The NHL draft lottery is over and the Chicago Blackhawks have won the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. Bedard, the consensus top pick and a generational talent, spent his season with the WHL’s Regina Pats and will certainly make the jump immediately to the NHL next season.
This year he scored 143 points in 57 games for the Pats and also collected 23 points in seven games to help Canada win gold at the world juniors while becoming Canada's all-time leading scorer in the process.
Bedard will hear his name called at Bridgestone Arena on June 28 when the first round occurs, before rounds two through seven take place the following day. The NHL’s draft lottery secures the draft order for the league’s 16 non-playoff teams with the remainder of the draft order being solidified based on the results of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
With Bedard’s future secure, here’s a look at how the first half of the opening round could play out.
NHL 2023 Mock Draft: NHL Draft Lottery Edition
1. Chicago Blackhawks - Connor Bedard, C, Regina (WHL)
A brilliant skater with elite vision and hands, Bedard will change the path of his new club for the next decade. His separation speed and ability to shoot with precision from top speed helps the future NHL superstar freeze defenders and goalies. Bedard is on a one-way ticket to the show. As the Chicago Blackhawks ended one era saying goodbye to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who was the team’s last first overall pick, they welcome in a new generational player.
2. Anaheim Ducks - Adam Fantilli, C, Michigan (NCAA)
Fantilli is no consolation prize. Any other year, teams would be thrilled to select him first overall. The sizeable pivot was selected to represent Canada’s senior national team at the world championships — the only teenager named to the roster. He plays a complete two way game, but has the speed and skill to break checkers, get to the middle of the ice, and finish. Fantilli can certainly make the jump to the NHL next season, but could choose to return to Michigan like Owen Power did following his draft year. Watching Fantilli, Mason McTavish and Trevor Zegras up front will be a treat for Ducks fans.
3. Columbus Blue Jackets - Matvei Michkov, RW, Sochi (KHL)
Following his move to HK Sochi after a difficult start to the season, Michkov found the confidence he’d been robbed of and began flashing the skill that had people using his name in the same sentence as Bedard for years. He wants to be in the NHL, and when he arrives, he’ll make an impact immediately. Blue Jackets fans will need to wait, but the team can afford the time for Michkov.
4. San Jose Sharks - Leo Carlsson, C/LW, Orebro (SHL)
Carlsson is big (6-foot-3) and only got better throughout the year. He packs punch in his game, whether he stays at center, or more predictably gets shifted to the wing is yet to be seen. He’s likely to begin on the wing. Carlsson likes to get to the front of the net, but can also play set up man from the flanks. The Sharks are building from the bottom up, and Carlsson is a piece that will add literal and metaphorical bite to their lineup.
5. Montreal Canadiens - Will Smith, C, USNTDP
Overlooked by Team USA at the world juniors, Smith walked into the U-18 Worlds and broke records, earning tournament MVP. He has game-breaking offensive skills and as he continues to develop his acumen moving the other direction and playing off the puck, he’ll only become more dangerous. There’s no saying a team watching the U-18s doesn’t take Smith third or fourth. It’s hard to imagine the skill Montreal would possess with Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki, Juraj Slafkovsky and Smith, but it will be fun to watch.
6. Arizona Coyotes - Zach Benson, W, Winnipeg (WHL)
Benson benefitted from avoiding Canada’s disastrous U-18 performance that harmed almost every player's stock on the roster, save for a few. He can dangle and scores goals in a variety of ways. His release is high-end, but Benson needs to fill out and figure out the defensive side of his game. Benson adds another offensive weapon to the Coyotes' impressive cupboard of prospects.
7. Philadelphia Flyers - Ryan Leonard, C/RW, USNTDP
When Leonard steps on the ice, he drives the play. While Smith and Gabe Perreault often finished, Leonard was the motor that kept the play moving in USA’s favor at the U-18 World Championships. He never stops and generates offense off the rush and off the forecheck. The way he pushes the pace will make him valuable at the next level. Leonard is exactly the type of player the Flyers have needed: fast, skilled and in your face.
8. Washington Capitals - Axel Sandin-Pellikka, D, Skelleftea AIK (J20 Nationell)
He’s so smooth and distributes the puck in transition and from the offensive blueline seamlessly. Sandin-Pellikka just kept rising the ranks throughout the season and will fit into a top-four as a puck moving blueliner who defends using his mobility and positioning. There’s a chance he turns into a player teams wish they took higher. He’s no future replacement for Alex Ovechkin, but he is a future replacement for John Carlson.
9. Detroit Red Wings - Dalibor Dvorsky, C, AIK (HockeyAllsvenskan)
One of the best pure scorers in the draft, Dvorsky dispelled all concerns about his output in Allsvenskan this season when he dominated against his peers at the U-18 World Championships. He made Slovakia a threat every time he stepped on the ice. He has a great shot, and will look excellent firing from the dots on the power play for years to come. The Wings still lack a pure scorer, but Dvorsky could be that.
10. St. Louis Blues - Eduard Sale, W, Brno (Czechia)
Sale plays a well-rounded game with speed and an ability to finish. For a portion of the year, some had him going in the top five. It wasn’t his play that has him ranked lower, instead it was the rise of others. Sale is an excellent prospect who has few gaps in his game, and is already seasoned playing against men in Czechia. He’s the kind of all around player the Blues can build around, without needing to rush him in immediately.
11. Vancouver Canucks - David Reinbacher, D, Kloten (NL)
It seemed unlikely Reinbacher would continue to contribute from start to finish, in two consecutive seasons, in one of Europe’s best professional leagues, as a teenager, but he did. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Reinbacher in the AHL next season and getting an NHL audition at some point. Transferring his game to a smaller rink is the only item to be figured out. At this point in the draft, the Canucks would be misguided to pick anyone but Reinbacher to help right a blueline that has been downright bad.
12. Arizona Coyotes - Oliver Moore, C, USNTDP
Moore, a University of Minnesota commit, thrives off pushing the pace, and looks like an excellent future NHLer. Can there be too much of a good thing in Arizona? If Reinbacher or Sandin-Pellikka are still available, expect the Coyotes to pick a blueliner here instead.
13. Buffalo Sabres - Matthew Wood, RW, Connecticut (NCAA)
It would not be surprising to watch the Sabres select Wood. They have oodles of skill up front, so adding another dimension to their attack in a player like Wood, who can drive play as a power forward, will benefit the Sabres moving ahead. They look like a future playoff powerhouse and Wood adds the physical presence that will help them be successful.
14. Pittsburgh Penguins - Gabe Perreault, W, USNTDP
Few have scored as much this season as Perreault. There’s little doubt he can play a power-play role and eventually be a top-six forward in the NHL, but he also needs to round out the finer points to his game and learn to be equally astute on the other side of the puck. Still, with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby aging, taking an offensively gifted player like Perreault is a no-brainer for the Penguins.
15. Nashville Predators - Andrew Cristall, RW, Kelowna (WHL)
At the U-18s, Cristall was… OK. His vision and playmaking were still evident, but he was unable to dominate opponents like he did this season in the Western Hockey League. The blip was likely just that, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him slide into the second half of the opening round. Watching Cristall play alongside other prospects like Joakim Kemell would be a treat for Predators fans.
16. Calgary Flames - Otto Stenberg, C/W, Frolunda (J20 Nationell)
Few saw their stock rise at the U-18s as much as Stenberg. He was brilliant for Sweden using his never-ending motor, flashy hands and his willingness to get into puck battles and come out on top. He’s a thorn in the side of his opponents and he’s proven he can contribute offensively as well. Will he go this high? Maybe. Teams were drooling over his U-18 performance, and it could be enough for someone to take a flier on the forward. Flames fans will love his energy.
Other first-round candidates: Nate Danielson, Colby Barlow, Bradley Nadeau, Quentin Musty, Kasper Halttunen, Daniil But, Luca Pinelli, Charlie Stramel, Lukas Dragicevic, Mikhail Gulyayev, Koehn Ziemmer, Alex Ciernik, Samuel Honzek, Jayden Perron, Calum Ritchie, Gavin Brindley, Dmitri Simashev, Riley Heidt, Brayden Yager.