2023 NHL Draft Rankings – Mid-Season Edition Part 1

Connor Bedard, 2023 NHL Draft Rankings

Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. As we have now reached the end of January, we bring you our mid-season NHL Draft Rankings. Later in the year, we will bring you a daily column featuring a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2023 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! Today we bring you our 2023 NHL Draft Rankings, Mid-Season Edition.

With the CHL season nearly four months old, over three months of NCAA hockey, plenty of games for the US National Team Development Program, the Gretzky-Hlinka Tournament, an international break in Europe, and of course the World Juniors all being played since we last updated our draft rankings, we have gotten a decent overview of what some of the biggest prospects for the 2023 NHL Draft are doing this year.

That said, as a staff, we haven’t seen every player yet—it’s quite simply not possible at this point in the season. If there is an obvious name left out, we’ll do our best to get a look at him before the final rankings that go from April through June.

Mid-Season Report: 2023 NHL Draft Rankings


1.) Connor Bedard, Centre, Regina Pats, WHL, 5’10”, 178 lbs

A generational prospect, Bedard is the best NHL Draft prospect since Connor McDavid. His record-setting performance at the World Juniors cemented his position as the top prospect in this draft. That said, he plays the game differently than McDavid. Bedard is a very good skater but is not the absolute generational skater that McDavid is. He excels in other areas though. Bedard’s hockey sense is off the charts. He reads the play extremely well and always seems to be one step ahead of both his opponents and teammates. He has a knack for finding open ice, even when everyone on the ice is watching him. His shot is already at an elite NHL level. Bedard is a pure goal scorer. His release is extremely quick and goalies find it very hard to read.

Bedard is also an outstanding playmaker. He sees the ice very well and anticipates the moves of both teammates and opponents. His quick hands allow him to make a move and open up a shooting or passing lane. Bedard can control the play down low, protecting the puck with his stickhandling, balance, and body control. His elite skill allows him to pass the puck to a teammate, even through traffic. He has amazing puck control and can make a play in tight spaces, such as his overtime winner in the quarterfinal against Slovakia. Bedard can do it all and it’s easy to see why so many are intrigued by his immense potential.

2.) Adam Fantilli, Centre, University of Michigan Wolverines, NCAA Big Ten, 6’2″, 187 lbs

Fantilli also played on Team Canada’s gold-medal-winning World Junior winning team. If not for Bedard’s absolutely generational performance, he would have got much more attention for putting up five points in seven games. Those are excellent numbers for an 18-year-old.  He’s also putting up big numbers as a freshman at the University of Michigan. Fantilli has the size and skating to be the type of powerful, two-way centre that every NHL team covets in their top six. He drives through the dirty areas of the ice both with and without the net. Fantilli puts pressure on the defence by taking the puck to the net, getting to the net without the puck, and forechecking effectively when the opponent has the puck. He is a threat to score goals and make plays for teammates, as he has a good shot and is a strong passer. Fantilli also plays a responsible defensive game.

3.) Matvei Michkov, Right Wing/Left Wing, HK Sochi/SKA St. Petersburg, KHL, 5’10”, 148 lbs

Once seen as the undisputed number two pick behind Bedard, Michkov has slipped a little.  A huge part of that is the political situation (re: war with Ukraine) in Russia and how that will effect getting young Russian players out of the country and into the NHL. Add in the fact that he is signed with SKA St. Petersburg, one of the best and richest teams in Russia through the end of the 2025-26 season and it will take a bold team to draft him in the top three of this draft. Some of this dropoff is also due to circumstances with SKA.  Michkov started the season slow as the 17-year-old had a hard time getting ice time and scoring opportunities on one of the KHL’s best teams. A recent loan move to HK Sochi has paid dividends as Michkov is once again scoring in bunches.

Michkov is a pure goal scorer. He has a knack for scoring goals in a variety of ways. This includes an excellent array of shots (wrist shot, snap shot, slap shot, one-timer, backhand) and a very quick release. He understands how to get open and to put himself in good positions to take a pass from a teammate and fire it on the net. Michkov also has great hands and stickhandling ability. He can create his own shot and get the puck in tight to the net to make a play. While he could stand to add some muscle as well as work on his all-around game, those are things that can be worked on. The goal-scoring skill, at the level he possesses it, cannot be taught and makes him an elite-level prospect in this stacked draft.

4.) Leo Carlsson, Centre/Left Wing, Orebro HK, SHL, 6’3″ 194 lbs

Carlsson was a standout with the Swedish team at the World Junior Championships where he put up six points in seven games. He’s also performed well playing against men in the SHL this season. Carlsson is another centre that combines size and great skating ability. His smooth stride and good speed allow him to play a 200-foot game. He also has excellent stickhandling ability, allowing him to transition the puck through the neutral zone and find clean and efficient zone entries. Once there, Carlsson has excellent vision and playmaking ability. His shot is hard but he could get a little quicker with his release. Carlsson is willing to play a gritty game as well. He gets in quickly on the forecheck, forcing turnovers and creating offence that way. He is also willing to work hard on the backcheck and is effective defensively for his age.

5.) Brayden Yager, Centre, Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL, 6’0″ 183 lbs

Yager is another player who has been overshadowed by Bedard. He has been putting up excellent numbers in the WHL, but lives in Bedard’s shadow out west. Brayden Yager is an excellent shooter. His wrist shot and release are already NHL calibre. Yager shows excellent speed and very good agility. He can beat defenders in one-on-one situations. While his turns could use a bit of work, this is a minor concern, and his overall skating ability is close to the elite level for his age group. This allows him to create his own shot when he has the puck, and to get open when he doesn’t. He could stand to improve his playmaking skills and two-way play, but again these are areas that a 17-year-old can develop in time. His natural goal-scoring ability will have him drafted high in June.


Click here for the next five players in our rankings.


2023 NHL Draft Rankings Main Photo:

Embed from Getty Images

HALIFAX, CANADA – JANUARY 05: Connor Bedard #16 of Team Canada skates during the third period against Team Czech Republic in the gold medal round of the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship at Scotiabank Centre on January 5, 2023 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Team Canada defeated Team Czech Republic 3-2 in overtime and become the 2023 IIHF World Junior Champions. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)