Childhood dreams will come true this week as the 2023 NHL Draft gets started on Wednesday and concludes on Thursday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. All the hype leading up to the event has surrounded Connor Bedard, who is basically a lock to go first overall to the Chicago Blackhawks. Other prospects expect to be selected within the top five include Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson, Will Smith, and Matvei Michkov. Below, we’ll take a look at all the aforementioned players and what they can bring to the table in the pros.
2023 NHL Draft Preview: Connor Bedard a Lock to go First Overall
- The 2023 NHL Draft takes place on Wednesday and Thursday
- Connor Bedard is expected to go first overall to the Blackhawks
- Find the draft preview and analysis of the top five prospects
When you’re being compared to Connor McDavid, you know you’re special. Bedard actually put up better junior numbers than the Oilers star, registering a mind-boggling 143 points in 57 games for the Regina Pats. He’s been a mile better than everyone at every single level and also starred for Canada at the World Juniors, breaking numerous records in the tournament. Bedard is undoubtedly going to be the next franchise star for the Blackhawks, just like Patrick Kane was many years ago and we know how that went. Kane brought a ton of success to Chicago. It may take time, but Bedard is capable of doing the same.
At second overall, the Ducks are widely expected to select Fantilli, a standout from Michigan. In fact, he has -550 odds to go No. 2 at Bodog. Fantilli played a key part in helping the Wolverines make the Frozen Four and led the nation in points with 65 and goals with 30 as a freshman. Fantilli has a solid build at 6 foot 2 and 195 pounds and looks NHL-ready right now. That being said, it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see him play one more season in Ann Arbor before making the jump to the professional ranks. Given where Anaheim is at in their rebuild, they can probably wait.
Sweden is known for producing high-level NHL talent and Carlsson looks poised to be the next star out of the Scandinavian country. The Columbus Blue Jackets are projected to take him at third and there is no question the franchise could use a top-line centerman like Carlsson. He just played one season in the Swedish Hockey League, tallying 10 goals and 15 assists in 44 games. Not eye-popping numbers, but we have to remember he’s just 18. Carlsson is a special talent who has a strong build and profiles to be an impact player, no matter what team he goes to.
A lot of Will Smiths in the world, eh? The latest one is a legitimate NHL prospect who just starred for the USA U-18 development team. Smith is an offensive weapon who can not only score at will but also set up his teammates with no shortage of assists. He put the hockey world on notice after leading the States to a title at the IIHF U-18 championships, scoring nine times and supplying 11 assists. The San Jose Sharks are seen as his most likely landing spot at No. 4, but Smith will probably play one season at Boston College. He could head to San Jose even more polished after experiencing the NCAA game.
Michkov may be the perfect pick for the Canadiens at fifth given their promising young core of forwards right now. The Russian intends on seeing out the final three years of his KHL contract, which means he wouldn’t suit up in the NHL until 2026. That could be just fine for Montreal though, who aren’t in desperate need of Michkov at the moment. The youngster is extremely talented and may have the best all-around skillset outside of Bedard. The whole KHL thing may scare away teams, though, which is why he doesn’t have the best odds at most NHL sportsbooks.