2023-06-28 · 3 min read · NHL/Hockey
Connor Bedard

The Star | AP Photo/Abbie Parr | NHL

With the NHL draft upon us it seemed high time to do a draft preview. I have given out a few awards, so I can highlight some prospects; before moving onto a quick prediction for the draft. We all know Connor Bedard is generational talent and a lock to go first overall, thus the focus is on other elements of the draft.
Best Forward not named Bedard
Adam Fantilli
Fantilli is an elite talent there can be no doubt. The Michigan star is a two-way force and if not for Bedard’s brilliance would challenge for 1st overall status in most years. The Ontario native had one of the most impressive draft eligible NCAA seasons in recent memory. Fantilli finished with 27 goals and 61 points in 33 NCAA games (1.85 points per game) on a University of Michigan team filled to the brim with talent. The comparisons between this draft's top two forwards Bedard and Fantilli to the 2015 draft’s; where Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel went first and second respectively are valid. Eichel followed up his draft year with 56 points in the NHL, I expect Fantilli to surpass that.
Runners up
Leo Carlsson - The 17-year-old Swede is a two-way force and didn't look out of place against men in the SHL; expect an immediate impact.
Matvei Michkov - Might have the best hockey sense in the draft, once being looked at as the only challenger to Bedard; being under contract for three more years in Russia may scare teams.
Best Defenceman
David Reinbacher
Reinbacher is at the top of many analysts' defensive leaderboards and for good reason. The Austrian native is a big bodied (6-2) right handed defenceman and a great skater for his size. The 18-year-old has the makings of an elite shutdown defenceman. He has a very active stick, good sense for positioning, and isn't afraid to throw the body; all while being smart and responsible on the ice. I'll be surprised if he's not the first blueliner off the board. Reinbacher even has a chance to match or pass Thomas Vanek (5th, 2003) as the highest ever drafted Austrian born player.
Runner up
Axel Sandin Pelikka - Another right-handed defenceman the Swedish native has scored at an impressive rate in the J20 Sweden's top junior league, his great showing at the world juniors spoke volumes.
Biggest Wildcard
Andrew Cristall
Cristall is a bit of a polarising prospect, he is one of the draft's most creative and skilled players; piling up 1.7 points per game in the WHL. Despite drawing a lot of attention in the offensive zone, Cristall has shown an ability to create space and find teammates through tough areas. Bedard, a close friend of Cristall and a former minor hockey teammate called him “probably the smartest hockey player I've gotten to play with.”
On the other side of the coin Cristall is on the small side (5-9, 175) and his skating is average for a player his age; both of which concern teams. Small forwards who don't skate well or play a complete game aren't exactly known as a recipe for success. Yet Cristall playmaking, production and potential are likely to entice some teams. All of this makes Cristall seemingly eligible to go as high as top 15 and fall to the second, or even third round. Personally, I think he is going to be a star.
Runners up
Quentin Musty - An athletic winger who has a nose for the net but struggles with consistency and defence; Musty is on the younger side and his offensive chops are hard to ignore.
Samuel Honzek - One of the biggest risers this year coming from a virtually unknown Slovakian kid playing in the WHL, now he is one of the more intriguing power-forward types in the draft.
Quick prediction
Matvei Michkov is one of the most complicated prospects to evaluate in years. He is widely considered one of the top talents in this draft and has been for years. Michkov however is under contract for another three full seasons in Russia, add in the KHL factor and the current Russian war; suddenly he is very hard to place. While many think of him as a top 3 or 5 pick based on talent, I think he is likely to fall outside the top ten on draft day. The first spot I can see him being picked is ninth.
Fun Fact
Did you know that for the past 19 years at least one defenceman has been picked in the top five? I think this year has a good choice to make it 20, with David Reinbacher my best bet to be the first defenceman of the board (I expect him to between picks 4-7).
Sports Tree Profile

By: Chase Howard


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