The highly respected McKeen’s Hockey, which specializes in the draft, listed the top 16 players for 2023 on Tuesday.
At the top of the list: Center Connor Bedard, center Adam Fantilli, and right winger Matvei Michkov. In that order. They are called “generational players” by McKeen’s, and they are the reason that, at the trade deadline, NHL teams were trying to acquire draft picks from expected 2022-23 also-rans
The Philadelphia Flyers, Arizona Coyotes, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Seattle Kraken, Buffalo Sabres, San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks are the eight lowly teams expected to be in the sweepstakes for one of the Big Three, according to oddsmakers. Call them the Not Too Great Eight.
Brock Otten, scouting director for McKeen’s, said the 2023 draft not only has three generational players, but has “incredible top-end depth” in the first round.
A trio for the ages
Here’s an early look at the top three 2023 draft prospects:
- Connor Bedard, C, Regina Pats (5-9, 181): He dominated the Western Hockey League in his first two seasons. Last season, he became the first U17 player in 35 years to reach the 100-point mark in the WHL. Otten said he has great hands and vision — and does everything at an elite level, including his skating, playmaking, and shot. Yes, he would quickly become a top-six player with the Philadelphia Flyers.
- Adam Fantilli, C, Chicago Steel (USHL)/University of Michigan (6-3, 191): If the physical and fleet Fantilli had been born a month earlier, he would have been eligible for this year’s draft and, according to Otten, would have been the most NHL-ready player available. He has speed, power, and grace, and McKeen’s says he is in the mold of Aleksander Barkov and Anze Kopitar. That’s a good mold.
- Matvei Michkov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL (5-9, 160): His resume is impressive. Two years ago, he broke Nikita Kucherov’s MHL U17 scoring record. He has great skill and creativity with the puck and a high hockey IQ. Michkov will be ready for the NHL shortly after the 2023 draft. But what will the political landscape in Russia be at that time, and will it cause him to fall in the draft?
Around the NHL
Here are some other NHL tidbits:
- We mentioned that San Jose is expected to be one of the NHL’s weaker teams in the upcoming season. David Quinn will be trying to make the experts wrong. The new Sharks coach was defended by GM Mike Grier for his days with the New York Rangers. San Jose Hockey Now’s Sheng Peng has the story.
- Cherry Hill native Bobby Ryan, who won the 2020 Masterton Trophy after returning from substance-abuse treatment, was arrested at the Nashville airport after apparently suffering a relapse. Detroit Hockey Now’s Bob Duff has the sad story.
- Nazem Kadri is still unsigned. Do the New York Islanders have a deal in the works? Adrian Dater of Colorado Hockey Now has the story here.
- Could Brian Boyle, 37, end up back with the Pittsburgh Penguins? Pittsburgh Hockey Now’s Dave Molinari checks in.
- Matthew Tkachuk is thrilled to be with the Florida Panthers, plans to be in South Florida (what’s not to like?) for a loooooong time, and now HATES the Tampa Bay Lightning. Florida Hockey Now’s Colby Guy has the story.
- Stop the presses! Chicago Blackhawks icon Jonathan Toews, 34, is not a fan of the team’s “draining” rebuild. NHL.com has the story on Toews.
- Joe Haggerty, my colleague at Boston Hockey Now, answers some great questions about the cap-strapped B’s and the direction they are going.