2023 NHL Draft preseason rankings: Who's going after Connor Bedard?

While the 2023 NHL Draft is still nine months away, lists are already being formed highlighting the top prospects eligible. Notably, this is the Connor Bedard draft, and it’s almost a certainty the phenom, who most consider a generational talent, will be the first off the board on June 28 when the event commences in Nashville.

Aside from Bedard, there is no shortage of offensive talent at the top of this draft, but there will be plenty of movement as players rise and fall throughout the season. Here is a preseason look at the top players to watch for the 2023 NHL Draft:

Matvei Michkov is one of the top prospects for next year's NHL draft. (Photo by Maksim Konstantinov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Matvei Michkov is one of the top prospects for next year's NHL draft. (Photo by Maksim Konstantinov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
  1. Connor Bedard, Regina, WHL - He can score from everywhere and anywhere using one of the most unique and accurate shooting mechanisms the game has seen. With pinpoint shooting, and the ability to change lanes and tempo using a crossover and acceleration reminiscent of Connor McDavid, Bedard is ready to wow at the NHL level now.

  2. Adam Fantilli, Michigan, NCAA - The type of powerful, skilled centreman that organizations covet, Fantilli will get to test his game against older NCAA players this season. His frame and speed are intimidating assets, but it’s his willingness to enter traffic in the offensive zone combined with those skills that enables him to drive play.

  3. Matvei Michkov, SKA St. Petersburg, KHL - There is still an element of uncertainty around Russian players, but Michkov’s skill set is too enticing to give teams pause. Only Michkov’s skills are in the same stratosphere as Bedard. A fantastic decision maker on the ice, the main drawback to selecting him is that he’ll be under contract in Russia until 2025-26.

  4. Dalibor Dvorsky, AIK, Allsvenskan - It may be a stretch to place Dvorsky this high, but he was dominant at the U-18 World Championship with Slovakia and had a good showing at the World Juniors. Strong on his feet and unafraid to take the puck to the middle, Dvorsky is as adept as a shooter as he is at playmaking.

  5. Brayden Yager, Moose Jaw, WHL - An attacking player, Yager has one of the best shots in the draft. It’s not just the quick release and velocity, but also his ability to make fine adjustments to find lanes and fool netminders. What sets Yager apart from other forwards outside the top three is his defensive awareness.

  6. Eduard Sale, Brno, Czechia - He set the Czechian junior league on fire last season, and looked good in U-18 international competition. Sale is no longer a player to watch, he’s here in the spotlight. While he can also score, Sale’s vision and playmaking appear elite at this point. He can find lanes in traffic and is a power-play threat. How Sale fares against men at the pro level this season could see a rise or fall, but his promise makes him a legitimate top-10 prospect.

  7. Leo Carlsson, Orebro, SHL - An elite playmaker, who often looks like he has eyes in the back of his head, Carlsson has areas to improve, but couple his 6-foot-3 frame with his growing toolkit and he looks like a player teams will scoop early. Carlsson has trickery with the puck, utilizing smooth hands and deceptive stick and body shifts to beat defenders.

  8. Cameron Allen, Guelph, OHL - For now, Allen is the top defender in the draft and was one of the best in the world in U-18 competition this year. He can drive play offensively, accelerating the transition and moving pucks from his own zone with ease. The reigning OHL Rookie of the Year is a first-round lock, and is a possession-driving, mobile defender who can shift the play in his favor every time he steps on the ice.

  9. Zach Benson, Winnipeg, WHL - Some believe Benson is a top five talent, and they might be right. What makes his placement hard to read is the plethora of talent he was surrounded by in Winnipeg last season. Was he the driver or the benefactor? He builds speed from his crossover creating space in the offensive zone and in transition, and when he enters with the puck, Benson looks to be seeing one step ahead in order to find seams whether he’s the shooter or playmaker.

  10. Calum Ritchie, Oshawa, OHL - A spectacular OHL playoff, a top performer at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, and an OHL First Team All-Rookie. With that said, expectations will be high for Ritchie this season. Ritchie’s stick, whether it be in finessing pucks through traffic, tipping shots as the net-front player on the power play, or breaking up plays in his own zone, is a weapon he wields with ease. The 6-foot-2 forward can play all situations, which is evidence of his high hockey IQ.

  11. Matthew Wood, UConn, NCAA - The 6-foot-3 forward lit up the BCHL last season, combining his size and quick hands to beat opponents and fill the net. He’ll face much older competition this season in the NCAA, but if he can learn to push the pace more, Wood’s skill set will certainly translate to the next level.

  12. Charlie Stramel, Wisconsin, NCAA - A late 2004 birth year, Stramel spent last season with the USNTDP where he was buried behind an elite group of forwards. He’s a strong, competitive, and physical player, but has yet to blossom offensively. If he can find his scoring touch in the NCAA, Stramel will remain in discussion for a top-20 pick. If not, he could easily drop.

  13. Nate Danielson, Brandon, WHL - He has speed, which he uses to separate from checkers and also on the forecheck. A late 2004 birth year, Danielson is one of the oldest first-year-eligible players in this draft. He projects as more of a playmaker than a pure goal scorer, which could cause teams to wait on him until the latter half of Round 1.

  14. Colby Barlow - Owen Sound, OHL - He scored 30 goals playing as a 16-year-old in the OHL last season and had a good showing at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup this summer for Canada. While his goal scoring far outweighed his playmaking profile last season, Barlow is not a one-dimensional player and every team needs a shoot-first threat.

  15. Kasper Halttunen, HIFK, Liiga - It may be a stretch to place Halttunen this high, but he has some assets, including his 6-foot-3 frame and heavy shot, that will entice teams looking for a power forward down the wing. Unafraid of taking the puck to the inside, Halttunen’s skating is still developing and his defensive game continues to grow.

  16. Mikhail Gulyayev, Omskie Yastreby, KHL - Based on organizational need, Gulyayev could climb higher in the draft. A modern defender, his 5-foot-10 frame is the only concern, although smaller defenders are now thriving at the NHL level. His edgework and ability to evade with the puck set Gulyayev apart. He’s at his best when he’s pushing the pace up ice, activating offensively, and joining the rush.

  17. Riley Heidt, Prince George, WHL - As good off the puck as on it, Heidt has soft hands, enabling him to deceive opponents and change angles on his passes and shots. He played well on a weak team last season and turned in a strong showing at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. The natural centre looks like a first-round lock.

  18. Will Smith, USNTDP, U18 - After playing behind first-round talent last year, Smith is a go-to player with the NTDP this season and got off to a roaring start. He’s an on-ice thinker, seeing the ice well and playing a headsy game that makes those around him better. There is a chance Smith ends up climbing toward the top 10 of this draft. He's headed to Boston College next season.

  19. Otto Stenberg, Frolunda, J20 Sweden - Creative with the puck, Stenberg can find his way out of pressure, moving into soft spots in the offensive zone where he wields his accurate shot. Stenberg may be better suited to the wing than centre at the pro level.

  20. Andrew Cristall, Kelowna, WHL - There’s a player every year that teams kick themselves for passing on for one simple reason: size. Cristall could be that player. He is an exciting prospect to watch because of his agility and elusiveness. He slides off checks and deftly moves through traffic. Will it translate to the pro game? It’s always a gamble, but he has a natural ability that cannot be taught.

  21. Theo Lindstein, Brynas, Sweden - One of the top defenders at the Hlinka Gretzky tournament, Lindstein played a dozen games in the SHL last year and will get more looks as this season progresses. He’s a good skater who plays a controlled two-way game. With a lack of defensive depth at the top of the draft, Lindstein is a logical player some teams might reach for before they risk losing one of the top blueliners available.

  22. Oliver Moore, USNTDP, U18 - He loves to have the puck and drive play and uses quick feet to break free in transition and win foot races. This season Moore and Will Smith will be counted on to provide offense for the USNTDP, and he’s destined for another development step next season when he heads to the University of Minnesota.

  23. Quentin Musty, Sudbury, OHL - Big, athletic, and willing to take the puck to the net. At times it looks like Musty is going to exclusively use his 6-foot-2 frame to do the work, but he’s a deceptive puckhandler who can pull the puck through checkers. It’s an exciting combination. If Musty shows consistency in his flare, he could be a climber.

  24. Gavin Brindley, Michigan, NCAA - Similar to Andrew Cristall, Brindley gets hit for being undersized, but he is a crafty skater who finds holes and uses his edges to protect the puck and create the space that larger players can achieve with their reach. He plays with energy and will provide good bang for your buck near the end of Round 1.

  25. Alex Ciernik, Sodertalje, U20 Sweden - Perhaps one of the fastest skaters in pursuit of a puck available, Ciernik was crucial for a revitalized Slovakian squad this year. His offense is still growing, but Ciernik can move up and down a lineup as he reads plays well on both sides of the puck.

  26. Lukas Dragicevic, Tri-City, WHL - The 6-foot-2, right-shot defender has received a wide range of rankings to start the season, but Dragicevic oozes potential. At age 16 last season he collected his first WHL Player of the Week honor and produced impressive totals for a young defender.

  27. Ryan Leonard, USNTDP, U18 - He asserts his presence everywhere on the ice through a relentless forecheck and willingness to engage physically. Injecting energy whenever he steps on the ice, Leonard does a little bit of everything and his impact goes beyond the scoresheet.

  28. Maxim Strbak, Sioux Falls, USHL - Moving to North America this year, Strbak will no longer be flying under the radar. Another important piece to the development of Slovakia’s system, Strbak will return to his second World Junior Championship this year, and is committed to Vermont in the NCAA. Keep an eye on his name.

  29. Hunter Brzustewicz, Kitchener, OHL - His numbers don’t speak to the offensive skills Brzustewicz possesses. Perhaps that was a factor in the blueliner decommitting from Michigan in favor of the OHL, where he’ll immediately play a major role in Kitchener. He can carry the puck and also makes a good pass finding players in motion. In the offensive zone, his lateral movement along the line hints of his offensive potential. He could be a significant riser.

  30. Koehn Ziemmer, Prince George, WHL - A talented scorer who produces by varying his shot selection and release point. Ziemmer has room for growth on the defensive side of things, but plenty of time to learn those points. On the puck, he’s dynamic. Away from the puck, he needs to play with more intent.

  31. Ethan Gauthier, Sherbrooke, QMJHL - An intelligent player who loves to compete, Gauthier headlines a weak QMJHL class. He is relentless, but raw.

  32. William Whitelaw, Youngstown, USHL - Another small but skilled forward, Whitelaw loves to have the puck, and can hold possession single handedly. He’s headed for the University of Wisconsin, where he’ll have time to gain needed strength.

  33. Emil Jarventie

  34. Daniil But

  35. Caden Price

  36. Gabe Perreault

  37. Oliver Bonk

  38. Jayden Perron

  39. Kalan Lind

  40. Ondrej Molnar

  41. Noel Nordh

  42. Tyler Peddle

  43. Etienne Morin

  44. Jordan Tourigny

  45. Zeb Forsfjall

  46. Kalem Parker

  47. Carson Rehkopf

  48. Ethan Miedema

  49. Kalle Carlsson

  50. Gavin McCarty

  51. Jakub Dvorak

  52. Tanner Molendyk

  53. Alex Weiermair

  54. Aram Minnetian

  55. Andrew Strathman

  56. Dylan MacKinnon

  57. Jan Sprynar

  58. Denver Barkey

  59. Scott Ratzlaff

  60. Danny Nelson

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