2023 NHL Draft: Winners and losers from the first round

The first round of the 2023 NHL Draft came with its fair share of twists and turns, but which teams made the most of their picks on Wednesday night?

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JUNE 28: (L-R) Adam Fantilli, third overall pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets, Connor Bedard, first overall pick by the Chicago Blackhawks, and Leo Carlsson, second overall pick by the Anaheim Ducks, pose for a photo during the 2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round One at Bridgestone Arena on June 28, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
The first round of the 2023 NHL Draft came with its fair share of twists and turns, but which teams made the most of their picks on Wednesday night? (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

The opening round of the 2023 NHL Draft was filled with surprises. From the Arizona Coyotes going off the board not once, but twice in the opening half of round one, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ head scratching selection, to Matvei Michkov falling to the Philadelphia Flyers at seventh overall. It was a wild round of reaches that people will be analyzing for a decade.

Here’s a look at the winners and losers from day one of the 2023 NHL Draft.


Chicago Blackhawks

Whenever you get a generational talent, it’s a win. Connor Bedard is a franchise changing player, and leading into the draft, the Blackhawks went out and got a pair of veterans in Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno to help insulate their new superstar. Let the Connor Bedard versus Connor McDavid highlight reel competition begin. If Bedard wasn’t enough, somehow the Blackhawks got Oliver Moore at 19th overall. Moore has speed to burn, and plays a solid two-way game. Bedard and Moore will be putting defenders on their heels for years to come.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Adam Fantilli was the consensus number two pick, a player who, in almost any other year, would go first overall, and then the Anaheim Ducks took Leo Carlsson. It could be a pick that haunts the Ducks, but it’s a pick that will have Blue Jackets fans dancing in their seats. Columbus already has one of the best young defensive corps in the NHL, now they have a future number one center unlike any they’ve seen since Rick Nash, or perhaps ever.

Philadelphia Flyers

With the Philadelphia Flyers selling their roster for parts, the ability to take Matvei Michkov seventh overall, who will be eligible to come to North America when the rebuild begins to turn the corner, is a home run. Michkov is an elite offensive talent, the type that doesn’t often fall into your lap outside the top five. Philadelphia then addressed their blue line, taking Oliver Bonk, one of the best in the draft when it comes to defensive zone reliability and a proven ability to play big minutes, while also being able to astutely move pucks up ice and contribute offensively. The Flyers’ first round was the definition of a win-win.

Colorado Avalanche

There are several draft tables who could take lessons from Colorado. Not picking until 27th, Colorado could have walked away with a middling prospect and no one would have thought twice. Instead, they grabbed Calum Ritchie, a player most tabbed as a top-10 selection heading into the year, and who will fit perfectly into the Avalanche’s system. Then, four picks later at 31, they grabbed Mikhail Gulyayev, who although is no Cale Makar, is another smooth skating modern defender. This was tidy work at the end of the round.


Toronto Maple Leafs

Sorry Leafs fans, there’s no way of sugarcoating this. Easton Cowan has professional characteristics and has no glaring weaknesses, but he’s not a first round pick. In the eyes of many, he wasn’t a second round pick either. This was not a selection Toronto needed to make, especially in a draft when the only picks they have remaining come in the 5th and 6th rounds. It’s hard to pin this on a person who has barely touched down in Toronto, but Brad Treliving’s last few drafts in Calgary have been abysmal. In fact, they were down right awful. This pick, along with an overpay to David Kampf in week one, should have Leafs fans worried. Perhaps Toronto should have parted ways with Kyle Dubas after the draft?

Montreal Canadiens

It’s hard to judge this today, but it sure looks like the Montreal Canadiens missed an opportunity to pick Matvei Michkov, one of the top talents in the draft cohort. Had anyone asked a year ago if a team would pass on Michkov at fifth overall, they’d be laughed out of the room, primarily because people would have believed there would be no way Michkov would still be available. While that was one portion of Montreal’s day, the other was what on paper looked like a massive overpay to acquire Alex Newhook from the Avalanche. Montreal was slated to select 31st overall as well, but instead walked away from day one of the NHL draft with one player, David Reinbacher. Reinbacher will be a top four blueliner, something that is hard to come by, but it seems like there could have been more.

Arizona Coyotes

Arizona turned the sixth and 12th overall picks into Dmitry Simashev and Danil But. It’s a pair of large framed Russians with massive upside, but Arizona left an even larger pool of talent on the table at both spots. To pass on Matvei Michkov and then follow it up with this pair is almost inexplicable. Arizona has a cupboard full of prospects, but if they can’t turn those prospects into regular playoff appearances in a few seasons, this could be the draft that haunts the organization for a decade. Or, maybe the Coyotes scouts just found two gems. Time will tell, but these will be two highly scrutinized picks with the potential to backfire immensely.

Ottawa Senators

It’s easy to call any one of the group of NHL teams who did not pick in the opening round losers, but Ottawa had a piece to move, and several teams they could have capitalized off as the draft board rapidly changed. Alex DeBrincat was the player rumored to be on the move, and there’s no saying it doesn’t happen on day two, but there were several moments in the opening round opportunity seemed ripe for the picking. In particular at pick 17, when the Detroit Red Wings stepped back to the board and players like Axel Sandin Pellikka, Oliver Moore, Gabe Perreault, and Eduard Sale were still on the board, it feels like Ottawa missed an opportunity to pick for their wants and needs instead of having to mine a player out of another system later.