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2023 NHL mock draft: Latest projections ahead of Wednesday’s NHL Entry Draft

nhl mock draft
Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Our NHL mock draft will offer some key information on one of the most anticipated dates on the hockey calendar, the NHL Entry Draft on June 28 and 29 in Nashville, TN. Usually, this is one of the busiest times of the year for teams as they prepare for the future and consider their options for the present. 

Realistically, current players are eligible to be traded before, during, and after the event, leaving the draft as a place teams can retool before free agency starts. Although the main focus is on the prospects, teams in dire need of particular skill sets will try to move up or down in the draft in order to select someone to help them eventually win the Stanley Cup. 

Related: Top 40 NHL Draft prospects in 2023 – From Connor Bedard to Axel Sandin Pellikka

 During the final stretch, we scrolled through all the rankings and the mock drafts to calculate how the first round should break down. Ultimately, we came up with our mock draft on the first 32 selections, of course, barring any shuffling in the draft order.

1. Chicago Blackhawks – Connor Bedard, C, Canada

nhl mock draft
Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Although the Blackhawks finished with the third worse record in the NHL, they won the Draft Lottery, earning the chance to draft first overall. After allowing key members of their recent dynasty to depart, like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, Chicago will usher in a new era when they call Connor Bedard’s name with the first overall pick. 

Even though the expectations are high for him, the Blackhawks can let him blossom into a superstar without putting too much pressure on his shoulders. Considering Bedard is already compared to Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, and Mario Lemieux, Chicago shouldn’t wait long to return to contender status. 

2. Anaheim Ducks – Adam Fantilli, C/LW, Canada

Unfortunately, the days of the Anaheim Ducks being legit Stanley Cup contenders have fallen by the wayside. However, the future is bright in Southern California, with Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, and Mason McTavish building something special. 

Ultimately, the Ducks would be crazy to pass on the second-best prospect in the draft, Adam Fantilli. As the reigning Hobey Baker Award winner, he would join a relatively young Anaheim team looking to reestablish themselves as winners. 

3. Columbus Blue Jackets – Leo Carlsson, C/LW, Sweden

The Columbus Blue Jackets were a busy team last offseason, signing one of the game’s top free agents in Johnny Gaudreau. However, the team had a terrible season, spending most of the campaign at the bottom of the standings. Even though they are trying to rebuild a depleted defensive corps., their focus with their top pick should be a forward. 

Considering they have Gaudreau locked up for seven more years, he will need someone to play with, a linemate to develop chemistry with like he had in Calgary. Interestingly, Leo Carlsson will be available as the third pick and should complement Columbus’ franchise star once they play together. As the top-rated European skater in the draft, he’s a lock to go in the top five, if not the top three, as one of the most talented offensive prospects

4. San Jose Sharks – Matvei Michkov, RW, Russia

The San Jose Sharks finally embraced a rebuild, even though their star player Erik Karlsson is about to win the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman. Unfortunately, he was the lone bright spot on a team that let one of their young superstars (Timo Meier) go at the trade deadline as new GM Mike Grier shifts his focus to the future. 

Although many experts want to see the Sharks take Carlsson, he may not be available when it’s their turn, leaving two intriguing options, Matvei Michkov or Will Smith. Even though selecting Michkov would be a bold choice, since he plans on staying in Russia to play, he could eventually make his way to the NHL and become a star. As one of the top-ranked prospects outside of North America, someone will grab him within the first few selections.

5. Montreal Canadiens – Ryan Leonard, C, USA

Even though the Montreal Canadiens played in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, they have spent the past 15 years trying to build a contender with Carey Price between the pipes. As the team prepares for life without the future Hall of Famer, their recent injection of youth is about to get stronger with the addition of Ryan Leonard

Realistically, the Canadiens can go in many directions with this pick, depending on who is available. Interestingly, a handful of mock drafts have Montreal selecting Michkov and Will Smith, while one of the constant names tied to the club is Leonard, who should complement the youth movement led by current captain Nick Suzuki. 

6. Arizona Coyotes – David Reinbacher, D, Austria

Right now, the Arizona Coyotes remain in Arizona. However, the clock is ticking on whether or not this will be their last season in the desert. Although the franchise is still chasing contender status, the roster has seen its fair of young prospects turn into stars like Clayton Keller. 

Ultimately, when it’s Arizona’s turn to make a pick, they will snag one of the best defenders in the draft class, David Reinbacher. Considering the team’s highest-scoring rearguard had 34 points last year, and the Coyotes ranked amongst the worse teams in shots against and goals against, it’s time for the club to build up their back end. 

7. Philadelphia Flyers – Will Smith, C, USA

For the first time in a long time, there’s hope in the City of Brotherly Love as the Philadelphia Flyers begin another painful rebuild. Ultimately, through years of poor management choices, new GM Daniel Briere is busy fixing the system with flaws from top to bottom. 

Although a handful of mock draft scenarios project the Flyers to land Leonard with their seventh overall pick, the team will find favor with the Hockey Gods and get Will Smith instead. Considering he is among the most talented and highest-ranked skaters in the draft, Philadelphia would land a future star to help end their championship drought approaching 50 years.

8. Washington Capitals – Dalibor Dvorsky, C, Slovakia

As we make our way down the prospect list, a handful of impactful players will be off the board by the time the Washington Capitals make a pick. Nevertheless, the team will get a superstar to build around for the future once Alex Ovechkin retires. 

Although there will be some intriguing options at eighth overall, most mock drafts have the Capitals selecting Dalibor Dvorsky in this spot. Ultimately, there is no certainty that anyone from this draft class will pass pucks to Ovechkin; however, Dvorsky is a top play-making center who could benefit from playing time alongside one of the game’s greatest snipers. 

9. Detroit Red Wings – Axel Sandin Pellikka, D, Sweden

Most hockey fans know the Detroit Red Wings’ ability to draft and develop world-class Sweden prospects. Considering their current GM, Steve Yzerman, played with some of the country’s greatest players, it would be no surprise to see him go for another Swede, Axel Sandin Pellikka, with the ninth pick. 

Interestingly, as one of the highest-ranked defenders available, he is considered a top-ten pick for a team looking to solidify its defense for the next decade. Although he may take his time to venture to North America, the wait will be worth it when he matures into one of the game’s top offensive defensemen.  

10 St. Louis Blues – Nate Danielson, C, Canada

The St. Louis Blues are only four years removed from hoisting the Stanley Cup; however, the franchise appears to be a shell of their former selves. Realistically, only a few players are left over from the championship run as management has shifted to a younger core. 

Although a handful of exciting options will be available as the tenth pick in the draft, the Blues would be wise to select Nate Danielson. Unfortunately, St. Louis has traded away several top forwards and needs to replenish their prospect pool, which lacks elite centers. As the leading scorer of his WHL team, serving as their captain, Danielson would be a critical piece for a Blues’ team to stay competitive in the Western Conference. 

NHL Mock Draft: First-round contenders

nhl mock draft
Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

11. Vancouver Canucks – Tom Willander, D, Sweden

12. Arizona Coyotes (from Ottawa Senators) – Oliver Moore, C, USA

13. Buffalo Sabres – Matthew Wood, RW, USA

14. Pittsburgh Penguins – Samuel Honzek, LW, Canada

15. Nashville Predators – Eduard Sale, LW, Czechia

16. Calgary Flames – Brayden Yager, C, Canada 

17. Detroit Red Wings (from New York Islanders via Vancouver Canucks) – Colby Barlow, LW, Canada

18. Winnipeg Jets – Gabriel Perreault, LW, USA

19. Chicago Blackhawks (from Tampa Bay Lightning) – Andrew Cristall, LW, Canada

20. Seattle Kraken – Dmitriy Simashev, D, Russia

21. Minnesota Wild – Ethan Gauthier, RW, Canada

22. Philadelphia Flyers (from Los Angeles Kings via Columbus Blue Jackets) – Daniel But, C, Russia

23. New York Rangers – Quentin Musty, LW, Canada

24. Nashville Predators (from Edmonton Oilers) – Riley Heidt, C, Canada

25. St. Louis Blues (from Toronto Maple Leafs) – Oliver Bonk, D, Canada

26. San Jose Sharks (from New Jersey Devils) – Calum Ritchie, C, Canada

27. Colorado Avalanche – Otto Stenberg, C, Sweden

28. Toronto Maple Leafs (from Boston Bruins via Washington Capitals) – David Edstrom, Sweden

29. St. Louis Blues (from New York Rangers via Dallas Stars) – Charlie Stramel, D, USA

30. Carolina Hurricanes – Lukas Dragicevic, D, Canada

31. Montreal Canadiens (from Florida Panthers) – Carson Bjarnason, G, Canada

32. Vegas Golden Knights – Tanner Molendyk, D, Canada

NHL teams without first-round selections

  • Boston Bruins (traded Feb. 2023)
  • Dallas Stars (traded Sept. 2022)
  • Edmonton Oilers (traded Feb. 2023)
  • Florida Panthers (traded July 2021)
  • Los Angeles Kings (traded Mar. 2023)
  • New Jersey Devils (traded Feb. 2023)
  • New York Islanders (traded Jan. 2023)
  • Ottawa Senators (traded Mar. 2023)
  • Tampa Bay Lightning (traded Mar. 2022)

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