DP Scouting Team’s Mid-Season Rankings for the 2023 NHL Draft

Eetu Siltanen

2022-12-23

The 2023 NHL Draft class has long been lauded for both its depth and star quality, and the group has certainly lived up to expectations through the first few months of the 2022-23 season.

Sure, there are generational talents and potential franchise cornerstones like Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Matvei Michkov, and Leo Carlsson, but there is no shortage of star-caliber talent beyond the top group. Not to mention the likes of Andrew Cristall, Will Smith, and Axel Sandin Pellika, among others, who have had stellar starts to their draft seasons and have elevated themselves in the public draft sphere. Simply put, the 2023 class looks special and teams rich with draft pick capital will have a chance to significantly alter the trajectory of their franchises.

Before we get to our midseason rankings, let’s meet the the DP Scouting Team.

Eetu Siltanen | Head of Scouting/Director of European Scouting (@siltaneneetu)

Nick Richard | Director of North American Scouting (@_NickRichard)

Hadi Kalakeche | QMJHL Regional Scout (@HadiK_Scouting)

Sebastian High | OHL/OJHL Regional Scout (@high_sebastian)

Chris Horvat | WHL/BCHL/AJHL Regional Scout (@chrishorvat_)

Evan Pace | USA Regional Scout (@evanpace17)

Alexander Annun | North American Crossover Scout (@Annun_Scouting)

Alexa Potack | Swedish Regional Scout (@alexa_potack)

Jordan Harris | Russian Regional/European Crossover Scout (@Jordan_NHLDraft)

Sasha Lagarde | Central European Regional Scout (@sashalaGarde)

Colin Hunter | Goaltending Scout (@colinhunter0)

Peter Harling | Managing Editor (@pharling)

There have been some notable changes to our board since our preliminary rankings back in September, including a number of defensemen who have emerged into the first-round conversation. There is still plenty of season remaining, but here are the DP Scouting Team’s top 50 prospects at the midway point of the campaign:

1 | Connor Bedard

C | Regina (WHL) | 5-10 | 185 lbs | Shoots: R

Nick Richard: It says a lot that in a draft class as flush with elite talent as this one is, there was no debate among our scouts in regards to Bedard being the best of the bunch. He is just about as “can’t miss” as it gets, already possessing world-class offensive skills that should make him a star in the NHL from day one.

Bedard’s arsenal of shots ranks up there with the very best in the world. His curl and drag wrister is deceptive, comes off his blade with incredible force, and it is pinpoint accurate. He can alter the angle by extending his hands out off his right hip or by pulling them tighter to his body and doesn’t sacrifice any power by doing so. Bedard also has a lightning-quick release in motion, and his ability to fire it off either foot with little to no windup makes him a terror for opposing netminders. While his shooting ability might be considered the hallmark of his game, he is elite in practically every other area as well. He has incredible vision and the processing speed to complete creative passes before opposing defenses can even react, and his hands allow him to create separation or beat defenders one on one with regularity. Bedard draws defenders, holds them with his eyes, and attacks accordingly, whether that be a highlight reel deke, slick pass to an open teammate, or a quick shot that catches everyone off guard. Combine all of those skills with great top speed, smooth edges, and good contact balance, and there really isn’t much that Bedard can’t do offensively. Sprinkle in an ever-improving defensive game and a highly competitive disposition, and you’ve got all the makings of a generational talent.

2 | Adam Fantilli

C | Michigan (NCAA) | 6-2 | 188 lbs | Shoots: L

Evan Pace: Fantilli has emerged as a true candidate for the top selection in the draft after an extraordinary start to the season. He is among the top scorers in all of college hockey, and even though he is one of the youngest players in the country, he has been arguably the best player on a Michigan team loaded with talent. Fantilli has that unique blend of size and skill, something that every team seeks. But he is more than just a big offensive threat, as he’s one of the strongest players on the ice and shows solid two-way potential as well. He checks the boxes in just about every area, and there’s a reason he has jumped the ultra-talented Michkov. With all of the tools and production on display, he is a can’t-miss prospect at the second spot. However, it will be interesting to see if he can truly push Bedard for that top spot as we move into the World Junior Championship and the stretch drive of the season.

3 | Matvei Michkov

W | SKA St. Petersburg (KHL) | 5-10 | 159 lbs | Shoots: L

Jordan Harris: It has been an unusual season for Michkov, which started out with a knee injury in preseason play. After returning from injury, he has almost exclusively played in the VHL for SKA Neva St. Petersburg, where he has lit up the league in the games he’s appeared in. The strange thing about Michkov is he has been out of the lineup for more than a week on a few different occasions and hasn’t played as much as you’d expect. Additionally, we haven’t seen much KHL action outside of a few games where he played only a handful of minutes. Michkov is still the same player we ranked in our preseason rankings, however, his drop from the second spot to the third is more a result of Adam Fantilli ascending in the rankings after a red-hot start to his freshman season at the University of Michigan. It should be noted that Leo Carlsson garnered strong consideration in this spot and is an ascending player in his own right. Currently, Michkov and Carlsson are much closer on our board than Fantilli and Michkov.

4 | Leo Carlsson

C/W | Örebro (SHL) | 6-3 | 194 lbs | Shoots: L

Eetu Siltanen: Leo Carlsson’s start of the season has been impressive, and he’s now in the top-three discussion. While our team picked Michkov over Carlsson in this ranking, it was a long debate, and these two were really close to each other. Carlsson has a very well-rounded toolkit; he’s a good skater, has good size, and elite puck skills. He has the ability to beat players with his hands – even against high-level SHL defenders. He can also utilize his 6-3 frame and protect the puck at an elite level. What also separates Carlsson from many others is his good hockey sense and excellent anticipation ability, along with his great ability to process the game at high speed. Overall, he never seems to struggle with the high pace of the SHL game and is very comfortable playing at the pro level. If Carlsson can keep up this form, he will be challenging Michkov and maybe even Fantilli in June.

5 | Zach Benson

W | Winnipeg (WHL) | 5-10 | 159 lbs | Shoots: L

Hadi Kalakeche: The competition for the top WHLer not named Connor Bedard was fierce, but Zach Benson takes the cake in a photo finish. Benson’s combination of inside play, handling skill, and elite anticipation make him possibly the best prospect in this draft at cutting across defenders, delaying with the puck, and finding trailers off the rush. He is extremely adaptable, capable of changing his mind on the fly if his first option closes off, and sets the pace of play every time he steps on the ice. These strengths are all symptoms of elite hockey sense — and there’s an argument to be made that Benson could be the smartest prospect available in this draft. He changes speed, looks off his passes, and draws players in, all for the purpose of manipulating his surroundings. On top of that, you add his high level of intensity, his defensive responsibility, his wide arsenal of passes, and his puck protection for a player his size, and you have what we believe to be a top-five prospect in this draft. He could develop into a first-line two-way center with work on his skating and added strength to his frame.

6 | Andrew Cristall

W | Kelowna (WHL) | 5-10 | 165 lbs | Shoots: L

Hadi Kalakeche: When it comes to pure playmaking skill, no one holds a candle to Andrew Cristall in this draft class. He can saucer a puck over five sticks, he consistently slips passes through bodies even at full speed, and he almost never misses his mark. If his passing lane is closed, he delays and draws in a player before effortlessly putting it through his body, and if that won’t work, he is smart enough to re-evaluate his options and go for a safer play when needed. There’s an unparalleled level of creativity to his game as well — he will routinely rid himself of three players on a shift in three different ways while consistently advancing play toward the opposing end. There are still some raw habits in his game — dragging his feet defensively at times, trying to push through defenders when the safe play is to curl back and wait for support — and his skating needs some adjusting, but with the right amount of work,  Cristall could become a top-line playmaking winger for years to come.

7 | Eduard Sale

W | Kometa Brno (Tipsport Extraliga) | 6-1 | 168 lbs | Shoots: L

Sasha Lagarde: Eduard Sale continues to show why he is one of the top wingers in the 2023 crop, as he oozes offensive talent, which includes an amazing set of hands, great skating technique, and a very high offensive IQ.  His skating is some of the best in all of the draft as he’s able to transport the puck with his head up almost the entire time, pre-scanning and scanning while skating and stick handling. In the offensive zone, there aren’t a lot of players that outmatch Sale in terms of what he can do with such little space. Sale is the type of player who can create anything out of nothing, and we’ve seen that happen throughout the season this year in Czechia.  I would still like to see him shoot the puck a little bit more and with more authority, as he is seen as a tremendous playmaker, but I think his shot is extremely underused and underrated.  Defensively, he has been improving slowly in his puck support down low in the zone and has shown better communication in the defensive zone. We need to see more improvement in his work ethic off the puck, but we’re high on his offensive potential.

8 | Will Smith

C | NTDP U18 (USNTDP) | 6-0 | 172 lbs | Shoots: R

Evan Pace: Smith will be one of the biggest risers on many draft boards this time of year, but we’ve always been high on his abilities and potential. The tremendous offensive talent has dominated against high-end collegiate teams at the development program all season so far. Averaging over an assist-per-game, the Boston College commit has some of the best hands, is one of the top playmakers, and has all-around potential to go along with it. He’s not afraid to experiment and is often successful against much older competition, putting defenders through a spin cycle before sniping one past the goalie or dishing to a teammate for a highlight-reel goal. Smith could improve in areas such as his two-way game, but has shown promise to develop and has a high hockey IQ. If he’s not the most exciting player in the class due to the likes of Bedard and company, he’s certainly one of them.

9 | Dalibor Dvorsky

C | AIK (HockeyAllsvenskan) | 6-1 | 190 lbs | Shoots: L

Alexa Potack: One of Dvorsky’s greatest assets is his ability to make plays at the right time. It is evident that he is thoughtful with the timing of his passes and shots and understands where he needs to be and when. His intent when passing isn’t always a matter of patience, it’s reading the play. He is capable of rapidly firing a pass or stickhandling his way through traffic to find space. Additionally, Dvorsky’s shot continues to draw attention to himself, and his quick release has earned him time on AIK’s first power play unit. One of Dvorsky’s most significant areas of growth this season is his compete level, as he appears more willing to battle and fight for possession than ever before. He is playing with a more physical tone, which could potentially add another level to Dvorsky’s already well-developed playing style.

10 | Calum Ritchie

C | Oshawa (OHL) | 6-2 | 187 lbs | Shoots: R

Sebastian High: Ritchie has fallen a few slots down our board since our preliminary rankings but remains our top draft-eligible OHLer. Our primary concern remains his lack of a clear-cut elite skill to drive his game. His hockey sense and playmaking remain really, really good, but are they elite? We don’t know yet; in some games, they seem to be, in others, they seem a touch less dominant. The second aspect is that his motor and tenacity are what made him such a unique prospect through September and October (there really are very few big centremen who are equal parts calculated, tenacious, and playmakers), but that aspect has taken a step back over the past month and a half, which has made him a less outstanding player to watch. We still believe he has the makings of a two-way top-six center in the NHL, though, as he does so many things so well. We just question the first-line upside we were once convinced was there.

11 | Riley Heidt

C | Prince George (WHL) | 5-11 | 179 lbs | Shoots: L

Nick Richard: Heidt is a well-rounded and versatile offensive threat who plays with great pace, often appearing one step ahead of the competition at the junior level. He transports the puck with purpose, scanning for passing options or lanes to attack in transition, layering in great one-touch skill to set up teammates for open looks in prime areas. Previously more of a playmaking threat, he has shown improvement as a finisher due in large part to his ability to find open pockets of space in the offensive zone. Heidt also works hard away from the puck, engaging physically and wearing down opposing defenders on the forecheck. He has been incredibly productive for Prince George so far this season with his ability to string plays together with pace. Heidt has potential as a responsible top-six winger who can drive offense, and above all else, it is that pace that will help him get there.

12 | Axel Sandin Pellikka

D | Skellefteå AIK (SHL) | 5-11 | 181 lbs | Shoots: R

Alexa Potack: Sandin Pellikka has taken advantage of every opportunity to come his way this season. He has maintained a steady pace of production no matter the level of play, utilizing his quickness and puck skills. He is responsible for transitional play in many instances, and his breakouts are well-crafted and supported by his bursts of speed. He is great on his edges and beats opponents using his combination of mobility and stickhandling. In the J20 Nationell, Sandin Pellikka found a talent for crashing the net. Many of his point-earning plays end with him beside the goal. This has continued to a slightly lesser extent in the SHL but seems to be a feature of his game that he is determined to preserve while adjusting to professional hockey. Though his SHL play has been impressive, he’s bound to make mistakes as he continues to adjust. For Sandin Pellikka, that has mostly been through turnovers or incorrect defensive reads. His resilience after making a poor decision is a defining quality, however, and further demonstrates his motivation to keep proving his worth.

13 | Mikhail Gulyayev

D | Omskie Yastreby (MHL) | 5-10 | 170 lbs | Shoots: L

Jordan Harris: Gulyayev has enjoyed a productive season where he’s registered points in the MHL junior league and both the Russian professional leagues, the VHL and KHL. Gulyayev shouldn’t play in many more MHL games this season as there’s not much left for him to prove at that level, which is why he’s spent most of his season playing against men. Despite his small frame, Gulyayev has managed quite nicely in the KHL and VHL leagues due to his mobility, intelligence, and motor. At times in the KHL, he has looked a bit overmatched and overpowered in his own zone. However, his ability to defend against the rush has translated well to the pros. The VHL seems to be the best spot for Gulyayev as it provides him with the best combination of competition and ice time. At the VHL level, Gulyayev is playing top pairing minutes at even strength and has a role on the powerplay. Overall, Gulyayev is coming along nicely, but it would be nice to see him play extended time in one league to hone his skills instead of bouncing up and down every week or so.

14 | Brayden Yager

C | Moose Jaw (WHL) | 6-0 | 166 lbs | Shoots: R

Nick Richard: Yager has fallen down our board a bit since the preseason, but our group is still high on his potential as a scorer. He is one of the most dangerous shooters in the class with his quick release and ability to change the angle pre-shot. Yager is dangerous off the rush at the junior level because of the way he is able to manipulate time and space, but he is still a bit too straight-line oriented and will have to diversify his rush patterns as he progresses. His playmaking has taken a positive step forward this season, however, and he has shown an ability to execute under pressure in the offensive zone, often utilizing his great puck skills to create that extra bit of time to make a play. There is room for him to improve his overall mobility and his play in the defensive end, but the desire is there for him to make an impact in all three zones, and he has the skill set to get there.

15 | Lukas Dragicevic

D | Tri-City (WHL) | 6-2 | 181 lbs | Shoots: R

Nick Richard: In the midst of a huge season for Tri-City, Dragicevic has flashed legitimate potential as an offensive driver from the back end. He is aggressive in the way that he pushes play, attacking in transition with his great skating ability and vision to find open seams. He plays a tight gap in transition, and though he can sometimes be slow to read the play in the defensive zone, he does well to shut down plays along the wall with intelligent angles and an active stick. Dragicevic will also engage physically to deny clean entries at the defensive blue line and should be an effective defender off the cycle as he fills out his frame. His skill really stands out in the offensive zone, where he controls everything from the point, making crisp passes through layers of coverage and shrinking the zone with intelligent off-puck movement. He also has a heavy shot from the point and does a good job of finding lanes to get it through to the net, making him a legitimate scoring threat from the back end. He will have to continue to round out his game, but he has potential as a dynamic offensive blueliner who can keep the ice tilted in his team’s favor.

16 | Gavin Brindley

W | Michigan (NCAA) | 5-9 | 157 lbs | Shoots: R

Evan Pace: The production hasn’t been consistent all year, but there is no doubting the tools on display each and every night from Gavin Brindley. He’s one of the quickest and most fundamentally-sound skaters in the draft, with the ability to burn by just about anyone on a shift-by-shift basis. His energy and intensity are, without a doubt, his most exciting traits, as this kind of work ethic will only help him grow and develop his already solid game. He has got quick hands, decent playmaking ability, and a surprising physical edge to his game for a small player. While there’s room for growth before Brindley can make an impact at the NHL level, he is a two-way ball of energy who is able to keep up with a game that continues to get faster and faster each year. After rising from his preseason ranking of 24 to 16 on our board at midseason, Brindley will be one to watch moving forward.

17 | Caden Price

D | Kelowna (WHL) | 6-1 | 181 lbs | Shoots: L

Nick Richard: Price is a mobile two-way defenseman who moves the puck with great efficiency from the back end. He excels on retrievals, using his body to shield pucks along the wall before utilizing his strong four-way mobility to elude pressure from opposing forecheckers. Price is a heads-up defender with good scanning habits that allow him to identify potential options and oncoming threats, and he has a habit of smothering passing options in transition. He has a good defensive stick, battling along the boards and disrupting passing lanes off the cycle, and he has the ability to quickly turn play up ice for his team. Price likes to activate offensively, but he does a good job of picking his spots and rarely gets caught cheating for offense. He isn’t the most dynamic offensive threat, but he can quarterback a powerplay with his ability to control the offensive blue line and makes the correct reads in a timely fashion. With his combination of size, mobility, and instincts, Price looks like a player who could grow into a quality top-four blueliner in the NHL.

18 | Oliver Moore

C | NTDP U18 (USNTDP) | 5-11 | 176 lbs | Shoots: L

Alexander Annun: An excellent skater, Moore generates lots of speed through his use of crossovers to quickly accelerate and pick up a full head of steam as he races up ice. He pairs that speed intelligently with his offensive instincts and ability to identify the gaps in the defense and dart through them, looking to receive a pass as he bears down on goal. His shot is dangerous, and he always has it locked and loaded, especially as a one-timer option on the powerplay. He knows that other teams are aware of the shooting threat he poses, and he has used that to his advantage at times to sell the shot before making a nice feed to an open man for a quality chance. While he is known for his shooting, he is a more than capable playmaker who can generate chances from his passing as much as he can from his shooting. Add in that he is successful in the faceoff circle, has a low center of gravity that he uses well, and can buy some time with slick hands in tight, and you have yourself an exciting talent. 

19 | Ryan Leonard

C/W | NTDP U18 (USNTDP) | 5-11 | 181 lbs | Shoots: R

Evan Pace: Even though Leonard dropped two spots from preseason, he has still been impressive this year playing alongside his fellow Boston College commit linemates Will Smith and Gabe Perreault. A shoot-first winger, Leonard is one of the best pure goal-scorers in the draft and packs as much power into his shot as he does accuracy. However, an area of development throughout the year has been his hands and his growing confidence to take the puck to the net. Rather than always relying on his shot, he’s been able to sneak through defenders before scoring in tight. Constantly finding ways to score, Leonard has been a crucial part of the NTDP’s top line and has been able to grow his playmaking and two-way game as a result.

20 | Kasper Halttunen

W | HIFK (Liiga) | 6-3 | 207 lbs | Shoots: R

Eetu Siltanen: Halttunen’s production didn’t look great at the beginning of the season, as he struggled at all levels he played at. He’s been able to get back on track a little, however, as he has nine goals and six assists in 10 games at the U20 level. Halttunen is a heavy-shooting winger with a projectable frame. He has an extensive goal-scoring arsenal, with one-timers being his biggest strength. However, Halttunen has had some problems hitting the net this season, which has been a bit concerning. He’s a good skater for his size and flashes some great physical play at times. He has real potential to become a serious offensive threat and a dangerous powerplay player as well. Halttunen hasn’t been quite as good as expected this season but still looks like a top-round talent with high upside.

21 | Otto Stenberg

C/W | Frölunda J20 (J20 Nationell) | 5-11 | 172 lbs | Shoots: L

Alexa Potack: Stenberg’s ability to read and create plays in little time is his greatest tool for success. His quick release, smooth passing, and overall stickhandling ability are other core assets, but none bigger than his vision. He has power in his stride but remains light on his feet for quick pivots and effortless dekes. Stenberg’s point production has been less than anticipated in the J20 Nationell but exceeding expectations while representing Team Sweden. Though Stenberg averages over three shots per game, he’s only hit the back of the net six times this season, which puts him 10th on Frölunda in shooting percentage. So far, he’s seen very little ice time in the SHL, so ramping up his production at the J20 level and continuing to shine on the international stage will help his case. Stenberg is listed as both a center and a wing, though he will most likely stay on the wing at the professional level. His overall skillset, especially his low faceoff percentage this season, makes the decision clear at this point. Stenberg’s ability to find his game in the J20 Nationell and give a more consistent look at his international dominance will be the largest factor in his draft position this June.

22 | Matthew Wood

W | UConn (NCAA) | 6-3 | 190 lbs | Shoots: R

Evan Pace: Matthew Wood has one of the quickest releases in the draft and could definitely be one of the better goal-scorers when projecting down the road. The 6-4 winger has an excellent offensive IQ, a booming shot, and underrated playmaking potential. Playing on one of the more surprising teams in the country at UConn, Wood has looked much better than anticipated against significantly older competition. He won’t turn 18 until February, but there is some concern about his all-around game when looking at the next level. He’s not the quickest, most agile skater, and he’s definitely got a ways to go defensively and physically. However, when he’s able to find open space with the puck, he is quite dangerous. Despite the excellent production from the youngest player in the NCAA, we felt it was necessary to consider the projectability concerns more so at midseason.

23 | Gabe Perreault

W | NTDP U18 (USNTDP) | 5-10 | 154 lbs | Shoots: R

Evan Pace: Perreault completes the trio of Boston College commits on the top line at the NTDP who have cracked our top-32. Heading into the year, Perreault was seen more as a playmaker down the road, but he has quickly shown that he is also a talented finisher. His ability to score, distribute, and play a more complete game has allowed him to jump a couple of spots in our midseason rankings. Perreault’s a forward that every team needs with his ability to impact each play. Playing alongside Smith, a gifted playmaker, and Leonard, a pure-scorer, he’s sort of been the glue guy tying their line together. His upside is solid, his talent has shown, and he’s worthy of consideration in the mid-first round.

24 | Jayden Perron

W | Chicago (USHL) | 5-9 | 163 lbs | Shoots: R

Nick Richard: Perron is having an impressive season for a dominant Chicago team in the USHL, producing more than a point per game through the first few months of the season. Standing just 5-9 and with average speed, he impacts the game with his creativity, puck skills, and vision rather than relying on pure physical gifts. Though he isn’t going to blow the doors off of defenders at this stage, Perron utilizes great edgework to elude pressure with cutbacks and quick changes of direction. He has a knack for drawing defenders to him, and he has the hands to beat them one on one in order to create advantageous situations for himself and his linemates. Perron has also taken a step forward as a finisher, making him a truly dynamic offensive threat. On top of his high-end offensive tools, he consistently displays refined play-supporting habits. Don’t be surprised to see Perron continue to climb our list as the season progresses.

25 | Luca Pinelli

C | Ottawa (OHL) | 5-9 | 161 lbs | Shoots: L

Sebastian High: I banged the table to include Pinelli in our top-32 preliminary rankings in September, but few others had watched him, so I was content with keeping him as an honorable mention. This time around, though, we could all agree that he is a highly-intelligent forward who projects as a center despite playing the wing this season and has been the best player on the best team in the OHL. Pinelli is the anti-Musty in almost every sense, apart from the two being among our top-three-ranked OHL prospects. Where Quentin Musty is chaotic and possesses a tantalizing set of tools, Pinelli is controlled, calculated, deadly effective, and far more than the sum of his parts. His shot is a genuine threat, with a diverse array of quick releases, and his passing mechanics are consistent and very good (we believe his playmaking upside to be higher than his goalscoring upside), but his tools as a whole are good, not great. He’s quite small but extremely sturdy, with a keen understanding of leverage to win puck battles, and his skating is decidedly below-average, which will turn off a lot of NHL teams. However, there are few players in this class who can match his ability to consistently get pucks to the middle lane in transition, to the slot in the offensive zone, and to outwait opponents consistently. Pinelli simply out-thinks just about every opponent he faces, and we believe he has genuine upside as a versatile second-line center in the NHL.

26 | Koehn Ziemmer

W | Prince George (WHL) | 6-0 | 194 lbs | Shoots: R

Nick Richard: Ziemmer has proven to be a big-time goal scorer at the junior level, and he gets it done in a variety of ways. He does most of his damage with his high-end release from inside the circles, effectively working to get himself free in prime scoring areas. He creates deception on his shot by opening up his blade to give himself more options as he releases it, and he doesn’t need much time or space to beat netminders cleanly. Ziemmer is also effective in the traffic areas around the net, utilizing his quick hands to corral rebounds or redirect pucks on net. He is able to generate quality chances in the WHL, but we do have some concerns about his ability to create his own looks as he progresses to pro hockey. Despite those concerns, Ziemmer provides some utility with his strong forechecking ability and effectiveness pulling pucks off the wall. He may not be a primary offensive driver, but Ziemmer has potential as an impactful goal scorer who can be effective with other skilled players.

27 | Quentin Musty

W | Sudbury (OHL) | 6-2 | 203 lbs | Shoots: L

Sebastian High: Musty may very well be the most fascinating player in the entire draft class. The tools are tantalizing – no 2023 eligible comes close to matching his combination of power and skill. His hands rate among the very best in the class, and when paired with flashes of brilliant creativity and high-end execution, he can very much look the part of a top-10 talent. On the other hand, his decision-making could make a few OHL scouts bald or balding by the time draft day rolls around. Musty routinely forgoes the good and best options with the puck to skate into two or more defenders and improvise in an attempt to get past them, ignoring the support of teammates entirely. His passing effectiveness ranges from threading a needle in a perfect cross-seam pass to missing simple six-foot passes in the buildup. Ranking him at 27 is a real bet on upside for us, as he genuinely could develop into a first-liner if he can develop an average-to-good hockey sense, but we could just as easily have been convinced to rank him outside the first round due to his low, low floor.

28 | David Reinbacher

D | EHC Kloten (NL) | 6-2 | 187 lbs | Shoots: R

Sebastian High: Reinbacher lacks the elite standout skill of most of the defenders we have ahead of him but what he has demonstrated this season in a highly competitive pro league really encouraged the few of our scouts to have clocked multiple viewings of his to bang the table for him in the mid-20s. Despite being a slight defender without elite skill, Reinbacher processes the game at a speed few in this class of defensemen can match, which allows him to maximize his tools’ effectiveness. He layers deception into his movements and scans consistently, keeping his options open at all times. In the offensive zone, he is a more than capable distributor and demonstrates excellent shot selection, which would be even better if his shot was a significant scoring threat. Defensively, he overcommits on stick checks when defending speedy wingers on the rush, but he sticks to his assignment well and is effective at forcing play away from the slot during extended in-zone possessions. As a whole, Reinbacher projects as a middle-pairing defender who lacks an elite standout skill but whose modern style and well-rounded game will make him one of the first defensemen from this class to see NHL action.

29 | Ethan Gauthier

W | Sherbrooke (QMJHL) | 5-11 | 176 lbs | Shoots: R

Hadi Kalakeche: A high-intensity winger who can play just about any role, Ethan Gauthier has been facilitating play for his line in Sherbrooke with his intelligence and non-stop movement. He opens up so much ice for his teammates with his off-puck routes, often pushing back the defense with early net drives or stretching out the box on the powerplay with his play in the bumper spot. He wins most of his puck battles, gets off the wall to make his plays, and finds his options fairly quickly. He doesn’t have as wide of a playmaking arsenal as he could, and his shot limits his offensive threat, but the winger has a plethora of pro habits to compensate for his lack of puck skills. His skating stride is a bit rigid as well, which limits the damage he can do in transition to his play away from the puck. However, it is easier to take the tools up a couple of notches in a player whose smarts and intensity are foundational to his game than do the opposite with a prospect who relies heavily on his tools to drive his game. There’s a middle-six role in the NHL for Gauthier with the right development in the right places.

30 | Denver Barkey

C | London (OHL) | 5-8 | 174 lbs | Shoots: L

Hadi Kalakeche: In a word, Denver Barkey is fun. His combination of creativity and skill is outstanding, and he has a daring mindset that leads him to try outlandish things all over the ice. Between-the-legs dekes, curl-and-drags, one-handed finishes on breakaways, and heel-to-heel skating all figure among the wide arsenal of skills that Barkey can pull out of his bag at any moment. His playmaking is aided by this creativity, as he can find multiple different ways to hit a pass in order to maximize his chances of connecting. His shot needs some work, as the mechanics lack refinement, and he doesn’t have the upper-body strength to compensate for it, and he has to add a layer of simplicity in order to be more surprising when he does attempt the flashy plays, but Barkey’s oozing skill and outstanding pace of play make him a first-rounder in our eyes. He has the potential to be a top-six playmaking winger if his game is refined and he is moved to the flanks, where his pace and skill will shine even brighter.

31 | Charlie Stramel

C | Wisconsin (NCAA) | 6-3 | 216 lbs | Shoots: R

Alexander Annun: Stramel is not known for racking up points, but he more than carries his weight by being one of the smartest players on the ice at any given time. He has good speed for his size and is able to carry the puck up ice once he gets moving and uses his size and neat puck-handling abilities to coast into the offensive end. His shot is heavy, and he patrols the net front well to set up screens and win battles for rebound opportunities. He is composed on the puck, and his poise really stands out in his own end as he looks to get the puck away from danger and transition it up ice on the counterattack. His IQ is a big part of his game, and he reads plays very well, whether it’s breaking out of his zone and identifying which way the defender is leaning so that he can attack the opposite direction or in his own defensive zone that he reads the opposition’s intentions and is able to snuff it out with great defensive positioning and an active stick – Stramel’s value is apparent.

32 | Samuel Honzek

W | Vancouver (WHL) | 6-3 | 181 lbs | Shoots: L

Nick Richard: A rangy forward with good puck skills and offensive vision, Honzek continues to make a name for himself in what is a fantastic group of draft eligibles playing in the WHL. He isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing skater, but he is deceptively agile playing through traffic, controlling the puck with his slick hands and protecting it with his large frame. The way he combines his puck skills and exceptional reach makes him incredibly tough to handle down low in the offensive zone as he reels in contested pucks or drags them from his forehand to his backhand to keep defenders at bay. Honzek is a composed and decisive passer who identifies options quickly and manipulates defenders before finding open teammates through layers of traffic, but he is also a capable finisher. The main area of focus for Honzek will be continuing to diversify his offensive attack as he climbs the ranks and his raw physical tools become less of a differentiator.

33 | Nate Danielson | C | Brandon (WHL) | 6-1 | 185 lbs | Shoots: R

Danielson doesn’t possess electrifying offensive skills, but he plays a mature, responsible game in the middle of the ice. He is a committed two-way player who takes intelligent routes in transition and in puck pursuit. Danielson does have some underrated scoring ability, but the majority of his chances are created off of intelligent reads rather than dominant individual efforts. He may not grow into a first-line NHLer, but he is considered one of the safer picks in this class.

34 | Luca Cagnoni | D | Brandon (WHL) | 5-10 | 172 lbs | Shoots: L

Luca Cagnoni is a smooth-skating defenseman who excels as a puck carrier and distributor of the puck and he is a key part of the Winterhawks’ offense from the blue line. His head is always scanning for options, he makes crisp passes to the tape, and he is capable of slicing through the defense on his own with his elegant skating style. He shows good attacking instincts and finds openings in the defense to dart through, receive the puck, and get down low for dangerous opportunities. Defensively, he is intelligent, positionally sound, and uses his active stick well to keep the pressure at bay and dispossess the opposition.

35 | Cameron Allen  | D | Guelph (OHL) | 5-11 | 190 lbs | Shoots: R

Once considered among the top defensemen in the class, it has been a difficult season for Allen thus far. His offensive output has actually regressed since last season, and our group has serious concerns about his ability to read the play and make the correct decision with the puck on his stick. He is still a strong one-on-one defender, but the rest of his game has a long way to go if he is going to put himself back in consideration as a first-round pick.

36 | Hunter Brzustewicz | D | Kitchener (OHL) | 6-0 | 187 lbs | Shoots: R

While Brzustewicz has fallen a bit in our draft board, it has little to do with a drop in performance but rather our focus on prioritizing the upside of the players ranked ahead of him. He’s a sturdy and mobile right-shot defenseman whose greatest strength is his passing ability.

37 | Lenni Hämeenaho | W | Ässät (Liiga) | 6-0 | 174 lbs | Shoots: R

Hämeenaho’s been producing well in Liiga and is on pace for impressive 27 points for the season. He’s a shooting winger with good physicality and is at his best in front of the net, creating screens and fighting for loose pucks.

38 | Colby Barlow | W | Owen Sound (OHL) | 6-1 | 187 lbs | Shoots: L

It may come as a surprise to see Barlow fall on our board considering his excellent production in the OHL, but his limitations as a player make us skeptical of his true upside. He’s a power forward with a heavy shot and good hands, but he has left us wanting more in the other aspects of his game.

39 | Theo Lindstein | D | Brynäs (J20 Nationell/SHL) | 6-0 | 176 lbs | Shoots: L

Lindstein is a mobile, calculated defender who often opts for the safe, smart play rather than taking unnecessary risks. While the offensive production hasn’t come at the SHL level yet, he has proven capable of handling his defensive responsibilities against more mature competition.

40 | Alex Ciernik | W | Södertälje J20 (J20 Nationell) | 5-10 | 179 lbs | Shoots: L

Ciernik’s been playing both J20 Nationell and HockeyAllsvenskan this season, and his production has been solid in both. He’s a shifty winger with great skating ability who excels in the passing game but also has a sneaky wrist shot.

41 | Mathieu Cataford | W | Halifax (QMJHL) | 5-11 | 187 lbs | Shoots: R

Regularly suiting up on Halifax’s top line, Cataford has taken his production and overall impact to another level in his draft year. He’s a well-rounded, hardworking, and intelligent forward who plays with good pace. He works into open space effectively to get into good shooting areas or provide outlets for his teammates, and he doesn’t shy away from the dirty areas. Cataford projects as a strong complementary piece who can play up and down an NHL lineup.

42 | Michael Hrabal | G | Omaha (USHL) | 6-6 | 204 lbs | Catches: L

Hrabal has established himself as the top netminder in the 2023 draft class through the early part of the season. He is a big body who takes up a lot of net but his movements in the crease are incredibly smooth, particularly for such a large player. He transitions between techniques efficiently and reads the play in front of him very well. Goaltenders are especially difficult to project, but Hrabal has all the tools to be an effective NHL netminder down the road.

43 | Noah Dower Nilsson | C | Frölunda J20 (J20 Nationell) | 5-11 | 168 lbs

With a comfortable lead in points among draft eligibles in the J20 Nationell, it’s safe to say that Dower Nilsson’s season has been a success. Dower Nilsson plays an aggressive, offensive-minded game, and he can be disruptive on the forecheck, but improved mobility could help take his game to the next level.

44 | Dmitri Simashev | D | Lokomotiv (KHL) | 6-4 | 201 lbs | Shoots: L

Simashev was one of the first draft-eligible prospects to play KHL games this year, doing so on a very strong Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team. He’s responsible defensively due to his big, athletic frame, physicality, and high compete level with the ability to give a good first pass.

45 | William Whitelaw | C | Youngstown (USHL) | 5-9 | 173 lbs | Shoots: R

Whitelaw has been one of the most exciting players to watch in the USHL this year. He’s gained lots of attention for his slick hands, excellent vision, and scoring touch, but where Whitelaw falls short is his two-way ability and size. The 5-9 center projects as a winger at the pro level, but has immense offensive talent.

46 | Jordan Tourigny | D | Shawinigan (QMJHL) | 5-11 | 168 lbs | Shoots: R

Tourigny is a high-octane offensive defenseman with the skill to drive a powerplay. He’s been the most remarkable QMJHL blueliner in this draft class, but like most of the defensemen in this league, there are some concerning deficiencies in his defensive awareness, his positioning, and his strength which limit his positive impact in his own zone. The skill and vision from the back end are undeniable, though.

47 | Matthew Soto | W | Kingston (OHL) | 5-11 | 168 lbs | Shoots: R

Soto is an energetic, highly-skilled player who has put up decent numbers for the Frontenacs through the first half of the season. He is more elusive than he is fast, and he uses that elusiveness to find pockets of space off the rush. Combine his puck skills, vision, and motor with the fact that he is just a couple weeks shy of only being eligible for the 2024 draft, and the upside is evident.

48 | Andrew Strathmann | D | Tri-City (USHL) | 5-11 | 174 lbs | Shoots: L

A smooth skating blueliner, Strathmann is effective moving the puck up ice with both his feet and passing ability. He is adept at shaking the first layer to open up lanes in transition but rarely takes unnecessary risks with the puck on his stick. Strathmann competes hard and reads the play well defensively, but will need to continue to add strength to his frame as he progresses.

49 | Trey Augustine | G | NTDP U18 (USNTDP) | 6-1 | 179 lbs | Catches: L

A technically sound goaltender with great composure in his crease, Augustine has put up great numbers with the NTDP so far in his draft year. He is quiet in the net, limiting unnecessary movements to keep himself in prime position to react to oncoming shots. He will have to improve his tracking abilities as he progresses, but Augustine has an incredibly strong base of skills to build on.

50 | Timur Mukhanov | C | Omskie (MHL) | 5-8 | 170 lbs | Shoots: R

After a great start to the season where he put up 15 points in 12 MHL games, Mukhanov was rewarded with a promotion to the VHL, where he has played ever since. He’s a small, compact forward who can flat-out fly. He reaches top speed quickly due to excellent acceleration and uses it to his advantage effectively.

Honorable Mentions

Noel Nordh, Carson Bjarnason, Beau Akey, Tom Willander, Bradley Nadeau, Carson Rehkopf, Connor Levis, Gracyn Sawchyn, Kalan Lind, Tyler Peddle, Tanner Molendyk, Emil Järventie, Mazden Leslie, Danny Nelson

LATEST PROFILE UPDATES

Name Fantasy Upside NHL Certainty
Teddy Stiga 7.0 8.0
Noah Powell 6.5 6.0
Ilya Protas 6.0 6.0
Adam Kleber 5.5 8.0
Javon Moore 8.0 3.0
Artyom Levshunov 9.0 8.0
Colby Barlow 8.0 9.5
Connor Levis 5.0 4.5
Rutger McGroarty 9.0 8.0
Timur Mukhanov 8.0 7.0

LATEST RADIO & DRAFTCASTS

[gs-fb-comments]

FIND US ON FACEBOOK