2023 NHL MOCK DRAFT: PREDICTING EVERY 1ST ROUND PICK
2023 NHL MOCK DRAFT: PREDICTING EVERY 1ST ROUND PICK
The 2022 NHL Draft taught us that anything is possible and to expect the unexpected. For months, Shane Wright was the betting favorite until sliding outside the top three on draft night and winding up on Seattle at fourth overall. Then, Juraj Slafkovsky made history as the first Slovakian player to go as the No. 1 overall pick, forcing New Jersey to play the board and draft top defenseman Simon Nemec.
With this in mind, Matt MacKay predicts how the 2023 NHL Draft will wind up a year from now. Plenty of enticing prospects crowd the top of the draft board, so let's put on the lens of each general manager with first-round draft compensation in 2023 to predict which players will resolve team weaknesses.
2023 NHL Mock Draft Round 1 Predictions
1. BLACKHAWKS: CONNOR BEDARD, C, REGINA (WHL)
Chicago adds Connor Bedard as the top center in the 2023 draft. He finished with 100 points in his second season with Regina in the WHL and will still be 17 years old if he gets drafted at No. 1 overall this time next year.
2. COYOTES: MATVEI MICHKOV, RW, SKA (KHL)
Matvei Michkov possesses elite puck handling and can be a top-tier scorer at the highest level. The undersized winger climbs up draft boards to Arizona because he has the speed, handles, and finishing ability to warrant being taken as a top draft selection.
3. DUCKS: ADAM FANTILLI, C, CHICAGO (USHL)
The Ducks secure 6-4, 192-pound center Adam Fantilli to bolster their offense in 2023. He has excelled in the USHL for Chicago, leaping from 36 points in 2021 to 74 points, including 37 goals, across 54 games in 2022.
4. CANADIENS: DALIBOR DVORSKY, C, AIK (SWE JR.)
Slovakian center Dalibor Dvorsky has played in Sweden's junior leagues for four years but ascended to AIK's professional team after impressing at their lower levels. Montréal adds an elite passer with deking abilities to codify their attack.
5. KRAKEN: CHARLIE STRAMEL, RW, USNTDP (USHL)
Seattle continues to reinvigorate their offense, adding Charlie Stremmel, a talented winger out of the USHL. He has a big frame that moves well on the ice while utilizing aggression and vision to set up scoring possessions.
6. SHARKS: ZACH BENSON, LW, WINNIPEG (WHL)
Zach Benson falls to San Jose at sixth overall and can be a quick contributor on the lower attack lines. He has top-end speed, vision, and puck handling to make any defender dizzy and wound up with 25 goals and 63 total points for Winnipeg in 2022.
7. SABRES: BRAYDEN YAGER, C, MOOSE JAW (WHL)
Buffalo gets a potential cornerstone of their franchise with Brayden Yager at the center position in 2023 and beyond. He scored 34 goals for Moose Jaw in 2022 and has a high motor and deking ability to become lethal in the offensive zone.
8. FLYERS: NATE DANIELSON, C, BRANDON (WHL)
Philadelphia uses their top ten pick to strengthen the middle of their attack lines, adding Nate Danielson. He's a Canadian center who has scored goals throughout his career in the amateurs and for Brandon in the WHL in 2022, finishing with 57 points and 23 goals.
9. DEVILS: KASPER HALTTUNEN, LW, JOKERIT (FIN)
Kasper Halttunen is another big-bodied winger in the 2023 draft class who exhibited elite scoring ability in Finland, using a variety of shots to get pucks on the net efficiently. He'll be a nice upgrade on the lower attack lines in New Jersey.
10. BLUE JACKETS: CAM ALLEN, D, GUELPH (OHL)
Columbus drafted two defensemen in the 2022 NHL Draft, but they dip back into defense, rolling with talented defenseman Cam Allen out of the OHL. Allen is a complete two-way player who can rejuvenate the Blue Jackets' offense and simultaneously keep opponents from gaining an edge in the defensive zone.
11. JETS: CALUM RITCHIE, C, OSHAWA (OHL)
Winnipeg feels like they are in a rut, so they opt to get the best offensive player on the board and go with center Calum Ritchie out of the OHL. Ritchie is a 6-1, 175-pound center with scoring and playmaking ability that classify as a first-round talent.
12. SENATORS: COLBY BARLOW, RW, OWEN SOUND (OHL)
Colby Barlow stays in Canada and goes to Ottawa to improve their attack lines. The 17-year-old winger is a solid size at 6-1, 190-pounds and scored 30 goals in his first season with Owen Sound in 2022.
13. BRUINS: MATTHEW WOOD, RW, VICTORIA (BCHL)
One of the best puck handlers in the 2023 class is right winger Matthew Wood out of the BCHL. Wood scored 45 goals, added another 40 assists for the Victoria Grizzlies in 2022, and significantly improved from 2021.
14. PREDATORS: LEO CARLSSON, LW, OREBRO (SHL)
The top-ranked Swede in the 2023 draft class, Leo Carlsson, is a towering 6-3 winger who scored three goals and six assists in the SHL across 35 games in 2022. He was more dominant at the lower levels but winds up as a high-upside pick to the Predators.
15. PENGUINS: MIKHAIL GULYAYEV, D, AVANGARD (MHL)
The undersized defenseman, Mikhail Gulyayev, has incredible dangles with the hockey stick and elite vision to set up plays in transition. It's a great fit for Pittsburgh, who can mentor Gulyayev behind star defenseman Kris Letang, who re-signed with the Pens a few days ago.
16. RED WINGS: EDUARD SALE, LW, BRNO (CZE JR.)
Detroit gets a natural playmaker out of the Czech junior leagues in Eduard Sale. He's a strong winger with a high motor and hockey IQ to mitigate mistakes and create opportunities in all areas of the ice.
17. ISLANDERS: WILL SMITH, C, USNTDP (USHL)
New York needs talent instilled within its offense and targets Will Smith out of the USHL. The 6-0, 172-pound center has elite handling and strength despite his smaller frame, which will be necessary when navigating the offensive zone for the Islanders in 2024.
18. CANUCKS: OLIVER MOORE, C, USNTDP (USHL)
Another center, Oliver Moore, from the USNTDP goes off the board to Vancouver at 18th overall. Moore finished with 24 goals for the U.S. National U17 team and added another 12 goals during NTDP Juniors in 2022.
19. KINGS: RYAN LEONARD, RW, USNTDP (USHL)
A big run on USNTDP players continues, with Ryan Leonard going to Los Angeles. He's a project but the 17-year-old winger has a high motor and elite skating ability that yields frequent goal-scoring opportunities. The Kings need to find ways to score, so Leonard's fit makes sense here.
20. CAPITALS: RILEY HEIDT, C, PRINCE GEORGE (WHL)
Riley Heidt's small stature results in him sliding down draft boards to Washington at 20th overall. Heidt honed his skillset in 2022, going from two goals in 22 games to 21 goals in 65 games during his second season with Prince George in the WHL.
21. WILD: GAVIN BRINDLEY, RW, C, TRI-CITY (USHL)
Minnesota opts to draft speedster and solid goal-scoring prospect, Gavin Brindley, out of the USHL. Brindley is 5-9, 175-pounds, so teams let him slip to the Wild late in the first round. He has elite skating and a non-stop motor that will allow him to return value in Minnesota.
22. STARS: DANIIL BUT, LW, LOKO YAROSLAVL (RUS)
Daniil But finished 2022 with 42 points in Russia's MHL and is a powerful enforcer at a finesse position. Dallas gravitates towards But's size and stick handling, which allows him to get behind defenders and create positive plays in the offensive zone.
23. BLUES: GABRIEL PERREAULT, LW, USNTDP (USHL)
St. Louis winds up taking winger Gabe Perreault out of the US NTDP. He was a leading scorer last season and relies on his handles, speed, and vision to counter his 5-10, 154-pound frame. Expect the Blues to find a fit for Perreault in 2024 and beyond.
24. FLAMES: OTTO STENBERG, C, FRÖLUNDA (SWE-JR)
Calgary continues their rebuild after Johnny Gaudreau with center Otto Stenberg out of Sweden's junior leagues. He can do it all on both ends of the rink, including finishing with 16 goals in the J20 National league in 2022.
25. OILERS: THEO LINDSTEIN, D, BRYNÄS (SHL)
Edmonton needs a strong two-way defenseman and pounces on Theo Lindstein out of Sweden. The 6-0, 183-pound defenseman is a finesse player with great instinct and solid skating to make him an enforcer moving backward or forwards.
26. HURRICANES: QUENTIN MUSTY, LW, SUDBURY (OHL)
Carolina drafts a winger who profiles as a strong offensive asset for the Hurricanes in 2023. Quentin Musty scored 12 goals and 19 assists in 60 games for Sudbury last season but will need to cut down his penalty minutes to earn big minutes.
27. PANTHERS: HUNTER BRZUSTEWICZ, D, KITCHENER (OHL)
Florida invests in a development project with their late first-round pick, selecting defenseman Hunter Brzustewicz out of the OHL. He's sturdy and more of an enforcer than a scorer, so the Panthers will need to improve his play in the offensive zone.
28. LIGHTNING: NOAH DOWER NILSSON, C, FRÖLUNDA (SWE)
A lighter-framed Swedish center, Noah Dower Niilson still carries skill in terms of his skating and puck handling abilities. The 17-year-old Swede has plenty of time to develop on one of the league's best rosters in Tampa Bay.
29. RANGERS: KOEHN ZIEMMER, RW, PRINCE GEORGE (WHL)
New York's front office rejoices as they secure Koeh Ziemmer at the end of the first round. Ziemmer has played three seasons in the WHL, improving each year, finishing 2022 with 30 goals and 57 total points.
30. GOLDEN KNIGHTS: JAYDEN PERRON, LW, CHICAGO (USHL)
Vegas selects speedy, undersized Jayden Perron to man their lower line attack at wing. Perron is coming off of an impressive 45-point season with Chicago in the USHL, scoring 17 goals and adding another in the playoffs during 2022.
31. MAPLE LEAFS: KALLE CARLSSON, C, ÖREBRO (SWE-JR)
Toronto selects a strong, big-bodied center out of Sweden's junior leagues by drafting Kalle Carlsson. He's not the flashiest player in the offensive zone but he has the vision and aggression to be an asset for the Maple Leafs' lower-line attack in 2023.
32. AVALANCHE: ANDREW CRISTAL, LW, KELOWNA (WHL)
Colorado stacks its beefed-up roster one year removed from a Stanley Cup Finals victory, drafting winger Andrew Cristal out of the WHL. He'll need to put on muscle to counter his 5-9, 150-pound frame, however, Cristal finished 2022 with 69 points for Kelowna, including 28 goals.
Matt is an avid writer, editor, and researcher. He enjoys analyzing the game within the game which is fantasy sports and sports betting. Music is another constant in his daily life. Matt loves spending time with his wife and three pets. He likes to read, listen to podcasts, and is constantly motivated to create the most accurate and engaging content in the sports betting industry.