The 2023 NHL draft is officially in the books.
There were teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks, and Seattle Kraken who walked away with a wealth of riches. There were others, like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and Edmonton Oilers who had a lack of picks, and went well off the beaten path in their selections.
Overall, the NHL’s Canadian teams had a tough two days at the podium, while other rebuilding clubs like the Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Philadelphia Flyers added depth to their systems.
Here’s a letter grade for each of the NHL’s 32 teams from the 2023 draft.
Anaheim Ducks: B-
There is cause for concern in the Ducks' use of picks. Passing on Adam Fantilli could haunt the organization long-term. Leo Carlsson is an excellent prospect, but was he the best available or a personal scouting preference?
Beyond that top pick, Anaheim reached higher than necessary to take all three of its second-round picks in Nico Myatovic, Carey Terrance, and Damian Clara. You want to see teams taking swings at skilled prospects, but the risk element on these selections is off the charts.
Coulson Pitre, a standout for the OHL’s Flint Firebirds to open Round 3, was a value pick that could turn out better than the choices the Ducks used in Round 2.
Taking moonshot after moonshot is admirable. It shows confidence in a scouting staff, but passing on Matvei Michkov (and others) by taking Dmitri Simashev and Daniil But sixth and 12th, respectively is wild.
Taking monolithic netminder Michael Hrabal, who could turn out to be the best goalie in the draft, was a solid addition. In Round 3 the Coyotes returned to picking for upside by selecting Jonathan Castagna, a Cornell commit who could end up being a steal. Noel Nordh and Tanner Ludtke were other highlights of this massive draft class for the Coyotes.
Boston Bruins: D
It’s not that the Bruins’ picks were bad, but when you don’t pick until 92nd overall, expecting an impact NHL player is unrealistic. Hindsight will be the only way to judge Boston’s success here, as Christopher Pelosi was its top pick. It’s hard to look at anyone in this class and know they’ll unquestionably be an NHL player.
Getting Zach Benson at 13th, a player who was a consensus top 10 pick for most of the year, was a coup for the Sabres, who already have an overflowing offensive prospect pool.
Their next three picks, Anton Wahlberg, Michael Strbak and Gavin McCarthy were all solid, with each player having legitimate NHL upside. Strbak and McCarthy added another wave of defensive help a few years out to join Buffalo’s young stars at the position.
Beyond this group, Ethan Miedema and goalie Scott Ratzlaff are sneaky-good selections.
Calgary Flames: C
Samuel Honzek was a bit of a reach at 16. He’s an excellent player with professional size, but he’ll need to work on his mobility to take the next step. He could explode in the WHL this season with the Vancouver Giants and make the Flames look good, but time will tell.
Etienne Morin is a puck-moving blueliner with offensive upside, and provided good value to the Flames at 48th. If they have a chance to have picked a hidden gem, it was in taking Aydar Suniev, who is coming off a spectacular season in the BCHL and will play at UMass next year, where he will get a chance to contribute immediately.
Carolina went all in on potential. Bradley Nadeau is such a fun prospect to watch, and he’ll have time to fill out his game with Maine in the NCAA. Watching how his elite skill transfers from Junior A to the NCAA will be intriguing.
The same could be said for the Hurricanes' third-round pick, Jayden Perron, who is another undersized player with an abundance of skill. Carolina also grabbed Felix Unger Sorum and high-end Russian prospect Alexander Rykov. The team could look very smart if more than one of these players hits at the NHL level.
Chicago Blackhawks: A+
If there was a better grade than A+, the Blackhawks could receive it for the haul they brought in at this draft. Connor Bedard would earn them an A+ alone, but taking Oliver Moore, Adam Gajan, Roman Kantserov, and Nick Lardis adds an immediate splash of offensive skill to their pool, and a potential goalie of the future in Gajan.
The Avalanche sat patiently on the first night of the draft until picks 27 and 31. When they were done, they cooly sat down to wait another four rounds to pick again with Calum Ritchie and Mikhail Gulyayev, a pair of players who could have easily gone 10 picks higher, in hand. It was a tidy bit of late-first-round magic for the Avs. They got a lot of bang for their buck entering with only five picks.
Columbus Blue Jackets: A
As the early rounds went by, it looked like the Blue Jackets had only watched two teams this year, Michigan in the NCAA and Youngstown in the USHL. They opened their draft by lucking into Fantilli, a franchise first-line center in the making, and then getting his Michigan teammate Gavin Brindley early in Round 2.
They followed that up with William Whitelaw and Andrew Strathmann from Youngstown, both having immense upside. Columbus’ prospect group looks strong and more dynamic, and that’s the purpose of a draft. Columbus may have grabbed massive value in fourth-round pick Luca Pinelli.
Dallas Stars: D+
There’s nothing wrong with Tristan Bertucci and Brad Gardiner, but they ultimately project as middling players in the NHL. Getting Aram Minnetian in the fourth round was a solid selection, but overall this is not a draft class that will be lifting Stars fans out of their seats.
Detroit Red Wings: A
The Red Wings didn’t get Alex DeBrincat (yet) as was rumored, but they added so much organizational depth that it’s an undeniable win for Detroit. Some questioned how high the Red Wings reached for Nate Danielson, but there’s no denying he’s one of the most complete, polished players in the draft. Even if his ceiling is lower, so is his risk.
Getting Axel Sandin Pellikka at 17 was a steal, followed by taking Trey Augustine, Brady Cleveland, Noah Dower Nilsson, and Andrew Gibson. To top it all off, Detroit got a pair of low-risk, high-reward young wingers in Kailer Yamamoto and Klim Kostin for nothing. Both have upside and Detroit has had success with reclamation projects (see Robby Fabbri and Jake Walman).
Edmonton Oilers: C-
Getting Beau Akey at 56th overall is a nice addition to Edmonton’s blue-line prospects, but with only three picks, and a focus on shedding players (see Yamamoto and Kostin), it was a minimal impact day.
Florida Panthers: C-
Gracyn Sawchyn was a nice pickup from the Seattle Thunderbirds at 63rd overall. Beyond this selection, it was a quiet draft with only long-term projects to show for a year of scouting.
There’s reason for optimism in Los Angeles both now and in the future. Jakub Dvorak and Koehn Ziemmer both have excellent skill sets, even if they need polishing. With patience, Kings fans could be getting a pair of players who can impact a roster. The depth of their draft wasn’t spectacular, but they made the best of the selections they had.
Minnesota Wild: B-
Charlie Stramel is a physically powerful player. He hasn’t produced offensively in the NCAA, but at worst can carry a third line. That’s not necessarily how you hope to spend the 21st overall pick, but he’s a solid prospect with upside.
Riley Heidt provided excellent value with the final pick of Round 2, and Rasmus Kumpulainen needs polishing, but has potential.
Either the Canadiens scouting staff knows what it's doing, or this is a dumpster fire. David Reinbacher will be an excellent NHL defender, but passing on Matvei Michkov will always be a debated selection.
Jacob Fowler is a strong goaltending prospect, but beyond the top two picks, this is a group of quantity over quality where there are few if any surefire NHLers outside Reinbacher. Sam Harris is an intriguing pick in Round 5 who is putting up excellent numbers in the USHL.
This is not a draft year to be excited about for Montreal, when it could have been the opposite.
Nashville did the work on home soil, selecting powerful winger Matthew Wood — who will be in the NHL sooner than many — in Round 1. While most saw Tanner Molendyk as a large reach in the first round, he’s a brilliant skater and could turn into a prototypical modern gamer as he continues to get stronger.
Rounds 2 and 3 were where the Predators truly went to work, grabbing forwards Kalan Lind, Felix Nilsson, and Jesse Kiiskinen, as well as defender Dylan MacKinnon. It’s nice depth for a draft class.
The Devils have stockpiled young players in recent years and have been locking them up long-term. Lenni Hameenaho had an excellent year in Liiga, and will have the opportunity to take another step in the league next season. His upside is promising.
New Jersey seemed to "miss" on some of the better players available, but it’s hard to question the success the Devils have had at the draft table for the last several years.
The Islanders got excellent value in Jesse Nurmi at No. 113 and picked Danny Nelson, a sizeable center from the USNTDP with middle-six potential in Round 2. No first-round pick hurt their class, but they got decent prospects with their first two selections.
New York Rangers: B-
Gabriel Perreault is a big city scorer who will bring excitement to New York. Is he the best defensive player? No. Can he flat out score? Absolutely.
Taking a flier on Dylan Roobroeck, a 6-foot-7 monster from the OHL whose brother was a first-round OHL pick, was an interesting late-round swing. Overall, the Rangers’ class was OK.
No first-round pick, and they didn’t manage to make a trade splash. It was not the weekend Senators fans were dreaming of. Hoyt Stanley, their top pick at 108th overall, is an intriguing blueliner from the BCHL who moves well and is headed to Cornell. There’s no standout in this group.
Philadelphia Flyers: A+
The Flyers got everything they could have asked for and more. Michkov at seventh was brilliant, then taking Oliver Bonk and Connor Bjarnason added excellent players from the net out.
Where Philadelphia truly continued its success was beginning at pick 95 with Denver Barkey, followed by Cole Knuble (103), and Alex Ciernik (120). Philadelphia walked away with excellent value top to bottom.
Pittsburgh Penguins: C
For years, the Penguins didn’t have a first-round pick. This year, they not only kept their first-rounder, but they also got a spectacular offensive prospect in Moose Jaw center Brayden Yager. Yager has oodles of potential as a scorer and playmaker, and is the first piece of Kyle Dubas restocking ahead of the eventual end to the Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin era.
San Jose Sharks: A+
What a haul. The Sharks picked early and often and compiled a fabulous group of players, picking well throughout the draft. Will Smith at fourth overall was the safe pick compared to Michkov, and will come to the NHL sooner.
Their next two picks, Kasper Halttunen and Quentin Musty, add depth, size, and skill down the wings, and San Jose managed to mine defender Luca Cagnoni in Round 4 and Eric Pohlkamp in Round 5. That pair has upside and provides depth and value.
Seattle Kraken: A
The rich absolutely got richer as the Kraken consistently grabbed players later than expected. Seattle’s first five picks in Eduard Sale, Carson Rehkopf, Oscar Fisker Molgaard, Lukas Dragicevic and Caden Price all have the potential to contribute to the top half of an NHL lineup. That’s incredible depth out of the first three rounds.
Looking at a late-round sleeper, Zeb Forsfjall in Round 7 could be a steal.
St Louis Blues: B
Following Day 1, the Blues looked on track to be one of the biggest winners of the draft. Dalibor Dvorsky dropped into their lap at 10th overall and they grabbed U-18 World Championship star Otto Stenberg along with fellow Swede Theo Lindstein.
Day 2 was not as impressive, picking a mishmash of prospects who lacked the excitement of their opening round.
Tampa Bay Lightning: C
When you’re as good as the Lightning for as long as they have been, draft assets begin to disappear. Tampa has seemingly overpaid at the trade deadline recently using picks, and it showed this year.
Ethan Gauthier was the Lightning's top pick from a class that lacks star power.
Toronto Maple Leafs: D
Don’t shoot the messenger, but after failing to advance to the conference finals again this year, Toronto fans were in need of hope. All they got were question marks.
Easton Cowan could be the biggest reach of the draft, a pick that baffled everyone. Hudson Malinoski is an interesting long-term prospect, but this will be an unmemorable draft filled with missed opportunities.
Vancouver Canucks: B-
Tom Willander will be a good defenseman, and he was obviously who the Canucks wanted, but this will be a draft class where defenders are compared for some time as picks were all over the place compared to pre-draft rankings.
Getting Hunter Brzustewicz with their second selection was a boost given how barren the Canucks' blue line is in terms of prospects. They picked four rearguards, but it feels like they could have got more bang for their buck at this draft.
Vegas Golden Knights: C+
Expectations at the draft were low for the Stanley Cup champions, but the Golden Knights still came away with some intriguing prospects. David Edstrom, who Vegas selected 32nd overall, was one of the biggest climbers in the draft. He was almost overlooked completely early in the season and launched himself to become a first-round pick. His trajectory continues up, and Vegas has time to be patient.
Vegas also took a solid prospect in Mathieu Cataford in Round 3, and Golden Knights fans should watch sixth-round sleeper pick Tuomas Uronen.
Washington Capitals: A-
Taking Ryan Leonard and Andrew Cristall with their first two picks will go a long way in supporting the aging offense in a few seasons. Leonard never stops moving, and Cristall has high-end scoring tools.
In Round 5, Washington grabbed Cam Allen, who was flirting with the top 10 overall at the beginning of this season. If he can show this year was a hiccup, not a true sign of his future, he could be the biggest steal in the draft.
Winnipeg Jets: B-
Winnipeg was short on picks this year but got its man in Colby Barlow. His creativity and offensive spark, albeit risky at times, feel like a perfect fit for the style of player Winnipeg targets.
The rest of the Jets' draft was mediocre, but they may have nabbed a hidden gem in Jacob Julien, a London Knights forward considered a late bloomer, in Round 5.