In the offensive zone, his stickhandling allows him to control the puck and open up passing and shooting lanes. He has good vision and the ability to set up teammates for scoring chances. 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.
For Part 1 and the Top Five Ranked players, click here.
Part 2 and Players 6-10 are found here.
Players 11-15 are found in Part 3 here.
Mid-Season Report: 2023 NHL Draft Rankings Part 4
16.) Andrew Cristall, Left Wing, Kelowna Rockets, WHL, 5’10” 165 lbs
Cristall might be undersized, but he is extremely talented. He can stickhandle in a phone booth, beating defenders with his quick hands. Cristall isn’t the fastest skater, but he’s not bad either. His ability to make plays with the puck without slowing down allows him to play faster than his pure speed suggests. He also has excellent agility and acceleration. This allows him to beat players in one-on-one situations in the offensive zone. He has outstanding vision and hockey sense, making smart plays both with and without the puck. Cristall can make a tape-to-tape pass to set up a scoring chance if given the slightest of openings. His quickness and good hands allow him to open up passing lanes with a quick move. His shot is strong and his quick release help him to be a goal-scoring threat as well.
17.) Matthew Wood, Right Wing, University of Connecticut Huskies, NCAA Hockey East, 6’3″ 190 lbs
With 28 points in 30 games, Wood is having a very impressive freshman season in the NCAA. A big winger, Wood is a natural goal scorer. He has an outstanding wrist shot and a very quick release. He also has a good one-timer, snapshot and backhand. Wood can also use his big body to establish his position in front of the net and score goals in tight. His hands are quick and he can make a quick move on a goalie, pounce on a rebound, or get a deflection. Wood is a strong stick handler. He uses his body to protect the puck and his long reach to make plays and establish position down low. He could stand to bulk up before moving to the pro game. Wood also will need to continue to improve his footspeed.
18.) Ethan Gauthier, Right Wing, Sherbrooke Phoenix, QMJHL, 5’11” 176 lbs
The son of former NHL defenceman Denis Gauthier, Ethan proves that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. While the younger Gauthier is a winger, he brings his father’s grit, work ethic, and never quit attitude to the game. Gauthier is always moving his feet and always involved in the physical aspects of the game, relentlessly forechecking in the offensive zone and working hard defensively in his own end. His game features high-end skill as well. Gauthier has a strong shot and can score goals with his quick release. He also has the puckhandling skills, vision, offensive awareness, and passing ability to be a playmaker off the wing. Gauthier reads the play extremely well and finds open ice without the puck on his stick.
19.) Axel Sandin-Pellikka, Right Defence, Skelleftea, SHL, 5’11” 181 lbs
17-year-old defender Sandin-Pellikka has played 22 games in the SHL and 22 games in the Swedish Under-20 league this season. He is getting his feet wet in playing in the country’s top hockey league. He also played for Sweden at the World Juniors. Sandin-Pellikka is an outstanding skater. He combines this with his puck-handling ability to start the breakout and carry the puck through the neutral zone. He loves to push the pace and is very good in transition. Sandin-Pellikka controls the puck at the offensive blue line and can quarterback the power play.
His defensive instincts are good for his age but there are times he is overpowered by bigger, stronger opponents. This is not unusual considering he is a 17-year-old playing against men and he will have time to bulk up and add muscle post-draft. His skating ability allows him to push forward in the offence and still get back defensively.
20.) Dmitri Simashev, Left Defence, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, KHL, 6’4″, 201 lbs
It remains to be seen how the political situation (war) in Russia will affect draft-eligible Russian prospects. On talent alone, Simashev should be considered a first-rounder. This is especially true given that the 2023 NHL Draft class is also a little thin with defensive prospects. Simashev is a big defender who has spent time playing against men in the KHL this season. He has also played for Lokomotiv’s MHL affiliate. Simashev is an excellent skater. He combines this with his size in order to be a shutdown defender. Simashev has very good gap control. He forces attackers to the outside. Once they are in a bad shooting position, he is also willing to play a physical game in order to prevent offensive chances. While he is unlikely to be a power-play quarterback or huge offensive force, Simashev makes a good first pass and can start the transition game.
Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports