The 2023 NHL Draft class has been a joy to scout. While it remains early to label it as the best class since 2005 – 2015 also has a strong claim there – it is certainly stronger than the past two classes by a fair amount. That is not only true at the top of the class, but in its depth as well. Our 16-50 range is incredibly tight, and arguments could be made for a lot of players to rise or drop by 10+ spots. Furthermore, we left a few players out of our honorable mentions who could get top-50 consideration in our final board, there are just too many players with comparable value as prospects in the middle rounds of this class.
Our ranking meeting lasted a full three hours, even with a concerted effort to not worry too much about individual rankings beyond the top-13 (who we feel have separated themselves from the pack). The U18 Men’s World Championships begin tomorrow, and they will surely shake up the consensus rankings as they always do. One of the primary reasons we post a ranking on the eve of the tournament is to be transparent on the effect it has on our rankings, which also helps us learn and grow as scouts when looking back at our process a few years afterward with the benefit of hindsight.
Before we get to our pre-U18 rankings, let’s meet the DP Scouting Team!
Sebastian High | Director of North American Scouting (@high_sebastian)
Eetu Siltanen | Director of European Scouting (@siltaneneetu)
Hadi Kalakeche | QMJHL Regional Scout (@HadiK_Scouting)
Alexa Potack | Swedish Regional Scout (@alexa_potack)
Sasha Lagarde | Central European Regional Scout (@sashalaGarde)
Colin Hunter | Goaltending Scout (@colinhunter0)
Jordan Harris | Russian Regional/European Crossover Scout (@Jordan_NHLDraft)
Luke Sweeney | Crossover Scout (@SweeneyLuke17)
Graham Montgomery | Crossover Scout (@GrahamSlamYT)
Evan Pace | USA Regional Scout (@evanpace17)
Alexander Annun | North American Crossover Scout (@Annun_Scouting)
Peter Harling | Managing Editor (@pharling)
Without further ado, the Dobber Prospects April ranking of the 2023 NHL Draft starts off with the expected name:
C | Regina (WHL) | 5-10 | 185 lbs | Shoots: R
Hadi Kalakeche: If there was any doubt that Bedard deserved the first-overall pick before the World Juniors, that was quickly erased with his historic performance at the under-20 tournament. After posting 23 points in only seven games against the best young stars on the planet and eclipsing Jaromir Jagr’s previous record-holding draft-year tally, Bedard returned to the WHL and further widened the gap between him and everyone else by earning 99 points in his final 36 games of Junior hockey.
Beyond the fact that Bedard’s catch-and-release toe-drag shot will make him one of the NHL’s best goal-scorers from day one, he has the foot speed and processing speed of an elite NHLer. He also boasts the softest hands in the class, and he sees the ice four steps ahead. Despite his below-average frame for a center, his physicality is far from a weakness — he protects pucks adeptly, can lead a forecheck, and can both deliver and sustain big hits with ease. Whichever team wins the lottery is getting a plug-and-play, franchise-defining center who, at his peak, could be one of the very few prospects to challenge Connor McDavid as the best player in hockey.
C | Michigan (NCAA) | 6-2 | 195 lbs | Shoots: L
Evan Pace: Fantilli is not quite the player of Bedard’s caliber, but he has been our #2 for the entire season (though Matvei Michkov may make it a conversation on our final board in June). His ability to step up when it matters most, notching 7 goals and 4 assists in the Big Ten playoffs, has cemented him as a truly game-breaking prospect. He’s a constant threat due to his ability to relentlessly pursue on the forecheck, make a thunderous hit or steal the puck with his highly intelligent attacks. With the puck, he’s dangerous as he’s big with speed and has twitchy hands, but he’s not afraid to take it outside and drive the net. He’s an elite finisher and has great vision and playmaking ability. He’s usually pretty solid in the faceoff dot too and has upside in all areas.
W | SKA St. Petersburg (KHL) | 5-10 | 172 lbs | Shoots: L
Jordan Harris: Much like Bedard and Fantilli, Michkov entered his draft season with sky-high, almost unfair, expectations of him. And just like those players ahead of him, Michkov shattered those expectations with impressive play in the KHL, one of the best leagues in the world outside of the NHL. Michkov had a record-setting draft year in the KHL with 9 goals and 11 assists in 30 games, although in three of those games he played only a minute or two with SKA St. Petersburg and did not find the scoresheet. Still, the 0.67 points per game pace was the best per game mark for a draft-eligible player in league history. Michkov’s season took off after a mid-season loan to HK Sochi where he consistently played big minutes for the team. Michkov’s intensity and compete level reached new heights after being questioned earlier in the year in the VHL. His skating has also improved from his D-1 season and now looks to grade out as slightly above the NHL average. Finally, Michkov’s transition game, playmaking, and shooting all translated seamlessly to the KHL and he was able to consistently get to high-danger areas to shoot, while setting teammates up for grade-A opportunities as well. If this was any other draft, Michkov would easily be at the top of our draft board.
C/W | Örebro (SHL) | 6-3 | 194 lbs | Shoots: L
Eetu Siltanen: Leo Carlsson finished the season with one of the most impressive stat lines by a draft-eligible player ever in the SHL. Regular season and playoffs combined, he recorded 11 goals and 23 assists in 57 games. Carlsson’s a unique player, as he already has a very well-rounded toolkit at this age. His biggest strengths are his excellent puck skills and hockey sense. He has the ability to beat players with skill moves and anticipate plays as though he were one step ahead of his opponents at all times. Carlsson’s improved as a shooter but remains more of a playmaker. He’s a really solid skater for his size and can utilize his size with puck protection. He plays the game with a high pace and is already very pro-ready. Carlsson vs. Michkov -debate for 3rd spot was a long one in our meeting, and it could still turn around in our final rankings.
W | Winnipeg (WHL) | 5-10 | 160 lbs | Shoots: L
Sebastian High: Zach Benson is a scout’s dream. He is perhaps the most versatile player in the entire draft class as currently constructed. He reads the ice like few others can and is consistently multiple steps ahead of the play despite being a slightly subpar skater. He is consistently intense and engaged. He may be the class’ best defensive forward. He is also a high-end playmaker with tremendous instincts and habits that tilt the ice in Winnipeg’s favor. He has been the best player on that strong team for two seasons already, despite 2022 top-12 picks Connor Geekie and Matthew Savoie playing alongside him. In our ranking meeting, I was not the only scout on our panel to argue that Benson would have been my first overall pick were he eligible for the 2022 class, his game has certain similarities to Shane Wright’s (though he lacks some of his physical tools) and he plays with significantly more pace, intensity, dynamism, and is a better playmaker. Any team that misses out on the top four will have the option of landing a franchise cornerstone in Benson.
C | NTDP U18 (USNTDP) | 5-11 | 188 lbs | Shoots: L
Hadi Kalakeche: We probably spent more time debating Moore vs. Will Smith than we spent on the entire second round in our latest scouts’ roundtable, and ended up opting for the alluring profile of the NTDP’s second-line center on a 4-3 vote. Moore is speed incarnate. Tremendous edgework, power and agility make him fly across the ice at a blinding pace. If that was his only asset, however, he would be much lower on our list; for a while, we saw a lot of moments that made us doubt whether Moore’s brain could keep up with his feet and intensity. But as the season went on, the center became much more adept at using changes of pace to both keep his head in the game and throw opponents off. While he does a lot of great things with the puck, Moore’s off-puck intensity combined with that high-end speed is what makes him so unique. He is constantly flooring the pedal, making sure that opposing defenders feel suffocated and have very little time to make a decision. There aren’t many prospects like Moore who don’t claw their way to the NHL, and with the defensive responsibility and finishing ability that he displays, a top-six role seems realistic.
C | NTDP U18 (USNTDP) | 6-0 | 178 lbs | Shoots: R
Evan Pace: Will Smith has had lots of incredible performances over the year, but there have also been some mediocre ones. Mixing in a bad game here and there isn’t surprising as he just turned 18 years old. Also, Smith usually follows up a tough performance with a jaw-dropping one. Smith has legitimate star potential and is going to continue his success at Boston College next year where he’ll likely play alongside his NTDP linemates once again. He extends possessions, finds teammates using great deception and can score at a high level in the future. His role at the next level will be determined by his development in areas like his skating stride and his two-way game, but his offensive game has little-to-no holes. He can play physically but is much more reliant on skill because he has elite tools and an excellent feel for the game.
W | Kelowna (WHL) | 5-10 | 167 lbs | Shoots: L
Hadi Kalakeche: Cristall embodies pure, distilled skill. Elite hands complement his high-end vision quite well, making him very noticeable when he gets the puck in the offensive zone. His weight shifts are calculated and perfectly timed, allowing him to send opponents the wrong way almost every time. His ability to delay or accelerate the release of his pass to hit his target is uncanny, and frequent pre-touch scans widen his field of vision and allow for a larger array of accessible plays. Add on top of that a deceptively hard and accurate release, and Cristall is among the best prospects in this draft when it comes to raw puck skills, which explains the fact that he is second only to Connor Bedard for points per game among draft eligibles from the WHL.
On the flip side, there are some setbacks to his game. His skating is only average at the moment due to less-than-ideal mechanics and little leg strength to compensate. This leads him to lag behind on back-checks and quick rushes. He also doesn’t offer much physically and only shows flashes of defensive capabilities. However, if his skating is rectified, the idea of his skillset and intelligence being combined with NHL-caliber speed and agility is terrifying. Cristall has a shot at being a top-five scorer out of this draft class if he is developed properly. He’s a project, but one who could pay off greatly for the right team.
D | Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL) | 6-4 | 201 lbs | Shoots: L
Graham Montgomery: A large, smooth-skating, two-way defenseman with intriguing upside. Strong skating, puckhandling, and puck distribution skills make him very effective in transition. Similarly, his anticipation of opposing neutral zone plays combined with his long reach and strong positioning makes him very effective in denying zone entries, particularly controlled entries. His defensive impact on the cycle is admittedly less impressive, but he is still strong in his own zone, and he is particularly good at finding ways to get the puck out with control. He is arguably the best defender in the draft. His offense relies too much on perimeter plays and he has shown hesitance in shooting the puck that could limit his offensive upside, but he has also shown enough in terms of puck distribution skills and off-puck positioning that one could see a world where he regularly produces points at the NHL level.
D | Skellefteå AIK (SHL) | 5-11 | 181 lbs | Shoots: R
Alexa Potack: Back from his stint in the SHL, Sandin-Pellikka has looked a bit lost at times, but the core aspects of his game are still noticeable and often successful. Through the neutral zone, Sandin-Pellikka remains highly intelligent, knowing when to utilize passing options and when to carry the puck himself. The issues have mainly been once he enters the offensive zone, as he occasionally runs out of space or carries the puck directly into traffic. The frequency of this is higher, but his ability to weave effortlessly through the opposition hasn’t gone away entirely. Once entered into the offensive zone, Sandin-Pellikka continues to make smart passes and can cover ground for a forward out of place. Overall, It’s easy to envision Sandin-Pellikka’s combination of mobility and stickhandling at any professional level, and he has a translatable ability as a power-play quarterback. His defensive game is not his strongest quality, but he knows how to position himself to create giveaway opportunities, often capitalizing on them.
W | Chicago (USHL) | 5-9 | 163 lbs | Shoots: R
Sebastian High: Apart from Connor Bedard, Jayden Perron may be the best off-puck offensive mover in the draft class. His nearly unparalleled knack for finding space in the slot and timing those decisive routes to fall behind coverage forms the crux of his offensive upside, as he thinks the game at a high enough level to indicate the translatability of this habit. He will score his goals by consistently being in the right place at the right time, but his playmaking is his best offensive tool. He is a strong handler who attacks with pace and who is able to access passing lanes defenders weren’t even aware were available by passing through multiple layers of coverage. His defensive game and tenacity are also significant strengths, and Perron will not be one of the undersized players who give up a lot defensively in order to to produce. He remains raw and will need at least three years of development before turning pro – with a specific focus on building lower body strength and on incorporating more pace shifts and lateral movement into his transition game – but the upside is very high in this player. He will not be drafted as high as we have him, and he is likely to fall to day two of the draft, but we are so confident in both his tools and his brain that his falling any further than 13 on our board would become difficult for us to rationalize.
W | NTDP U18 (USNTDP) | 5-11 | 190 lbs | Shoots: R
Jordan Harris: Leonard is the most physically imposing 5’11” player in the entire draft. He has a thick frame and it’s evident he has worked hard with his strength and conditioning during his two seasons with the USNDTP. Leonard is a right-shot RW playing on the NTDP’s top line with fellow Boston College commits, Will Smith and Gabe Perrault. Leonard plays a very translatable game with average to great tools across the board. His best tools are his shot, compete level, and physicality. He uses his strong frame to power his way to the front of the net, and when he’s sitting out in front of the net, he does not get pushed around. This playing style puts him in position for many high-danger scoring chances. Still, he’s more than just a net-front presence, as he’s a solid passer with a great shot that he uses to score from range at even strength and on the PP. Leonard is a tenacious player who will win far more puck battles than he loses due to outworking the opponent, using his body and leverage effectively, and by simply being stronger than the other player. Simply put, Leonard plays winning hockey and could be a very effective power forward with skill in the NHL.
C/W | Michigan (NCAA) | 5-9 | 170 lbs | Shoots: R
Brindley excels in so many areas, one is bound to hit and make him a valuable NHLer. He has playmaking skill and hands for days but doesn’t default to any particular set-in-stone habit or skill. He cuts to the inside with both fearlessness and calculated timing, setting himself up for prime-ice puck touches regularly. When his skills and habits don’t suffice to make him a positive-impact winger, he can also track back with tremendous backward skating and get involved in defensive plays to cover for an aggressive defender. His stick angling makes him surprisingly good at defending the rush in those circumstances. In Brindley, a team is getting one of the best defensive forwards in the class, with enough skill and projectability to top out as a very solid, very versatile second-line winger.
C | Prince George (WHL) | 5-11 | 182 lbs | Shoots: L
Hadi Kalakeche: Heidt’s versatility is his bread and butter, as he can play in any scenario. Down a goal, up a goal, on the power play or the penalty kill, coaches aren’t concerned when Heidt hops over the boards, and rightly so. His feistiness makes him a truly impressive forechecker. He boasts solid board-battle mechanics as well, making him a headache for opposing defenders below their goal line. There are also some very alluring elements to his playmaking, namely a wide array of passes and solid scanning habits, although his shot is just slightly above-average for this class. As he stands, Heidt’s ceiling projects him as a checking center with both high-end defensive capabilities and the playmaking/skill combo to hold down a second-line role. Think Yanni Gourde with better hands and passing.
W | Sudbury (OHL) | 6-2 | 205 lbs | Shoots: L
Sebastian High: Quentin Musty has been a fascinating player to follow over the course of the season. At its start, he was an extremely toolsy but tremendously inconsistent and inefficient player, especially in his decision-making. The tools have only gotten better, and his consistency, efficiency, and decision-making have all come a very long way. He remains a bit of a lacklustre defensive player, but that has never been where he’s most valuable. Musty is a fluid skater – clearly above-average – and pairs this mobility with borderline elite handling and passing, as well as a violent release, especially in his wrist shot. His pass selection may have been the biggest area of improvement this season and it has enabled him to unlock a really impressive playmaking game. He regularly feeds passes to dangerous areas through multiple defensive layers, and more often than not, they’re on the tape of his teammate. He will need to focus on continuing to develop his decision-making with the puck and more consistently use his teammates, and working on his slap shot mechanics would make him a more dangerous dual threat on the power play, but those are small critiques compared to our early-season writeups. Musty’s upside is astronomical, and it has looked increasingly plausible that he’ll be able to hit it as the season has progressed.
D | EHC Kloten (NL) | 6-2 | 187 lbs | Shoots: R
Sasha Lagarde: David Reinbacher has flown up the charts since the beginning of the season accumulating 22 points in 46 games with EHC Kloten. He is an intriguing right-handed defenseman in a draft that is lacking defensive star power and provides a very projectable toolbox as a middle-pairing defenseman with powerplay ability. Reinbacher doesn’t have elite skating or passing ability but he is super efficient in both aspects. He processes the game well and uses his edgework in tight spaces to shift into better positions or can find lanes quickly with his good playmaking ability. His shot and shot selection stand out as key components in his offensive potential and could form his ticket to quarterbacking a second power-play unit at the pro level. He is defensively responsible with great awareness and solid off-puck reads. Reinbacher can move bodies in front but he still needs to learn how to leverage his big frame in board play and one-on-one battles for puck possession. He looks like a defenceman who has a high defensive IQ and will improve with specific skill training at the higher level. What he lacks is dynamism. He is a solid top-4 projectable D man but is missing those elite qualities to be considered in the top-10. With that being said, he has the potential to be a staple for any team in the top-4 and has the aptitude to improve tremendously in all parts of his game (much like he did this season), and he reminds our team of Kaiden Guhle in more ways than one.
C | AIK (HockeyAllsvenskan) | 6-1 | 201 lbs | Shoots: L
Alexa Potack: Dvorský brings together a collection of high-level offensive and defensive skills. Though he never truly found his scoring touch in HockeyAllsvenskan, his rapid release, which often looks effortless. Over the course of the season, he’s become more comfortable with the physical presence of professional hockey and has learned how to manage this threat. At 6’1” and 201 lbs, Dvorský is not small either. This aids his defensive capabilities, as he limits opponent opportunities through his positioning and ability to read plays. Dvorský often plays a smart game but can get caught up in the pace of the play occasionally. While he’s usually reliable with the puck, on some zone entries, Dvorský dumps the puck to open ice, usually resulting in a turnover.
C | Brandon (WHL) | 6-1 | 185 lbs | Shoots: R
Hadi Kalkeche: Danielson has continued to prove himself to be one of the surest bets in this draft, while also showing that there is still a lot of room for him to add tools to his game. Great in transition and incredibly reliable in his own zone, the centre has also displayed the occasional flash of brilliance in the offensive end, whether that’s a pinpoint cross-ice pass or a last-minute angle change on a wrist shot. They remain only flashes and are far from consistent elements of his game, but he’s exploring, and that’s important. The knock on Danielson is that he defaults to safe plays, and is very rarely one for risks. This might be exactly what a contender is looking for, but it will likely limit him from becoming a top-of-the-lineup player. Nonetheless, the value of such a surefire bet to make the NHL has its value in the late teens to mid-twenties.
D | Omskie Yastreby (MHL) | 5-10 | 170 lbs | Shoots: L
Jordan Harris: Gulyayev had a very busy season playing several games across three different leagues while playing in some international tournaments as well. Truth be told, I think he could have benefited from consistent time in one or two leagues as it felt like much of his season was getting acclimated to new teammates and situations. Still, Gulyayev showcased his offensive skill with 25 points in 22 MHL games. Gulyayev is a small but speedy defenseman who likes to activate and transitions the puck well. He’s not afraid to attempt difficult passes if it means it’s an opportunity to set up a scoring chance. There are some instances where he can be a bit too dialed in on the path when carrying the puck and not see better opportunities to distribute the puck, but he’s still a good distributor. Gulyayev has excellent 4-way mobility and uses this to defend the rush effectively. A big concern remains his size and in-zone defensive positioning and awareness. This area of his game needs a lot of work and will likely be the difference between being a capable top 4 defenseman vs. a fringe NHL/very good KHL player.
D | Portland (WHL) | 5-10 | 172 lbs | Shoots: L
Hadi Kalkeche: So much of Cagnoni’s game flows through his incredible intelligence; his breakout passing is calculated and layered with deception, his off-puck support — whether that’s off the rush or in the offensive zone — is meticulous, and he is constantly shifting the angle of his shot from the blue line, opening up shooting lanes for himself and making it easier for his forwards to tip his shots on goal. When Cagnoni gets the puck, he doesn’t delegate his problems — he solves them. Unfortunately, the market is ruthless when it comes to smaller defensemen with average skating. Cagnoni is likely not going to be a top-20 selection, but his intelligence is among the best, if not the best, among this year’s blue-liners, and we would definitely take the risk based on its upside. Whichever team drafts him in the mid-second round is getting a first-round talent, with lots of potential.
C/W | Frölunda (SHL) | 5-11 | 181 lbs | Shoots: L
Alexa Potack: Once thought to be the second-best prospect from the Swedish leagues, Stenberg’s inconsistent season has pushed him down the list. As seen while representing Tre Kronor, Stenberg has an advanced playmaking ability and can play a dynamic game. His feet are always moving, working to create deceptive plays. The one downside to this, which is fixable, is that he can get caught with his feet moving before his hands, getting him stuck in challenging situations. The jump to the SHL, though brief, was some of Stenberg’s best hockey this season. In junior hockey, Stenberg sometimes seemed disinterested in the pace of play and competition. While up with the Men’s team, Stenberg played a more selfless game and was consistently engaged.
W | Owen Sound (OHL) | 6-0 | 193 lbs | Shoots: R
Jordan Harris: Barlow was a scoring machine this season as he put up 46 goals and added 33 assists in 59 games. Had he not missed a handful of games, he easily would have reached the 50-goal mark and been the eighth player this century to do so in their draft season. Barlow has great size, is very physically mature for his age, and will probably continue to add weight over the next few years. His season stat line really does confirm what we see on tape with Barlow. He is a shooter and is at his best away from the puck getting in position to finish the play. He can rip the puck and score from range and will crash the net to score dirty goals as well. Barlow’s game lacks vision and a playmaking element. He’s not an effective distributor of the puck and prefers to finish plays than to start or connect them. Barlow’s simple, but effective, game should translate well to the NHL, but more in a middle-6 capacity. Unfortunately, if he doesn’t add more creative elements to his game, he may struggle to become a point-producing top-line player since he’s unlikely to get many assists at the next level.
W | Vancouver (WHL) | 6-4 | 185 lbs | Shoots: R
Sebastian High: Honzek will likely be picked higher than we have him ranked, but we like this player a lot, and he could be a riser on our final board. Honzek is well-rounded and can play a variety of roles effectively. He is among the strongest and most powerful players in the class, he can play keep away with his tremendous reach like few other draft eligibles can. He consistently establishes inside positioning and initiates contact in puck battles. This array of pro-level habits that he formed while playing professionally last year really popped in the WHL this season. He is a good distributor, if not a high-end playmaker, but it is his shot that poses the biggest offensive threat in his toolkit. He generates impressive power and is a real threat to score from medium range. His handling, compete, and skating all project as plus-level professional tools, as well. While Honzek lacks significant top-line upside, he is a very good bet to become an impactful and versatile middle-six winger.
C | Oshawa (OHL) | 6-2 | 187 lbs | Shoots: R
Jordan Harris: This hasn’t been the offensive breakout season many expected of Calum Ritchie this year as he finished the season with 59 points in 59 OHL games. Despite the underwhelming (by his standards) season from a production standpoint, Ritchie is still a big C prospect who skates quite well, with a lot of tools that grade out above average. He is an effective distributor of the puck who makes slick passes to hit his teammates in stride. He also boasts good speed to carry the puck up the ice and successfully enter the offensive zone. He’s tenacious on the forecheck and will challenge opponents with his combination of size, speed and compete level. Ritchie missed time with a shoulder injury late in the season but was able to play in the playoffs. He was not at 100% when returning to the lineup as he was not taking faceoffs and was avoiding contact. Still, Ritchie performed well against the 1st place Ottawa 67s in the first round of the playoffs putting up 6 points in 5 games, despite the injury. Ritchie is a player who has fallen down draft boards this season, however, he could very well ascend if he can regain his form in the U18 World Championships.
C | Moose Jaw (WHL) | 6-0 | 166 lbs | Shoots: R
Sebastian High: It has been a difficult season for Yager, as he has dropped on just about every single board, and ours is no exception. Yager’s shot is a truly high-end tool. He generates great power and accuracy from a variety of releases and he doesn’t need much space to get them off. He has also built on his playmaking game a fair bit this season, flashing moments of impressive lane manipulation and passes through multiple layers of defense. He’s also a plus-level defensive player, dropping low in the defensive zone, scanning for threats, and fluidly switching assignments while keeping his stick in lanes. That said, his defensive game and goalscoring have both stagnated this season. The biggest concerns we have with his projection are his struggle to play through heavy physicality (we are far more concerned with his lack of physicality than with Benson, Cristall, or Perron, for instance) and his average skating and hockey sense. Yager is really slight, and he will need to either build out his frame and lower body significantly and/or develop his skating or hockey sense to be an adaptive tool to circumvent physical pressure. There is certainly second-line upside here, but there is also a possibility that Yager struggles in making the leap to the NHL.
W | HV71 (SHL) | 6-0 | 163 lbs | Shoots: L
Alexa Potack: Mølgaard’s rapid learning and adaptation to SHL hockey has quickly moved him toward the top of many lists, including ours. What stands out most about Mølgaard was his ability to match intensity and physicality, despite often being smaller than his opponents. He is intelligent on and off the puck, knowing when to engage, where to be, and how to attack. He wins a significant number of battles along the boards, mostly by utilizing his quick maneuvers to the inside. Mølgaard’s 7 SHL points this season are respectable, but his professional-level scoring ability once again comes down to his desire to get involved in high-intensity plays. Most of his goals scored in any league this season were accomplished by battling net-front for loose pucks or deflections. He served this role well on his teams, though he only recorded 17 shots on goal the entire season, the lowest of any forward that played more than 25 games with the club in 2022-23.
D | Kelowna (WHL) | 6-1 | 181 lbs | Shoots: L
Sebastian High: Caden Price’s tools are very enticing, and it’s a large part of the reason for his early-season hype following a very strong performance at the Hlinka. He is a comfortably above-average skater who is mobile in all four directions and is capable of patrolling a very large defensive area with the help of a long reach. His bright flashes are blinding, but the lows are quite low as well. There are sequences of impressive playmaking ability, great gap control and transition defending, and strong handling. However, there are equally sequences of low engagement, passiveness, lack of scanning, and general inconsistency. His late-August birthday and resulting longer developmental runway played a role in our collective comfort in ranking him inside the first round, as he could truly break out next season.
W | HC Kometa Brno (Tipsport Extraliga) | 6-2 | 168 lbs | Shoots: L
Sasha Lagarde: Eduard Sale is a relatively good skater who could benefit from a better first step. His technique is sound and he moves his feet well when controlling the puck in transition. However, he is caught flat-footed at times in all three zones. Sale needs to move his feet to create space for himself which will increase his pacing as well. He uses his edges well in tight spaces which aids his dynamic ability in small quarters. His offensive instincts are the most projectable qualities of his game as he has above-average scanning habits and elite playmaking ability from the neutral zone and into the offensive zone. When given time and space, he is a great passer and can be a huge threat on the powerplay with his above-average shot. His release is the key component in his shot as he should work on getting more velocity consistently. Offensively, Sale is a mixed bag of high-end skill and playmaking ability with above-average intelligence to boot.
W | NTDP U18 (USNTDP) | 5-11 | 165 lbs | Shoots: R
Alexander Annun: Perreault is having a fantastic sophomore season with the NTDP as he is the highest scorer on the team with 110 points in 55 games, good for a perfect two points per game average. This is an incredible increase in production from last season and the chemistry he has shown with fellow Boston College commits Will Smith and Ryan Leonard has been remarkable. Perreault’s game is built with a strong foundation of forechecking and work ethic, and he layers that with high-level skill and speed to make himself a real pain in the side of the opposition. He is an intelligent player who makes quick, and more importantly smart, decisions with the puck and quickly moves into support areas to make himself an option again. He has the puck skills and confidence to take his man in a 1 v 1 situation and once he is able to get past his defender the offensive zone opens up for him and he gets to showcase his playmaking ability. He has great accuracy and zip on his passes and does a nice job hitting tight windows and leading his teammates into space. He remains a pass-first player but shows good killer instincts around the net and has quick hands to get his shot off and has improved his goal-scoring ability.
C/W | Youngstown (USHL) | 5-9 | 173 lbs | Shoots: R
Evan Pace: Will Whitelaw is a shooter. He gained lots of traction after his breakout performance at the U18s and has been very good in his first full year with Youngstown. However, while there’s a ton to like about Whitelaw’s offensive game, he leaves a lot to be desired when looking at his overall game. He’s undersized, lacks impact in his own end, tries too much at times and has lots of bad giveaways. However, his best moments are incredible and his offensive ceiling ranks among the top in the draft. He’s quick, shifty, and has a ridiculous release and scoring ability. He’s a shot creator and will develop the discipline to take better shots as time goes on. The holes in his game could be exposed at the college level, but good coaching and development will be key.
W | Ottawa (OHL) | 5-9 | 165 lbs | Shoots: L
Sebastian High: Pinelli is a player I’ve personally watched well over 40 times now, as I’ve gone to most Ottawa 67’s home games in the past two seasons, and every time I watch him I increasingly appreciate the finer details of his game. Despite playing on the OHL’s best regular season team, the situation isn’t the greatest for Pinelli, as he’s lacked consistent linemates for much of the season and hasn’t gotten PP1 minutes since January, and that despite leading his team in playoff points. His game is built on a foundation of intelligence and plus-level tools. His shot has come a long way in the past year-and-a-half, to the point where he is a designated triggerman on the power play now, but his playmaking has been neglected as a result. The flashes of manipulative boards-to-middle playmaking remain very bright, however; he uses his plus-level handling and agility to quickly change angles on his passes, to great effect. While he is quite undersized, Pinelli plays with intensity and ferocity, rarely getting knocked off his feet; he is also a strong defensive player. While his lack of truly elite tools is (rightfully) a concern for quite a few public scouts, we’re confident enough in his ability to leverage his intelligence to make it work as an impactful middle-six NHLer to rank him inside our top 32.
W | Sherbrooke (QMJHL) | 5-11 | 176 lbs | Shoots: R
Hadi Kalakeche: For an average-sized winger, Gauthier’s physicality really stands out. He is both adept at and unafraid of throwing his weight around on the forecheck, while also displaying an impressive ability to stay in the play rather than chase hits. Most of his shots occur in the slot, which he manages by timing his offensive movement to perfection. A push-off here, a curl-up-and-funnel-down play there, and Gauthier has his stick up between the dots, ready to one-time it at a moment’s notice. He displays intelligence in almost every offensive scenario, but his puck skills being average or slightly above-average across the board, as well as his lack of defensive consistency, make him more of a late first-rounder. In Gauthier, you’re getting a player with all the physical tools and mental habits to become an NHLer, but who lacks true star power. An ideal pick for a contender with its fair share of stars already.
W | UConn (NCAA) | 6-3 | 193 lbs | Shoots: R
Jordan Harris: Wood was the youngest player in the NCAA this season after joining UConn as a 17-year-old. Despite being the youngest player, Wood certainly does not look like it, nor did he play like it. Wood is noticeably the biggest player on the ice in every game he plays and looks even bigger than the 6’3”, 190 pounds he’s listed at. He boasts an excellent shot and a nose for a net which allows him to score from both range and from in tight. He put up 34 points in 35 games with the Huskies, absurd numbers for a player his age. Despite his success, major question marks surrounding his skating, compete level, and lackadaisical handling of the puck exist, and present real risk as to whether he will ever reach his fullest potential.
C/W | London (OHL) | 5-8 | 174 lbs | Shoots: L
Hadi Kalakeche: Barkey has continued to be an incredibly fun, undersized forward who repeatedly plays like he’s twice his size. His playoff run with London so far has been stellar, as he has regularly made himself the focal point of his line with his forechecking and playmaking combination. A high-risk, high-reward bet with tantalizing potential.
W | Prince George (WHL) | 6-0 | 204 lbs | Shoots: R
Hadi Kalakeche: A heavy, accurate shot combine with high-end offensive movement and an uncanny ability to get lost in coverage to make Ziemmer an interesting shoot-first prospect. He makes an ideal fit for a team with its center corps figured out or with an abundance of playmakers in its system.
G | NTDP U18 (USNTDP) | 6-1 | 179 lbs | Catches: L
Colin Hunter: Unquestionably the best first-year-eligible goaltender in the class right now, Augustine put together the best season from a USNTDP goalie in years. Excellent from a technical standpoint, Augustine is a calming force between the pipes. Great lateral speed, recovery ability, and hands help to mitigate the fact that he is “only” 6’1.
W | HIFK (Liiga) | 6-3 | 207 lbs | Shoots: R
Eetu Siltanen: Halttunen’s a heavy-shooting right-handed winger with extensive goal-scoring arsenal. He couldn’t get his production going in Liiga, where he only notched 1 assist in 27 games. In U20 he scored better, recording 18 goals and 6 assists in 18 games. Halttunen has size and he can throw physicality in the mix, but his inconsistency was pretty alarming at times.
C | Seattle (WHL) | 5-11 | 165 lbs | Shoots: R
Luke Sweeney: Gracyn Sawchyn drew the unfavourable role as a draft-eligible of playing 3C for the stacked Seattle Thunderbirds. Nevertheless, Sawchyn was still able to have a very productive season, finishing a point-per-game with 18 goals and 40 assists. Offensively, Sawchyn plays well off the cycle, where he can make use of his great hands and puck protection to play his inside-driven game. Sawchyn has a high motor, which despite not being very big, makes him an adept checker in all three zones, fishing pucks off the boards in the offensive zone and disrupting plays in the neutral zone. His skill, checking ability and pro habits should earn Sawchyn a long look at the next level.
D | Rögle BK J20 (J20 Nationell) | 6-1 | 179 lbs | Shoots: R
Alexa Potack: Defense is Willander’s best asset, but success on the power play helped him become Rögle’s highest-scoring defenseman in the J20 Nationell this season. He reads the rush well, rarely gets caught out of position, and knows how to utilize his reach. He isn’t a particularly flashy player but he can effectively support or lead in every zone. Offensive play is not Willander’s strength, but he contributes by locating and reaching pass options and creating space. The U18s will be a great environment for Willander to demonstrate his reliable capabilities on a larger stage.
D | Brynäs IF (SHL) | 6-0 | 181 lbs | Shoots: L
Alexa Potack: Lindstein projects to be a stay-at-home defenseman. His skating is technically sound and fluid. He reads the ice well and plays a confident game, which reflects in his decision-making and patience. His gap control is solid, and one of his best abilities is deterring the rush away from the net and toward the wings. Though he can flash a decent shot, he’s not a defenseman that should be counted on for secondary or power-play scoring. He needs to add strength to bring a dimension of physicality to his play.
C | Omskie Krylia (VHL) | 5-8 | 170 lbs | Shoots: R
Jordan Harris: Mukhanov started his season in the MHL but was promoted quickly to the VHL for Omskie Krylia where he showed he could hold up versus men, despite a very small frame. Mukhanov boasts elite speed and is a very creative player who sees the ice well. He has excellent touch on passes and uses his vision to anticipate where teammates will be and spring them quickly with touch passes in the give-and-go game. The offense didn’t come at the VHL level, but whenever he’s played with his peers, he’s been one of the most dangerous players on the ice.
W | Södertälje SK (HockeyAllsvenskan) | 5-10 | 179 lbs | Shoots: L
Alexa Potack: This season, one of his biggest areas of growth was gaining comfort playing at the level of HockeyAllsvenskan. Ciernik plays a smart game and shows maturity through his IQ. He has deceptive hands, which he uses paired with his skating ability. In transition, he often moves laterally, sometimes fully covering the width of the ice. He’s no longer the fastest player on the ice as he was in many junior leagues, but his feet do provide an advantage.
W | Leksands IF J20 (J20 Nationell) | 5-10 | 179 lbs | Shoots: R
Luke Sweeney: Unger Sorum is another Swedish player this year who has performed at a high level in the J-20 (46 points and 10 goals in 42 games) and earned a look at the SHL level. Unger Sorum was able to demonstrate his versatile game at the pro level, showing his smarts, his ability to find the slot, and his tenacity. Against J20 competition, his playmaking shone very brightly and could unlock a higher offensive ceiling in his game. His ability to handle pro-level physicality at 17 bodes well for a future NHL middle-six role.
C/W | Rögle BK (SHL) | 6-0 | 179 lbs | Shoots: L
Eetu Siltanen: Felix Nilsson kind of came out of nowhere and broke into Färjestad’s SHL roster to play 20 games. His showings there were positive despite not getting into the score sheet, and he scored at over point-per-game pace in the J20. Nilsson’s a skilled playmaker, with strong offensive toolkit and great hockey sense.
W | Ässät (Liiga) | 6-0 | 174 lbs | Shoots: R
Eetu Siltanen: Hämeenaho had a productive season with Ässät’s Liiga team, as he notched 25 points in 59 games, regular season and playoffs combined. 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. He could be ranked much higher but our team doesn’t see high-end upside.
G | Omaha (USHL) | 6-6 | 209 lbs | Catches: L
Colin Hunter: It has been an up-and-down season for Hrabal in Omaha. He is physically gifted and uses his tools and size well; he’s capable of using his frame to make high-danger saves look relatively routine. Hrabal is technically sound for his size but still rough around the edges with some question marks about his positioning and hands. The upside is undeniable.
C | Malmö (SHL) | 6-3 | 185 lbs | Shoots: L
Sebastian High: Wahlberg will be an interesting player to follow at the draft, as it was a tale of two seasons for him. In the J20, he was often inefficient and between flashes of brilliance and end-to-end rushes, he was regularly disengaged. In the SHL, however, it all came together. He blended his strong physical game with his plus-level skating and speed to bulldoze through the neutral zone against pro competition and generally tilt the ice in his team’s favour. His defensive game is decent if not amazing, and his goalscoring game is far more refined than his playmaking game is. He is quite raw and will take patience, but the middle-six upside as a rare mold of player will be very enticing on day two of the draft.
W | Hamilton (OHL) | 5-11 | 165 lbs | Shoots: L
Luke Sweeney: Nick Lardis out of the OHL, struggled to find his form early in Peterborough, but exploded to a near-goal-per-game pace upon being traded to Hamilton. His explosive, lightning-quick stride and his cannon of a shot make him extremely dangerous as a powerplay triggerman and as a rush finisher. However, without much diversity in his game, his projectability to the NHL is up for debate.
D | Saskatoon (WHL) | 5-11 | 176 lbs | Shoots: L
Sebastian High: Molendyk is a mesmerizing skater. He moves around the ice with tremendous fluidity and relies on his mobility to solve problems. This is our biggest concern with his projection as it has enabled him to be a primarily reactive player – both defensively and offensively – rather than needing to develop a strong anticipatory game. If his deception and processing speed take a leap through targetted development and he becomes more consistently daring in the offensive zone, Molendyk could develop into a very intriguing puck-moving defenseman.
C | Wisconsin (NCAA) | 6-3 | 216 lbs | Shoots: R
Alexander Annun: Stramel’s year did not go the way he planned, as Wisconsin did not enjoy a successful season and he personally had a down year in terms of offensive production with 12 points in 33 games. His ability is not much in question, as he shows great hands and handling on the puck. He is physically gifted with size and he blends that well with his skill on the puck, which makes him a very attractive prospect, especially given that he plays center. He works hard and does a very good job breaking up plays, and even stopping them before they truly get going. His shot is very good, with great power and accuracy on it, and he uses his hands well to quickly move the puck into shooting position for him to get his chance. He isn’t going to blow you away with his skating ability, but it is good and it allows him to drive at the defense and give him space to create opportunities on the attack. He has plenty of tools to his game and while this season was not what he envisioned, he still has a lot to offer NHL teams.
D | Tri-City (WHL) | 6-2 | 181 lbs | Shoots: R
Graham Montgomery: Dragicevic is an offensively-minded defenseman who relies on a high volume of plays and his shot to put up points at the WHL level. While his counting stats are impressive, mediocre skating, subpar defensive play, and no real stand-out high-end skills other than his shot make his projection very uncertain.
W | Loko Yaroslavl (MHL) | 6-4 | 198 lbs | Shoots: R
Jordan Harris: But had a productive draft season which saw him produce at a point-per-game basis in the MHL while getting some games in the KHL, and even scoring two goals. But’s calling card is his shot, which he uses to fire pucks past junior-level goalies. He’s got a massive frame and has good hands for a big man. He boasts underrated playmaking abilities as well. Despite these tools But is not a complete package as his scanning habits, leverage skating, and compete level all need quite a bit of work. But had a very good MHL season, but given his size and toolbox, he could have dominated.
W | Chelmet Chelyabinsk (VHL) | 5-11 | 170 lbs | Shoots: L
Jordan Harris: Rykov enjoyed a very nice draft season playing 20 games in the VHL, the second-tier professional league in Russia, producing 4 goals and 7 assists in that span, before being shut down the final couple months of the season with an injury. He started out playing a very reserved game trying not to make too many mistakes in his first few games against men but eventually adjusted quite nicely to the pace of the VHL. He has average tools and average size but doesn’t have many holes in his game. A July birthday makes him one of the younger players in this draft, which means he could have more physical development still to come compared to others. He projects as a reliable, yet hard-working bottom 6 player with a bit of skill.
D | Kitchener (OHL) | 6-0 | 187 lbs | Shoots: R
Graham Montgomery: A mid-sized defenseman who does a lot of things decently well, but not a lot stands out. He’s been Kitchener’s best defenseman this season racking up 57 points in 68 games, but just six goals. Not the most skilled guy but has some good moments with his playmaking. Expanding on his passing game to make it a defining skill could give Brzustewicz his identity once he makes the jump to pro hockey.
C | Penticton (BCHL) | 5-10 | 163 lbs | Shoots: R
Graham Montgomery: Nadeau put up eye-watering numbers this season with 113 points in 54 games for the Jr. A Penticton Vees. Historically though, most players who produce like this in Junior A tend to be depth players at the NHL level. Penticton was also stacked this year with six players over a point per game. So take this production with a grain of salt. His two biggest strengths are his shot and his processing speed, his rush patterns and off-puck movements are diverse and unpredictable, and he generates a shocking amount of power on his one-timers and curl-and-drag shots.
C | Youngstown (USHL) | 6-2 | 198 lbs | Shoots: L
Sasha Lagarde: Misiak’s skating is very strong, very quick out of a stopped position combined with strong crossovers and polished edgework. These qualities allow Misiak to adjust quickly while constantly moving in all zones (no wasted strides), showing off his ability to anticipate defensive schemes. Misiak is usually F1 on forecheck, isn’t overly physical but doesn’t shy away from contact in the corners or in front of the net. For these reasons, he is being used as the bumper on PP2 and fully understands when he’s under pressure. Misiak was used as a winger but he projects as a centerman due to his responsible play in all three zones. His exceptional skating will allow him to play in the middle of the ice at the higher pro levels.
D | NTDP U18 (USNTDP) | 6-0 | 170 lbs | Shoots: R
Sebastian High: The crop of defensemen out of the USNTDP in 2023 is significantly weaker than in past years, but there is one very intriguing player in that group who could slip under the radar on draft day and fall to the middle rounds. Aram Minnetian is a tremendous skater. The right-shot defenseman has great stride and crossover mechanics, he moves with great fluidity, and he layers deception into every motion with the puck on his stick. The production doesn’t reflect his skill, dynamism, or playmaking ability, but he is poised for a breakout with Boston College next season. His on-puck game has some impressive flashes that are reminiscent of Seamus Casey, but he also has more developmental question marks than Casey did. He has a tendency to rush plays under pressure, which all effective offensive defensemen in the NHL have grown out of, and he will need to do the same. He’s also quite a passive transition defender, his gaps are typically loose and he often gives up zone entries without much contest. His in-zone defending is defined by generally good scanning habits and the very same passiveness that is so visible in his transition defending. Minnetian is far from a sure thing, but his foundation of strong tools and deception gives him a very interesting upside that will likely trump most alternatives as of the third round of the draft.
C | Frölunda J20 (J20 Nationell) | 6-2 | 181 lbs | Shoots: R
Alexa Potack: As the year progressed, Dower Nilsson has not solved his skating issue, which is the main reason for his fall in the rankings. On transitions, he creates a number of turnovers when there isn’t a clear path forwards. It often appears that he knows where he should be, but can’t physically get there due to his poor stride. He led 2023 Swedish prospects in J20 Nationell scoring, largely in part due to his offensive IQ, creativity, and wrist shot. His level of dominance on the scoresheet clearly begs for professional opportunities, which will be the real test of his abilities. For now, he’s certainly a player to watch at the upcoming U18s.
D | Sudbury (OHL) | 6-0 | 187 lbs | Shoots: R
Luke Sweeney: For reasons other than having the best name in the draft, Matthew Mania of the Sudbury Wolves is just so much fun. One of the premier transition defensemen in this draft, Mania uses his great puckhandling posture, quick feet and hands, and constantly swivelling head to gain bluelines and make defenders look silly. Mania’s gap control is an issue, but as an electric, 6’0 right-hander who’s 5th among draft-eligible D-men in points, his development could be one to watch.
W | Penticton (BCHL) | 6-2 | 205 lbs | Shoots: L
Sebastian High: While Bradly Nadeau has gotten the majority of the focus as a 2023 draft-eligible out of the historically dominant 2022-23 Penticton Vees team, his teammate, Aydar Suniev is equally intriguing as a prospect, if not more so. Suniev’s skating is… poor. His stride is extremely wide, choppy, and inefficient, and it presents by far the biggest hurdle in his development. That said, Suniev has developed an array of adaptive skills to compensate for his poor skating. He is tenacious all over the ice, which makes him a powerful puck carrier, pestering forechecker, and a defensively engaged winger. His off-puck habits are very strong. He’s a strong back checker, is consistently well-positioned, finds space offensively very well, and consistently attacks the slot and the middle lane offensively. He is an intelligent player who leverages his brain to create advantages. Just how translatable this will be as he makes a big jump in competition remains a bit of a question. His foundation of awareness, sound habits and positioning, deadly release, excellent puck protection mechanics, and consistent work rate is a solid one to build on.
C/W | Drummondville (QMHL) | 6-1 | 190 lbs | Shoots: L
Hadi Kalakeche: A strong goal-scoring winger with a need to improve his skating mechanics, Peddle has the frame and instincts to make the NHL in a complementary role. Don’t expect much play-driving out of him, though — he’s there to finish plays, not create them.
D | Guelph (OHL) | 5-11 | 190 lbs | Shoots: R
Graham Montgomery: Allen had a lot of eyes on him after an impressive draft minus one year last season. This year he seems to have taken a step back and is part of the reason Guelph hasn’t been able to take the next step. Occasionally, he has moments of brilliance, but his decision-making is holding him back. There is skill there, but he is a long-term project.
G | Youngstown (USHL) | 6-2 | 201 lbs | Catches: L
Colin Hunter: It has been a very impressive season from Fowler, finishing second in USHL save percentage (behind only Augustine) and helping the USA to victory in the WJAC. Fowler is somewhat unique in his goaltending style and is not the strongest skater. He does, however, possess a couple of very intriguing skills – excellent lateral speed and athleticism, and great anticipatory abilities (both in reading the play and individual shooters). He is headed to a strong school for goaltender development at Boston College, which bodes well for his post-draft progression.
D | Youngstown (USHL) | 5-11 | 174 lbs | Shoots: L
Evan Pace: Strathmann is a skilled and creative offensive defenseman with decent upside. He has very promising attributes that will leave him coveted by plenty of NHL teams and will look to develop into a legitimate NHL prospect at North Dakota next season. He will, however need to adapt his style of play from his current game, which is reminiscent of Cale Makar’s but with tools that won’t enable him to continue playing this way at the pro level.
Beau Akey, Easton Cowan, Noel Nordh, Carson Bjarnason, Coulson Pitre, Ondrej Molnár, Carson Rehkopf, Oliver Bonk, and Matthew Soto.