Button’s Mock Draft: Which players go after Bedard?
The Chicago Blackhawks were the winners of the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery, moving up from No. 3 to No. 1 with the opportunity to draft a generational talent in Regina Pats centre Connor Bedard.
For TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button, he has Bedard going No. 1 to the Blackhawks in his post-lottery mock draft and makes a lofty comparison.
“He had the best junior career since Wayne Gretzky in 1977,” said Button of Bedard. “Connor Bedard dominated the World Juniors. [Connor] McDavid, [Sidney] Crosby, [Mario] Lemieux did not do that. The last guy to do it at that age is Wayne Gretzky.”
Bedard had 71 goals and 143 points in 57 WHL games this season and dominated at the 2023 World Juniors, leading Canada to gold with a nine-goal, 23-point performance.
After going into the draft lottery with the best odds to win top pick at 25.5 per cent, the Anaheim Ducks dropped back to No. 2 where Button has University of Michigan centre and 2023 Hobey Baker Award winner Adam Fantilli going.
Fantilli, who had 30 goals and 65 points in 36 games as a freshman at Michigan this season, would join a Ducks’ up and coming core that includes the likes of Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish.
“He has a style of game like Nathan MacKinnon,” said Button of Fantilli. “He plays at a frenzied pace, at a high tempo and is hungry to score.”
Rounding out Button’s top five in the mock draft is Orebro centre Leo Carlsson going No. 3 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, USNTDP centre Will Smith heading to San Jose at No. 4 and the Montreal Canadiens, the highest-picking Canadian team in the draft, taking Slovak centre Dalibor Dvorsky at No. 5.
“Dalibor has been a very good player for a number of years,” said Button. “He took his game [up a notch] at a very competitive tournament [in] the U18s.”
Button projects the Arizona Coyotes stepping up to take talented Russian prospect Matvei Michkov at No. 6. Michkov is one of the draft’s most gifted prospects but his passport and KHL contract status (signed through 2025-26) have led to questions of when he'd come over to the NHL.
“I think the timeline absolutely lines up with the Arizona Coyotes and Matvei Michkov,” said Button. “There's one other valuable thing about Matvei Michkov coming in at 21 on an entry level contract, [he’s] probably ready to produce at a pretty high level. That is valued big time.”
For the two other Canadian franchises drafting in the top 16, Button has the Vancouver Canucks selecting Swedish defenceman Axel Sandin-Pellikka at No. 11 and the Calgary Flames taking Brandon Wheat Kings centre Nate Danielson at No. 16.
Button's full top-16 mock draft:
1. Chicago Blackhawks – Connor Bedard
2. Anaheim Ducks – Adam Fantilli
3. Columbus Blue Jackets – Leo Carlsson
4. San Jose Sharks – Will Smith
5. Montreal Canadiens – Dalibor Dvorsky
6. Arizona Coyotes – Matvei Michkov
7. Philadelphia Flyers – Ryan Leonard
8. Washington Capitals – David Reinbacher
9. Detroit Red Wings – Colby Barlow
10. St. Louis Blues – Matthew Wood
11. Vancouver Canucks – Axel Sandin-Pellikka
12. Arizona Coyotes (via OTT) – Zach Benson
13. Buffalo Sabres – Oliver Moore
14. Pittsburgh Penguins – Brayden Yager
15. Nashville Predators – Gabe Perreault
16. Calgary Flames – Nate Danielson