The Future of Hockey: The 2023 NHL Draft

Connor Bedard, 2023 NHL Draft

The 2023 NHL Draft is a long time away. In fact, we are only one week removed from this past year’s NHL Draft. While many teams were able to add impactful pieces to the future of their franchises, the incredible talent available in the 2023 NHL Draft is truly fascinating. Thus, it is never too soon to take a quick look at the future stars of hockey.

This past draft lacked true top-end talent. Although names like Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky, and Logan Cooley will surely make important impacts on their NHL clubs, no draft since 2015 (the year of Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Kirill Kaprizov, and more) has had the level of franchise-altering players that this upcoming draft will. Many of you have probably heard of WHL rookie phenom Connor Bedard. Bedard has had his name tied to players like Connor McDavid since he was fifteen years old, but the talent doesn’t stop there. Any team with a top pick in this upcoming draft should be very optimistic. Over the past season, a true top-three has been separated from the rest of the crop. This article will go in-depth about these incredibly exciting future superstars.

Now, the future of hockey.

First Overall: Connor Bedard – Regina Pats (WHL)

Being compared to the greatest player in modern hockey isn’t easy shoes to fill. Connor Bedard has been tied to Connor McDavid since he was 14 years old, a comparison that carries significant weight. Bedard, who was given exceptional status to join the CHL at fifteen years old, doesn’t fully deserve to be compared to McDavid – in fact, he is outperforming McDavid at the same age.

In McDavid’s sophomore season with Erie of the OHL, he scored 28 goals and 71 assists for 99 points in 56 games. These are amazing numbers, which he topped even further in his draft year. However, Bedard, in the more defensive league of the WHL put up 51 goals and 49 assists in 62 games. The point-per-game totals may be weaker, but Bedard’s dynamic duo of elite playmaking ability and phenomenal goal-scoring make him more of a threat than McDavid was as a 16-year-old. Furthermore, Bedard is among the youngest players in the 2023 NHL draft class, with a late July birthday. He will still be 17 when his name is called on draft day.

At only 5’9″, Bedard isn’t the ideal size for an NHL player. He is, however, incredibly intelligent and uses his size to his advantage. He sneaks through defenders with skillful zone entries. He’ll out-skate opponents out to receive a breakout pass in the neutral zone. He can equally make a crisp pass between his legs, seldom afraid to show off his incredible skill, and will show flashes of elite play in every shift.

“He’s elite hockey sense, elite skill, elite everything,” -Mike G. Morreale, NHL.com

Connor Bedard is a truly special player, and he could very well become one of the greats. The pros to Bedard are limitless, and the only true con will lie in paying him after his ELC expires.

Second Overall: Adam Fantilli – University of Michigan (NCAA)

The prototype of a general manager’s dream prospect, Fantilli, a 6’3″ centre who can perform every aspect of the sport with poise and elite skill already looks NHL-ready. Easily the most projectable player in the 2023 NHL Draft, general managers will know exactly what they’re getting in Fantilli. For such a big frame, he holds true speed, along with silky-smooth hands and mature physicality. Fantilli put up 37 goals and 37 assists for 74 points in 54 USHL games with Chicago this past year. 

Fantilli has committed to the University of Michigan for his D-1 season. This upcoming season, his game should improve even further, playing against stronger competition in the NCAA.

The only true con to Fantilli is that he will ultimately be a consolation prize. Just as Jack Eichel was to Connor McDavid, Fantilli will inevitably be one of the players drafted behind Connor Bedard. However, a consolation prize of a 6’3″ centre worthy of going first overall in most drafts isn’t anything to complain about.

Third Overall: Matvei Michkov – SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)

Undoubtedly the best goal-scorer in the 2023 NHL Draft, Michkov has shown shades of Alex Ovechkin. In the MHL this past season, Michkov scored at over a goal-per-game pace. Despite needing to bulk up quite a bit, he has the explosive and heavy shot of a player double his size. His shot equally carries significant poise, with the ability to accurately shoot from all over the ice. He has speed, skill and intelligence, which allows his physicality to lull behind, and any player who can score as much as he can is invaluable to a team.

Split between two MHL teams this past season, Michkov’s 30 goals in 28 games don’t show his complete impact as a player. His intelligence allows him to fake out opponents, leading to efficient scoring chances from both himself and his teammates. He may not be the most imposing physically, but nobody wants to play one-on-one with Matvei Michkov.

The worry with Michkov lies in his contract. He is currently under contract with SKA St. Petersburg through the 2025-26 season. It is unknown if there is any clause to void the deal for the NHL. This uncertainty could deter teams, however, Michkov’s upside may be too tantalizing to pass up. If Michkov works out perfectly, he can join a small group of truly elite snipers in the NHL, a commodity every team wants.

 

The talent in the 2023 draft class doesn’t stop with the top-three. The players in the 2023 NHL draft are truly exciting. Any team with a high pick will likely get a top-end talent. If your team struggles this year, there is reason to be hopeful, as a top pick in the 2023 draft will add a franchise-altering piece.