Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day our LWOS Prospects Writers will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2023 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben Kerr, Kyle Pereira and Frederik Frandson 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 part one of our four part 2023 NHL Draft grades series!
The 2023 NHL draft is done. Prospects have donned their new teams jersey, fans have cheered and complained, and players rose and fell to the surprise of many. Which teams seemingly came out on top based on what we think and believe when looking at the selections? What fans might be more disappointed than excited following the big day? Let’s get into our draft day grades.
2023 NHL Draft Grades, Part One
Anaheim Ducks 2023 NHL Draft Grade
The Ducks picked second overall and seemingly were destined to bring home one particular Michigan star. But instead, they took their sights to Sweden, opting to select Leo Carlsson. Then, they opened round two by taking left wing Nico Myatovic. With their two other selections in round two, they took center Carey Terrance and goalie Damian Clara. Their remaining picks were winger Coulson Pitre, winger Yegor Sidorov, defenseman Konnor Smith, defenseman Rodwin Dionicio, and defenseman Vojtech Port.
Carlsson is a future stud, and someone the Ducks will be happy to have. But passing on Fantilli could come back to haunt them. Similarly, Myatovic was ranked 96th by us here at Last Word, and they left Andrew Cristall and Gavin Brindley (ranked 7th and 18th, respectively) on the board. Only Pitre (83rd) and Dionicio (88th) were ranked within our top-100, and they were taken 65th and 129th, respectively. Pitre was taken a bit earlier than expected, but Dionicio’s raw skills are certainly intriguing and could very well be a player if all things come together for him.
2023 NHL Draft Grade: B-
Arizona Coyotes Draft Grade
The Coyotes drafted a lot of size. It started at 6th overall, when they took defenseman Dmitry Simashev (who was ranked 27th) over Zach Benson and Matvei Michkov (ranked 5th and 4th respectively). They then took a big swing on the big Daniil But (ranked 33rd) at 12th, again passing on Benson. In the second round, they elected to take arguably the best goalie in the draft class, Michael Hrabel (ranked 48th), at 38th. They ended the class with three goalies (Hrabel, Melker Thelin, Carsen Musser), three defenders (Simashev, Terrell Goldsmith, Justin Kipkie), three centers (Jonathan Castagna, Tanner Ludtke, and Samu Bau, and three wingers (But, Noel Nordh, and Vadim Moroz).
Simashev could be a solid shut-down defender at the next level, but his upside is limited, and there were far superior options still available, including at defence (Axel Sandin Pellikka, ranked 12th). Same for But, who has immense upside but is very much a project that will require patience. Hrabel is perhaps their best value, projecting as a future starter down the line. Outside of that, their remaining picks don’t bring much excitement.
Coyotes 2023 NHL Draft Grade: D+
Boston Bruins Draft Grade
The Bruins did not make many selections. Their first pick was 92nd overall. That selection was used on Christopher Pelosi, a centre out of the USHL. Their remaining picks were used on two more centers (Beckett Hendrickson and Ryan Walsh), a winger (Casper Nassen) and a defenseman (Kristian Kostadinski).
There isn’t much to glean from these picks, and it’s incredibly hard to hit on fourth-rounders just a couple of days after the draft. But there were some notable names still on the board at this point, like Jayden Perron (ranked 29th) and Denver Barkey (ranked 61st). They perhaps could have gotten someone with more upside than what they came away with, but with mid-round picks, time is the deciding factor.
Bruins 2023 NHL Draft Grade: D
Buffalo Sabres 2023 NHL Draft Grade
The Sabres made some splashes on draft day. They took one of the most talented playmakers in the draft in Zach Benson way later than the consensus expected at 13th. Then with their two second-rounders, they took center Anton Wahlberg (ranked 51st) at 39th and defenseman Maxim Strbak (ranked 55th) at 45th. Their mid round and late round picks who are notable are winger Ethan Miedema and goalie Scott Ratzlaff. Their remaining picks were Gavin McCarthy, Sean Keohane, and Norwin Panocha, all defenders.
Benson could become a superstar at the next level if he can overcome his smaller stature at the professional level. Him paired with Tage Thompson could be a dominant duo for years. While Wahlberg and Strbak were both taken higher than where they were ranked, Wahlberg is a very smart and reliable player in all phases and projects to play at the NHL level. Meanwhile, Strbak is a very smart and reliable player in all phases and projects to play at the NHL level. See a trend? Miedema could be someone to monitor, despite not being ranked by us here at LWOH, and the same could be said about Ratzlaff. The Sabres have several really strong kids entering their system that could prove to pay off in a big way.
Sabres 2023 NHL Draft grade: A-
Calgary Flames Draft Grade
The Flames had a type in this class. Similar to the Coyotes, every pick checks in at over 6’0” tall. Their first pick ended up being centre Samuel Honzek, who was ranked 22nd by LWOH. They followed that up with Etienne Morin, a defenseman, at 48th (ranked 72nd). Their remaining picks were winger Aydar Suniev, centre Jaden Lipinski, goalie Yegor Yegorov, and defender Axel Hurtig.
Morin got a lot of love towards the end of the season and could be an intriguing option in the second, though he was ranked lower. Has some upside to his game, but is a project. As for their first pick, Honzek, he has some untapped potential that could make him a top-six power forward who can play in all situations. Suniev was ranked 81st, and his selection at 80th makes sense. His skating is a major hindrance, but he projects as a strong bottom-six option, if that sorts itself out. However, Honzek was taken over Colby Barlow (ranked 8th), Oliver Moore (ranked 9th), and Eduard Sale (ranked 16th). That’s too much value passed over, even though Honzek could be a good player down the road.
Flames 2023 NHL Draft Grade: C+
Carolina Hurricanes Draft Grade
The Hurricanes, it feels like, always come away with a favourable class. Fans and experts alike always favour their selections. Their first pick, winger Bradly Nadeau, at 30th, was a bit rich (he was ranked 44th), but the rest of the class has intrigued many. Winger Felix Unger Sorum at 62nd (he was ranked 68th) was a good spot for him, while Jayden Perron at 94th looks to be a massive steal at this point. Two more players, Alexander Rykov (taken 100th) and Timur Mukhanov (taken 163rd overall) both made the top-100 (ranked 75th and 28th, respectively), and could also wind up being steals. Their other picks were wingers Stanislav Yarovoi and Michael Emerson, goalies Ruslan Kazheyev and Yegor Velmakin, and defender Charles Alexis-Legualt.
Nadeau dominated the BCHL and has what appears to be a dangerous goal-scorer in a teams top-six, but needs to prove the same at a higher level. If he hits, the risk at the end of the first will be well worth it. Unger Sorum is a smart playmaker with a reliable defensive game, making him an intriguing middle-six projection. Perron lacks consistency and size, but when he was on, he was excellent. Rykov is a potential bottom-sixer who can take some tougher defensive assignments down the road. Mukhanov is a high upside snag, with incredible vision and playmaking potential.
Hurricanes 2023 NHL Draft Grade: A-
Chicago Blackhawks Draft Grade
Connor Bedard. There’s not much else to say. He was the guy everyone wanted, and teams were willing to tank for him. The Blackhawks were terrible, and that allowed them to receive the blessing of taking the generational talent. For all intents and purposes, they didn’t need to make any other big picks. But they did. They took Oliver Moore who fell way too far, at 19th. They then took goalie Adam Gajan at 35th who projects as someone who could play in the NHL. At 44th, they took Roman Kantserov (ranked 58th). Then they went and took Martin Misiak at 55th (ranked 70th). Nick Lardis falling to them at 67th was also a strong get (ranked 59th). Plus, Alex Pharand is an intriguing center, despite not making the cut for LWOH’s top-100. Finally, they also took Marcel Marcel, who is loved by many for his name and reliable play.
Bedard is a future cornerstone of the Blackhawks. Next. OIiver Moore has incredible amounts of upside, but needs time to round out his current game. Could be a future linemate of Bedard’s if all things run smoothly. Adam Gajan went a little sooner than expected, but is one of the top goalies in the class. Kantserov looks to be a future middle six player who can play any style asked of him efficiently. Misiak fits the same mold as Kantserov as a safer pick. Pharand should be monitored moving forward. Marcel Marcel is just a fun name, but could be a depth forward.
Blackhawks 2023 NHL Draft Grade: A
Colorado Avalanche Draft Grade
The Avalanche opened the draft playing it smart, taking centre Calum Ritchie at 27th (ranked 25th). They’d pick one more time in the first round, taking a big swing on Russian defender Mikhail Gulyayev at 31st (ranked 15th). They would not pick again until the 155th pick came along. From that point, they used their final three picks on two defenders (Nikita Ishimnikov and Jeremy Hanzel) and a centre (Maros Jedlicka).
Ritchie isn’t particularly expected to be a top-line guy in the future, but rather a middle-six forward who can take the tough matchups and work well with star players. Meanwhile, Gulyayev may be the opposite. Once his contract is up in Russia, he has immense boom-or-bust potential, with a ton of offensive upside, but some things to work on to round out his game. Outside of those two, there isn’t much. But, with what they had, they did well.
Avalanche 2023 NHL Draft Grade: B-
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