The talented 2023 NHL Draft is now on the horizon. The draft is critical to owners, fans, and all of the management involved because it is how dynasties are created. One draft can change the course of an entire franchise.
The Pittsburgh Penguins built their successful core through the draft, for instance, drafting Marc-Andre Fleury (1st, 2003), Evgeni Malkin (2nd, 2004), and Sidney Crosby (1st, 2005). With these three players as their foundation, the Penguins they were able to win 3 Stanley Cups, qualify for the finals four times, and become a dynasty.
At this year’s draft, the Chicago Blackhawks will be changed forever as they add a 17-year-old boy from Vancouver deemed to be the NHL’s next mind-blowing talent. Connor Bedard is at the level of Connor McDavid, who was the last generational talent to come through the draft in 2016, where the Edmonton Oilers picked him 1st overall. Aside from Bedard, there are many other players in this draft with the potential to become star players in the NHL.
I have put together a list of the best players eligible for the 2023 draft, by position.
Forward: Connor Bedard
Bedard is the best forward (and player) in this draft class. Highlighted by a quick, powerful, versatile shot, his skill set is simply marvellous. What he accomplished at the WJC alone was one of the greatest performances in World Junior history. He thrived in the spotlight and was the main reason Canada ended up winning the entire tournament. He is on another planet compared to the other players in this draft, both in terms of skill and compete and has the tools to become another McDavid or Crosby.
Runner up: Adam Fantilli
Adam Fantilli is a terrific player. He is extremely versatile and has the potential to be a star number-one centre. He has a high-end shot and the ability to find holes in opposing defences. He was used in all situations as a freshman and throws thunderous hits with his big frame (6-2, 190 lbs). He is a complete player and led all NCAA rookies (and players) in points, taking home the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in college hockey—a distinction only Jack Eichel and Paul Kariya managed as freshmen.
Defence: David Reinbacher
David Reinbacher is a skilled, versatile defender who plays a mature game and has experience playing with EHC Kloten in Switzerland’s top men’s league. He has good size and is extremely agile, often jumping into the rush and creating offence from the back end. His shot stands out the most, not so much for its power but for its accuracy and the way he consistently gets the puck through to the net. He is also able to make a strong first pass and make defensive stops reliably. His active stick forces opposing forwards out wide and prevents them from entering high-danger areas.
Runner up: Mikhail Gulyayev
Mikhail Gulyayev is known for his offensive instincts and is a really gifted skater. He is incredibly fast through the neutral zone and excels at finding open teammates off the rush. He likes to go back behind his net, gain speed, then skate all the way up the ice and create an opportunity to score. Gulyayev has been a consistent defencemen all year.
Goalies: Trey Augustine
Augustine is the best goalie in this draft. His positioning is close to perfect, and his great showing at the WJC, where he was the starter for the USA, showed off his fast reflexes and lightning quick glove hand. He doesn’t give shooters much to work with and challenges way out of his crease. He can see the play through traffic and is great at tracking pucks from the blue line.
Runner up: Carson Bjarnason
Bjarnason is a goalie I really like, both because he has the same first name as me and because he has the ability to win games for his team. When players have confidence, they aren’t as worried and play more toward their strengths. When Bjarnason is in the net, the Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) won 21 games and lost 19. They played significantly better when he was in net but ended up missing the playoffs in the end (only 6 teams miss the playoffs in the WHL). He has the tremendous ability to always be in position to make a save and also has something Augustine doesn’t: size. Many goalies in today’s NHL are over 6 feet. He is well over that at 6’3.
Thanks for reading,