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The definitive 2023 NHL Mock Draft*

photo of Nashville
Photo by mana5280 / Unsplash

The Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t making their first selection in the 2023 NHL draft until some time in the middle of the afternoon on Thursday. That doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun looking at what the other teams are going to be doing tonight in Nashville. Most websites are mocking the entire first round, but that reeks of effort.

Besides, even in a deep draft such as this one, once you get outside of the first ten picks, things start to go haywire. Teams start relying on their own scouting evaluations and the rankings start to diverge. So we’re going to just see how we do on the first ten picks.

There is one absolute iron-clad lock in this draft – Connor Bedard is going to the Chicago Blackhawks with the first pick. After that, their are three players that are likely to go 2-4, but no one is quite sure in what order they’ll go. After that things open up a little bit more and we could start seeing some teams try to jump up to grab the player they want.

For TV coverage in the United States, tune into ESPN and ESPN+ at 7:00 PM EST. Rounds two through seven will take place on Thursday starting at 11:00 AM EST with coverage taking place on the NHL Network.

1. Chicago Blackhawks – Connor Bedard – C – Regina Pats

An absolute no-brainer of a pick for Chicago. Bedard has been the consensus number one pick for the last couple of years and, unlike last year with Shane Wright, no one has rocketed up the rankings to take his place. Just as the Jonathan Toews/Patrick Kane Era ends, a new one will begin. Bedard has all the tools to be a franchise center and Chicago’s biggest challenge will be to surround him with supporting talent.

2. Anaheim Ducks – Adam Fantilli – C – University of Michigan

In pretty much any other draft, Fantilli would probably go number one overall. Dylan Duke’s teammate at the University of Michigan put up 65 points (30 goals, 35 assists) in 36 games and another 2 goals and 3 assists during the World Juniors. He’s a threat to score whenever he touches the puck in the offensive zone and will be yet another young talented playmaker for the Ducks along with Trevor Zegras, Mason McTavish, and Troy Terry.

3. Columbus Blue Jackets – Leo Carlsson – C – Orebo HK

The Blue Jackets’ consolation prize for getting hosed in the draft lottery is the player most likely to hit the ground running in the NHL. Carlsson, as a youngish 18-year-old, scored 10 goals in 44 SHL games with Orebo HK last season. He has size (6’3″, 194 pounds) and hockey sense. Not only is he a skilled playmaker, but an effective forechecker as well. He is signed with Orebo for next season so the Blue Jackets could elect to let him develop over there for one more season.

4. San Jose Sharks – Will Smith – C – U.S. NTDP

Things like start getting dicey at this point. San Jose could go the defensive route and take David Reinbacher, especially if they are set on trading Erik Karlsson, but the opportunity to add a dynamic center to a prospect group that includes William Eklund and Thomas Bordeleau may be too tempting to pass up for general manager Mike Grier.

In 123 games with the U.S. National Team Development Program he has posted 83 goals and 109 assists, second all time to Jack Hughes. Scouts consider him the most talented one-on-one player in the draft and is right up there with Bedard in terms of offensive talent. He is committed to Boston College next year.


Montreal Canadiens trade the 5th overall pick of 2023 NHL draft to the Washington Capitals for the 8th overall pick in the 2023 NHL draft, the 40th overall pick in the 2023 NHL draft, and a conditional 3rd round pick in 2024 (highest of the three picks the Capitals currently own)

5. Washington Capitals – Matvei Michkov – RW – SKA St. Petersburg

After hearing the swirling rumors that the Flyers might be interested in drafting the most enigmatic player in the draft, the Capitals talk the Canadiens into trading first round picks to draft the Russian winger. An undersized (5’10”, 172-pound) playmaking wizard with average skating and questions surrounding his signability. Is this Nikita Kucherov 2.0?

With Russia being banned from international competition over the last few years and some NHL teams pulling their scouts from Russia, some teams haven’t seen him play live since he was 16-years-old. He was loaned to HK Sochi for 27 games and with increased playing time, put up 20 points (9 goals, 11 assists). He is reportedly meeting with teams in Nashville this week after not being at the draft combine earlier this month.

How cool would it be for him to be on the ice setting up Alex Ovechkin for the goal that breaks Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goals record? Yes, this is when we point out that Michkov was born the same year Ovechkin was drafted (2004).

6 Arizona Coyotes – David Reinbacher – RHD – EHC Kloten

With the big name offensive players off the board, the future Salt Lake City Coyotes turn to the best defensive player in the draft in Reinbacher. He is a sizable defender that can lead a breakout with excellent skating skills and can use his size to defend in his own zone.

He’s been leaned on heavily in international play by the Austrian National team, and has plenty of playing time in the Swiss League. The Coyotes have decent talent in their offensive prospect pool, but Reinbacher would likely jump to the top of their defensive rankings. He could likely find himself in the NHL next season.

7. Philadelphia Flyers – Ryan Leonard – RW – U.S. NTDP

With Michkov off the board, the Flyers turn to the best offensive prospect on the board in Ryan Leonard. While Will Smith drew a lot of attention with the U.S. NTDP, Leonard might be the most complete American player in this year’s draft. He posted 51 goals in 57 games and is a prototypical power forward. If Daniel Briere and Keith Jones are looking to build the next version of the Flyers in the gritty tradition of the old Flyers, Leonard is an excellent building block.

He has the wheels to skate past players, but can also force himself to the front of the net. Leonard can also backcheck and chase down opponents with the puck. Like Smith, Leonard is committed to Boston College next season. That’s going to be a heck of a team to watch.

8. Montreal Canadiens – Dalibor Dvorsky – C – AIK

We’re getting into a nebulous area with the prospects now. Montreal has a nice young stable of talented forwards and could look to pick the next best defensive prospect in Tom Willander, but you can never have too much offense so we’re predicting they go with Slovakian forward Dalibor Dvorsky.

The 18-year-old already has three years of professional experience under his belt and is currently playing in the second-tier Swedish league. He projects as a two-way forward that can play center or wing. A solid skater and distributor of the puck, Dvorsky won’t likely win any scoring titles, but could be an effective middle-six forward that shuts down tough competition while chipping in some goals.

9. Detroit Red Wings – Tom Willander – RHD – Rogle BK

Detroit has five picks in the first 43 selections of this year’s draft. Do they package some of those to move up? Possibly. They could also move some of those picks for an NHL ready player to help with the Yzerplan. Let’s assume that they are targeting Willander to eventually join Moritz Seider in their defensive group. The Swedish blueline has been one of the biggest movers among draft-eligible players this year as he’s skyrocketed up the rankings.

He is a high-compete, solid defensive blueliner that doesn’t panic while being forechecked and has the puck-moving skills to get the puck out of dangerous areas. After playing professionally in Sweden Willander has committed to Boston University (is everyone in this draft going to be living in Boston this fall?).

10 St. Louis Blues – Nate Danielson – C – Brandon Wheat Kings

We’re ten picks into this draft and just now getting to our second CHL prospect. Hockey is seriously becoming a global game. At this point in the draft there isn’t much difference in the rankings. Danielson was called out by Bedard as the player that gave him the most trouble.

He is a 200-foot player with speed and above-average skating ability. Considered one of the “safest” picks, Danielson isn’t the flashiest player among his peers, but could end up being one of the most productive players to come out of the 2023 draft class. We’ll also consider him the player the Lightning are most likely to acquire at the 2026 trade deadline for multiple draft picks.

So, let’s sit back and see how our predictions pan out. If you’re looking for more draft coverage check out these links:

The Athletic Mock Draft

EOTP’s Consensus NHL Draft Rankings

ESPN Mock Draft (ESPN+)

NHL.com Mock Draft

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