Regina Pats star Connor Bedard comes in at No. 1 in the first edition of Craig’s List for the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
“He’s a dynamic player,” said TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button. “The brilliant hockey sense, the hand skills, the ability to break down opponents quickly and effectively. I don’t care how high the expectations are on him, he always finds a way to exceed them.”
Bedard was the first 16-year-old since Connor McDavid to crack the Canadian World Junior roster in December and impressed, joining Wayne Gretzky as the only 16-year-olds to score a hat trick for Canada in the tournament. Bedard also became the sixth Canadian to score four goals in one game at the tournament in an 11-2 win over Austria.
Now in his second Western Hockey League season after gaining exceptional status from Hockey Canada in March 2020, the North Vancouver B.C. native has 20 goals and 36 points in 28 games.
SKA St. Petersburg forward Matvei Michkov debuts at No. 2 in the ranking. He has five points in 13 games in the KHL this season. The 17-year-old was a standout for the Russians with three goals in two games at the cancelled 2022 World Juniors.
“Michkov is a dangerous offensive player,” said Button. “He’s a threat and he’s threatening whenever he is on the ice. He can make things happen out of seemingly nothing. He thinks the game two and three steps ahead.”
At No. 3 is centre Adam Fantilli of the USHL’s Chicago Steel. With 39 points in 29 games, the Nobleton, Ont. native leads the USHL in goals with 23. Fantilli is committed to play for the University of Michigan next season.
“He’s another gifted offensive player,” said Button. “He puts defenders on their heels. He attacks the net. You may think that Adam is not in a spot where he can threaten you, but he’s thinking of the next spot where he will threaten you.”
Oshawa Generals centre Calum Ritchie comes in No. 4. Button believes that Ritchie, who has 12 goals and 25 points in 31 games this season, could ascend higher on this list.
“This kid is dynamic,” said Button. “Skill wise, physically, hockey sense. He’s big, he’s fast, he’s powerful. If there was a player that I think that might be able to put himself right in the conversation for first overall, it could be this kid.”
Rounding out the top five is Slovakia’s Dalibor Dvorsky, who plays in Sweden’s J20 SuperElit. The 16-year-old centre has 14 goals and 31 points in 23 games.
“He’s a thinker,” said Button. “I see him more as a playmaker. He’s really patient with the puck. But when opportunity arises, he takes advantage.”
Coming in at No. 6 and No. 7 are a pair of WHL forwards in Brayden Yager of the Moose Jaw Warriors and the Winnipeg Ice’s Zach Benson.
“He’s a general on the ice,” Button said of Yager. “Just commands the game everywhere. Smart. Directs traffic, directs the play. Great shot. He’s a really good playmaker but he’s a better goal scorer.”
Button said Benson is “Patrick Kane-esque. Slick, elusive, bold.”
“I always said this about Patrick Kane: He’s got the guts of a cat burglar,” said Button. “Zach Benson has those qualities.”
Orebro HK forward Leo Carlsson is No. 8 on Craig’s List. The native of Karlstad, Sweden has played 23 games in the SHL as a 17-year-old this season, recording four points.
“He skates really well, and he can move fast and with agility, move with quickness,” said Button. “He can freeze defenders. He’s got an effortless style of skating. He’s got this progression in his head of where the next play is going to be and he’s there. It’s not that he’s stealth, he’s just very, very smooth.”
At No. 9 is USNTDP forward Charlie Stramel, who played his first game of the season on Jan. 14 after recovering from off-season surgery. He is committed to the University of Wisconsin.
“He’s big, he’s fast, he’s after you,” Button said. “He jumps on the ice, and he doesn’t want to come off the ice unless he’s made a difference. He’s got boundless enthusiasm for playing.”
Rounding out the top 10 is the first defenceman on the list in Brynas’ Theo Lindstein. Splitting his time between J20 and SHL this season, Lindstein’s skating has made him a standout.
“Excellent skater,” said Button. “You’re going to have a tough time putting pressure on this guy because one step and he can go.”
Craig Button's Top 10 2023 Draft Prospects
|1||Connor Bedard||Regina (WHL)||C||5'9||181||28||20||36|
|2||Matvei Michkov||Morozova (MHL)||RW||5'10||159||6||8||13|
|3||Adam Fantilli||Chicago (USHL)||C||6'2||190||29||23||39|
|4||Calum Ritchie||Oshawa (OHL)||C||6'1||185||31||12||25|
|5||Dalibor Dvorsky||AIK (SWE J-20)||C||6'1||190||23||14||31|
|6||Brayden Yager||Moose Jaw (WHL)||C||6'0||161||37||20||39|
|7||Zach Benson||Winnipeg (WHL)||LW||5'10||150||27||12||33|
|8||Leo Carlsson||Orebro (SHL)||C||6'2||186||23||2||4|
|9||Charlie Stramel||USA U-18 (USHL)||RW||6'3||216||3||3||3|
|10||Theo Lindstein||Brynas (SWE-J20)||D||6'0||176||20||1||2|