With the IIHF U-18 world championships done, the main scouting season is nearing an end for the 2023 NHL Draft, with only the final rounds of junior playoffs and a handful of athletes at the senior world championships.
With Canada suffering a dismal showing at the U-18s, a few players saw their draft stock drop, while the Americans and Swedes saw a boost for their top players.
Here is an updated look at the top 64 prospects, and some honorable mentions for the 2023 NHL Draft.
Connor Bedard, F, Regina, WHL - It’s Connor Bedard’s world and the Blackhawks will see an immediate shift in their organization. Elite talent like Bedard’s comes along once a decade, and it’s his turn to attempt to dethrone Connor McDavid, like McDavid did to Sidney Crosby. Hands, speed, scoring, Bedard can do it all.
Adam Fantilli, F, Michigan, NCAA - Making Canada’s senior national team for the world championship is a sign of how mature Fantilli’s game is. He’s the complete package who in any other year would be a first-overall pick. The big pivot could return to Michigan for another year, but he’s NHL-ready.
Matvei Michkov, F, SKA St. Petersburg, KHL - After changing teams midseason, we saw the electrifying skill that had the Bedard vs. Michkov conversation raging the past few seasons. The drawback with Michkov has always been his contract in Russia, but when he unequivocally stated his goal is to play in the NHL, the fear factor teams were feeling has dissipated.
Leo Carlsson, F, Orebro, SHL - Carlsson started stealing headlines midseason with his performance at the World Juniors and in the SHL playing against veteran professionals. He’s one of the most NHL-ready prospects out there as a player who is physically mature and loves to drive the puck to the middle of the ice. He’s a power forward in waiting who, depending who selects him, could be in the NHL sooner than later.
Will Smith, F, USNTDP, U18 - When Smith was cut from USA’s World Junior roster, it turned some heads. So all he did was go out and break records, scoring 20 points and nine goals to lead the IIHF U-18 world championships in scoring. He has elite vision and can make passes through seams where it appears none exist. Prior to the U-18s, this statement would have seemed outlandish but Smith could knock someone who was seemingly cemented all year out of the top four. He's headed to Boston College next season.
Zach Benson, F, Winnipeg, WHL - Few have the offensive tools of Benson. He attacks off the crossover and is evasive using both his skating and hands. The only thing Benson needs is physical maturity. When that portion catches up to his brain, he has top-six forward written all over him.
Ryan Leonard, F, USNTDP, U18 - Leonard is relentless in his approach to the game, attacking on the forecheck and forcing turnovers with pace. At the U-18s, he showcased high-end offensive skills that we knew were there all along. While some of his American teammates reacted to the play to generate their chances, Leonard drove the play.
Axel Sandin Pellikka, D, Skellefteå AIK, U20 Sweden - At this point in the draft, teams might vary on their selections based on organizational need, but it will be hard to pass on Sandin Pellikka. He is smooth and generates offense coming out of transition and by transporting pucks from his zone. Along the offensive line, he finds shooting and passing lanes with ease, and when one isn’t there, he creates one.
Eduard Sale, F, Brno, Czechia - Sale can push back defenders on the rush, and excels on the power play. He was Czechia’s top scorer at the U-18s, but didn’t dominate. Still, he looks mature beyond others, likely from seasoning his game among professional men this season. Sale’s stock has slipped a little, but not because of his poor play, rather others have climbed.
Dalibor Dvorsky, F, AIK, Allsvenskan - At the IIHF U-18 worlds, Dvorsky answered a lot of questions. He’s one of the best pure scorers in the draft, potting eight goals and 13 points in seven games. Originally discussed in the top five, Dvorsky could prove a steal if teams allow him to fall.
David Reinbacher, D, Kloten, NL - From upside to simply up, Reinbacher has climbed all season. He could end up as the first defender chosen when all is said and done. You wouldn’t know he was an 18-year-old playing in one of Europe’s top professional leagues this season, and that was again evident as he was selected to represent Switzerland’s senior national team at the world championships.
Andrew Cristall, F, Kelowna, WHL - At the U-18s, Cristall was…ok. His vision and playmaking were still evident, but he was unable to dominate opponents like he did this season in the WHL. The blip was likely a blip, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him slide into the second half of the opening round.
Oliver Moore, F, USNTDP, U18 - If it wasn’t for how spectacular his teammates were at the U-18s, Moore could be in the top 10. He’s a deceptive puck handler and an excellent shooter who plays more of a two-dimensional game. His value to Team USA was equal to his higher scoring teammates, but when it comes to top 10 picks, teams often take offensive flash over a balanced contributor.
Gabe Perreault, F, USNTDP, U18 - Speaking of offensive flash, few have scored as much this season as Perreault. There’s little doubt he can play a power-play role and eventually be a top-six forward in the NHL, but he also needs to round out the finer points to his game and learn to be equally astute on the other side of the puck.
Matthew Wood, F, UConn, NCAA - Wood started the year on fire in the NCAA, and ended it as Canada’s best player at the U-18 worlds, leading the team in goals and finishing second in points. He has a professional body, and he likes to use it to gain an advantage on 50-50 pucks. Whether he’s a third-liner who can slide up a lineup, or he finds his way into a top six, Wood will likely play only one more season of NCAA hockey and then get a taste of the big leagues.
Nate Danielson, F, Brandon, WHL - Captaining Brandon in the WHL, Danielson likely benefited from not going to the worlds alongside the rest of Canada’s top prospects. He does everything well, and as a mid-first-round pick, he’s a safe selection, particularly for anyone who has multiple opening-round selections. He plays a pro style two-way game, and can be counted on to play hard in all three zones.
Otto Stenberg, F, Frolunda, J20 Sweden - Few saw their stock rise at the U-18s as much as Stenberg. He was brilliant for Sweden using his never-ending motor, flashy hands, and his willingness to get into puck battles and come out on top. He’s a thorn in the side of his opponents and he’s proven he can contribute offensively as well. Will he go this high? Maybe. Teams were drooling over his U-18 performance, and it could be enough for someone to take a flier on the forward.
Mikhail Gulyayev, D, Omskie Yastreby, KHL - He’s mobile and plays a fluid style that has become so common in elite NHL blueliners. Projecting his ceiling is slightly difficult because he was nearly invisible in the KHL, and didn’t get the opportunity to showcase himself against elite international talent. His ability to change pace with the puck, evade checkers, and close gaps with his skating is exceptional.
Colby Barlow - F, Owen Sound, OHL - Some scouts love Barlow, others, not so much. He’s definitely a first-round pick, but it’s a question of whether his offensive abilities are enough to trade off the other items he still needs to work on, specifically his play away from the puck. Barlow can score in so many different ways and possesses an excellent release, but like much of Team Canada at the U-18 Worlds, his performance did nothing to help his stock.
Brayden Yager, F, Moose Jaw, WHL - A fantastic shooter, Yager upped his compete level in the playoffs with Moose Jaw. The middle portion of Round 1 is wide open, meaning Yager could conceivably go several slots higher or a few slots lower. Of the sub-six-foot forwards available here, Yager is one who you can see is working to improve his performance off the puck, and his shot is incredible. When he releases a shot, which can come from any point surrounding his body in stride, Yager rarely misses.
Calum Ritchie, F, Oshawa, OHL - Utilizes his 6-foot-2 frame well, but has struggled at times this season after a spectacular campaign that had scouts scrambling to see him play last season. Still, Ritchie has a great shot and has shown glints of excellence. He needs to be more consistent, but if this campaign isn’t indicative of his future, he could turn into a pick teams kick themselves for passing on.
Dmitri Simashev, D, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, KHL - A mobile defender with a 6-foot-4 frame, Simashev is not going to dazzle with offensive numbers, but he’s so effective defensively that it’s a trade worth making. That said, he transports the puck well with his long stride, but the best part of Simashev’s game is his ability to take away time, space, and lanes, eating up the defensive zone.
Riley Heidt, F, Prince George, WHL - A high-end playmaker with an excellent release, Heidt is a power-play dream, but he had a disastrous U-18 showing and his compete level off the puck shows signs for concern. He opened the year in top 10 contention, but has steadily dropped off.
Samuel Honzek, F, Vancouver, WHL - He’s a big-bodied winger who moves well for his 6-foot-4 frame. He uses that size to win puck battles and to take away lanes in a defensive role. He was effective on both special teams.
Tom Willander, D, Rogle, J20 Sweden - Willander has been a defender on the rise all season, which he capped with a spectacular U-18 men’s world championship. Willander is calm and fluid, and can break oncoming checkers to continue the transition or breakout. He’s headed to Boston University, where he’ll look to quickly adapt to North American ice.
Quentin Musty, F, Sudbury, OHL - A great shooter, the 6-foot-2 forward has been the OHL’s top-scoring draft-eligible player for much of the season. He’s come on in the last month and is showing signs that he can distribute as well as finish.
Kasper Halttunen, F, HIFK, Liiga - Taking a page out of Will Smith’s book, Halttunen turned a World Juniors snub into a strong U-18 tournament. The 6-foot-3 forward sees limited time in Liiga, which likely resulted in Finland’s decision to go with other options at the U-20 tournament. He topped all Finnish scorers at the U-18s with 10 points in five games to show that, yes, he does belong in Round 1.
Bradley Nadeau, F, Penticton, BCHL - Headed to the NCAA with Maine next season, Nadeau is a fascinating prospect because it’s difficult to compare his performance in the BCHL to those elsewhere in North America. Nadeau has soft hands and excellent vision. It would not be surprising to see teams wait on him as he is one of the higher-risk, higher-reward players in the draft.
Daniil But, F, Loko Yaroslavl, MHL - The 6-foot-5 power forward has climbed and fallen and climbed again. When he arrives at the net front, people are moving whether they like it or not. The Russian risk is real, but allowing But time to grow overseas will pay off in the long run.
David Edstrom, F, Frolunda, J20 Sweden - Edstrom is a prospect that in some ways has come out of nowhere but in other ways has been playing a solid game all season, scoring a point per game with Frolunda’s J20 team. Where the 6-foot-3 forward stood out most this year was when the stakes were raised. He had four points in 11 SHL games, a total some junior players only achieve in triple the amount of games, and he played a key role on Sweden’s top line at the U-18 world championships. Sleeper pick no more, Edstrom has arrived.
Lukas Dragicevic, D, Tri-City, WHL - There are multiple truths about Dragicevic’s game. He can move the puck, join the rush, and generate offense. He also has glaring issues he needs to resolve in his own end and defending the rush. Those two truths were on full display at the U-18s. Late in the first round, teams can take a shot on Dragicevic and work on developing the other half of his game. In reality, he’s OK defensively, but that won’t cut it at the next level.
Gavin Brindley, F, Michigan, NCAA - An excellent passer and relentless in his puck pursuit, Brindley became more and more overshadowed by the plethora of talent on Michigan’s roster as the season progressed. He could easily slide out of the first round altogether as the 2023 draft has excellent parity between picks 25 to 45.
Jayden Perron, F, Chicago, USHL
Alex Ciernik, F, Sodertalje, U20 Sweden
Koehn Ziemmer, F, Prince George, WHL
Michael Hrabal, G, Omaha, USHL
Luca Pinelli, F, Ottawa, OHL
Charlie Stramel, F, Wisconsin, NCAA
Trey Augustine, G, USNTDP, U18
Oliver Bonk, D, London, OHL
Ethan Gauthier, F, Sherbrooke, QMJHL
Noah Dower Nilsson, F, Frolunda, J20 Sweden
Tanner Molendyk, D, Saskatoon, WHL
Étienne Morin, D, Moncton, QMJHL
Caden Price, D, Kelowna, WHL
Emil Jarventie, F, Ilves, Liiga
Maxim Strbak, D, Sioux Falls, USHL
Jesse Kiiskinen, F, Pelicans, J20 Finland
Kalan Lind, F, Red Deer, WHL
Ondrej Molnar, F, HK Nitra, Slovakia
Beau Akey, D, Barrie, OHL
Jakub Dvorak, D, Bili Tygri Liberec, Czechia
Hunter Brzustewicz, D, Kitchener, OHL
Noel Nordh, F, Brynas IF, J20 Sweden
Zeb Forsfjall, F, Skellefteå AIK, J20 Sweden
Luca Cagnoni, D, Portland, WHL
Nick Lardis, F, Hamilton OHL
Carson Bjarnason, G, Brandon, WHL
Oscar Fisker Mølgaard (F, HV71, SHL)
Gracyn Sawchyn, F, Seattle, WHL
Mathieu Cataford, F, Halifax, QMJHL
Roman Kantserov, F, Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk, MHL
Lenni Hämeenaho, F, Pori, Liiga
Cameron Allen, D, Guelph, OHL
Honorable Mentions: Jordan Tourigny (D, Shawinigan, QMJHL), Jesse Nurmi (F, KooKoo, U20 Finland), Theo Lindstein (D, Brynas, Sweden), Danny Nelson (F, USNTDP, U18), Carson Rehkopf (F, Kitchener, OHL), Tyler Peddle (F, Drummondville, QMJHL), Denver Barkey (F, London, OHL), William Whitelaw (F, Youngstown, USHL), Aram Minnetian (D, USNTDP, U18), Kalem Parker (D, Victoria, WHL), Anton Wahlberg, Malmo, J20, Sweden), Timur Mukhanov (F, Omskie Yastreby, MHL), Jayson Shaugabay (F, Warroad High, USHS), Felix Unger Sorum (F, Leksand, J20 Sweden), Gavin McCarthy, (D, Muskegon, USHL)