitive, but when I approach the draft, I always like to think of “What is the best possible outcome?” which leads me to a philosophy of seeking players who project to be above replacement level if everything goes right. In general, if the best-case scenario for a player is a depth roster player who could otherwise be found cheaply via trade or off waivers, I am generally not as interested as a player who, if their development goes correctly, is a more valuable piece who plays higher in the lineup. That’s a bit of an oversimplification, but for the sake of Pinelli, it paints the right picture of where my mind is at.

When I evaluate Luca, I see way too many of the desirable essential elements that I am looking for in a prospect that could fill a valuable role in a lineup. The work rate, tenacity, puck possession mindset, playmaking, hockey sense, finishing, and craftiness, Luca has it all. With all these tools to combine and build upon, there is everything there for Pinelli to develop into a quality middle-six winger. Yes, he will need to continue to work to become a more efficient and powerful skater, and maybe it doesn’t happen, but I don’t think we have sufficient reason to be that pessimistic. Especially when he is likely to be a selection in the 50s, 60s, 70s or possibly beyond, I’d hate to miss on a player that fits this description and is held back by something that could see substantial gains in the next few seasons. In my mind, Pinelli has all the crucial elements that are difficult to learn and develop, so I am hopeful that skating can come along and he can hit his full potential.

Latest Update

June 28, 2023

stats from InStat and EliteProspects

Prospect report written by Jordan Malette. If you would like to follow Jordan on Twitter, his handle is @jordanmalette.

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2023 NHL Mock Draft

The Smaht Scouting team completed their third annual mock draft.

Ben Jordan , Austin Garret, Alex Appleyard, Josh Tessler, Gray Matter, Jordan Malette, Clare McManus and SpokedZ from the Smaht team participated. In addition, our ole buddy Sebastian Jackson drafted for a few teams as well.

Each scout was assigned multiple NHL teams to draft for and were instructed to draft as if they were running the draft.

Below you will find the list of draft picks and the assigned scout who selected them. Once you finish sifting through the list, you can find commentary from each scout on who they chose and why.

1ChicagoConnor BedardReginaBen
2AnaheimAdam FantilliMichiganAustin
3ColumbusLeo CarlssonÖrebroAustin
4San JoseMatvei MichkovSochiJordan
5MontréalWill SmithUSNTDPGray
6ArizonaZach BensonWinnipegJosh
7PhiladelphiaRyan LeonardUSNTDPAlex
8WashingtonOliver MooreUSNTDPGray
9DetroitAxel Sandin PellikkaSkellefteåAlex
10St. LouisGavin BrindleyMichiganBen
11VancouverAndrew CristallKelownaBen
12ArizonaDmitri SimashevYaroslavlJosh
13BuffaloDavid ReinbacherKlotenAustin
14PittsburghQuentin MustySudburyJosh
15NashvilleDaniil ButYaroslavlGray
16CalgaryGracyn SawchynSeattleJordan
17DetroitMikhail GulyayevOmskAlex
18WinnipegNate DanielsonBrandonAustin
19ChicagoRiley HeidtPrince GeorgeBen
20SeattleJayden PerronChicagoGray
21MinnesotaOtto StenbergFrölundaClare
22PhiladelphiaDalibor DvorskyAIKAlex
23New York RangersEduard ŠaléBrnoSpokedZ
24NashvilleWilliam WhitelawYoungstownGray
25St. LouisBrayden YagerMoose JawBen
26San JoseTom WillanderRögleJordan
27ColoradoBradly NadeauPentictonSeb
28TorontoSamuel HonzekVancouverBen
29St. LouisGabe PerreaultUSNTDPBen
30CarolinaTimur MukhanovOmskJosh
31MontréalCalum RitchieOshawaGray
32VegasColby BarlowOwen SoundSeb
33AnaheimMatthew WoodUConnAustin
34ColumbusOscar Fisker MølgaardHV71Austin
35ChicagoNick LardisHamiltonBen
36San JoseDenver BarkeyLondonJordan
37MontréalAydar SunievPentictonGray
38ArizonaAlex ČiernikSödertäljeJosh
39BuffaloCharlie StramelWisconsinAustin
40WashingtonAnton WahlbergMalmöGray
41DetroitLukas DragicevicTri-CityAlex
42DetroitRoman KantserovMagnitogorskAlex
43DetroitKoehn ZiemmerPrince GeorgeAlex
44ChicagoBeau AkeyBarrieBen
45BuffaloMichael HrabalOmahaAustin
46NashvilleLuca PinelliOttawaGray
47NashvilleLuca CagnoniPortlandGray
48CalgaryTanner MolendykSaskatoonJordan
49New York IslandersLenni HämeenahoPoriSpokedZ
50SeattleCaden PriceKelownaGray
51ChicagoDavid EdstromFrölundaBen
52SeattleTrey AugustineUSNTDPGray
53MinnesotaAram MinnetianUSNTDPClare
54Los AngelesOliver BonkLondonSeb
55ChicagoKalan LindRed DeerBen
56EdmontonJacob FowlerYoungstownSpokedZ
57SeattleMartin MišiakYoungstownGray
58New JerseyGavin McCarthyMuskegonClare
59AnaheimEtienne MorinMonctonAustin
60AnaheimCoulson PitreFlintAustin
61DallasEaston CowanLondonJordan
62CarolinaAndrew StrathmannYoungstownJosh
63FloridaTheo LindsteinBrynäsAlex
64MinnesotaAdam GajanChippewaClare
65AnaheimMatthew ManiaSudburyAustin
66ColumbusQuinton BurnsKingstonAustin
67ChicagoHunter BrzustewiczKitchenerBen
68NashvilleNoel NordhBrynäsGray
69MontréalHoyt StanleyVictoriaGray
70ArizonaJakub DvorakLiberecJosh
71CarolinaIgnat LutfullinSKA St. PetersburgJosh
72ArizonaNico MyatovicSeattleJosh
73DetroitEthan GauthierSherbrookeAlex
74St. LouisCarson RehkopfKitchenerBen
75VancouverTristan BertucciFlintBen
76St. LouisMaxim ŠtrbákSioux FallsBen
77VegasCameron AllenGuelphSeb
78Los AngelesMathieu CatafordHalifaxSeb
79NashvilleKasper HalttunenHIFKGray
80New JerseyJesse NurmiKooKooClare
81ArizonaCarson BjarnasonBrandonJosh
82WinnipegJuraj PekarcikNitraAustin
83NashvilleGriffin ErdmanWaterlooGray
84SeattleAlexander RykovChelyabinskGray
85AnaheimDamian ClaraFärjestadAustin
86BuffaloCarey TerranceErieAustin
87PhiladelphiaYegor KlimovichNovosibirskAlex
88ArizonaCarter SotheranPortlandJosh
89VancouverFelix NilssonRögleBen
90PittsburghArvid BergströmDjurgårdenJosh
91New York RangersNoah Dower NilssonFrölundaSpokedZ
92BostonPetter VesterheimMoraSpokedZ
93ChicagoArttu KärkiTapparaBen
94San JoseBrady ClevelandUSNTDPJordan
95PhiladelphiaFelix Unger SorumLeksandsAlex
96VegasRodwin DionicioWindsorSeb

Anaheim Ducks

2Adam FantilliMichigan
33Matthew WoodUConn
59Etienne MorinMoncton
60Coulson PitreFlint
65Matthew ManiaSudbury
85Damian ClaraFärjestad

I debated taking Michkov at the second overall selection, but the timeline to the NHL and with Zegras entering his second contract I wanted to infuse a high-end talent sooner rather than later for the ducks. McTavish and Fantilli both can move to the wing and Fantilli provides great speed and puck transporting ability to give a dynamic 1-2 punch down the middle and allows McTavish to be a heavy F1 forechecker in the future as well.

Matthew Wood fell too far, and while I question the pace he plays at, the raw tools he possesses makes him a tantilizing pick in the early second round that he could sit on the wing with either Zegras/Fantilli and capitalize on his great offensive zone play.

Etienne Morin and Pavel Mintyukov will be a riot in the offensive zone. Same with Matthew Mania if his offensive game continues to mature and develop. Coulson Pitre most likely projects to the bottom six, but he’s shown throughout the season the ability to be a utility type player where he can complement puck transporters or one-touch his way through the neutral zone to be a positive transition player.

Damian Clara is a project, but the size and athleticism allows for a potential goalie replacement down the road. (Austin Garret)

Arizona Coyotes

6Zach BensonWinnipeg
12Dmitri SimashevYaroslavl
38Alex ČiernikSödertälje
70Jakub DvorakLiberec
72Nico MyatovicSeattle
81Carson BjarnasonBrandon
88Carter SotheranPortland

While I doubt that Arizona takes Zach Benson at #6 on Wednesday night, I wanted to get a prospect who I can see making an impact player at the NHL level for a long time. Pairing Benson with Dylan Guenther would be neat. Benson would go on the hunt for pucks and leverage his speed to win pucks and key up one-timers for Guenther. For my second first rounder, I decided to go with Dmitri Simashev. The Arizona Coyotes get a strong defensive defenseman who could slot in nicely in a future top four pairing. In the second round, I selected Alex Čiernik at #38th. He’s got great play-making ability especially off the rush and his hands allow him to break free in tight pressured situations. In the third round, I drafted Jakub Dvorak, Nico Myatovic, Carson Bjarnason and Carter Sotheran. Dvorak and Sotheran are both solid defensive defensemen who could play shut down roles at the next level. Bjarnason has great athleticism, speed and excellent rebound control. Projects to be a starter at the NHL level. Myatovic played down the line up for the Seattle Thunderbirds, but has the tools to be a solid middle six power forward. (Josh Tessler)

Boston Bruins

92Petter VesterheimMora

The Boston Bruins need help at essentially every single position in their prospect pool with almost 0 draft capital work with, so maybe I should have gone for more of a home run swing here. Regardless, Vesterheim is an intriguing option in the middle rounds of this draft. The 2022-23 season was his first in Sweden, and it was quite the impressive first season. He led Mora’s J20 team in points (12G, 39P in 41 games), and also earned his way into their Allsvenskan squad at points where he did not look out of place. He’s a smart player on and off the puck, and he’s a plus-skater who is always in motion and playing with high pace. He has a high work rate and is a more than capable defender already. Given time and proper development, the Bruins could wind up adding a solid middle-six forward capable of impacting the game in every scenario. (SpokedZ)

Buffalo Sabres

13David ReinbacherKloten
39Charlie StramelWisconsin
45Michael HrabalOmaha
86Carey TerranceErie

As the resident Sabres fan and someone who has mock drafted the Sabres countless times, this was a combination of players I’ve never selected. The Sabres have a plethora of high-end forward prospects but are severely lacking in defensive prospect depth. With Power and Dahlin looking to get locked up long term this offseason it made sense to not chase power play potential but rather play it safe on the right hand side of the defense. While other defenders have higher offensive ceilings in my opinion, Reinbacher should be able to be a plug-and-play middle pairing defender who could play up in a pinch.

Time for 100% honesty: coming into this year after summer scouting I thought Stramel was a lock for the top 10 and was my second ranked American after Fantilli. However, this past year at Wisconsin was severely disappointing. Not only did his transition and passing metrics plummet; he struggled to find a meaningful role within Tony Granato’s system. I question his puck distributing skills, but I hold fast that the player that I watched last year is still in there and he should be able to mature into a dynamic power forward if everything breaks right.

The Sabres lost Erik Portillo this season and there’s speculation that UPL could be on the move as well. Adding to that with Topias Leinonen’s lackluster D+1 year means the Sabres could use a retooling of the goalie depth. Hrabal was the best player available and fills a need. Terrance has a lot of tools and is a high-end skater that letting him stay in the OHL the next two years and transition to Rochester could lead to a great middle-six winger. (Austin Garret)

Calgary Flames

16Gracyn SawchynSeattle
48Tanner MolendykSaskatoon

Calgary stays in the WHL with their two picks, going with Gracyn Sawchyn and Tanner Molendyk. The Flames could trade back here and look to get Sawchyn a bit later, but I didn’t feel like they were passing on anything substantial by selecting him at this spot. I remember my first viewing of Gracyn and just being blown away by his technical abilities. Especially when the defence thinks they have him boxed in, he’s so deceptive and evasive to escape pressure and maintain possession of the puck. He’s a crafty playmaker who relies on this previously mentioned deceptiveness to open up passing lanes and connect passes together to generate dangerous chance after chance for the Thunderbirds. Simply, Sawchyn is a ton of fun to watch and, if everything goes right, would be an instant fan favourite in Calgary. The Flames added to Sawchyn by adding Saskatoon Blade, Tanner Molendyk in the mid-second round. Labelling Tanner as the best skating defender in the 2023 draft class is not an exaggeration. He’s incredibly mobile in all directions, has tremendous straight-line speed, and is so evasive with the puck on his stick. Pairing his skating with his intelligent puck distribution yields a projectable foundation for the highly sought-after “puck-moving defenceman.” He is a more than capable defender, and there’s no reason to think why he couldn’t develop into a solid second-pairing defender for the Flames. (Jordan Malette)

Carolina Hurricanes

30Timur MukhanovOmsk
62Andrew StrathmannYoungstown
71Ignat LutfullinSKA St. Petersburg

For the Carolina Hurricanes picks, I drafted Timur Mukhanov at #30th overall. The Hurricanes end up with Gleb Trikozov’s former teammate. Mukhanov is zippy and is a great distributor. While his frame is a bit on the smaller end, he holds his own in tight pressure and has excellent escapability. I don’t believe Timur will go this high and based on what I’ve seen from other rankings, it appears that he’ll end up going later on. Probably the third round or fourth round. But, the talent is there and the Smaht team really believes that there is a top six asset in Mukhanov. The draft is going to play out differently and while I would bet on Mukhanov ending up in Carolina, I believe that the Hurricanes will end up with Andrew Cristall or Riley Heidt if they keep their pick and don’t trade down.

In the second round, I drafted Andrew Strathmann and Ignat Lutfullin. Strathmann is an offensive defenseman with a lot of creativity in his game and Lutfullin is a methodical playmaker who plays with great tempo. When drafting for Carolina, you go for upside and that’s what I did. (Josh Tessler)

Chicago Blackhawks

1Connor BedardRegina
19Riley HeidtPrince George
35Nick LardisHamilton
44Beau AkeyBarrie
51David EdstromFrölunda
55Kalan LindRed Deer
67Hunter BrzustewiczKitchener
93Arttu KärkiTappara

Chicago dominated our mock draft owning 8 selections within the first 3 rounds. Starting at 1, Connor Bedard is a no brainer. He will drastically improve the Hawks the moment they announce his name. At 19, their other selection in round 1, I went with a high-upside shifty playmaker in Riley Heidt. Likely a winger at the next level, Heidt has shown the ability to play center ice this season as well, and will contribute in all zones. With pick 35, the first selection the Hawks own in round 2, I went with one of the most dynamic skaters in this entire class. After his trade from Peterborough to Hamilton in the OHL, Nick Lardis’ scoring took off. He showed he can log big minutes and play against opponents’ top units. With the remaining 2nd round picks, I went with safer floors while still maintaining offensive upside. First, at 44, Beau Akey. One of the better first pass and transition defenders in the draft. With the departure of Brandt Clarke from Barrie next year, Akey will get lots more offensive opportunity and gain lots of confidence handling the puck in the offensive zone. Rounding out round 2 is David Edstrom, a big, two-way centreman. I don’t anticipate him being available in 50’s on draft day, but should the Hawks land him, they are getting a great piece for the future that is committed to play in all zones, with great puck handling ability. Kicking off round 3, Kalan Lind is a safer, hard-nosed winger that brings a tenacious forecheck style of game. He is the perfect middle-six forward for successful playoff teams, and the type of player teams seem to overpay for in Free Agency. Think Ivan Barbashev, but better skater. The final two selections I used on higher upside mobile defenders. Both Brzustewicz and Karki are good skaters that love to move the puck up the ice. At this stage in the draft, given the wealth of picks owned in the previous two rounds, taking some swings on potential point producers makes sense to me. (Ben Jordan)

Colorado Avalanche

27Bradly NadeauPenticton

If Bradly Nadeau is available at 27, Colorado is a perfect fit for both the team and player. Nadeau possesses a top 5 shot in this draft. An incredible workhorse in all zones of the ice. Nadeaus skating needs improvement however while he lacks foot speed, his awareness moving up and down the ice, getting from point A to point B by using effective lane decisions projects well at the next level. He isn’t physical at all and I am not sure that’s an area he will develop in which is why he falls into the 25-35 range but as someone who projects to be a top 9 center, the things he does well will far outweigh the negatives. (Sebastian Jackson)

Columbus Blue Jackets

3Leo CarlssonÖrebro
34Oscar Fisker MølgaardHV71
66Quinton BurnsKingston

Columbus is the one team I would be shocked if they took Michkov in the top 5. I would guess that if the draft falls like this to start then I think the Blue Jackets are looking at Will Smith and Carlsson. To me, Carlsson is the easy choice. He was impressive every time I watched him this past year and I think he’s an easy fit into what Columbus is building.

Oscar Fisker Mølgaard won’t wow you with eye-popping skill, but he plays the game so well in the details that it’s hard not to get excited that he fell to the second round. He plays both ends of the ice extremely well and did so against men in the SHL. I don’t know if he ever is a PP player or a massive point producer, however I do think he’s a player that will make his line effective and extremely impactful.

Burns is a personal favorite. He had such a high work rate in the games I tracked and he is extremely physical at separating players from the puck without sacrificing positioning. His first pass is good, but he is not an offensive defenseman. In the early third round I think he’s a relatively safe pick to play NHL games who could develop to be an impactful shutdown defender. (Austin Garret)

Dallas Stars

61Easton CowanLondon

With only one pick in the top 3 rounds, the Stars only had a little draft capital to work with. Near the end of the second, there are plenty of reasonable options the Stars could elect to go for, but Easton Cowan was my choice of the pack. Cowan is an effective puck manager who offers plenty of value in transition and as a puck distributor. He is exceptionally creative with his passing, frequently spotting and exploiting some complex passing lanes to thread pucks to the dangerous parts of the ice. Easton plays with high-end pace, notably in puck pursuit, which adds to the projection of a player with the desired offensive playmaking upside, but also could fill some form of a depth forward role. For this reason, it’s a logical fit for a team with only one selection in the top 96. I wouldn’t label him a “boom or bust,” but there still is solid upside in Cowan’s game. (Jordan Malette)

Detroit Red Wings

9Axel Sandin PellikkaSkellefteå
17Mikhail GulyayevOmsk
41Lukas DragicevicTri-City
42Roman KantserovMagnitogorsk
43Koehn ZiemmerPrince George
73Ethan GauthierSherbrooke

Yes, yes… I know that arguably three of the Red Wings top five prospects, and five of the top 10, are defensemen. Sandin Pellikka… I must admit I thought about Cristall instead as a swing on upside… but the Swedish blue-liner is arguably the best defenseman in the draft when combining current level and upside, and what goes better together than Swedes and Motown? Then yeh, another defenseman at 17. But Gulyayev was BPA for me at that venture with maybe the most upside of any blue-liner in the draft. Then we have the run of three picks in the 2nd round. The Wings already have a strong, deep pool, so who better to swing for upside with? Dragicevic could end up being a steal in the mid-second. Kantserov has the ability to be a top-six forward in the NHL and Ziemmer would be a late first-rounder in many drafts. At #73 Gauthier was a no-brainer for me. I think overall? In this mock the Red Wings had six picks and picked up six players who in many drafts would be “first-round-talents”. (Alex Appleyard)

Edmonton Oilers

56Jacob FowlerYoungstown

The Edmonton Oilers finally take their swing on a goaltender and draft Jacob Fowler of the Youngstown Phantoms. I must admit, I’m no goaltending expert by any means. A big reason I went this direction here is due to me still being shocked Edmonton passed on Wallstedt in 2021. That being said, it’s not difficult to see that Fowler boasts serious physical strength and explosive lateral movement and agility in the crease. He’s a confident goaltender and has no fear of challenging any shooter. Fowler had an immensely impressive season in the USHL, leading all goaltenders in almost every statistic. Youngstown also took home the Clark Cup Trophy, only losing 1 playoff game in the process thanks to a historic run from Fowler (he was named Clark Cup MVP, of course). Fowler boasts serious physical strength and explosive lateral movement and agility in the crease. He’s a confident goaltender and has no fear of challenging any shooter. We’ll see how he continues to develop at Boston College. (SpokedZ)

Florida Panthers

63Theo LindsteinBrynäs

The Panthers are not exactly awash with 2023 picks early on. #63 is therefore there only real chance to get a player with a decent chance of being an NHLer going forward. Their prospect pool at the present time is not the strongest, and arguably their top three prospects right now are forwards. Lindstein is a player who certainly has 2nd pairing upside, and might be ready for the NHL in 2-3 years. He has already shown himself to be a solid SHLer and I think he would be an absolute steal at the end of the second round. (Alex Appleyard)

Los Angeles Kings

54Oliver BonkLondon
78Mathieu CatafordHalifax

LA Kings are another team that loves its CHL prospects. Enter Oliver Bonk. Bonk is an interesting Defencemen who I believe will be one of the steals of the NHL Draft. Playing for the London Knights, his development has been quite steady. His foot speed and agility is questionable. It’s likely his biggest weakness and what will drive him out of the 1st round. Considering that there are a lack of quality defencemen available (Draft is forward heavy) Bonk is worth the bet. As the 22-23 season went on, I saw Bonk engage more physically. He possesses a heavy shot however doesn’t use it to his advantage. Joining a defence that currently has Brandt Clarke, Jordan Spence, the LA Kings who are already a very good NHL team are quietly building a D core that will replace the likes of Drew Doughty in the future on the fly.

Cataford is a perfect fit for the Kings. Cataford projects as a middle six forward in the NHL. Possesses solid physical tools. Always finishes his checks, always will to engage in a physical battle, net front battles. His skating is excellent. I don’t always love the lanes he selects but considering LA’s Development staff, he’ll figure that out. He’s always finding time and space that allows him to find success in the offensive zone. A high IQ and a package that offers a bit of everything, it’s not quite an elite find but the Kings are getting a complete package. (Sebastian Jackson)

Minnesota Wild

21Otto StenbergFrölunda
53Aram MinnetianUSNTDP
64Adam GajanChippewa

Minnesota picks up some solid prospects in this mock draft. With their first round pick, Otto Stenberg gives the Wild more elite depth on the wing. He is a strong skating forward who can fire the puck for a goal-scoring opportunity. Stenberg has good hands and works hard in the offensive zone. His playmaking needs to get better but he still has the ability to make smart plays here and there. Stenberg can also play center but projects more as a winger in the pros. His versatility makes him a very intriguing player. The next pick for the Wild is USNTDP defenseman, Aram Minnetian. I really like this pick for the Wild. Minnetian is an offensive defenseman who possesses elite skating skills. He has strong smarts moving the puck up ice and making plays in the offensive zone. While his game is mostly noted in the o-zone, Minnetian has shown he can play a consistent defensive game. With their last pick Minnesota takes Adam Gajan. Gajan is a Slovakian goaltender who played this past season with the Chippewa Steel(NAHL) and Green Bay Gamblers(USHL). Committed to University of Minnesota-Duluth, Gajan put up strong numbers with the Steel. He is super athletic and does extremely well positioning in the net. He played with with Slovakia at the World Juniors posting a 2.40 GAA and a .926 save percentage. (Clare McManus)

Montréal Canadiens

5Will SmithUSNTDP
31Calum RitchieOshawa
37Aydar SunievPenticton
69Hoyt StanleyVictoria

I’m pretty happy with these four for Montréal. Plenty of risk, but a ton of potential reward, which are generally the types of picks I prefer to make, especially if I’m a team like Montréal.

With Michkov gone at 4, the decision at 5 was a bit of a tossup between Smith, Moore, and Benson. The deciding factor being that I see Smith as having a very slight edge in terms of highest upside / likelihood of reaching their upside, and star-power is something Montréal is lacking.

Ritchie has sneaky good playmaking potential, and overall smart play at both ends of the ice. Contrary to the other three picks, I see Ritchie more so as a higher floor player than higher ceiling, but I do still think there’s a lot of offensive potential there. Given the players available, he seemed like the best bet to make.

Suniev and Stanley are both high risk options with really enticing skillsets and the potential to boom into great top-6 / top-4 players down the line. (Gray Matter)

Nashville Predators

15Daniil ButYaroslavl
24William WhitelawYoungstown
46Luca PinelliOttawa
47Luca CagnoniPortland
68Noel NordhBrynäs
79Kasper HalttunenHIFK
83Griffin ErdmanWaterloo

With a plethora of picks and seven(!) in the first three rounds, Nashville is primed to do some damage with this draft, and can afford to take some big risks.

Starting off with two massive swings in the first round in But and Whitelaw; two guys who bring a ton of fun, lots of risk, and sky-high potential. If they both pan out, Nashville has a couple superstars on their hands, and to me, that’ll always be worth the risk.

Next up, another couple of high upside swings with the two Lucas. Pinelli could become a high-end playmaker in your top-6, and Cagnoni a great offensive playmaking d-man in your top-4 . . . or neither of them could make the NHL, roll the dice.

And finishing it off with three slightly safer / lower upside options, still with some offensive potential, albeit less than the previous four. Noel Nordh is one I’m a particular fan of, with a power forward style and high intensity, I enjoy watching him play. I think a third line role is a very likely outcome for him, and the same for Halttunen, with potential for more with the right development. Getting both in the third round is great value, especially after swinging big in the first two. Griffin Erdman just makes smart plays all the time, is responsible defensively, and has some solid playmaking upside that I do have belief in, though I’d probably bet on him being just a reliable bottom-6 forward. (Gray Matter)

New Jersey Devils

58Gavin McCarthyMuskegon
80Jesse NurmiKooKoo

With New Jersey’s first pick in the 2023 draft they select USHLs Muskegon Lumberjacks, Gavin McCarthy. The Devils selected Gavin’s brother, Case in 2019. After two seasons with the Lumberjacks Gavin will be attending Boston University with his brother this upcoming season. McCarthy is a right-handed, two-way defenseman who skate the puck well. While he possesses strong offensive skills, he also has a knack to be physical. With their second and last pick in the draft the Devils select Jesse Nurmi. The winger played this past season with KooKoo U20 and Liiga organizations this past season. He also was a notable player for Finland in the world juniors. He is a high-energy forward who could provide strong depth for the Devils organization. (Clare McManus)

New York Islanders

49Lenni HämeenahoPori

While he isn’t the sexiest pick here, the New York Islanders pick up a true swiss army knife in Hämeenaho. Hämeenaho projects as a player who can play up and down your lineup in a variety of roles, and he’s an extremely smart player at both ends of the ice. Off the puck in the offensive zone, he is constantly scanning his surroundings to find quiet areas of the ice and anticipate where the puck will go next. He uses that same scanning habit in the defensive zone, where he is able to kill plays and eliminate scoring chances for the opposition. This well-rounded game and high work rate should make him an attractive player in this class. The skating will certainly need to improve, but he looks like a player who can contribute in every facet of the game. He feels like an Islander. (SpokedZ)

New York Rangers

23Eduard ŠaléBrno
91Noah Dower NilssonFrölunda

The Rangers go out and add two-more offensively gifted players with size in Eduard Sale & Noah Dower Nilsson. Sale’s physical tools & raw skill alone make him a slam dunk top 10 pick in any other draft class. They also make him one of the most naturally talented players with the highest ceiling in this one. He’s a plus-skating, 6’2”, left-shot winger who often plays on the right side and is a dual-threat with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone. He’s one of the best passers & playmakers in the class, capable of threading the puck through layers to teammates with precision. At the same time, he’s more than capable of putting the puck in the net himself. He’s able to shoot in motion with power and accuracy, while also boasting a heavy one-timer on his off-side. While there may be questions about his compete level & at times can leave scouts wanting more, there is absolutely no questioning his ability and talent level. Simply put, he does the hardest thing to do in hockey- generate offense.

In Dower Nilsson, the Rangers take another swing on upside. Dower Nilsson had an incredible draft-eligible season in terms of stats in the Swedish J20 this year (26 goals, 54 points in 37 games). He’s a creative forward with incredible hands and skill, and he’s capable of creating offense and high-danger scoring chances in many ways inside the offensive zone. He’s also a gritty forward who’s more than happy to engage physically and win puck battles in front of the net or along the boards. He certainly has the potential of a top six forward, but also several roadblocks to overcome to get there. The skating is average at best, limiting his effectiveness in transition. His defensive work rate and decision making will also need to improve. That being said, the physical tools and talent make him another intriguing option in the 2nd or 3rd round. (SpokedZ)

Ottawa Senators

No picks in the top three rounds.

Philadelphia Flyers

7Ryan LeonardUSNTDP
22Dalibor DvorskyAIK
87Yegor KlimovichNovosibirsk
95Felix Unger SorumLeksands

The way that the top six fell, in my eyes, is the worst case scenario for the Flyers, and in that scenario were I Danny Briere I would be tempted to trade back. The decision to take Leonard amongst the group remaining was a difficult one, but he would immediately slot in after Cutter Gauthier as the teams second best prospect, and add much needed future first line potential to the pool. If Dvorsky fell to 22 the Flyers would be laughing all the way to the bank, there might be some upside questions, but there is no doubt even if you are down on his game that he can certainly be a 2C down the line. Leonard+Dvorsky in the first round would give the Flyers two players who are almost certainly going to be NHLers in the not so distant future, who both have the ability to put up points while being two-way players. I was hoping at least one defensemen with #3 upside in my eyes would fall to picks 87 and 95. But alas, the guys I had earmarked were both gone by the mid-3rd round. Therefore I went BPA and swung on upside. Klimovich has all the ability to be a top-six forward one day, and Felix Unger Sörum could be an absolute steal in the late 3rd. Skilled and smart with lots of room to grow. He could certainly be a good middle-six winger down the line. (Alex Appleyard)

Pittsburgh Penguins

14Quentin MustySudbury
90Arvid BergströmDjurgården

For the Pittsburgh Penguins, I selected Quentin Musty and Arvid Bergström. Musty provides the Penguins with a top six forward who can drive the transition nicely, has a great shot from range, distributes efficiently off of the rush and does an excellent job of executing passes through rather tight lanes. If Musty can continue to develop his east-west speed and his physicality, he’s going to be tough to contend with in the trenches. With Bergström, the Penguins get a solid puck moving defenseman with great mobility and a defensive-minded defender who plays very conservatively. They end up drafting two players who are rather efficient and methodical with their puck movement. (Josh Tessler)

San Jose Sharks

4Matvei MichkovSochi
26Tom WillanderRögle
36Denver BarkeyLondon
94Brady ClevelandUSNTDP

The Sharks got a good mix of everything in this mock draft. Matvei Michkov, at four, needs no explanation. Yes, the Sharks will have to wait a few seasons, but the uber offensively talented Russian winger is well worth the wait and should fit nicely within the Sharks’ rebuild timeline. Willander is a very projectable #3 or #4 defenceman, complementing the other upside swings in this Sharks draft class. His skating and defensive acumen are the foundational pieces to an NHL-caliber defender, and the Sharks would be thrilled to find that package at the tail end of the first. It’s presumably earlier than Barkey will go on draft day, but I love the upside swing after the two picks the Sharks have made. He’s a remarkable playmaker who can pick apart opposing defences by exploiting the tightest of passing lanes. Size is the knock, but he more than makes up for it with his high-end motor, pesky, and tenacious playstyle. And finally, Brady Cleveland. Cleveland is a physically imposing defender who could fill an unsexy but valuable penalty-killing and shutdown role on the Sharks’ third pair if everything goes right in his development. It’s a really exciting and balanced mix of prospects the Sharks came away with, and I think they’d be pretty happy with this class. (Jordan Malette)

Seattle Kraken

20Jayden PerronChicago
50Caden PriceKelowna
52Trey AugustineUSNTDP
57Martin MišiakYoungstown
84Alexander RykovChelyabinsk

With this draft, the freshest team in the league gets a little bit of everything to stock the cupboards with.

They get high-end playmaking with Jayden Perron, one of the best passers in the class, who brings excellent positioning in all zones to form a pretty complete package with very strong upside as a playmaker.

Caden Price at 50 might seem a little high, but it’s a bet on exciting offensive flashes that have come out primarily outside of league play. Always an interesting conundrum, and I tend to err on the side of the player figuring it out; he’ll be a solid top-4 puck-moving defender if he’s able to.

Augustine has looked great all year, and remains my top goalie for the draft. With three picks in the second round, I’m taking a chance on my potential goalie for the future if I’m Seattle.

Mišiak and Rykov both bring good intensity and responsible defensive games, as well as some upside, though I judge Mišiak’s to be a fair bit higher. I see both as pretty safe options, with strong middle-6 upside. (Gray Matter)

St. Louis Blues

10Gavin BrindleyMichigan
25Brayden YagerMoose Jaw
29Gabe PerreaultUSNTDP
74Carson RehkopfKitchener
76Maxim ŠtrbákSioux Falls

The St. Louis Blues are strapped with ammunition in the first round. Three selections in round 1, which tops every other team. I love the way the first round for the Blues went in this mock. Starting off with one of my favourites in this class. Gavin Brindley’s motor never stops. Ever. When he and Fantilli got puck on the same line, it almost felt as though Fantilli benefited from having Brindley more than the other way around. At 26 I went with Yager. I’d be shocked if he were there for the Blues on draft night, but if he were to be, I would pounce all over the opportunity to select him. I believe he has the tools to be a centre at the next level, and just make all the right decisions, all the time. Godly release on his shot as well. Rounding out the trifecta in round 1 is offensive juggernaut Gabe Perreault. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him fall in the draft as he does not drive play from the wing. He is a great complimentary piece that can play with top players and has the chance to put up hefty point totals if he’s found in the right situations. At pick 74 I went for a bigger body centreman. Rehkopf likely slots in as a winger at the pro level, but he can puck the puck in net. Loves to get to dirty areas and has a great release and shot. For the Blues last selection, I went for a safer, two-way defenseman in Strbak. He does well defending the rush and getting the puck up to his forwards. Don’t see much offensive upside with this player, but that’s not why we’re selecting him here. (Ben Jordan)

Tampa Bay Lightning

No picks in the top three rounds.

Toronto Maple Leafs

28Samuel HonzekVancouver

Due to our abbreviated 3-round mock, the Leafs find themselves with just a lone selection at the end of round 1. With that pick I selected Samuel Honzek a bigger frame winger from the Vancouver Giants. He combines his reach and agility so well and is a pain to try and strip of the puck. He’s got a solid shot and does well to find himself with time and space in danger areas. (Ben Jordan)

Vancouver Canucks

11Andrew CristallKelowna
75Tristan BertucciFlint
89Felix NilssonRögle

Given the situation the Canucks find themselves in, more than 1 pick in the first two rounds would be nice, but for the sake of the mock, we play the hand we are dealt. The Canucks reach and grab dynamic offensive winger Andrew Cristall. Cristall, with improved skating could be an offensive force to be reckoned with. He’s extremely smart with the puck, and has an innate ability to read off his linemates to help create and finish the best offensive opportunities. With the lack of any selections in round 2, I went for a bigger swing in Bertucci. The first and second half of his season in Flint were very different. At Christmas time I loved the way he retrieved pucks in his own zone and subsequently broke the puck out, however I had many concerns about the offense. The second half of the year he answered all those questions. Put up great numbers and looked confident handling the puck in offensive situations. To round out the Canucks mock I went with Swede Felix Nilsson (had to throw the Nucks a Swede). Nilsson checks a lot of boxes to become a dominant 3rd line centreman in the NHL. He is great in transition and supporting his defenseman during retrievals. He has great vision and underrated hands which make him a sneaky offensive threat as well. (Ben Jordan)

Vegas Golden Knights

32Colby BarlowOwen Sound
77Cameron AllenGuelph
96Rodwin DionicioWindsor

Vegas LOVES their CHL players. Enter Colby Barlow.

Barlow is an interesting case. I am higher on Barlow than most. I love his shot, his shot selection, his decision making in the offensive zone. An underrated aspect is, he was the Captain of the Owen Sound Attack this year and was impressed with his leadership on and off the ice. At the end of the day, you’re getting a very good goal scorer and a quality human. Transitioning from offense to defense is also one of his bright spots. Needs to work on his explosiveness. His foot speed is fine but it’s left me wanting and expecting more. I’d like to see him work on becoming more than just a shot. Nothing wrong with a scoring forward however i’d like to see more of his playmaking on display. Vegas also is a team that lives in the here and now and would prefer to draft a sure bet and Barlow is that. Again, very good goal scorer.

Cam Allen during his rookie season in the OHL in 2021-2022 looked like a sure fire top 10 prospect for the 2023 NHL Draft. He has fallen out of the 1st round, and likely the 2nd round. However this is still a very interesting prospect. What worries me about Cam Allen is his decision making and awareness. Cam often takes very undisciplined penalties. Often at very unnecessary times. When he sees red, he has a hard time coming down from it. However, he’s one of the hardest hitters in the draft, his defensive play is among the best as we saw down the stretch in Guelph. He has a wicked shot which he didn’t display this year. (13 goals as a rookie the season prior) This is a prospect that i expect great improvement from next season. It is worth noting that Guelph had a shaky start to last season. Coaching changes, lots of uncertainty. With a full season of a new coach who isn’t a lame duck, with a D core that will experience very few changes, Allen is set up for success. He will be running the power play and will be Guelph’s most relied on defencemen in a year they look like a threat in the Western Conference.

Vegas is an interesting team when it comes to drafting. While they usually hit in the draft, they are a team that lives in today and not the future. Honestly, I’m surprised when a drafted prospect does make the Knights because they usually use their capital of picks and prospects to build their roster via trades. However, as the later rounds in the draft goes, I could see Vegas wanting to make some safe bets and swing for the fences. Rodwin is an interesting prospect. He’s a re-entry. Went undrafted last year which was a bit shocking considering the amount of prospects ranked below him went drafted. Getting out of NIagara was the best thing for Rodwin who has international experience as well. After landing in Windsor, his game took off. Since entering the OHL, Dionicio has been a monster physically. When he hits you, HE HITS YOU. He’s a very large, beefy defencemen. You don’t want to go 1v1 in the corners vs Dionicio. His offense game took off putting up 43 points in 34 games including a hat trick. As a re-entry, he likely goes later in the draft, but this is a player I believe will be a steal for whoever selects him and one of the most professional hockey ready players available on the board. (Sebastian Jackson)

Washington Capitals

8Oliver MooreUSNTDP
40Anton WahlbergMalmö

Likely heading towards a rebuild and having only two picks in the top 96, it’s not an ideal situation, but Washington makes out very well with what they have.

Starting with Oliver Moore at 8, likely the best skater in the draft and tons of skill and smarts to boot. He hasn’t quite put it all together yet, but if he does, he’ll be a hell of a centre for Washington to build around.

Wahlberg at 40 is another great addition at centre, with a strong power game and solid two-way play, along with raw skill that he’s still honing, Wahlberg has the makings of a good middle-6 centre. And just like that, Washington’s future at centre looks pretty good already. (Gray Matter)

Winnipeg Jets

18Nate DanielsonBrandon
82Juraj PekarcikNitra

Nate Danielson is a player I stuck my neck out for in our rankings calls that he’s better than the production and microstats have indicated. His physical tools are very good, but he was unable to gel with linemates throughout the season to sustain high-end production or possession time. He’s a 200 foot center with a lot of projectable traits that could lead to a top 6 center, which at the 18th overall pick is a swing I’d make if I were Winnipeg.

I wasn’t a European scout this year, but Pekarcik did impress throughout the u18s when he was put with Dvorsky. His men’s league tape didn’t pop like he did at the u18s, but as you enter the third round he’s a player who, when playing against his peers, looked like a great upswing to make in the mid rounds. (Austin Garret)

Goaltender Data – 2023 NHL Draft

For the last few seasons, I’ve published goaltender data in which I look at speed, rebound control and glove work. It’s served as a good bench mark when watching goaltenders and determining which goaltenders I’d fight for at the draft table.

In the past, I have published my data on Tableau, but due to time constraints I decided to publish my data in a post.

For my 2023 NHL Draft set, I tracked games of Martin Neckar (4 games), Trey Augustine (6 games), Yegor Zavragin (6 games), Jacob Fowler (6 games), Johnny Hicks (4 games), Scott Ratzlaff (4 games), Carson Bjarnason (6 games), Damian Clara (6 games), Michael Hrabal (6 games), Adam Dybal (4 games) and Adam Gajan (6 games).


When it comes to speed, the goaltenders who are smaller in frame need to be speedy to eliminate gaps when reacting to rapid side to side oppositional puck movement. The goaltenders that have a bigger frame can afford to slow down their side to side speed because they have a wider frame to work with. But, regardless of frame, goaltenders need to be able to drop into the butterfly on a dime.

The fastest goaltender that I tracked was Martin Neckar (Langnau U20). His side to side pace was unmatched by anyone else. His Up / Down Time tied Trey Augustine, Yegor Zavragin and Jacob Fowler.

GoalieUp/Down TimeSide/Side Time
Martin Neckar0.140.30
Trey Augustine0.140.35
Yegor Zavragin0.140.36
Jacob Fowler0.140.38
Scott Ratzlaff0.150.38
Johnny Hicks0.150.37
Carson Bjarnason0.150.41
Damian Clara0.150.42
Michael Hrabal0.150.45
Adam Dybal0.160.46
Adam Gajan0.150.50

Glove / Save Rate

In this section, I looked at glove / save rate and found that Michael Hrabal of the Omaha Lancers had the most success with his glove of the crop tracked.

Next year, I plan to add a bit more context around glove saves and where the shots originated from (similar to what the high danger rebound origination data that I track).

GoalieGlove / Save Rate
Martin Neckar12.63%
Scott Ratzlaff18.83%
Adam Dybal18.51%
Yegor Zavragin24.57%
Jacob Fowler20.92%
Johnny Hicks17.82%
Trey Augustine20.27%
Carson Bjarnason19.77%
Damian Clara22.28%
Adam Gajan17.65%
Michael Hrabal27.08%

Rebound Rates

When tracking rebound control, I identify where the puck ends up after the goaltender makes contact with the puck after it’s been shot.

Ideally, you want a goaltender who pushes rebounds to medium and low danger. If a goaltender is giving up too many high danger rebounds, they put themselves at risk of a quick follow up shot.

While some goaltenders might have higher rebound / save rates then others, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have a high rebound / save rate. A goaltender that has a slightly weaker glove is going to give up more rebounds. It’s as simple as that.

GoalieTotal Rebound / Save RateHigh Danger Rebound RateMedium Danger Rebound RateLow Danger Rebound Rate
Martin Neckar69.71%26.92%4.33%38.46%
Scott Ratzlaff69.20%23.20%6.52%39.48%
Adam Dybal74.53%26.03%5.55%42.96%
Yegor Zavragin66.11%24.01%6.56%35.54%
Jacob Fowler72.63%22.58%10.10%39.94%
Trey Augustine71.33%24.99%8.72%37.62%
Carson Bjarnason74.87%25.22%8.38%41.27%
Damian Clara71.47%23.88%10.52%37.08%
Johnny Hicks74.45%30.79%6.80%36.86%
Adam Gajan73.79%32.36%3.17%38.26%
Michael Hrabal58.96%22.35%3.88%32.73%

Where Do High Danger Rebounds Originate?

In the above section, I looked at rebound control and where rebounds were ending up. Prior to the 2022 NHL Draft, I expanded upon rebound control and where rebounds were ending up. I wanted to identify where high danger rebounds were originating from because a goaltender’s high danger rebound rate but it could be because they faced quite a bit of high danger shots compared to the others tracked.

Based on the data below, Carson Bjarnason and Damian Clara were the stronger goaltenders. At least 50% of their high danger rebounds came from high danger shots.

GoalieHigh Danger Rebound From High Danger Shot RateHigh Danger Rebound From Medium Danger Shot RateHigh Danger Rebound From Low Danger Shot Rate
Martin Neckar37.80%27.53%34.67%
Scott Ratzlaff32.29%9.38%58.33%
Adam Dybal23.75%14.38%61.88%
Yegor Zavragin30.53%20.92%48.55%
Johnny Hicks20.00%45.00%35.00%
Jacob Fowler30.42%29.03%40.56%
Trey Augustine28.83%11.78%59.39%
Carson Bjarnason56.44%13.29%30.28%
Damian Clara53.91%23.57%22.52%
Adam Gajan35.43%23.59%40.98%
Michael Hrabal34.03%7.64%58.33%

Data tracked by Josh Tessler.

If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.

Scouting Report: Tanner Molendyk

Photo Credit: Steve Hiscock / Saskatoon Blades

Tanner Molendyk is a 2023 NHL Draft prospect and plays for the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades.

He’s originally from Kamloops, British Columbia and had played locally with the Thompson Blazers in his youth.

For the 2019-20 season, he joined the Yale Hockey Academy Prep U15 club and averaged 2 points a game. He led the CSSHL U15 league with the most points for a defenseman. Following the conclusion of season, he was drafted by the Saskatoon Blades with the #5th overall pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft. Molendyk made his WHL debut the following season.

This past season, Molendyk played in 67 games for the Blades and recorded 37 points (9 goals and 28 assists). While the point totals are on the lower end compared to other 2023 NHL Draft eligible defensemen playing in the WHL (i.e. Luca Cagnoni and Lukas Dragicevic), his production became far more consistent in the latter half of this season. In the first half of the year, he was struggling with his shot and was trying more defense to defense (D to D) passing along the point then passing to the slot. But, his game evolved. I’ll explain more in the next section.

Player Profile

D.O.B – February 3, 2005
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2023
Height –5’11″
Weight –176 lbs
Position – Defense
Handedness – Left

Molendyk’s Style of Play


Molendyk is mobile, shifty and implements good crossovers to change his positioning laterally. When he has the puck on his stick in the offensive zone, he will use those crossovers to create separation for shooting and passing lanes.

He will also rely on his crossovers when problem solving. If one side of the offensive zone has a lot of congestion, he will peel away from the traffic with his crossovers, maintain possession and drive to the slot. 

When off the rush, if he doesn’t find a gap to exploit to get to net front or a passing lane, he’ll play the puck behind the net, wrap around and pass back to the point. But, what he doesn’t do is implement delays after bringing the puck deep into the zone. I want to see Molendyk bring the puck into the zone, pinch and delay near the corner. That forces the attack to follow Molendyk towards the corner, but it opens up a potential passing lane towards the perimeter. Worst case, that doesn’t open up and Molendyk passes the puck along the boards to a teammate. 

While he won’t usually delay down low, he does delay when skating into the offensive zone. He’ll slow down the pace when the attack in front of him is well aligned and has taken away immediate passing lanes that Molendyk could use. The delay either allows his teammates to create a passing lane or Molendyk ends up dumping the puck into the corner. 

While Molendyk likes to incorporate delays in his puck movement, I don’t often see Molendyk delay and then on a dime pivot out. Usually when he delays with the puck on his stick, the puck is either being passed or dumped. But, he doesn’t use the delays to create skating lanes. He should though. If he combined delays with his lateral footwork, that would allow him to be quite dangerous off the rush. He’d be a handful to shut down. 

His distribution in the offensive zone is typically more defense to defense passing (D to D passing) along the point, but he does complete dangerous passes. Usually, it’s when he has the puck on his stick and he is the pinching up with the puck. 

At the beginning of the season, Molendyk wasn’t finding a lot of success with his shot, but managed to turn it around in the latter half. The mechanics will need continued development, but I was quite pleased to see his shot especially from range improving. Earlier on, a lot of his shots from range were going wide and he was using too big of a wind up. Using a big wind up can be used for manipulation, but you don’t want to use too big of a wind up before shooting as you show your hand so to speak. Molendyk made tweaks on his shot and found a bit more success, but I still want him to work on elevating his shots especially from range. 

Molendyk loves to jump up into the play when his teammates have control of the puck. When they are behind the red line, on the other side, he’ll pinch up to inner face-off hashmarks on his side. He is looking to provide a backdoor option. 


Molendyk is an excellent transporter of the puck. When deep in his own zone and pressure is daunting, he doesn’t force the puck through. Instead, he looks to complete a D to D pass. But, if he doesn’t have an immediate passing lane to fall on, he will use his mobility, pivot and dart away from the pressure. When completing pivots and turns, Molendyk maintains control of the puck and has good reach that he’ll use to extend the puck out and away from the attacker. He doesn’t just use pivots and turns to navigate out of pressure. If Molendyk knows that he is facing an attacker who can’t match him well on speed that he can manipulate the attacker in by positioning the puck towards the boards. That draws the attacker in and Molendyk skates to the other side at the same time.

If Molendyk doesn’t have a clear north-south passing lane to a teammate in the neutral zone due to multiple attackers in view, he will complete bounce passes off the boards to get the puck to the intended target. He will attempt stretch passes, but he struggles with his stretch pass completion, so you’ll see him rely on D-to-D passing if he doesn’t have a skating lane to use.

If his defensive partner has possession of the puck and is under pressure along the opposite half-wall, he does a nice job of shifting his positioning when he spots his teammate shifting away from pressure. Molendyk knows that he has an attacker right in front of him (the same attacker in front of his defensive partner), so he uses his crossovers to get him into an open passing lane so that way when he nets possession of the puck he has open ice in front of him.

When defending at the point against the rush, sometimes he will commit too much to an attacker at open ice, gets manipulated as the attacker extends the puck towards the boards and then the attacker navigates around Molendyk with ease. But, for the most part he does a good job of trapping attackers after completing a zone entry quite quickly and keeps them along the boards. He will use an active stick to trap and when in range he’ll poke check. 

When in a loose puck battle with an attacker, he will look to box attackers out and use his upper body strength to push into the attacker to force them to be on the outside looking in. He will also look to box out attackers who are looking to generate passing lanes off-puck.

He does have good reach that he can rely on when scooping up possession of loose pucks. Molendyk’s puck recovery work is solid, but he will face battles in which he doesn’t truly have the speed to maintain the inside track to the puck. Since he relies on his crossovers for acceleration and lacks a power stride, he will struggle when in a head to head battle with an attacker who can net more speed with a power stride.

Some might describe Molendyk as a physical defenseman, but I’d argue that he isn’t using his physically consistently enough to be pegged as a physical defenseman. His positioning is quite good and thus he is usually in position to defend against the attack and be physical, but he doesn’t use shoulder or hip checks all that often. He’ll use them every now and then, but doesn’t rack hit up after hit. 

Transitional Play

In the defensive section, I mentioned that Molendyk won’t force himself into contested waters and it’s the same in the neutral zone. When facing pressure, he will look to complete bounce passes off of the boards to get the puck to a teammate at the opposite blue line. But, if he doesn’t have that passing option, he will uses his crossovers and edges to peel away, double back / button hook and try another lane. If he is looking to push the puck up through the neutral zone and pressure builds up at the blue line, he’ll feature give and go passing to weather the storm. It worked out nicely against Red Deer in this clip. Check out his give and go pass that led to his deflection goal at net-front.

Molendyk has been inconsistent from time to time with his rush defending. He has a habit of getting out of position when his forwards have the puck in the neutral zone as he will pinch up when he sees them push the puck up the ice. The positioning means that his defensive partner will have to defend some odd man rush situations from time to time when Molendyk’s teammates turn over the puck in the neutral zone. But, Molendyk does do a good job of utilizing his crossovers to build up speed when he notices that he is out of position. You just have to figure that there will be odd man rush situations in which Molendyk couldn’t get back in position for especially considering that he doesn’t have a true power stride and thus will struggle to match someone deploying lengthy skate extensions.

When defending against the boards in the neutral zone, you’ll occasionally see Molendyk be physical and lay out a good hip check to neutralize the rush (like the one below). But, as I mentioned earlier on in the defensive section, he isn’t overly physical. 


Molendyk uses a lot of crossovers to build up speed when driving the puck up the ice. Even though he’s heavily reliant on his crossovers, he does a good job of leveraging them to shift around pressure and gain the separation that he needs to continue pushing the puck up the ice. Molendyk’s mobility makes him an excellent puck moving defensive prospect, but I do want to see him work on lengthening his forward stride. If he can lengthen his stride and leverage his crossovers in conjunction with a power stride, he will be tough to slow down and neutralize.

While he needs to work on a power stride, he’s got excellent mobility, great pivoting and excellent puck control off of his edges. He will use those tools nicely every shift.


Molendyk is great in transition. He’s got excellent crossovers that spark his coast to coast puck movement. Should he run into obstacles he’s shown over and over that he loves to give and go. Over the course of the season, I saw his vast improvement with his shot especially at 5v5. It was particularly rusty towards the start of the year, but by mid-March Molendyk was lighting up the lamp routinely. While his shot improved, the next step will be work on shot selection as he is shot heavy from the point. In his own zone, Molendyk will occasionally throw his weight to cause puck disruption, but maintains good positioning when the attack is working down low. Molendyk has a second pairing projection.

Latest Update

June 11, 2023

stats from InStat and EliteProspects

Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.

Looking for other scouting reports? Check out the Prospects tab for our other scouting reports.

Need a scouting report on a particular prospect, contact us today!

Scouting Report: Otto Stenberg

Photo Credit: Frölunda HC

Otto Stenberg is a 2023 NHL Draft eligible prospect and plays in the Frölunda system. He grew up in Stenungsund, Sweden and played for the local U16 and J18 teams before joining Frölunda.

Otto’s father, David had played Swedish division two hockey in the early 2000’s. His brothers are also actively playing. Ivar plays in the Frölunda system and Knut recently played for the Stenungsund U16 club.

This season, Stenberg was nearly a player per game in J20 play, made his SHL debut and represented Sweden on the international stage at multiple tournaments including Hlinka Gretzky and the U18s.

Player Profile

D.O.B – May 29, 2005
Nationality – Sweden
Draft Eligibility – 2023
Height –5’11″
Weight –181 lbs
Position – Forward
Handedness – Left

Stenberg’s Style of Play


Stenberg does a good job of cutting in on the forecheck to get possession of the puck, but needs to leverage his upper body strength a bit more when fighting against pressure to his backside once he has possession. He needs to use that upper body strength to push into attackers, so that way he can create some space for himself. 

In SHL play, I noticed that Stenberg did a solid job of providing support for his teammates who were trapped in the corners. Stenberg used his crossovers nicely to put himself into position to support teammates with an outlet passing lane.

Off the rush, should the attack force Stenberg into low danger, he does a good job of adapting and running the cycle. While along the boards, should he find a teammate nearby but the attacker in front of Stenberg is shadowing the teammates movements to take away the passing lane, he won’t hesitate to pass the puck off the boards to a teammate along the boards. But, Stenberg is ultimately looking for the optimal passing lane to the low slot. If he can spot a lane, he won’t hesitate to use his lateral speed to get him to the desired passing lane. Stenberg also does a good job at timing his teammates routes to the low slot and hitting them in stride with a pass. 

When working the puck behind the red line, should pressure close in on him and he has limited space to work with, he’ll pass above / under the triangle (stick shaft of the attacker) to get the puck to a teammate with open space in front of them.

But, I did notice that he was a bit slower with his processing at the SHL level when pressure intensified. He needs to be quicker with his problem solving at the SHL level. If not, he’ll struggle to move the puck in tight pressured situations. While his problem solving is still in development at the SHL level, he’s been able to problem solve with consistent success at the J20 and J18 levels. Stenberg is just getting used to the SHL pace.

Stenberg is equipped with excellent stick-handling and mobility that he can rely on to get around danger at open ice. In addition, he does a great job of securing the puck under the pressure and relies on his reach to extend the puck out. The combination has led to some fun highlight reel clips throughout this past season. For instance, check out this clip in which he stick-handled around two attackers after entering into the offensive zone. He stick-handled out of pressure and opened up a shooting lane.

Throughout this season, Stenberg capitalized off of rebounds, but he also did a good job of putting himself in back door shooting lanes to draw one-timer opportunities. If Stenberg spots a teammate looking to distribute the puck and struggling to find a lane due to traffic, Stenberg will look to skate into open space to create the passing lane. But, if Stenberg can’t put a clean shot on net or a path to net-front, he’ll look to quickly re-distribute. 

In addition to capitalizing off of rebounds and back door shots, he produced nicely off the rush as well and used puck manipulation at net-front to draw top shelf shooting lanes.

While he does score one-timer back door goals, he struggles with his one-timers from distance. Stenberg isn’t leaning forward into his shot and thus he isn’t netting the power he needs. He also needs to work on shot angling when trying shots from range. Stenberg won’t align his stick blade to the net from range and that forces his shots to go wide towards the corner.


Stenberg implements quality pressure at the defensive zone blue line and will utilize an active stick when defending in the neutral zone to trap attackers. If the attackers are working on the puck along the boards, he will drop back to provide tight backcheck pressure and keeps tight positioning on attackers. Stenberg keeps his head on a swivel to identify potential passing lanes that the attackers might utilize and steps into them to negate the threat.

Stenberg does a good job of providing outlet passing lanes and will use his crossovers to put himself into position to create said passing lane. Once he has control of the puck, he will look to break out of the zone with the puck on his stick.

In SHL play, if pressure creeps up, sometimes he struggles to decide when is the moment to use his stick-handling or pass and gets trapped.

Transitional Play

Stenberg does a good job of quickly reacting to oppositional puck movement in the neutral zone and has the crossover speed to shift from side to side in order to get into position. Once in position, he looks to use an active stick to take away space and force the attacker to puck the puck along the boards. Not only does Stenberg use his active stick to trap attackers, but he will also extend out his stick blade when in range of a vulnerable attacker who has possession of the puck. He will pickpocket, quickly generate speed and create an odd man rush / breakaway opportunity.  Check out this goal from November that Stenberg scored off the rush after pickpocketing in the neutral zone.

When his teammates have control of the puck in the neutral zone, Stenberg stays aligned laterally to them to give them a passing option.

Stenberg knows not to force the puck into tight pressured areas off the rush and he changes up how he will escape pressure for each sequence. He is a problem solver in transition and keeps you guessing. In some situations, he will keep pivoting left and right to lose pressure and then quickly he will complete a pass to an open defenseman. You will also see Stenberg fall back into the defensive zone, button hook and then complete a stretch pass to an open teammate in the neutral zone. Check out the clip below from a game against HV71 U20 in late February in which he fell back to re-group and completed a stretch pass that led to a goal off the rush.


When moving up the ice, Stenberg is largely dependent on crossovers for speed. He doesn’t have a power stride, but that hasn’t slowed down Stenberg in SHL play. Stenberg’s crossovers have manufactured the speed he needs to drive the rush, shift east-west as he looks to skate towards a passing lane to use and create the separation that he needs after pivoting away from pressure. Over the next season or so I’d like to see Stenberg try to widen his stride as it will only increase his speed and his upside. 


Otto Stenberg has a lot of excellent tools in his arsenal that make him a second line upside day 1 NHL Draft target. He’s shifty, mobile and has excellent stick-handling that he’ll use to get out of tight jams at centered ice. If he runs out of room and simply can’t navigate out with his footwork or handling, he makes use of whatever passing lane he has and more than often at the SHL level that meant passing underneath the stick of the attacker. When he has the puck on his stick, he’ll rely on his crossovers to create the separation to go one-on-one with the goaltender at net-front. If he simply can’t pull away from pressure, he’ll look to pepper the slot with passes. In transition, he won’t force the puck into dodgy situations and will button hook. Stenberg will then identify a secondary lane and take advantage.

Latest Update

June 6, 2023

stats from InStat and EliteProspects

Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.

Looking for other scouting reports? Check out the Prospects tab for our other scouting reports.

Need a scouting report on a particular prospect, contact us today!

Scouting Report: Gavin Brindley

Photo Credit: Michigan Photography

Gavin Brindley is currently ranked inside the top 10 for Smaht’s final 2023 NHL draft ranking, and he sticks out like a sore thumb when comparing his consensus ranking to our rankings. The Smaht team is considerably higher on Brindley than most.

There isn’t a prospect I’ve watched more this year than Brindley. I tried to catch a game of his every weekend since Michigan’s opening weekend. It’s not that I have an infatuation with the University of Michigan hockey program; it’s that I have been trying to talk myself out of putting Gavin Brindley inside the top 10 all year. Alas, through almost 20 games of notes and 5 games tracked, it’s safe to say that if anything I’ve wanted to put him higher in our rankings. 

Brindley is a player of smaller stature measuring in at 5’8 and 165 pounds according to NHL Central Scouting. He started off the year as the second line center between Rutger McGroarty and Jackson Hallum but eventually a mid-year move to right wing alongside Fantilli and McGroarty unlocked a second scoring line for Michigan. 

Brindley’s season can be broken up into two parts statistically. The first 14 games Brindley had 1 goal and 6 points total including a nine game scoreless streak. However, in the remaining 27 games, Brindley put up 11 goals and 32 points. While it’s easy to point to the addition of Fantilli for the increase of production (note: the beginning of his offensive explosion happened before Fantilli came to his line); I think it’s important to note that his microstat profile really never fluctuated or was inflated by his linemates. By my dataset I’d argue that Brindley was the primary driver of a lot of play regardless of who was on his line. 

Last year, Brindley played for the Tri-City Storm in the USHL and was third in the USHL behind Fantilli and Stramel in terms of points per game. He scored 42 points in 51 games including 14 goals. He grew up playing with Seamus Casey with the Florida Alliance where he fluctuated between playing both forward and defense before sticking at forward. 

Player Profile

D.O.B – October 5, 2004
Nationality – American
Draft Eligibility – 2023
Height –5’9″
Weight –165 lbs
Position – Center / Right Wing
Handedness – Right

Brindley’s Style of Play


Brindley’s offensive game is centered around utilizing his speed and puck skill while being extremely aware of the play going around him to facilitate and dictate where play will go or where he needs to be to make a play. Take the play below (Brindley is #4 in blue/white in all clips).

Brindley comes in to the picture from the top right of the screen to help puck support #71 in a corner battle. Brindley checks over his right shoulder when the puck squirts free to see if there is anyone coming down on him from the blue line that would speed up his decision making when the puck gets to him. He then makes a deceptive fake to the middle of the ice moving #19 in white off the boards and moving his stick to the inside to prevent a pass. Brindley takes the puck and replaces #71 and wheels around the net with his eyes up the entire time and ends up hitting #73 for a medium-danger shot that #2 puts in off a rebound. 

These little plays are constantly made by Brindley. In the second half of the season they led to goals and points, but in the beginning of the season they were often fantastic plays that were either not buried or the puck was misplayed once it hit a teammates stick. 

Despite his size he’s not afraid of contact and will initiate far more contact than he receives. His motor combined with his fantastic skating makes him a constant puck retriever and once he gets the puck he is able to quickly get plays started.

Perhaps Brindley’s best skill is his ability to transport the puck through the neutral zone with control. He was the primary transition player on his line even when Fantilli was paired with him. The play below is one of the best examples of who Brindley is as a player

In the play above, Brindley breaks up the play at the blue line and puts a nifty move on Matthew Kniews to gain entrance to the zone. Knies backchecks him from behind and then you see, what I consider to be, Brindley’s biggest issue which is his lack of strength as Knies is able to bump Brindley off the puck. However, Brindley is able to get a stick on the puck going to the boards and Michigan regains control of the puck and later in the play Brindly is able to find the puck in a crowd and hits Casey for the game tying goal.

A very similar sequence of events happens in just about every game.

Despite a smaller stature, Brindley plays in close quarters and facilitates play in the offensive zone even if he has to find ways to get to the inside outside of the routes he was initially going to take. I find myself always so impressed with how he always knows where the puck needs to go to make the most optimal play. Between his quick touch pass to Casey who wheels around for a shot or feeding it between a defender’s legs to get to a medium danger shot: Brindley is always giving his teammates opportunities to make plays.

At Brindley’s floor he is a highly involved transition player who has so much in his skating and puck handling tool kit that he can seemingly carve up neutral zone defenses with ease. This play below is one of my favorite examples. He utilizes his elite crossovers to generate speed in the neutral zone and then makes a fake to the middle of the ice and moves the defender off his gap and lane before attacking the outside for an easy zone entry. 

What endears Brindley to me is his motor. He just never stops. No matter what’s going on in the play Brindley is going to be in the thick of it, and while his strength can mitigate his effectiveness in the interior of the play in the offensive zone, it doesn’t stop Brindley from continuing to try to make plays regardless if he’s bumped off the puck nor does it stop him from going to the dirty areas of the ice to try to get his shot off. This sequence was one of my favorite Gavin Brindley moments of the entire season

These types of plays by Brindley were made all season, even during his pointless streak.

Brindley is a fantastic skater as he generates great power from his slight frame going north-south and has fantastic crossovers which generates a lot of speed for him as he’s going through the neutral zone. You can tell he was a defenseman growing up in hockey as his backwards crossovers even generate power and he’s able to turn his hips and turn on a dime. His lack of strength leads him to be knocked off the puck, but his balance on his skates helps mitigate the lack of size.

I think he has a tremendous offensive ceiling given his skill, skating, awareness, and motor to get to all areas of the ice. However, there are times in a game where he looks to facilitate plays low-to-high or enters the zone and hits a player outside the dangerous scoring areas where he takes the play off his own stick. He has the skill to hold onto the puck a little longer to be the driver of the primary scoring chance, but sometimes defers to his linemates if he believes they have more time/space to make the play. At the beginning of the year he didn’t have the linemates to make those plays once he gave up the puck, but as the year went on he both started to play a bit more aggressively as well as with linemates who were able to operate in the time and space he created for his teammates.

What the Data Says Offensively

Brindley was involved in 47.6% of all successful, controlled transitions Michigan had and was more involved than Fantilli even when they played together on the same line. Of the NCAA draft eligibles he was the leader in transition involvement, transition success percentage, complete passes per 60, dangerous pass attempts per 60, and percentage of dangerous shots compared to his linemates. All of these stats are at even strength.

He compares almost identically to Oliver Moore in a lot of his microstats. Where the biggest differential is where Moore holds the edge is the percentage of passes intended to dangerous areas of the ice where Brindley’s percentage is lower than a lot of the other top point producers in this draft. However, Brindley facilitated so much of what was going on with Michigan’s offense as he began so many chain linked plays. 

Defensive Play

Even if Gavin Brindley’s offensive ability doesn’t translate or project to the NHL like I think it will, his defensive game is outstanding and a reason why I think he could project up and down a lineup for an NHL team.

Brindley is exceptional at suffocating space and is extremely engaged and hard on pucks defensively. 

Michigan had a 59% Corsi when Brindley was on the ice, and even when he was playing wing he played as a traditional center in the defensive zone given how defensively responsible he is as a player. He’s not afraid to initiate contact, and has a tremendous stick to break up oncoming rushes at the blue lines as well as generate turnovers to get the puck back. 

He was the leader in my dataset in terms of turnovers created in the neutral zone and that is largely because of how persistent he is at hounding puck carriers as well as his excellent anticipation in reading where passes will go during those quick turnover transitions that he can get to pre-scanned areas and know where defensive lapses were anticipated before the player with the puck can beat him with their read.

In the World Juniors he played primarily on the fourth line where you saw him consistently shut down plays and then drive everything for the fourth line for the USA. He would be bumped up occasionally to play in an offensive role, but as a draft eligible he excelled in the checking line role and at driving play to suffocate the oppositions’ top lines from being able to get any sustained pressure when they were on the ice.


Since early November, Brindley has been stapled inside my top 10 for this draft. His speed, skill, motor, awareness, and ability to be a puck transporter is among the top of this class. It’s really his slight frame and height that is the only real question mark going into the NHL draft for me. He was inside my top 10 even when he was being held scoreless in multiple games I tracked because he was generating so many chances and plays that should’ve became chances that I kept looking at his microstat profile and saying “The points will come.” While I’m happy that his puck luck regressed in a positive manner, I’m not naïve to know that if it didn’t that I’d be talking about Brindley being the steal of the 2nd or even 3rd round going into the 2023 NHL draft.

At his floor Brindley will be a dream on a team’s checking line. He will be able to transition the puck, move the puck with control in the offensive zone, and you will never question his motor or ability to turnover pucks with his skating and never-quit mentality of when he’s attacking the puck. 

I see a much larger offensive ceiling than most. As he gets stronger and able to drive play to the dangerous areas of the ice with the puck on his stick, he’s going to be able to get even more dangerous shots off, and use his skill to be the primary driver of scoring chances. As Fantilli and Samoskevich exit the Michigan program, it will be Brindley who will take up the mantle of being the driver of Michigan’s top line and he’ll see an expanded role on the power play. His shot is something I didn’t touch on very much in the report, but his snap-shot beat goalies clean from distance and his wrist shot was super accurate through screens in dangerous areas. With more strength his wrist shot will be able to become a more dangerous weapon.

I believe that if you like Oliver Moore in this year’s draft then you should love Gavin Brindley as well. I think both of them are best when the puck is on the stick, and both of them are some of the best puck transporters in this class. While Moore’s size and strength can get him to dangerous areas of the ice better than Brindley; I love Brindley’s off-puck game and how he’s able to find space in dangerous areas.

I’d project Brindley to be a top 6 winger or a third line center for a playoff team, and possesses an offensive ceiling that could be outstanding if given 2-3 more years in college to develop physically. 

I want all of the Gavin Brindley stock in the 2023 draft. Your favorite NHL team should as well.

Latest Update

May 28, 2023

stats from InStat and EliteProspects

Prospect report written by Austin Garret. If you would like to follow Austin on Twitter, his handle is @BMaster716.

Looking for other scouting reports? Check out the Prospects tab for our other scouting reports.

Need a scouting report on a particular prospect, contact us today!

Final 2023 NHL Draft Rankings

Photo Credit: Keith Hershmiller / Regina Pats

Alexander AppleyardSpokedZClare McManusMatthew SommaGray MatterBen JordanJordan MaletteAustin Garret and Josh Tessler combined their draft rankings and put together the official Smaht Scouting 2023 NHL Draft Final 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 an extremely gifted generational offensive talent. Whichever team is lucky enough to have the lottery balls fall their way will be sprinting to the podium on June 28th to draft Bedard. Bedard’s innate scoring ability is one that we haven’t seen in along time, and I could see Bedard as a challenger for the 50-goal mark in most seasons he is not hampered by injury. Chicago won’t be challenging for a Stanley Cup in the next couple years, and the continuous losing may spark a commitment to the defensive side of the game for him, like we saw with Connor McDavid a few seasons back. (Ben Jordan)

#2 – Adam Fantilli

Adam Fantilli has every tool that an NHL team would dream of having with their top overall selection. He’s got the physical tools of size, strength, speed and lateral mobility. He has amazing puck skill with the ability to do it at full speed and in small area situations. He can protect the puck, put his shoulder down and power through a defender, or put it under a defender’s stick and put them through the spin cycle.

His vision is high-end with the ability to find lateral teammates and move defenders out of passing lanes to open up new scoring opportunities. He has a heavy wrist shot and a dynamite one-timer.  The power play could run through Fantilli or he could be the trigger man. (Austin Garret)

#3 – 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)

#4 – Leo Carlsson

Carlsson has been played 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)

#5 – Zach Benson

While I don’t necessarily see Zach Benson reaching the top of the superstar bucket, (Tavares, Kane, Stamkos etc…) I do envision him being a cornerstone piece for the franchise that selects him this June.

When thinking of a player comparison, I get drawn to a few different players. From an offensive skills standpoint, I personally see a lot of similar traits to Cole Perfetti. Great vision, feet always moving, and just very technically sound with every movement. Benson has a motor on him though that never stops running. To me, very similar to watching Brayden Point roam around. There just seems to always be a certain intensity when both of them are on the ice and hunting down pucks. Both great at carving out pockets of space, and tremendous at distributing or finishing plays themselves. (Ben Jordan)

#6 – Will Smith

What makes Will Smith so tantalizing as a prospect is when he has the puck on his stick in the offensive zone. His ability to maneuver around defenders and retain control of the puck and maintain perfect balance in small areas makes him a human highlight reel. He has a great wrist shot, and is able to thread passes and create passing lanes at an elite level. He never was the dominant puck transporter on his line, and his defensive engagement level wasn’t high end even to finish the year. While I question if he sticks at center in the NHL, there is no denying he has one of the highest offensive potentials in the draft. (Austin Garrett)

#7 – Oliver Moore

Oliver Moore has been consistently one of my favorite prospects in this draft class. He was one of the best puck transporters in transition in the entire North American draft class as he utilizes his speed, puck skill, and elite edges to exit and enter the zone. His wrist shot beat goalies clean from distance all year, and he looks to dangerous areas of the ice to make passes. I would’ve liked to see a more well rounded and puck dominant offensive zone game at the end of the year as he had Hagans and Eiserman on his line for a good portion of the second half. He is extremely engaged defensively and is hard on pucks. I think he projects as a perfect 3rd line center on a Cup contending team with the offensive tool kit to develop into a top 6 role. (Austin Garret)

#8 – Axel Sandin Pellikka

Axel Sandin Pellikka has consistently been one of the most fun players to watch this season. He’s an elite skater with quick hands that, combined with a hard shot and fantastic passing ability, make him a nightmare for the opposition. His lateral agility enables him to move freely along the offensive blue line with the puck on his stick, creating passing or shooting lanes with flashes of deception in the form of head or shoulder fakes. He remains patient with the puck and is able to create scoring chances from the back end all on his own. He also already has many professional defensive habits that should enable him to be an effective two-way defenseman in the NHL. He is always scanning the ice and anticipating, which allows him to close on players quickly in the neutral zone and kill transitions. He’s able to eliminate scoring threats before they even begin. His ability to avoid the opposition’s forecheck and start breakouts also improved significantly throughout the year, which earned him more responsibility and ice time in the SHL with Skelleftea AIK. These foundational tools and playmaking ability make him one of the highest ceiling players in this draft class. (SpokedZ)

#9 – Gavin Brindley

Gavin Brindley plays the game of hockey exactly how I’d want a player to play. He’s got great speed and very good edges. He was the primary transition player on a line that included Adam Fantilli and Rutger McGroarty for the second half of the year. His lack of point production to start the year was bad puck luck, as he was a great dangerous shot generator and facilitated play extremely well as he earned the second line starting center role on one of the best teams in college hockey. When Fantilli was brought on his line he was able to showcase being a facilitator to two great shooters, and he was rewarded with a positive regression in his point production. He has tremendous awareness on the ice and his ability to read plays and position himself offensively and defensively to continuously make an impact won over my adoration. The only real fault I have in his game is his lack of strength when going by players in the interior of the zone, but with a few years in college and his high-end motor, I don’t see this as a reason to drop him in the rankings but rather just an elongated timeline to get to the NHL compared to other players in the top 10. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Brindley as a Hobey finalist before his collegiate career is over. (Austin Garret)

#10 – Dmitri Simashev

In my opinion, Simashev is quite possibly the best defenceman in this draft, and by far the best defensive player. 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)

#11 – Ryan Leonard

I see Leonard as a winger who can provide teams with top six goal scoring production at the next level. He’s also got grit to him and will use it rather effectively behind the red line in the offensive zone.

He doesn’t have the toolsy flashy handling to dance around pressure that is Kent Johnson or Mitch Marner like, but he’s got tools on his tool-belt to evade the pressure and create separation for himself.

But, I’d like to see Leonard start to come up with plan B or plan C strategies when he has committed to driving the puck to net front. NHL defensemen will start to pick up on Leonard’s playbook and he will need to come up with alternative strategies at a drop of a hat.

In addition, I’d like to see Leonard continue to develop his physicality in both the neutral zone and the defensive zone. He does like to target vulnerable attackers with the puck, but doesn’t always implement the pressure to truly make the attacker feel vulnerable. If he can work on taking away space with more assertion, he will create more and more vulnerability. (Josh Tessler)

#12 – Andrew Cristall

Andrew Cristall was the premier playmaker in North America this past year while playing in the WHL. With the puck on his stick he facilitated the entire offense for Kelowna as he used great deceptive skating and puck skill to create passing lanes for himself to create scoring chances. He was no slouch in getting his own shot off either, as he was able to work into the interior to score as well as use his skill to create a rather impressive highlight reel of making defenders look silly. Cristall rarely engaged in the defensive zone in the WHL and struggled to find a consistent role in the u18s. As a smaller player he lacked explosive north-south speed to create separation from defenders. I’d bet on the offensive talent and that I attribute his skating to lack of strength and not skating mechanics in my viewings. (Austin Garrett)

#13 – Quentin Musty

I believe that Musty is a top six winger at the next level.

Musty has an excellent shot from range, distributes quite well off of the rush and does a great job of creating space for himself. His ability to create consistently at 5v5 is a credit to how well he handles pressure. Musty will take advantage of tight lanes when looking to thread the needle and will look to complete drop passes when hitting a wall. He’s got so many tricks that he can rely on to open up space when he is right about to shoot. There are times where he struggles to navigate the puck around tight pressure, but it’s become far less frequent as the season has gone on. 

The next step in his development is to work on his physicality. He has the frame and the power stride to get himself into situations where he can shut down puck movement, but a lot of the time, he ends up following through on the check too late. At the NHL level, Musty will be called upon to provide more physicality and so he will need to do a bit more fine tuning next season. Plus, if he can work on building up momentum with his crossovers when changing directions, he will be a handful to deal with when he is bearing down on you. You won’t be able to pivot out because Musty will be able to keep pace and pivot when you pivot. (Josh Tessler)

#14 – Nate Danielson

While Danielson’s development is still in progress, he brings quite a bit of quality tools to the table like his ability to generate quality speed in transition, his manipulation tactics to open up space for himself and quick decision making under pressure. Those tools allow him extremely effective at the WHL level and are going to come in handy once again at the NHL level. I have no doubt that Danielson is going to be an effective NHLer in a middle six role. The vision that Danielson has is going to lead to a lot of quality scoring chances in NHL play. He is going to be able to put pucks into high danger areas consistently because of how quick he is to identify space to use when traffic becomes daunting. Should he run out of options, he has a lethal shot that he can use from range. 

At the end of the day, whoever takes Danielson is getting a player with an extremely safe floor and a second line ceiling. (Josh Tessler)

#15 – Jayden Perron

Jayden Perron is an undersized forward in the draft, but doesn’t let that get in the way as he shines offensively. He can serve as a duel-threat attack both as a playmaker and goal-scorer. With the puck on his stick, he is super evasive and fools the opposition with his slick hands and patience with the puck. When Perron uses his mobility and puck-handling skills to enter the offensive-zone, he becomes an immediate threat to the other team. He has good straight-line speed, but could work on developing a longer skating stride, which would make him even more dangerous of a player. His balance and edge work make him very dangerous when you combine that with his stick-handling ability. Perron can be a hard player to knock off the puck as he uses his lower-body and edges to block defenders. On the power play, he can play on the point as the quarterback as well as led the breakout of the defensive zone. The only thing Perron will have to work on in his offensive game is to not be overly flashy at times. (Clare McManus)

#16 – Mikhail Gulyayev

Gulyayev has the mobility and the speed to be productive off of the rush, but isn’t really using his mobility to generate open ice for himself. With that said, he really needs to get out of his comfort zone and stop settling for low danger shots. I do believe that the mobility is there and he just needs to deploy it. But, every other facet of his game is well-rounded.

Even if he doesn’t use his mobility more and plays more of a conservative game at the NHL level, he will still earn plenty of minutes because of his defensive pressure, but he won’t have as big of a role. I do see Gulyayev playing in a top four defensive role, but if he doesn’t end up using his mobility more and more, he will likely end moving up and down in the lineup. But, at the same point, Gulyayev has been trained to play more conservatively like quite a few Russian defensemen and there are NHL teams that are looking for more conservative defensemen. Some teams will want Gulyayev to use his mobility and some might ask him to stay put along the blue line in the offensive zone.

He can be an asset on the power play at the NHL level with how well he toes the line to open up space for himself when an attacker is present, but he still needs the mobility to pinch up and drive play into / towards the slot.  (Josh Tessler)

#17 – Riley Heidt

I believe that Riley Heidt possesses the characteristics needed to be a high-end, middle six center. His attention to playing down low paired with his hockey sense, are the main attributes I think he can enhance and feed off that will allow him to play center at the next level. Offensively he has outstanding distribution skills that won’t be lost at the next level, and quite frankly probably take away from some of the chatter surrounding his shot and release. The puck is on and off his blade so quickly, and Heidt has an absolute cannon for a one timer. I have no questions as to whether Heidt can play on an NHL powerplay. He most definitely can, and will.

For Heidt, the next step is filling out his body. Adding some muscle will make him heavier on the puck and make it even harder for defenders to strip the puck off of him. This will lead to further grade-A scoring chances. Overall Heidt is a very strong two-way defender who will almost assuredly hear his name called on day 1 of the NHL Draft. (Ben Jordan)

#18 – Eduard Šalé

Šalé is one of the most talented players in a stacked draft in terms of raw skill and physical tools. There is really nothing much on paper that he lacks in order to be a high-end NHLer in the future. His game is built around plus skating, great passing (he is amongst the best playmakers in the entire draft) and an extremely high hockey IQ, especially in the offensive zone. He also has a quick – if at times awkward – release, is dangerous on the cycle, and is solid defensively. So why is he not a nailed on top 10 pick in this draft? There are a few reasons. He was buried in a 4th line role most of the season in the Czech Extraliga, and he played better than the stats suggest. He also struggled both at the Pro and Youth International level with his consistency. Furthermore, he is physically immature despite being 6’1, and is a bit too aggressive when on the wrong side of the puck. But if he falls past 15th overall? With time, patience and maybe a bit of luck? He could well turn out to be one of the steals of the draft. (Alex Appleyard)

#19 – Dalibor Dvorsky

Dalibor Dvorsky had an up and down draft year. He’s a big, strong center with two-way capability and a super high motor. The way he approaches the game at both ends of the ice should allow for him to adapt to the NHL style quickly and be fairly effective early on. In the defensive end, he gets low to support his teammates. He’s aggressive and tenacious, not shy to use his strength to fight for inside ice and win puck battles. He forces attackers to make quick decisions and capitalizes on mistakes. Dvorsky has some playmaking ability, however his strongest weapon offensively is his shot. He has a lightning quick release and can generate serious power. If he can hone in on his accuracy, he has the ability to be a goal scoring threat. There are certainly questions about just how high his ceiling is, but he’s a workhorse who can drive play at both ends. (SpokedZ)

#20 – David Reinbacher

If 18 year olds were the finished product in hockey? Reinbacher would be a nailed on top five pick. He is already a very good player in the NLA, the Swiss top professional tier that is arguably around the level of the AHL. He is better than players like Roman Josi and Mark Streit were at the same age, and is already the best blue-liner on the Austrian national team, and maybe even the best defenseman the nation has ever produced if he never developed from here on out. In terms of safe picks? The rangy right-handed defenseman has an unbelievably high floor. If he does not become at least a good NHL #4 defenseman in the near future it would be a shock. He has virtually no holes in his game, with good skating, good IQ, good gap-control, a great transition game, solid hands, a nice shot. So why is he not higher in our list? The easy answer? He does not have too many stand-out tools, and that likely prevents him from ever being a legit NHL #1 Dman, even if he does have clear-cut #2 potential. (Alex Appleyard)

#21 – Gracyn Sawchyn

Sawchyn has excellent vision and does well at taking advantage of situations with limited space. He will get the pass off. Sawchyn is constantly looking to re-position himself as his teammates shift their own positioning so that way he can constantly provide his teammates with quality passing lanes should they need to pass. That has lead to goals at 5v5 for Sawchyn. 

I believe that Sawchyn can be a well-rounded offensive asset at the NHL in a middle six role. But with where Sawchyn is right now in his development, I would put deploy him as a winger instead of a center. He doesn’t have a power stride yet. If he does develop a strong power stride, I would definitely without a doubt deploy him at center because the combination of his handling, mobility and strong north-south strides would pave the way for Sawchyn to create more chances on his own with the puck in medium and high danger. In addition, I want Sawchyn to have the ability to create opportunities for himself off puck and he’d have far less of those opportunities mid-cycle in a center role. Also, you have to consider that he is usually isn’t the primary transporter in the neutral zone. But, if he can develop that power stride then I’d want to him to move into a center role as his role with possession of the puck would lead to far more scoring chances at center given the many tools that he has in the toolbox. (Josh Tessler)

#22 – Otto Stenberg

Otto Stenberg has a lot of excellent tools in his arsenal that make him a second line upside day 1 NHL Draft target. He’s shifty, mobile and has excellent stick-handling that he’ll use to get out of tight jams at centered ice. If he runs out of room and simply can’t navigate out with his footwork or handling, he makes use of whatever passing lane he has and more than often at the SHL level that meant passing underneath the stick of the attacker. When he has the puck on his stick, he’ll rely on his crossovers to create the separation to go one-on-one with the goaltender at net-front. If he simply can’t pull away from pressure, he’ll look to pepper the slot with passes. In transition, he won’t force the puck into dodgy situations and will button hook. Stenberg will then identify a secondary lane and take advantage. He’s got great problem solving skills. (Josh Tessler)

#23 – William Whitelaw

I believe that Whitelaw is a top six winger at the NHL level. While he has played center in his youth, if you play him at center in the NHL, you would have to change his puck hunting approach and In my opinion that would be a huge mistake.

I would go with Conor Garland as a player comparison for Whitelaw. Like Garland, Whitelaw is tenacious in his pursuit of the puck in the offensive zone and does a great job with distribution when the pressure is on.

If you draft Whitelaw, you want him to keep developing his physical play in all three zones. He is constantly looking to pounce on attackers for the puck in the offensive zone, but it’s a little bit less prevalent in the neutral and defensive zones. In addition, I’d like to see Whitelaw work on his shot angling and pass to the slot more when pressure closes up on him. If Whitelaw replaces a few of his shots from distance when pressure is present to passes to the slot through tight lanes, his assist totals will go up. (Josh Tessler)

#24 – Samuel Honzek

Honzek is a powerful centreman that uses his plus agility and edgework to get to dirty areas in front of the net. He is great a creating chances using little stick lifts and plays to free up lanes to his stick. With this being Honzek’s first year playing in North America, he has showed that his game is best suited for the smaller ice surface. He has shown a willingness to be dogged on pucks in the defensive zone, but filling out his frame is the next step on route to being a dominant modern day power forward. (Ben Jordan)

#25 – Timur Mukhanov

Mukhanov is a high upside pick. The tools in his tool-belt will come in handy at the NHL level and I’m confident that he will eventually slot in as a top six winger. As I mentioned a few times throughout the hyperlinked (^^^) report, I believe that his lack of a power stride holds him back from playing center. But, Mukhanov does have excellent distribution and finds gaps to pass through routinely when the pressure is on. 

If you are looking for a NHL comparable, I’d go with Andrew Mangiapane. A forward, who is undersized, but tenacious and has a motor that just won’t quit.  (Josh Tessler)

#26 – Brayden Yager

NHL head coaches are likely to debate whether or not they would place Yager at center or wing at the next level. Yager’s ability to use his power strides to get into open space to key up back door passing lanes is something that you will see far less of if Yager would be deployed at center at the next level. Instead of looking for opportunistic passing lanes for his teammates to use to feed him the puck, he will have to be the main driver of play and the pressure is only intensifying faster at the next level which means that Yager’s stick-handling in tight spaces will have to improve. If he’s deployed as a winger, he is going to do what he does best and that’s leverage his speed off puck to get into open ice. But, if he is deployed as a center at the NHL level, he will likely have to play more of a conservative role at times and that will mean that he playing further back in the offensive zone. If I’m drafting Yager, I want to leverage his shot and I don’t want him stuck under pressure along the perimeter.

With all of that said, if you take Yager and move him to the wing, I see him being a top six winger at the NHL level. He’s going to create give and go opportunities. Yager is going to score one-timers and backdoor goals. But, I do think that playing center at the next level will hinder his offensive upside. (Josh Tessler)

#27 – Gabe Perreault

Going into the preliminary ranking I was conflicted on what to do with Perreault. There were times he flashed an amazing ability to one-touch pass and spring his linemates open, as well as he possesses a high level of skill to create passing lanes through sudden puck manipulation moves that darted by the defenders stick. However, when the pace of play picked up I found Perreault’s impact on the game began to diminish. When space was not given to him I found that he struggled to slide off defenders to create optimal plays, which often lead to turnovers. However, he was the most involved player in transition on the best line in junior hockey, sported great dangerous passing metrics, and his off-puck ability in the offensive zone found him the recipient of a lot of high danger scoring chances. If Perreault can learn to operate in a faster paced game and create the space and time to do what he does best he’s going to outperform this ranking, however the concerns remain even if he did break Auston Matthews NTDP single season scoring record. (Austin Garret)

#28 – 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)

#29 – Daniil But

But is a power winger who I believe has some of the highest upside in the entire draft. When he’s at his best, he’s dominant; using his massive frame and high-end small area skill to bully MHL and sometimes even KHL competition. From a pure tools standpoint, But is one of the best bets you can make; 6’5” with a ton of skill is always gonna be an enticing combination. He’s always been a good finisher with a good shot, and I’ve wanted to see him become more of a playmaker, because I think it suits his game very well, plus he’s a very good passer when he does do that thing; very good at drawing defenders away, opening passing lanes in a variety of ways, and his actual passing ability is quite good. And through my viewings, I feel like he has trended in that direction; his playmaking has improved and become more frequent over the course of the season, and I’m liking the new But quite a lot. So why 29? Well, the skating is a bit of a mess at times, and for a guy his size, his physical game is not quite where it needs to be; he should work on his puck protection, and using his body more effectively. But more than anything, there are still concerns in terms of the general decision-making area. It has improved, which gives reason to think it can keep improving, but a lack of scanning and awareness, and often just a poor understanding of the game in general it feels like, certainly isn’t what you want to see. Questioning a player’s sense and smarts as much as I do with But is a bit of a red flag to me. At the same time, the talent and potential is undeniable, and it’s difficult to pass up at this point. It’s easy to imagine a world in which he goes top 10 in a re-draft, maybe even top 5; but the risk could be nearly as high as his potential is. (Gray Matter)

#30 – Colby Barlow

Barlow, often referred to as the “Man Child”, has been a man amongst the children in the OHL this season. Barlow can get to inside ice with ease against smaller junior opponents, and once there, use his heavy shot to generate offense. Barlow is also effective off give and go’s where he can find soft pockets of space in and around the crease to free up his stick. Both are the main areas he saw success during his dominant draft year campaign with Owen Sound. He finished the season with 46 goals and 79 points across 59 games. (Ben Jordan)

#31 – Matthew Wood

Matthew Wood is a power forward prospect who just finished his freshman campaign at the University of Connecticut. Wood is particularly good at mopping up loose pucks behind the red line and then making a quick pass to a teammate in the slot. He’s got an excellent shot and is quite good with puck manipulation prior to shooting. Wood will delay, force the goaltender to completely shift over and then strike at the gap that the goaltender provided him. At this point in his development, I really want to see his speed improve. He doesn’t have great pace and he’ll need it for the next level. (Josh Tessler)

#32 – Bradly Nadeau

Bradly Nadeau paired up with his older brother to dominate the BCHL with his speed, shot, and puck skill. He was one of the most involved offensive transition players in my data set, was in the top 10% in terms of passes sent to high/medium dangerous areas, and was a top shot generator. He could be a bit passive in the defensive zone, but his speed, skill, and shot were very notable to track. I question his NCAA choice (Maine with his brother) and the BCHL’s top scorers haven’t produced into top 6 scoring roles recently, but his skill-set is one I’d bet on. (Austin Garrett)

#33 – Calum Ritchie

Ritchie is one of the smarter players in this class, and that’s what puts him into the first-round conversation for us. He is committed to the defensive side of the puck and uses his pro-sized frame to make plays under pressure to break out. When at his best offensively, Ritchie uses his stickhandling superbly to get past defenders and create space for himself. As his game evolves, we would like to see more moves to the inside, and movement from east to west. (Ben Jordan)

#34 – Beau Akey

If there’s a player I’m most likely higher on than most it’s Beau Akey. He took a backseat to Brandt Clarke once he came back to the OHL and thus diminished his power play time and suppressed his point totals. What makes Akey so intriguing is his ability to generate offense by carrying the puck out of the defensive zone and his awareness as a passer to hit players all over the offensive zone. He’s the only player to attempt >35 passes in a game and complete >90% of them. He moves up into the zone to take his shot. He can have defensive lapses and his gap control can get away from him at times, but he’s a great high-upside pick in the late second-third round. (Austin Garret)

#35 – 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. I’d like to see Willander occasionally step outside of his comfort zone and add a layer of unpredictability in his offensive game,. (SpokedZ)

#36 – Alex Čiernik

The talented forward had an up-and-down season. The talent is clear to see at every level. A plus skater, he also has excellent play-making ability, is impressive in transition, has great hands and a good release, especially on his one-timer. Additionally, when playing versus players his own age especially he excels at 5v5, driving play and getting to danger areas with regularity. He played on two different Allsvenskan – Swedish 2nd tier – clubs this season, his “mother” club Södertälje, where he had a reduced role and struggled to assert himself, and on loan at Västervik, where he was one of the teams more dangerous players in a bigger role. As potential second round picks go there will not be many with more skill, but to reach his potential Ciernik needs to better understand how to deal with the pressure and intensity of professional hockey, and improve in his own zone. The worry with the talented Slovak is that unless he develops really well he might end up the proverbial NHL “tweener”, with no defined bottom six role. However, he plays at a high-tempo and with a good development path can comfortably become an NHL second line forward. (Alex Appleyard)

#37 – Luca Pinelli

I’ll start by saying that I adore Luca Pinelli. He’s the perfect combination of high skill and creativity, rendering a player who is a joy to watch. He’s a strong puck manager who prioritizes possession and will rarely concede control of the puck. In the offensive zone, he can pick apart opposing defence with deceptive moves to open up passing lanes that he can swiftly exploit before they close. Especially in small areas and along the halfwall, Pinelli can create something out of nothing and it can be remarkable to witness. Listed at 5’9 and 161 lbs, the obvious knock is size. It’s not an obvious limitation, as he doesn’t let it hinder him too much, as he plays with some peskiness and doesn’t get bounced around. However, to find success, he’ll need to add a few extra steps of explosiveness and overall quickness to maintain his style of play at the next level. It’s an upside swing but one that can truly pay off as high-end playmaking wingers are difficult to acquire. (Jordan Malette)

#38 – Denver Barkey

I believe that Barkey ends up on the wing at the next level in a middle six role. 

Barkey reminds me a bit of Mats Zuccarello. He has the ability to navigate around pressure in every zone and can identify tight passing lanes to utilize on the fly. Barkey has a playbook full of tactics to get out of pressure and doesn’t hesitate. He executes. 

While he has predominantly played center for the London Knights, I don’t see him playing center at the next level. He has shown that he can navigate around threats with his crossovers at the OHL level, but at the NHL level, he is going to need a power stride as well if he is to be deployed at center. If he can unlock the power stride, he could potentially play center at the NHL level. (Josh Tessler)

#39 – Michael Hrabal

Hrabal does project to be a starting NHL goaltender, but there are a few areas in his game that will need refinement in order to get him NHL ready. I’d like to see Hrabal shift quicker to shooting threats who are in back door areas. When in the butterfly, he is struggling to shift over in time and take on shots squared up. With that said, Hrabal is forced to make more desperation saves. In addition, as I just mentioned in the hyperlinked report, he also needs to address reading the trajectory and reacting with a well-placed glove extension on far side shots.

Hrabal does offer great post security, quick re-shifting when standing up, athleticism and the ability to maintain sight lines when traffic intensifies at the crease. Those attributes are exactly what I’m looking for in a goaltender. Hrabal does have some areas to work on, but offers more than others in the 2023 NHL goaltending class.

#40 – Tanner Molendyk

Molendyk is great in transition. He’s got excellent crossovers that spark his coast to coast puck movement. But, should he run into obstacles he’s shown over and over that he loves to give and go. Over the course of the season, I saw his vast improvement with his shot especially at 5v5. It was particularly rusty towards the start of the year, but by mid-March Molendyk was lighting up the lamp routinely. While his shot improved, the next step will be work on shot selection as he is shot heavy from the point. In his own zone, Molendyk will throw his weight to cause puck disruption. Molendyk has a second pairing projection. (Josh Tessler)

#41 – Trey Augustine

Trey Augustine is Smaht’s second highest ranked goaltender for the 2023 NHL Draft and will be playing for the Michigan State Spartans next season. Augustine does a great job of widening his frame in the butterfly to take away as much space as he can. It also allows him to shift from side to side quickly and that comes in handy on backdoor shot. Augustine’s rebound control is great and is able to push pucks routinely to low danger. His puck tracking and glove work are strong as well. Augustine does need to work on overcommitting and going too far out of his net, but he’s a great early day two option for a team that is looking to add to their goaltender pipeline. (Josh Tessler)

#42 – Charlie Stramel

Charlie Stramel projects as a checking line forward at the next level. He uses his size well to trap attackers at both ends of the ice and will lay down checks along the boards to cause puck disruption. Stramel isn’t the fastest north-south skater, but he does like to be involved in transitional play. He will utilize his crossovers to get the speed that he needs to carry the puck up ice, but defenseman are able to trap him before he can get down low with the puck. So, he’ll look to re-distribute in low danger. (Josh Tessler)

#43 – Luca Cagnoni

Cagnoni is an offensively minded blueliner who is always looking for opportunities to get up into the play. As the season has progressed, he has gotten better at picking his spots, and making the most of the times he activates. As he gets bigger and stronger, his shot will become more of a threat. He’s doing a great job selecting times to shoot and does a great job walking the line to find lanes. Cagnoni’s best attribute is that he creates offense while always moving. This often draws more defenders to him which has opened up more points of attack for Portland down low in the offensive zone. (Ben Jordan)

#44 – Lukas Dragicevic

Dragicevic is one of the more dynamic offensive threats from the backend in this draft class. His passing is superb, and he kickstarts many plays in transition using it. He is best hitting teammates on the move, and this creates many odd-man opportunities for his squad. Skating is another area where Dragicevic separates himself from his peers. He is confident carrying the puck, has great four-way mobility and can maintain these traits while under pressure. In the defensive zone, he will be a bit of a project. He lacks consistent scanning in the defensive zone, and this effects his positioning, and efficiency retrieving pucks in his own end. (Ben Jordan)

#45 – 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)

#46 – Kalan Lind

Kalan Lind is pure energy that has zero qualms with scoring big goals while engaging physically. He is most dangerous when playing instinctively and crashing the net. Even with a smaller build, he loves to clean up dirty areas and get to places net-front that many others don’t. He is an effective straight-line player that naturally pushes back defenders and up space for himself. As is the case with many of these player builds, Lind is an established and successful forechecker. He has a great stick in tight areas and can secure many free pucks while applying pressure along the wall and behind the nets. In the defensive zone, Lind is constantly hounding the puck carrier and pressuring them intensely with hopes of turning the puck over. (Ben Jordan)

#47 – 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)

#48 – 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. Not only does he possess the top-end shot and puck skills, Nick is also a fairly creative passer and can connect plays together through quality playmaking.  It’s an upside swing, but one that makes sense as we get into the mid to late 2nd round. (Jordan Malette)

#49 – Lenni Hämeenaho

If the young Finn one day makes the NHL, no matter what his role you can be assured he will be a fan favourite. He is the kind of player that incites the old hockey cliché of “playing the right way”, and combines that with a high IQ in each zone as well as a good shot and a decent set of hands. This season he established himself as a good player at the pro level in Liiga – the Finnish top tier – and kept improving as the season went on. He is a North-South player who excels on the boards and is great at getting space around the net. While lacking the high-end skill to be a future top line player he is confident with the puck on his stick and a relentless fore-checker who is good at picking pockets in every zone. His skating is the main area that will need improvement in order to fulfil his potential, but if he can iron out the kinks there he is very likely to be at worst a good NHL bottom sixer, with the upside to play a complimentary role on a second line. (Alex Appleyard)

#50 – Caden Price

Price started out the year as one of my top defensemen and a sure fire first rounder. As the season has played its course, my tune has changed quite drastically. He is a transition darling. He can get the puck up to the forwards quickly and get plays moving north quite effectively. There is some offensive upside with Price as he does generate some scoring opportunities with his above average passing and 4-way mobility. These skills open up lanes to the net for him to create. Defensively he has trouble at times holding a clean gap, but that is in large part because he like to pinch up and squeeze pucks against the wall. Understanding the time to activate and keep plays alive will allow Price to stay engaged in more plays throughout the course of a game. (Ben Jordan)

#51 – Jacob Fowler

Jacob Fowler received a lot of praise this season and rightfully so as he had the lowest GAA in the USHL this past regular season. In the playoffs, he slammed the door shut for Youngstown and recorded a 1.36 GAA / .952 SV% in nine games played. He will be playing for the Boston College Eagles this fall.

Fowler does an excellent job of widening his stance in the crouch when facing a threat in high danger. He’s also quick with his pads and can slam the door shut in the butterfly by shifting over with his pads. While he does do a good job of widening himself and quickly reseting in butterfly position, I’d like to see him work on extending his glove to take away space top shelf. (Josh Tessler)

#52 – Kasper Halttunen

Two years ago the hulking Finnish winger was being talked about as a potential top 10 pick. It is easy to see why. At 16 years old he was 6’3 and over 190lbs, with a booming shot, good hands and who is not afraid to get physical as well as working hard up and down the ice. But over the last year his stock has fell significantly. However, since stepping up to the pro level and not being able to physically bully opponents, he has struggled, and while he has still been able to produce in junior international play there have also been concerns with “how” he has played. He often tries to force plays that are just not there, shoots when he should pass and passes when he should shoot. Versus men he also does not use his size well enough, despite being a modern “power-forward” and liking to get to the net and boards, and seems to get frustrated easily and let that take his mind off the end-game. However, he still has the potential to be a top-six goal-scorer if he develops well, matures and learns to read the game better. (Alex Appleyard)

#53 – 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)

#54 – David Edstrom

Edstrom is projected third line center at the next level. He has been effective with two-way play in J18, J20 and in the SHL this season. He’s got great side to side speed from his crossovers that allows him to pounce on attackers behind the red line. Edstrom is defensively responsible and sits back in the neutral zone when the oppositional rush breaks out. He’s got an active stick and has good reach to rely on when scooping up loose pucks. Edstrom is solid with his distribution and uses whatever space is given to him. He does a great job of spotting potential passing lanes for his teammates to use and skates into them timely. That has paved the way for goals at net front. (Josh Tessler)

#55 – Aram Minnetian

Minnetian is the one player on the NTDP that soared up my personal rankings these past two months. He’s always been a fantastic skater, but he showed a great progression in his ability to transport the puck from the beginning of the year. Given that he also started to activate with deception the last month as well: he’s a player whose skill-set has begun to break through recently and could continue to develop into a top four player. (Austin Garrett)

#56 – Matthew Mania

Mania is a player whose ability and dataset has intrigued me throughout the season. While he’s fluctuated in his distribution metrics, he’s always been an involved player in offensive transitions for a defenseman. His puck skill to be a potential carry-out/carry-in player combined with flashes of deception and vision makes him an intriguing pick as a potential offensive defensemen. He moves up into the zone and utilizes space to get his shot off, and his defensive game features an active and effective stick when keeping a gap. His lack of physicality in front of the net and his inconsistency in my dataset bump him here, but I think there’s plenty there for a team to develop. (Austin Garret)

#57 – 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)

#58 – Martin Mišiak

Misiak is a player who plays with a high motor, an aggressive F1 forechecker, and makes the right play on a very consistent basis. While I don’t think he possesses a lot of puck skill to be a puck transporter nor do I think he’s going to drive chain-linked plays in the offensive zone; I do believe that Misiak is able to be a one-touch, positive transition player who can feed pucks to dangerous areas and would be a solid middle-six player. (Austin Garrett)

#59 – Ignat Lutfullin

One of the first things you’ll notice when watching Lutfullin is that, well . . . his team is awful. Most of the time I’ve spent watching him, his team is just getting caved in, and he’s stuck playing in the defensive zone for most of the game; not a great environment to evaluate him as an offensive player. But when he’s actually able to gain control of the puck, it quickly becomes clear that he’s—usually—the best player on the ice. He basically drives all the offence for his team, and he doesn’t really get a ton of support, which is why his numbers don’t pop quite as much as some other MHLers on this list. He plays at a high pace; he executes on his plays and passes very quickly, and processes the game just as fast. His creative playmaking is his strongest asset, always making smart reads and creating clever passing plays that could result in much more if his linemates were on the same level as him, and able to drive offence more effectively. Although I’ve found puck control to be an issue presently, he’s a very skilled and quick handler, and he’s good at using his hands to navigate in tight spaces. Overall, he’s very creative in the plays he makes, and I can see him becoming a good playmaking play-driver in the NHL if everything goes right with his development. He’s definitely a swing I would take at this point in the draft. (Gray Matter)

#60 – Roman Kantserov

Kantserov is a skilled and creative dual-threat winger. He’s known more as a playmaker, but I think his finishing ability and scoring instincts are quite strong, and his shot—though nothing amazing—is underrated. On that note, while his shot may not be the best out there, his shot selection and decision-making in general is typically very good I find, which is what makes his finishing potential stand out to me. He’s a very skilled handler and passer; I’ve noticed improvement in his small area skill, and he uses his hands to beat pressure a bit more often than I saw early on in the season. But again, what stands out the most to me is his general sense, awareness, and decision-making. They’re not always executed to perfection, but the plays he tries to make are almost always the right ones. With the puck, he’s always looking to use his skill to create separation, get to the middle of the ice, and either find a shooting lane, or open up more space for him to feed a teammate; I only really see him take low percentage shots as a last resort. With all that, I find it easy to see his game translating to the NHL. Many will point to his size at 5’9” and say he probably won’t make it, and I will point to his size at nearly 180 lbs already and say I don’t think it’s an issue. (Gray Matter)

#61 – Jakub Dvorak

Jakub Dvorak is second pairing projected defensive defenseman. Dvorak does a great job of taking up space with his positioning and has a great active stick that he’ll use to keep attackers at a distance. Typically, he looks to put implement tight pressure on any puck carrying attacker when they get to the perimeter line. He will throw his weight and will look to be physical especially in the corners. Unfortunately, he was hurt for roughly 3-4 months and returned just in time for the U18s. At the U18s, his mobility wasn’t as shifty as it was prior to injury and he was slightly less effective with his distribution, but you have to expect that anyone coming back from that long of an injury will be a tad sluggish from the get-go. (Josh Tessler)

#62 – Theo Lindstein

Once upon a time the Swedish blue-liner was posited as a player who would be the first defenseman off the board in this draft. Not only was he playing in the SHL at 16 years old, his physical skill-set is one that has very few holes. A very good skater in all directions who has a low sense of gravity and is strong for his size, he has everything you want in that area for a modern NHL blue-liner. Lindstein also has plus puck skills, is a good passer, and is intuitive in transition. In the offensive zone he is good at creating space, and defensively he defines himself by impressive anticipation and gap control. However, while he improved as the season went – to the point that over the last month of the season he was arguably Brynäs’s best defenseman – he has a bad habit of giving the puck away in dangerous positions, and is not as impressive in the offensive zone as he is when coming up ice, to the point that there are serious questions as to whether he would ever be a consistent offensive threat in the NHL. Lindstein has arguably fell too far though in consensus rankings, and certainly has second pairing upside at the highest level. (Alex Appleyard)

#63 – Arvid Bergström

Arvid Bergström is another intriguing defenseman in this draft class. The foundation of his game is skating. He’s technically sound with strong acceleration and speed, enabling him to thrive in transition. He can skate the puck up the ice himself with ease, and he’s also an excellent puck mover. Bergström sees the ice well and is always in anticipation mode, and this helps him avoid oncoming forecheckers. His point production and play style don’t necessarily stand out, but this skill makes him a quietly effective player on any team. He also shows great mobility along the offensive blueline, which should allow for him to potentially develop into a powerplay option down the line. (SpokedZ)

#64 – 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. A lack of offensive creativity likely limits his upside, but he reads play well, and just makes smart, simple plays all the time, while bringing a great motor; he’s always active and making an effort at both ends of the ice. (Gray Matter)

#65 – Nico Myatovic

I project Myatovic to be a middle six winger at the next level. He has the tools to be a power forward on a scoring line at the NHL level. I believe he will more than likely come off the board in the second round. Myatovic’s tools are very projectable to the NHL and he will feel like a safe bet for NHL scouts. 

Ultimately, I’d like to see Myatovic further develop his physicality in all three zones and look to leverage his long range passing more and more to get pucks to the slot when he is in low danger. In the defensive zone, I’d like to see Myatovic use more of an active stick, but if his physicality improves I believe that it will only translate into Myatovic using an active stick more and more to isolate attackers. (Josh Tessler)

#66 – Yegor Zavragin

If you lost out on Hrabal, Augustine, Fowler and Bjarnason, Yegor Zavragin is an excellent consolation prize. He’s quick and nimble. When in the butterfly, he takes up a lot of space in net. Zavragin has an excellent glove and is rather effective with his glove on high danger chances. His rebound control is quite good and is constantly pushing pucks to low danger areas. (Josh Tessler)

#67 – Noel Nordh

I’m very interested to see where Noel Nordh ends up being selected in this draft. He’s a big, smart winger who is able to be a very useful and effective player at both ends of the ice. He doesn’t have the profile of a point producing playmaker, but his hockey sense and decision making should make him a solid play connector in a middle six role. Defensively, he makes smart reads and uses his size and strength to keep attackers to the outside. Though he’s not the quickest or best skater in this class, he’s still able to carry the puck through the neutral zone and generate entries to set up play in the offensive zone for his teammates. He seems to have a good understanding of what type of player he is. He rarely turns the puck over or makes mistakes trying to make plays he isn’t capable of making. His ability to be useful in all three zones along with his projectable frame should make him an intriguing option for teams in the middle rounds of the draft. (SpokedZ)

#68 – Easton Cowan

Cowan is an excellent two-way forward that has elite vision, passing and hockey IQ. He has a great motor that allows him to be engaged in every play throughout his shifts. Since the Knights acquired Ryan Winterton from the Hamilton Bulldogs, Cowan has been the glue that holds that line of Cowan-Winterton-Barkey together. He is willing to dig pucks out of the corners and uses his great vision and passing to set up scoring chances. He loves to drive the net and pick up loose change that he can bury or turn into second chance offense for his linemates. Defensively, Cowan has an active stick, and is constantly hovering above his opponent looking to strip the puck and get the play started the other way. (Ben Jordan)

#69 – 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)

#70 – Tanner Adams

Tanner Adams as a puck transporter is a dream. He was over 43% offensive involvement with a 79% success rate. He facilitates play so well, is defensively responsible, but had some of the worst puck luck I’ve seen while tracking a player. The Providence College commit could take a full three years to hit an offensive output that puts him on the NHL’s radar in college, but I like his game enough to bet on him. (Austin Garret)

#71 – Felix Nilsson

Nilsson has all the stand-out traits that teams in the NHL crave when it comes to reliable bottom six pivots. He has an extremely high hockey IQ, links up play fantastically whether it is as a medium between the blue-line and wingers coming up ice, or creating inefficiencies in opposition coverages on the cycle, and is diligent, aware and engaged when it comes to play in his own zone. The Stockholm centre is also not lacking in skills, with good passing, a solid shot, and hands that he shows from time-to-time. The young Swede is also a plus penalty-killer with some grit, even if he could be a bit more physical. There are not exactly many “stand-out” traits in his game, but he is above average in basically every area. As can be imagined from such a skill-set, down the line he could well turn into a solid 3rdline centre in the NHL. (Alex Appleyard)

#72 – Étienne Morin

Étienne Morin in the offensive zone is fantastic. He has great deception on the blue line and creates passing lanes with the puck on his stick. He’s super offensive and operated as almost a fourth forward when he was on the ice in terms of creating offense. However, Morin trying to escape forechecking pressure or making a pass under the threat of being hit was cringeworthy. His gap control wasn’t great and didn’t separate players from the puck at the QMJHL level, which made me feel like he’d struggle to be a positive defensive player in the NHL. I’d bet on the offensive tools and hope that he develops enough defensively to be a top 4 defensemen. (Austin Garret)

#73 – Felix Unger Sorum

The Norwegian born, Swedish registered winger has been a late riser up NHL draft lists. The u-18 World Juniors were a big part of that, as he flashed skill and scoring alongside his good two-way game. He was totally off the radar at the start of the season, despite having already played at the u-20 level since he was 16 years old. This might be because he is one of the youngest players in the 2023 draft, in fact, were he born just a day later he would be 2024 draft eligible. Over the 2022-23 season he put up over P/GP at the J20 level, made his junior national team debut, and then made his SHL debut. The main this that jumps out about his game is his play-making. Not only does he have a wonderful, deft touch to his passing, he can also pick out line-mates from virtually anywhere on ice. Furthermore, for a player who is pass first, he does a lot of damage from the slot, and does not mind going to high-danger areas. He is also very creative with the puck on his stick, and for such a skilled player works very hard in his own zone. His upside is likely a second-liner in the NHL. However, to get there he needs to improve his release, as it sometimes takes him too much time to get shots away, and also work on his skating, as his stride lacks power and drive. (Alex Appleyard)

#74 – Carson Rehkopf

Rehkopf is bigger build with an interesting blend of size and skill. He has a pro level frame and shot already that both project extremely well. He has also shown the ability to play both down the middle and on the wing. Based on past trends and knowing what NHL teams cherish in players, Rehkopf should hear his name called somewhere in the first 50 selections. If able to develop his skill set effectively, there could be a very dominant middle-six forward that can dominate middle ice. He also has the length and active stick to provide value on a penalty kill unit. There are concerns about Rehkopf’s engagement with the play off the puck, as well as his commitment to physical play but many teams may see this an opportunity to further round out his game. (Ben Jordan)

#75 – Koehn Ziemmer

Ziemmer is a power forward build that excels when the puck is on his blade. He’s got a great shot with the ability to change angels quickly and is an great at weaving around defenders with shoulder fakes and quick stickhandles. Defensively he can become mis engaged quite quickly, but he does do a good job intercepting cycle plays and hard rims around the boards. Where Ziemmer slips below his counter parts is the skating. His stride mechanics are extremely wonky, and his being hunched over paired with extreme ankle flexion causes for some trouble to accelerate and the rate needed to keep up at the pro level. (Ben Jordan)

#76 – Tristan Bertucci

Bertucci is your prototypical modern-day defender. He’s got a nice blend of size and skill and has great defensive acumen. He is positionally sound, and always in the right place to break up passes or scoring attempts. I find he as great at retrieving dump ins and pucks from behind his own goal. He uses scanning so effectively and understands body position at an elite level so that he can free his stick and start breaking the puck up the ice. There are times where he lacks aggressiveness in his defending and can let opponents back him up. (Ben Jordan)

#77 – Carter Sotheran

Sotheran has been an effective defensive defenseman for the Portland Winterhawks this season. When his usual defensive partner, Luca Cagnoni has pinched up, Sotheran has fallen back. He’s got excellent gap control and great footwork that keeps himself aligned to the attack. If there is a defenseman that I’m willing to bet on being a solid shut down defenseman at the next level in the mid-rounds, I’m betting on Sotheran. (Josh Tessler)

#78 – Noah Dower Nilsson

The man from the shores of the Skagerrak Strait is, in terms of skills alone, one of the most talented players in the 2023 draft. His hands are close to elite, he has great vision, alongside plus passing and shooting. Alongside his high-end skill he is also not lacking in grit. For a player with a high skill level he is perfectly happy to get in close around the net and work hard on the boards too. The result of this skill-set? Dower Nilsson put up 54 points this year, 7th most in league history for an u-18 player. His upside is certainly that of a top-six NHL player, even if likely at wing. So what are his weaknesses? There are several. His skating needs to improve, with it being merely average for a player of his size. Furthermore, he need to play with more intensity when he does not have the puck, he gets lost in the defensive zone at times and seems to float waiting for play to go the other way. Additionally, far too often he makes low percentage passes that get picked off and send play the other way, and – connected to this – has a habit of panicking when under intense pressure. (Alex Appleyard)

#79 – Ethan Gauthier

Ethan Gauthier is coming off of his second season with the Sherbrooke Phoenix and averaged roughly a point per game. Gauthier projects to be a bottom six forward at the next level and will be called upon to provide grit / physicality in order to cause puck disruption. But, I do want to note that his physicality has been far more prominent on the forecheck than on the backcheck. While he does project to be more a grit / physical forward than a game changer, he will be able to rack up points by using his frame to fight for open passing lanes at net-front and by using his physicality to steal control of the puck on the forecheck and quickly distributing the puck. (Josh Tessler)

#80 – Hoyt Stanley

Hoyt Stanley just finished his last season in the BCHL with the Victoria Grizzlies and is headed to Cornell University in the fall to play for the Big Red. Stanley is a solid puck moving defenseman and was a great distribution from the blue line all season long. While the bulk of his assists, his passes even when they were defense-to-defense, those passes were more strategic. If he saw that he couldn’t get a clear pass to the slot but his defensive partner could, he was going to feed his partner the puck. While in transition, he loves to complete passes off the boards when looking to get the puck around an attacker in front of him and to a teammate further up in the neutral zone. (Josh Tessler)

#81 – Griffin Erdman

Griffin Erdman is a defensively responsible forward and one who projects to be a bottom six forward at the next level. He’s tenacious and has excellent activation that he relies on to go after loose pucks. When in transition, he likes to utilize give and go passing to drive up the ice. In the offensive zone, if he has control of the puck and pressure is keeping him in low danger, he’ll look to distribute the puck and go find space in the trenches so he can provide the teammate that he passed to with a juicy passing lane. (Josh Tessler)

#82 – Coulson Pitre

Pitre is an incredibly smart, versatile forward. His best attribute is his awareness, and this has enabled him to play in any forward slot throughout a lineup and build chemistry with new linemates throughout a game. This trait was shining bright at the CHL top prospects where Pitre saw many linemates and was seemingly able to be the glue of those lines. Pitre also uses his strength to aid his impressive 200ft game where he wins a ton of puck battles. He will be an enticing option come day 2 of the NHL draft in Nashville as he is a very projectable, safe, and versatile forward. (Ben Jordan)

#83 – Ryan Fine

Ryan Fine is the most underrated forward on the NTDP. He’s a great puck transporter and has great skill, his high school highlight reel is insane, and at times was the best player on the Moore/Terrance/Fine line at the u18s. He was stuck on the third line for much of the year at the NTDP in a checking role, but at Harvard, he should assume a scoring role as soon as this year given their departures. (Austin Garret)

#84 – Jesse Kiiskinen

Kiiskinen is one of the youngest players in this year’s draft, and despite that managed to lead all Finnish draft eligible players in P/GP at the u-20 level with 1.39 over the season (43 in 31). He also impressed enough to get a few games in Liiga as the season went on, picking up his first professional point in the process. While he has a solid offensive skill-set, with quick hands, nice passing and a big shot, what stands out most when you watch the young Finn is “how” he plays the game. He is constantly on the move like an Energizer bunny, even when set up on the power-play half-wall he is rotating, adjusting, trying to give the best lane possible. He forechecks relentlessly and is a real pest for defensemen, getting sticks in lanes and finishing checks. Kiiskinen is also rarely out of position in any zone, creates space for team-mates and loves to get to the high danger areas around the net and in the slot. His potential? Likely an all-around middle six winger who can put the puck in the net. He is not without flaws though. His skating needs work, and he is also slightly trigger happy even when line-mates are in a better position than he is. But if he can improve in these two areas? He has a good chance to contribute in the NHL. (Alex Appleyard)

#85 – Matthew Soto

Matthew Soto’s counting production didn’t line up with my four game tracked data. He showed a great ability to generate dangerous scoring opportunities through his passing and he was pretty active in his transition numbers, but his counting stats never materialized. Coupled with his deft puck skill, ability to get by first layer defenders and create plays, and able to play at an NHL pace I think he’s a player that could see a boom in his post draft year in terms of production. He’s an upside swing to make, but the Kingston winger has the skill set, the opportunity to improve his production, and a very late birthday in this class that he could be an interesting mid-late round swing for a team. (Austin Garret)

#86 – Oliver Bonk

Bonk has been a steady force on the London blueline this season. He isn’t the flashiest most dynamic player out there, but he makes all the plays and isn’t talked about much. For guys like him, that is best. He does an extremely good job controlling gaps and has an extremely active stick. He effectively shut down many top OHL units and was also able to chip in offensively with 40 points in 67 games. All those points with just about no powerplay time, which was eaten up mostly by Logan Mailloux and Sam Dickinson. Bonk reminds me a ton of T.J. Brodie, and should a team come away from day 2 of the draft with T.J. Brodie, they should be ecstatic. (Ben Jordan)

#87 – Cole Knuble

He thinks the game so well off the puck, he processes under pressure very well with the puck, and gets to areas of the ice where goals are scored. He is the catalyst of everything good that happens on his line in Fargo. He’s able to jumpstart transitions, thread passes to open teammates, and make a quick small area move to free up a passing lane. (Austin Garret)

#88 – Larry Keenan

Larry Keenan was a smooth-skating, big LHD who also has a cannon from the point. He’s a bit raw in his offensive game and his defensive game was never challenged in my viewings. However, he’s my top prep/HS player coming into this year’s draft. (Austin Garret)

#89 – Carey Terrance

Terrance is a two-way north-south centerman who facilitates plenty of transitions at the OHL level. He shines when he is exploding through the neutral zone at high pace, gets a step by a defender to the exterior, and cuts in for a scoring chance. That sequence alone was a constant theme way back at the Hlinka, however, it was a recurring element I kept spotting every time I watched him with the Otters. Defensively he is frequently in the correct position to deny chances from developing into dangerous chances, further adding to his value as a centerman. There are flashes of high-end skill that you sometimes see shine through that makes me think there is a glimmer of offensive potential in his game. At the very least, Carey has the building blocks to develop into a two-way depth centerman if everything breaks right. (Jordan Malette)

#90 – Gennadi Chaly

Gennadi Chaly is has some neat offensive tools in his tool-kit. He does a great job at manipulating goaltenders from range by positioning the puck to one side to get the goaltender to commit to that side. Then he strikes the other side. He will drag the puck back towards himself from range to drag the goaltender a bit further out from his net to create gaps. His shooting is quite good and I just want to see more and more 5v5 production. Chaly will be back in Waterloo next season and will join the University of Vermont Catamounts in 2024. (Josh Tessler)

#91 – Hunter Brzustewicz

Brzustewicz is great on his edges. In the offensive zone, walking the blueline and finding creative ways to get pucks on net is his strength. In the defensive zone with the puck on his stick he uses his edges to pivot and spin out of passes. Given his ability to make a strong first pass up ice, being able to spin out of pressure is a massive asset. He is committed to both ends of the rink, and never takes a shift off. Going beyond his draft year, I would love to see Brzustewicz add some muscle to fill out his frame. This will help his shot power and his ability to dominate board battles. (Ben Jordan)

#92 – Yegor Klimovich

An undersized skilled playmaking winger, it admittedly may be a bit of a longshot for Klimovich to make the NHL. He plays bigger than he is; his feet are quick, but he’s not the fastest guy in the world, and he often relies on strength and puck protection mechanics to navigate around pressure, which works at the junior level, but won’t be so easy against better competition. But he’s bursting with offensive creativity and skill; it’s hard not to love him. His game is built around just nonstop creative moves and crafty passes to dangerous areas, it’s no surprise that he torched the MHL this season. There’s much risk of his game not translating, for sure, but I can also easily see a world where he’s looked at as a massive steal in a few years. If you’re going to make a bet on pure skill and creativity, he’s one of the best options available. (Gray Matter)

#93 – Andrew Gibson

Gibson was one of the more noticeable defensemen out there for team Canada at the most recent U18 tournament. He has a great first pass and is able to start his team in transition super effectively. Unfortunately, due to different injuries, Gibson was only able to play in 45 games this season for the Soo Greyhounds, but in those games, he showed off his raw skill. This is a prospect that will need some extra time to fill out the frame and understand his body, and how to use it. Through his play this season, there is no question that he is a dynamic skater. He is a great passer and has great vision to thread lanes all around the ice, and in all three zones. He plays physically in the defensive zone and uses his length very well to direct opponents and chances to the perimeter. (Ben Jordan)

#94 – Petter Vesterheim

While one of the older players in the 2023 draft, Vesterheim has only really just started to pop up on draft radars in the last few months. That surge up draft rankings is not just down to one thing. First came his performance in the World Juniors Division 1A, where he led Norway in scoring with 7 points in 5 games as they decimated the competition on their way to five wins from five games and a comfortable promotion to the top level. Then came his promotion to the professional level with Mora in the Allsvenskan, where he helped his side to the semi-finals and did not look out of place. Finally, he made his senior international debut for Norway and went on to play every game at the World Championships, helping them avoid relegation in a depth role. The young center stands out due to his high IQ and high compete level, two things that stand him in extremely good stead going forward. He might not be the most skilled player, but can pass a puck, has a solid release, and also skates pretty well. Defensively he is very mature for his age, and will only get better with time. There are no gaping holes in his game, and if things go well development wise he may turn into a solid NHL 3rd liner down the line. (Alex Appleyard)

#95 – Brandon Svoboda

Brandon Svoboda has a checking line forward projection, but does have the tools to be a rather productive points-wise in the offensive zone. Svoboda does a good job of utilize his frame to get past attackers, keep the puck secure and drive to the net. The Pennsylvania native played lower in the Youngstown Phantoms lineup and as a result was on the ice for less time compared to other Phantoms forwards who are draft eligible. I’m confident with more ice time that Svoboda will score more and more. Next season, he will be player for the Boston University Terriers at Agganis. (Josh Tessler)

#96 – Emil Järventie

Järventie’s best asset is his shot. It’s not perfect, but his shot is heavy, his release is fairly quick, and he usually changes the angle by dragging the puck closer to his feet on release. The shot is the main standout tool in his arsenal, but I would say his passing ability is very good as well, though he uses it far less frequently. Although he’s fallen a lot for me over the course of the season, I still just enjoy watching him play; he brings energy, quickness, elusiveness, as well as an active stick away from the puck. He could stand to add some strength, as he gets knocked over easily, and heavily struggles in physical battles. He’ll probably never be the primary driver of offence on his line, but a complementary winger who will score some goals by being in the right spot, or sniping off the rush, and will play on the power play for you, I can definitely see that. (Gray Matter)

#97 – Brady Cleveland

Brady Cleveland played for the USNTDP this past season and provided the team with an excellent shut down defenseman. Cleveland moves quite well for his size and that allows to retain good gap control when applying tight pressure. When in the corners and along the boards, Cleveland will use his frame and execute shoulder and hip checks with ease. He’ll be suiting up for the University of Wisconsin Badgers next season and I can imagine will be a fan favorite in Madison. (Josh Tessler)

#98 – Tanner Ludtke

Tanner Ludtke is a player that rarely gets mentioned in the public sphere. The 6’0 forward can look a bit awkward in his skating mechanics and his pace of play is a question mark. However, he plays the game so well. He’s very involved as a one-touch puck transporter, is one of the top shot generators in the USHL in my data set, and has enough skill that his pace doesn’t hinder him from making plays. The University of Nebraska-Omaha commit hasn’t produced much in terms of NHL talent recently, but I have a hard time not advocating for him to be on this list given his productivity both in counting and micro stats. (Austin Garret)

#99 – Cameron Allen

At the Hlinka it was widely believed Cam Allen could end up being the top CHL defender in the 2023 draft, but his decision making and passing decisions drove him down my personal rankings. He preferred to take low percentage shots rather than trying to facilitate play, threw pucks out of the zone instead of hitting teammates, and made defensive positioning decisions that I questioned throughout the year. However, there are flashes of skill and deception as well as his skating is a plus aspect of his game. He’s a player that I think would be super interesting if he had a change of scenery next year, but for a team willing to develop his game I could see him playing NHL games. (Austin Garret)

#100 – Juraj Pekarcik

Pekarcik is a fun one to keep an eye on, he’s a bit raw at the moment, and likely a longer term project, but the potential is definitely there, especially as a playmaker. He’s a very good passer, both in ideas and creativity, and in technical skill. His passes are generally quick, hard, and precise; but he knows when to feather one instead, he tailors his passes to the situation effectively, often changing the angle and using his reach to pass around opponents or under sticks. As well, he’s just as good a passer with both sides of his blade, able to thread passes through tight lanes in many situations. He’s also a skilled handler, especially in tight spaces, and can dangle the pants off of anyone in close or on the rush; this combines with the crafty playmaking, and his work-in-progress power game, to shape the foundation of his offensive potential. He plays a pretty good power style, but is lacking in some of the fundamentals he needs to make it a big strength in the NHL. He’ll likely need to improve his skating, and work on his puck protection and better utilising his reach, in order to be more effective in his playstyle at higher levels. His best play has unsurprisingly come in the second tier Slovakian league, where he’s about as dominant as he should be, but in the main pro league in Slovakia, he hasn’t been as impressive, though he’s also had very limited ice time, averaging around 8 minutes a night. Regardless, being largely unproven at higher levels of competition is a big reason why he’s not high on too many lists. But he shined at the U18s, and showed that he can perform just as well against significantly better competition, which at least alleviated some of my own concerns. (Gray Matter)


Damian Clara, Kristian Kostadinski, Michael Burchill, Francesco Dell’Elce, Albert Wikman, Dylan Hryckowian, Oliver Tulk, Adam Dybal

Full List

1Connor BedardReginaC
2Adam FantilliUniv of MichiganC
3Matvei MichkovSKA St. PetersburgRW
4Leo CarlssonÖrebroC
5Zach BensonWinnipegF
6Will SmithUSNTDPC
7Oliver MooreUSNTDPC
8Axel Sandin PellikkaSkellefteåRHD
9Gavin BrindleyUniv of MichiganC
10Dmitri SimashevYaroslavlLHD
11Ryan LeonardUSNTDPRW
12Andrew CristallKelownaF
13Quentin MustySudburyLW
14Nate DanielsonBrandonC
15Jayden PerronChicagoF
16Mikhail GulyayevOmskLHD
17Riley HeidtPrince GeorgeF
18Eduard SaleBrnoLW
19Dalibor DvorskyAIKC
20David ReinbacherKlotenRHD
21Gracyn SawchynSeattleC
22Otto StenbergFrölundaC
23William WhitelawYoungstownC
24Samuel HonzekVancouverC
25Timur MukhanovCherepovetsC
26Brayden YagerMoose JawF
27Gabe PerreaultUSNTDPF
28Oscar Fisker MølgaardHV71C
29Daniil ButYaroslavlLW
30Colby BarlowOwen SoundRW
31Matthew WoodUniv of ConnecticutF
32Bradly NadeauPentictonC
33Calum RitchieOshawaC
34Beau AkeyBarrieRHD
35Tom WillanderRögleRHD
36Alex CiernikSödertäljeLW/RW
37Luca PinelliOttawaC
38Denver BarkeyLondonC
39Michael HrabalOmahaG
40Tanner MolendykSaskatoonLHD
41Trey AugustineUSNTDPG
42Charlie StramelUniv of WisconsinF
43Luca CagnoniPortlandLHD
44Lukas DragicevicTri-City (WHL)RHD
45Anton WahlbergMalmöC
46Kalan LindRed DeerF
47Aydar SunievPentictonLW
48Nick LardisHamiltonRW
49Lenni HämeenahoÄssätF
50Caden PriceKelownaLHD
51Jacob FowlerYoungstownG
52Kasper HalttunenHIFKF
53Andrew StrathmannYoungstownLHD
54David EdstromFrölundaC
55Aram MinnetianUSNTDPRHD
56Matthew ManiaSudburyRHD
57Carson BjarnasonBrandonG
58Martin MišiakYoungstownC
59Ignat LutfullinSKA St. PetersburgF
60Roman KantserovMagnitogorskF
61Jakub DvorakLiberecLHD
62Theo LindsteinBrynäsLHD
63Arvid BergströmDjurgårdenLHD
64Alexander RykovChelyabinskF
65Nico MyatovicSeattleF
66Yegor ZavraginYugryG
67Noel NordhBrynäsRW
68Easton CowanLondonC
69Quinton BurnsKingstonLHD
70Tanner AdamsTri-City (USHL)C/RW
71Felix NilssonRögleC/W
72Étienne MorinMonctonLHD
73Felix Unger SorumLeksandRW
74Carson RehkopfKitchenerC/LW
75Koehn ZiemmerPrince GeorgeRW
76Tristan BertucciFlintLHD
77Carter SotheranPortlandRHD
78Noah Dower NilssonFrölundaC
79Ethan GauthierSherbrookeRW
80Hoyt StanleyVictoriaRHD
81Griffin ErdmanWaterlooF
82Coulson PitreFlintC
83Ryan FineUSNTDPF
84Jesse KiiskinenLahtiF
85Matthew SotoKingstonRW
86Oliver BonkLondonRHD
87Cole KnubleFargoC/RW
88Larry KeenanCulver Military Academy PrepLHD
89Carey TerranceErieC
90Gennadi ChalyWaterlooRHD
91Hunter BrzustewiczKitchenerRHD
92Yegor KlimovichNovosibirskF
93Andrew GibsonSault Ste. MarieRHD
94Petter VesterheimMoraF
95Brandon SvobodaYoungstownC
96Emil JärventieIlvesF
97Brady ClevelandUSNTDPLHD
98Tanner LudtkeLincolnF
99Cameron AllenGuelphRHD
100Juraj PekarcikNitraLW
HMDamian ClaraFärjestadG
HMKristian KostadinskiFrölundaLHD
HMMichael BurchillDubuqueF
HMFrancesco Dell’ElceSt. AndrewsLHD
HMAlbert WikmanFärjestadLHD
HMDylan HryckowianCedar RapidsRW
HMOliver TulkCalgaryF
HMAdam DybalKarlovy VaryG

Scouting Report: Timur Mukhanov

Photo Credit: HC Avangard

Timur Mukhanov is a 2023 NHL Draft eligible prospect, who hails from Glazov, Russia and plays in the Avangard Omsk system. His father, Renat Mukhanov played Russian minor and junior hockey in the 1990’s and has recently coached for Vityaz Podolsk’s U16 and U17 teams.

While Mukhanov grew up in Glazov (Siberia), he ended up playing U16 hockey in Moscow for Vityaz Podolsk U16 and then ended up going across the country to Omsk to play in the Avangard Omsk youth system.

This season, Mukhanov spent the majority of his time at the VHL level with Omskie Krylia and played 31 games for them. But, his production was double the rate in MHL play during regular season play. Mukhanov had also played in nine playoff games in the MHL, but the production was not at the same rate as it was during the regular season. He was called up to the KHL level around the holidays in December and January for two brief stints, but didn’t play much. Mukhanov played in one game and in only one shift.

Earlier this month, Avangard Omsk and Severstal Cherepovets made a trade in which Igor Geraskin was traded for Mukhanov and cash considerations. With this trade, Mukhanov is doing another cross-country move as he relocates from Omsk (Siberia) to Cherepovets (north of Yaroslavl and Moscow).

Player Profile

D.O.B – June 17, 2005
Nationality – Russian
Draft Eligibility – 2023
Height –5’8″
Weight –170 lbs
Position – Forward
Handedness – Right

Mukhanov’s Style of Play


Mukhanov is extremely good at distribution when the pressure has intensified. He uses whatever space is given to him. Mukhanov will feather backhand feeds over an opponent’s stick shaft to get the puck away from pressure and to a teammate. He will pass underneath the stick shaft with ease.

Check out this feed from a late January game against Loko-76. Mukhanov finds a tight gap and feathers the pass. It leads to a one touch pass in an effort to get the puck to net-front.

Due to his size, he can be phased out when playing the puck at the corners and along the boards under pressure. He isn’t trying to force the puck more inside when he’s below the red line especially when the attack is right at his backside. The pressure is only going to intensify the more and more than he skates towards the net. Instead of facing the intensified pressure, he’ll push the puck towards the half-wall and pass back to the point. 

He’s a good facilitator and loves driving the cycle. Thanks to his crossovers, he has the speed to move around with the puck to switch up his positioning in order to create better passing angles. Sometimes, he doesn’t find a passing lane and has to problem solve. That might mean bringing the puck back into the neutral zone to re-group. In the below clip, you will see Mukhanov re-grouping, passing the puck to a teammate at the blue line and then giving that teammate an option in the offensive zone. Mukhanov does manage to deliver a cross ice feed through an extremely tight lane (at the end of the clip).

Mukhanov does a really good job at generating juicy passing lanes for his puck carrying teammates. He will use his crossovers to shift around to keep passing lanes alive when he draws an attacker who is looking to eliminate Mukhanov as a passing option.

Sometimes, he will stop himself and leave a sizable gap between himself and the last attacker to give his teammate a passing option. Mukhanov is wide open and has a clear path to the net. It paid dividends on this goal here.

His ability to quickly shift his positioning has paved the way for many backdoor one-timer shooting opportunities. But, Mukhanov has struggled with his one-timers throughout his draft year. He mistimes the puck and his stick blade doesn’t connect with the puck at the right moment. 

In addition to his one-timer attempts, when shooting the puck after receiving the puck from a pass and has pressure on him, he has struggled at times with pulling the puck back right before he is about to shoot. Mukhanov is looking to get some separation but by bobbling the puck, he looses the opportunity to get the shot off that he wanted. If he bobbles the puck, he runs the risk of the attacker completely closing in on him or taking away the shooting lane he was intending on using. 

Mukhanov has good shot selection. He doesn’t force shots from too far away and will on take a shot if he has no other option. But, you won’t see him shoot too often because given how well Mukhanov does under pressure with distribution, he more often then not finds a lane that he can utilize to deliver a pass. So, you won’t see way too many low danger shots from Mukhanov.

Not only does he have good shot selection, but Mukhanov’s vision will allow him to pin-point the precise moment to shoot. For instance, in the clip below you will see Mukhanov target the moment in which the goaltender shifts over and starts to commit to the butterfly. At that moment, the goaltender can’t take away space top shelf and Mukhanov takes advantage.

As mentioned earlier when talking about his shot (keeping control of the puck when pulling the puck back before shooting), Mukhanov will struggle from time to time with his stick-handling. His reach will limit his ability to push pucks and Mukhanov seems to be learning with his limitations are with his reach. So, he has failed to re-capture possession of the puck when trying to push the puck around an attacker off the rush. 

When it comes to his forechecking, Mukhanov does a good job of maintaining good presence thanks to the speed that he can create off of his crossovers. But, he doesn’t have the physique to win the loose puck in tighter battles. I’d like to see Mukhanov use more of an active stick when on the forecheck especially in situations where he and a fellow teammate are looking to trap an attacker. I don’t believe encouraging Mukhanov to use stick lift makes sense unless he is close enough to the attacker, so I’d like to see Mukhanov use an active stick to lure attackers into traps. 


Mukhanov is usually looking to defend at centered ice. He will defend against the boards and along the point, but since he isn’t overly physical, Mukhanov looks to apply pressure at open ice more often then not. He will deviate from patrolling at centered ice to patrolling at the half-wall, but it’s usually in situations where he can team up with one of his defenseman to trap a vulnerable attacker in low danger. Mukhanov seals off the gap with his positioning and his defenseman engages physically with the attacker along the boards. When he finds himself adjusting his positioning to defending the half-wall after an opposing defenseman pinches up with possession and looks to skate up the boards, Mukhanov uses a bit more of an active stick to try to cause puck disruption. He will use his stick like a wind-mill and try to make contact with the puck in order to poke it free.

Like I mentioned in the offense section, Mukhanov’s reach will limit his ability to cause puck disruption when he positioned slightly further back. When he attempts to stick lift, he usually misses the mark and struggles to lift the attacker’s stick shaft. His reach also limits his ability to grab onto loose puck quickly in highly contested loose puck battles.

Mukhanov does a good job of providing outlet lanes for his defenseman near the red line. When he nets control of the puck via outlet pass deep in his own zone, he is fast with his distribution of the puck. He is quickly completing a pass in an effort to move the puck up the ice before the pressure swallows them up.

Transitional Play

Just like in the defensive zone, Mukhanov is usually defending against the rush at a centered ice position in the neutral zone. Since he has a much smaller frame, it doesn’t make sense to have him work the boards when facing the rush because he doesn’t have the physicality to be rather impactful along the boards. His defensive strategy is to use his positioning to limit space to trap. 

While on the rush and in a 2 on 1, Mukhanov times his passes perfectly. When he sees the attacker start to pay more attention to him by changing his angle (so that the attacker is more centered / squared towards him), Mukhanov passes underneath the stick shaft of the attacker to his teammate who is open and not facing an immediate threat. The attacker is now out of position and can’t shift over in time to shut down Mukhanov’s teammate. As I’ve said earlier on, Mukhanov distributes very nicely in tight quarters and it’s no different in the neutral zone. He’ll pass underneath / above stick shafts, complete drop passes and behind the back passes.

Since Mukhanov doesn’t have a lengthy stride, sometimes he will opt to complete give and gos when driving the puck through the neutral zone. It’s usually when the pressure is overwhelming. So, instead of testing each attacker’s east – west speed, he will look to feed the puck to an open teammate and then get himself into open ice near the offensive zone blue line to give his teammate a quality passing lane. It paved the way for this beautiful goal that Mukhanov scored at 4v4 in late January.


Mukhanov leans on his edges and has well-timed crossovers. He activates quite nicely and can generate quality speed off after deploying his edges. Since his straight line stride extensions are short, he relies on his crossovers to build up and maintain speed. 

While he doesn’t have the size to be dominant when looking to apply and maintain pressure on an attacker, he does have the speed. He can keep pace nicely.

Since he doesn’t have a power stride, he will be leaned on as a winger and not at center at the NHL level. On occasion, he will look to implement a few stride extensions while on the go, but will repeat stride extensions from the same leg instead of rotating. The one leg drag ends up slowing him down. It does help re-center his positioning, but in tight loose pucks situations, he needs to avoid using one leg drags as it will cost him opportunities to win possession of the puck. 


Mukhanov is a high upside pick. The tools in his tool-belt will come in handy at the NHL level and I’m confident that he will eventually slot in as a top six winger. As I mentioned a few times throughout the report, I believe that his lack of a power stride holds him back from playing center. But, Mukhanov does have excellent distribution and finds gaps to pass through routinely when the pressure is on. 

If you are looking for a NHL comparable, I’d go with Andrew Mangiapane. A forward, who is undersized, but tenacious and has a motor that just won’t quit. 

I had asked Smaht’s Russian and Finnish scout, Gray Matter to comment on the recent trade which sent Mukhanov to Cherepovets and what it means for his continued development next season.

“I mean Cherepovets is getting a great young player, I kinda doubt he’ll be a consistent or particularly impactful KHLer next season still though. I think another year spent primarily in the VHL would be the best scenario. It would allow him room to lean more into further developing his offensive qualities, which would be good for him in the long run. If he’s rushed into the KHL next year, I think he likely plays more of a limited checking role, which I do feel is a role he’d excel at, but I think that extra VHL year would do wonders, and he’d be well worth the wait. ” – Gray Matter

Latest Update

May 22, 2023

stats from InStat and EliteProspects

Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.

Looking for other scouting reports? Check out the Prospects tab for our other scouting reports.

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Scouting Report: Mikhail Gulyayev

Photo Credit: HC Avangard

Mikhail Gulyayev is a 2023 NHL Draft eligible prospect, who hails from Novosibirsk, Russia and plays in the Avangard Omsk system. Gulyayev’s father, Alexander played hockey in Russia in the early 1990’s and has coached Mikhail during his time with the Avangard youth teams.

This season, Gulyayev has played in the MHL (Russian junior hockey), VHL (Russian minor hockey) and the KHL. As you would expect, he put up quite a bit of production in junior play but played more conservatively when called up to the VHL and KHL levels. But, Gulyayev has shined in the VHL and KHL levels in his own zone. His defensive pressure has stayed consistent no matter the level.

Player Profile

D.O.B – April 26, 2005
Nationality – Russian
Draft Eligibility – 2023
Height –5’10″
Weight –170 lbs
Position – Defense
Handedness – Left

Gulyayev’s Style of Play


When Gulyayev has the puck in his zone, he can be very conservative with his play and generally stays at the point. It doesn’t seem to matter what level Gulyayev is at. If he has open space in front of him that he can use to get around pressure (from a distance), he still won’t budge. Instead of pinching up to get himself closer to the perimeter, he is resorting to taking shot after shot from the blue line. Gulyayev doesn’t have as much control of his shot from the point and thus you’ll see him struggle with getting shots on net. Quite a few of his shots end up going wide. While he does take a good volume of shots from the blue line, he does a good job with toeing the line using his crossovers. By toeing the line, he shifts laterally along the blue line to get himself in a centered position with enough separation for him to take a shot towards net front. With all of that said, most of Gulyayev’s 5v5 points are primary assists on re-directed goals.

While he doesn’t usually pinch up when he has the puck, if he doesn’t have the puck and the loose puck is rolling up towards the blue line, he does a good job of pinching up to the puck to keep the puck in the zone. If its a tight battle to get his mitts on the puck, he looks to push the puck towards the corner. 

When Gulyayev is shooting off the rush, he struggles with scanning and fails to identify shooting lanes with enough of a gap for him to get the puck through. That leads to quite a few shots getting blocked. I would like to see Gulyayev change his approach when pressure closes in on him. He has the mobility to shift around pressure, but he isn’t using it. Honestly, I don’t care if Gulyayev gives up the puck every now and then when shifting around the attacker covering him. I want him to take a stab at using his mobility to net separation. Once he has the separation, he’s proven that he has the speed to peel away. 

Gulyayev is quite good with his distribution. He has excellent power in his cross ice passes and gets the puck to his target rather quickly. He’ll look to complete cross ice feeds to teammates in a backdoor position. But, most of his distribution is coming from the point and not pinching up. There are a few shifts in every game where he is less conservative and pinches up to make a pass to the slot, but it’s not as consistent as you’d like it to be.

If he does intend to be more of a conservative defenseman when it comes to pinching, I would like to see Gulyayev work on manipulating his opponents by drawing attackers who are puck watching to one side. After he pulls the attackers to one side, he can then create a passing lane to utilize. For instance, in the clip below, you will watch him settle for a low danger shot on net. But, I’d like to see him try to fake the shot, shift left, pull the attack and complete a cross ice pass to #28 in white.


Gulyayev is very good defensively and has excellent gap control. He stays well-aligned to puck movement in low danger. No matter what league he is in (KHL, VHL and MHL), he’s quick to adjust to puck movement and maintains his positioning nicely in the corners. While he is mobile, shifty and always on guard, he isn’t shutting down play. He isn’t using his physicality to truly trap attackers. Instead, he looks to apply enough pressure to keep the opponent skating around in low danger, but doesn’t completely trap the attacker. 

His positioning is quite good. For instance, when his defensive partner deviates and attends to puck movement in the opposite corner, Gulyayev quickly shifts to cover the slot. But, should he find himself out of position, he has the foot speed to get himself back into position to defend against puck movement.

Gulyayev does have an active stick and extends his stick out to trap attackers along the boards and when they are approaching the perimeter. He will push his stick blade out towards the attacker who has possession of the puck to keep the attacker further back. It doesn’t matter what league he is in, Gulyayev is quite assertive with his active stick deployment and he uses it quite nicely to instill traps.

Not only does Gulyayev have a great active stick, but he tracks pucks well and has great reaction timing. He does a good job of identifying the precise moment to extend out his stick an intercept passes.

In a 2 on 2 situation, where the oppositional puck carrier is skating through the face-off circle in low danger (Gulyayev’s teammate is covering the puck carrier) and a teammate of the attacker provides a passing option in medium danger, Gulyayev will extend his stick blade out to eliminate the attacker as a passing option for the oppositional puck carrier. Gulyayev will do a good job of maintaining presence and knows that he can deploy his stick in the other direction to shut down the oppositional puck carrier should the carrier move into the slot.

When it comes to puck retrievals, he needs to be faster to the puck. It’s not that he doesn’t have the speed to get to the loose puck, it’s the opposite. He has the speed, but he is slowing down and coasting before capturing the puck. Since he is slowing down, the attacker who is also vying for the puck can close in and force Gulyayev to quickly pass the puck after retrieval. With that said, when an attacker is behind him and Gulyayev is now vulnerable, he is forced to pass the puck along the boards towards the red line. I’ll discuss this a bit more in the skating section.

Gulyayev utilizes the boards quite regularly when he looks to pass and there is an attacker who is standing in front of him to separate Gulyayev from his teammate further down in the Avangard defensive zone. But, should Gulyayev be at more of a centered position on the rush (not along the half-wall boards) and pressure intensifies, he’ll complete saucer passes to get the puck through tight gaps. He is a solid stretch passer as well and can complete long range passes with ease. 

In his KHL sample, I’ve found him to be very conservative and timid with his zone exit methods. Even when he has space to activate and quickly get into stride, he doesn’t and opts to immediately pass. For instance, look at how much space he has here and still looks to pass.

Transitional Play

As mentioned a few times throughout the scouting report, he does a great job of staying well aligned to puck carriers no matter the zone or level. It’s no different in the neutral zone. He will deploy quality edges and crossovers to keep pace. If he isn’t in the same lane as the puck carrier when the carrier enters into the neutral zone and is in more of a centered position at open ice, he will use his crossovers to move himself laterally.

Should he be a bit further away by the time the attacker gets in range, Gulyayev will use an active stick in a last ditch effort. He’ll extend his stick out to slow down the rush.

In tight loose puck battles at open ice in the neutral zone, you will see Gulyayev widen his stance when he has the upper hand on the puck to ensure that he can capture the puck cleanly. 

At times, Gulyayev decides to intensify his pressure when in the neutral zone and looks to pounce on a puck carrier immediately after they cross the blue line. You don’t usually see a defenseman be that assertive and it’s interesting to see Gulyayev want to be assertive with taking away space when on the flip side when he has the puck and open space in front of him he tends to be less assertive. 

I’ll talk about this a bit next in the skating section, but when Gulyayev has the puck on his stick in the neutral zone, he has the skating speed to get around pressure and drive up into the offensive zone. But, more regularly than not, you will see Gulyayev complete a zone exit pass in his own zone instead of driving the rush through the neutral zone.


Gulyayev manufactures excellent speed with his crossovers and lengthy stride extensions. When under pressure, he leverages both his crossovers and straight line extensions to net the speed that he needs to blast by the attacker. 

As I mentioned in the defensive section, there are plenty of instances in which Gulyayev is chasing after loose pucks, but stops short. When stopping short, he ends up coasting towards the puck and that allows the attacker also vying for the puck to sneak up on Gulyayev to give him no room once Gulyayev captures the puck. I’d like to see Gulyayev work on keeping his feet moving towards the puck instead of slowing down. If he does, he will win loose pucks, escape and drive up the ice with the puck.

His activation off of pivots allows him to keep strong pressure when facing a puck carrier who is trying to pivot out of pressure. His activation allows him to stay toe to toe with the opponent. In scenarios in which Gulyayev slightly out of position or when there is a drastic change in puck movement, he will activate his speed nicely off of the hop.


Gulyayev has the mobility and the speed to be productive off of the rush, but isn’t really using his mobility to generate open ice for himself. With that said, he really needs to get out of his comfort zone and stop settling for low danger shots. I do believe that the mobility is there and he just needs to deploy it. But, every other facet of his game is well-rounded.

Even if he doesn’t use his mobility more and plays more of a conservative game at the NHL level, he will still earn plenty of minutes because of his defensive pressure, but he won’t have as big of a role. I do see Gulyayev playing in a top four defensive role, but if he doesn’t end up using his mobility more and more, he will likely end moving up and down in the lineup. But, at the same point, Gulyayev has been trained to play more conservatively like quite a few Russian defensemen and there are NHL teams that are looking for more conservative defensemen. Some teams will want Gulyayev to use his mobility and some might ask him to stay put along the blue line in the offensive zone.

He can be an asset on the power play at the NHL level with how well he toes the line to open up space for himself when an attacker is present, but he still needs the mobility to pinch up and drive play into / towards the slot. 

Latest Update

May 11, 2023

stats from InStat and EliteProspects

Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.

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Scouting Report: William Whitelaw

Photo Credit: Galvin Photography, Scott Galvin

William Whitelaw is a 2023 NHL Draft prospect, who played for the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms past season. Whitelaw was selected first overall by the Phantoms in the 2021 USHL Futures Draft and made his USHL debut the following season. Prior to playing for the Phantoms, he played at Shattuck St. Mary’s, the MN Rangers 14U AAA squad and the MN Bruins 15U AAA squad.

This season, Whitelaw was nearly a point per game player. He had 61 points in 64 games for the Phantoms. In addition, to this point, he has played in two playoff games for the Phantoms this year and has registered two points in those games.

The Rosemount, Minnesota native is committed to the University of Wisconsin and will be wearing a Badgers jersey next season. 

Player Profile

D.O.B – February 5, 2005
Nationality – American
Draft Eligibility – 2023
Height –5’9″
Weight –172 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Right

Whitelaw’s Style Of Play


Whitelaw has excellent puck manipulation that he will use off of the rush when driving to the net and facing pressure. He will draw attackers to one side to open up ice for himself on the other side. While along the boards mid cycle, Whitelaw doesn’t use his stick-handling to get himself out of sticky situations. Instead, he looks to pivot out from the pressure. 

Not only does Whitelaw possess solid puck manipulation, but he also has good positional manipulation. When skating into the offensive zone with the puck and there is a decent amount of pressure waiting for Whitelaw from the get go, he’ll skate to a centered position along the point, that pulls the attacker with him and opens up an open lane on Whitelaw’s side for his teammate skating into the zone behind Whitelaw. Once his teammate is in range, Whitelaw then hits the teammate in stride or he will try a behind the back pass from a slightly angled position to get the puck to the open teammate. 

Whitelaw loves to forecheck. Throughout the course of the season, Youngstown had deployed him as the #1 in 1-2-2 forecheck scheme. Whitelaw can net quality speed off of his crossovers to fight for loose pucks and to put himself into situations in which he can trap attackers along the boards with the puck. Once Whitelaw is in range of the puck carrier along the boards, he will close them off completely with a check and look to force a turnover in possession. He is constantly battling behind the red line and finishing checks whenever he can get to the attacker in time. In addition, Whitelaw does a good job of identifying those puck carriers who seem to be a bit vulnerable and will use his physicality to shut them down.

Whitelaw really likes to get under your skin. He can be like a shark when on the forecheck. He will bump elbows and make his presence known. Watch this clip and focus on #8 in white.

When without possession of the puck in the offensive zone, Whitelaw is wired to go to net front and get open ice for himself to collect pucks from the point that were meant for him or collecting rebounds. In those situations in which he is driving with the puck to net off of the rush, he will look to force the goaltender into playing low so he will drive the puck with his backhand once entering the low slot. The goaltender will drop low to take away the five hole, but Whitelaw is looking to manipulate the goaltender into doing so because he can that opens up a lot of space up. But, also it can lead to five hole goals like this one against Madison from March 24th.

Another example of what Whitelaw can do with manipulation at net front. Goal against Cedar Rapids from April 15th.

While Whitelaw does generate a lot of quality scoring chances at net front, I’d like to further fine tune his shot from range. He isn’t putting enough weight transfer into his shot, isn’t elevating his shot and needs to work on shot angling. Sometimes his shots from range are going wide because Whitelaw doesn’t have the stick blade aligned with the net. I’ve seen quite a few shot attempts across the games that I’ve watched in which Whitelaw is struggling to get his shot on net from the perimeter. When Whitelaw tries to complete a shot immediately off of a turn, he isn’t transferring enough weight when doing so and that is limiting the power that the shot could possess. 

Speaking of angling with his stick blade, I have seen Whitelaw struggle with angling his stick blade and lining it up with a puck that is destined to come to him. Since the blade isn’t directly on the ice and not angled with the puck, you aren’t going to trap possession.

Whitelaw’s distribution is quite good when in tight situations. For instance, check out this primary assist on a Martin Mišiak goal. Whitelaw found a tight lane and feathered the puck through it. Plus, check out Mišiak’s Jaromir Jagr salute towards the end of the clip. 

He can also be extremely deceptive with his puck distribution. Should he run out of room and looks to distribute the puck to teammates behind him, he will complete behind the back passes. 

While Whitelaw does a great job at distributing when the pressure intensifies, he doesn’t look to pass to the slot regularly when pressure comes into play. He ends up shooting quite a bit.


Since he’s usually being deployed as the #1 in a 1-2-2 forecheck for Youngstown, he is usually the last one back into the defensive zone for the Phantoms. When he gets back to the zone, he looks to skate into space and take away a skating lane to the slot when he sees an attacker looking to flee with the puck from the half-wall boards. Whitelaw will extend his out stick to cause puck disruption when in range. He will look to stick lift the shaft of the attacker’s stick to shake the puck free. Should the puck end up in the hands of a teammate, Whitelaw will skate into space and that allows his teammate to pass the puck towards Whitelaw. The teammate is stuck trying to ward off the attacker who lost possession of the puck and so Whitelaw having open ice in front of him is an attractive option.

While Whitelaw will use stick lift to cause puck disruption, he won’t shy away from using physicality to win possession of loose pucks. When a puck breaks loose and he is in position to make it a challenge for the attacker to grab a hold of the puck, he will use his physicality to do so and even at open ice.

When in control of the puck in his zone and runs into pressure, he looks to pass and has no issue passing through tight lanes. If he has a tight lane to use, he won’t hold back if he is trying to thread a cross ice feed. But, if he can’t find that tight lane to pass through, he audibles and looks to complete a behind the back pass to get the puck away from pressure and to a teammate behind him.

You won’t often see Whitelaw use his stick-handling to shake free nor try to manipulate the attacker’s position. He either looks to make the pass or dumps the puck down the ice.

Transitional Play

As I mentioned in the defense section of the report, Whitelaw has usually been deployed at #1 in the 1-2-2 forecheck for Youngstown and that means to more often then not Whitelaw is the last Phantoms forward back in the neutral zone when the attack is driving the rush. But, when gets into position, his hunger for the puck is evident immediately. He looks to take away space and put pressure on attackers closer to the opponent’s zone. Should oppositional puck movement shift from side to side on a dime, Whitelaw has shown that he has the speed via his crossovers and edgework to put himself into a slightly more centered position to defend against the puck carrier. Since he is taking a centered position, he forces the attack to drive along the boards and that allows his defensemen to trap the attacker at the defensive zone blue line.

Whitelaw uses his crossovers nicely when driving up through the neutral zone when he attacks the middle of the ice and encounters multiple attackers that he has to shift around to complete the transition. But, if pressure becomes far too intense, Whitelaw is quick with his decision making off of the rush. When on the move and facing pressure, he’s shown time and again that he can quickly distribute the puck while skating up through the zone. He looks to get the puck into the hands of a teammate at the offensive zone blue line to complete a give and go zone entry. By completing a give and go zone entry, that will allow him to transfer possession of the puck and then skate up into slot to create space for himself. That then leads to the teammate completing a controlled zone entry and firing a pass to Whitelaw.

When he doesn’t have possession of the puck in the neutral zone, but the Phantoms do have possession, he looks to create the intriguing passing lane that leads to successful zone entry for the Phantoms by parking himself near the offensive zone blue line.


Whitelaw’s skating is quite strong. He has excellent straight line extensions and crossovers to generate speed. Whitelaw does a good job of leveraging both when looking to beat an attacker to a loose puck when he is slightly further back then the attacker who is vying for the puck with him. By leveraging both crossovers and straight line extensions, he can build up the acceleration through his crossovers and shift his angling before adding to his speed with a lengthy power stride. Constantly, you will see Whitelaw use his crossovers to get himself into position to put tight pressure on attackers when reacting to sudden changes in oppositional puck movement. 

When the Phantoms are pushing the puck up the ice and he is leading the rush, he uses his crossovers to avoid pressure by shifting his direction. If he doesn’t have possession of the puck, he will use his crossovers nicely to shift his positioning quickly east-west to open up passing lanes for his teammate to use.


I believe that Whitelaw is a top six winger at the NHL level. While he has played center in his youth, if you play him at center in the NHL, you would have to change his puck hunting approach and In my opinion that would be a huge mistake.

I would go with Conor Garland as a player comparison for Whitelaw. Like Garland, Whitelaw is tenacious in his pursuit of the puck in the offensive zone and does a great job with distribution when the pressure is on.

If you draft Whitelaw, you want him to keep developing his physical play in all three zones. He is constantly looking to pounce on attackers for the puck in the offensive zone, but it’s a little bit less prevalent in the neutral and defensive zones. In addition, I’d like to see Whitelaw work on his shot angling and pass to the slot more when pressure closes up on him. If Whitelaw replaces a few of his shots from distance when pressure is present to passes to the slot through tight lanes, his assist totals will go up. 

Latest Update

May 3, 2023

stats from InStat and EliteProspects

Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.

Looking for other scouting reports? Check out the Prospects tab for our other scouting reports.

Need a scouting report on a particular prospect, contact us today!