Plenty of intrigue after Bedard in McKenzie's Lottery Edition ranking
There is no doubt whatsoever who will be taken No. 1 overall in the talent-laden 2023 NHL Draft.
Beyond that, though, at Nos. 2 through 5? Well, grab the popcorn because it’s going to be quite a show. It will be fascinating to see in what order a handful of elite prospects not named Connor Bedard are chosen on June 28 in Nashville.
That much became evident when compiling TSN’s 2023 NHL Draft Top 12 Ranking, the Draft Lottery Edition. And we will at least find out in Monday’s NHL Draft Lottery (8 p.m. ET) which clubs will win the Nos. 1 and 2 picks in this year’s draft and the order of selection.
While every scout surveyed by TSN had Bedard as the obvious and clear-cut No. 1, four other gifted prospects earned consideration from the scouts at No. 2, behind the phenom.
Those four prospects include: University of Michigan dominant offensive Canadian centre Adam Fantilli; surging U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program centre Will Smith; Swedish two-way centre Leo Carlsson; and dynamic Russian goal-scoring winger Matvei Michkov.
Fantilli, the 2023 Hobey Baker Award winner as the top Division I men's college hockey player, remains the consensus No. 2 prospect in our Draft Lottery Edition rankings, just as he was in TSN’s Mid-Season Rankings from late January. Of the scouts surveyed by TSN this week, the product of the Greater Toronto Area was either No. 2 or No. 3 on every ballot.
One scout said he believes Fantilli is closer to Bedard than the other three top prospects — Smith, Carlsson and Michkov — are to Fantilli.
Nevertheless, each of that trio is viewed by some as a viable consideration at No. 2.
Smith is No. 3 on our Draft Lottery Edition ranking.
His strong offensive play in 2023 — most recently at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship, while centering right winger Ryan Leonard and left winger Gabriel Perreault on the most dominant line in hockey outside of the NHL — has seen Smith’s draft stock soar. Smith was No. 6 on TSN’s mid-season list.
One scout who ranked Smith at No. 2 said that, outside of Bedard, Smith has been most dominant in the second half of the season, and he plays and thinks the game at a pace that no one can keep up to.
Swedish two-way centre Carlsson was No. 3 on TSN’s mid-season list and is No. 4 on the Draft Lottery Edition after being displaced by Smith. But the margins amongst these top prospects are razor thin and Carlsson is still very much projected as a blue-chip NHL pivot.
One scout who has Carlson at No. 2 believes the Swede’s high hockey IQ, along with his size, skill and attention to detail in his two-way game, will make him the best centre, aside from Bedard, in this draft.
Russian sniper Michkov rounds out TSN’s Draft Lottery Edition Top 5, down one slot from No. 4 on TSN’s mid-season list. But the reality is that Michkov’s evaluation is so difficult. Because of his sublime goal-scoring ability, it’s easy to cite him as the second, third, fourth or fifth best prospect in the draft but it’s quite another to envision him being taken in any of those slots.
Because of his KHL contract status in Russia, Michkov would not be able to play in the NHL until at least the 2026-27 season. And due to Russia’s attack of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions against Russian hockey, the goal-scoring winger will simply not have been scouted in person as intensively as the other top prospects.
Michkov may be a potential NHL superstar, but many clubs have varying concerns that will likely push him down the draft board. To what extent, no one really knows.
Owing to the number of top-notch alternatives, many believe it’s doubtful he would be taken in the top five.
If that’s the case, it could open the door for Slovak centre Dalibor Dvorsky, amongst others, to crack the Top 5. Like Smith, Dvorsky, who plays in Sweden, is coming off a dominant performance at the U-18 World Championship. He was No. 8 on our list at mid-season but checks in now at No. 6.
Really, the same can be said for the three prospects immediately after Dvorsky in the Lottery Edition rankings, which includes Smith’s wingers from the U.S. U-18 team — Leonard at No. 7 and Perreault at No. 9 — and Winnipeg Ice centre Zach Benson at No. 8.
Leonard moved up three spots from mid-season to lottery edition; Perreault rocketed up 14 spots; and Benson slipped three from his No. 5 spot at mid-season. If Michkov isn’t taken in the top five, each of Dvorsky, Leonard, Benson and Perreault are viable candidates to go in the top five.
TSN’s Top 12 list is rounded out as follows: Austrian two-way defenceman David Reinbacher at No. 10; Owen Sound Attack goal-scoring winger Colby Barlow at No. 11 and University of Connecticut right winger Matthew Wood, who is coming of a strong performance for Canada at the U-18 World Championship.
Reinbacher is the only defenceman to make TSN’s Draft Lottery Edition Top 12 list and moved up 10 positions from his No. 20 ranking at mid-season. Barlow, who recently battled some injuries, slipped three spots from his No. 8 spot at mid-season; and Wood jumped up two slots from No. 14 in January.
The uncertainty and jockeying for position behind Bedard in this draft is palpable when talking to the scouts. If there are a handful of prospects — Dvorsky, Leonard, Benson and Perreault — who could push for a spot in the top five, there are at least that many who didn’t quite make TSN’s Top 12 this week but who could be strong considerations in that 6-12 range.
There were five others who received multiple votes from scouts as Top 12 prospects, including at least one vote each in the Top 10.
In alphabetical order, they were: Brandon Wheat King centre Nate Danielson (No. 15 at mid-season); Vancouver Giant left winger Samuel Honzek (No. 19 at mid-season); U.S. U-18 centre Oliver Moore (No. 11 at mid-season); Swedish defenceman Axel Sandin-Pellikka (No. 17 at mid-season) and Moose Jaw Warrior centre Brayden Yager (No. 7 at mid-season).
TSN’s final 2023 Draft Rankings of 80+ prospects will be released in June, a week prior to the June 28-29 draft.
The Top 12
1. Connor Bedard, C
Regina Pats Saskatoon blades
Last Rank: 1
|Regina (WHL)||5'9 ¾||183||57||71||143|
Craig Button's NHL comparable: Steve Yzerman
2. Adam Fantilli, C
Last Rank: 2
Craig Button's NHL comparable: Nathan MacKinnon
3. Will Smith, C
Will Smith - US NTDP
Last Rank: 6
|USA NTDP (USHL)||5'11 ¾||178||60||51||127|
Craig Button's NHL comparable: Mika Zibanejad
4. Leo Carlsson, C
Last Rank: 3
Craig Button's NHL comparable: Nicklas Backstrom
5. Matvei Michkov, RW
Last Rank: 4
|St. Petersburg (KHL)||5'10||172||30||9||20|
Craig Button's comparable: Valeri Kharlamov
6. Dalibor Dvorsky, C
Dalibor Dvorsky Slovakia
Last Rank: 9
Craig Button's NHL comparable: Mikael Backlund
7. Ryan Leonard, RW
Last Rank: 10
|USA NTDP (USHL)||5'11 ½||190||57||51||94|
Craig Button's NHL comparable: Travis Konecny
8. Zach Benson, LW
Last Rank: 5
Craig Button's NHL comparable: Johnny Gaudreau
9. Gabe Perreault, LW
Gabe Perreault Team USA U18
Last Rank: 23
|USA NTDP (USHL)||5'10 ¾||165||63||53||132|
Craig Button's NHL comparable: Jake Guentzel
10. David Reinbacher, D
David Reinbacher Austria
Last Rank: 20
Craig Button's NHL comparable: Adam Larsson
11. Colby Barlow, LW
Colby Barlow Owen Sound Attack
Last Rank: 8
|Owen Sound (OHL)||6'0 ¼||193||59||46||79|
Craig Button's NHL comparable: Matthew Boldy
12. Matthew Wood, RW
Matthew Wood Team Canada U18
Last Rank: 14
|Connecticut (NCAA)||6'3 ½||193||35||11||34|
Craig Button's NHL comparable: Tage Thompson
Join TSN Hockey right after Monday's NHL Draft Lottery for instant reaction and analysis from BarDown's Corwin McCallum and Director of Scouting Craig Button, including Craig's Top 16 Mock Draft, LIVE on TSN.ca and on TSN's YouTube Channel.