2023 NHL Draft

2023 NHL Mock Draft 2.0: Predicting All 64 Picks In First Two Rounds

2023 NHL Mock Draft 2.0: Predicting All 64 Picks In First Two Rounds

In Chris Peters' latest Mock Draft, Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli go No. 1 and 2, but could there be a surprise at No. 3 with the Columbus Blue Jackets?

Jun 26, 2023 by Chris Peters

The 2023 NHL Draft is now just days away. A lot is expected to happen in the coming days that could significantly alter the outlook of the NHL Draft. Trade winds are blowing, teams are meeting with Matvei Michkov this week and over the next few days the rumors are going to be flying.

Any time we put together a mock draft, there’s a ton of guess work. Teams aren’t exactly forthcoming with who they like and sometimes like to throw a little smoke here and there as a misdirection.  When you add in trying to mock the second round, you’re playing with fire a little bit. But let's do it anyway.

With so many variables at play including the number of pending trades we expect the next few days. All we really can do here is take a look at the realistic possibilities. So let’s see what just might happen when the picks start flying on Wednesday.

More 2023 NHL Draft Coverage: Mock Draft 1.0 | Chris Peters' Top 100 Prospects

1. Chicago Blackhawks: Connor Bedard, C, Regina Pats

I don’t think there’s anything more that can be said about Connor Bedard at this point. The Chicago Blackhawks sprint to the podium and begin a new era for their franchise with Bedard at the center of it.

2. Anaheim Ducks: Adam Fantilli, C, Michigan

There may be more debate about what the Ducks ultimately will do, but I just think this is too good a fit for their franchise based on what they have and where they’re going. Fantilli could be a force in the rough-and-tumble Pacific.

WATCH: Adam Fantilli 2023 NHL Draft Profile

3. Columbus Blue Jackets: Will Smith, C, U.S. National Under-18 Team

The buzz and speculation keeps growing that the Blue Jackets are more seriously considering Will Smith at No. 3. Smith is the more dynamic and probably the better skater of the two and also spent all season at the center position. I still think Carlsson would be a fine pick, but Smith’s skill level and ability to drive play is tantalizing. There is so much riding on this pick in Columbus it feels like.

WATCH: Will Smith 2023 NHL Draft Profile

4. San Jose Sharks: Leo Carlsson, C, Orebro

Carlsson is adamant he is a center and most teams believe he can play in the middle. If the Jackets pass on him, the Sharks simply cannot. Carlsson gives them another big center in their system and increases their skill level immediately. As this team transitions, Carlsson has potential to be a foundational piece for San Jose if he does slip to them.

5. Montreal Canadiens: Ryan Leonard, RW, U.S. National Under-18 Team

There is a lot of chatter that Montreal’s decision is going to come down to Leonard or David Reinbacher. Another thing I keep hearing from scouts is that they have a hard time placing any of the defensemen over the best forwards in the class, which Leonard is widely believed to be among. Montreal could make the surprise splash by drafting Matvei Michkov, but speculation around the team suggests that is not as likely as one of Leonard or Dvorsky. So why Leonard? He's near 6-feet, is a force physically and can score. After passing on Brady Tkachuk in favor of a positional need and drafting Jesperi Kotkaniemi instead, I don’t think Kent Hughes is willing to make the same mistake the previous regime did by reaching for a defenseman here. Michkov would be the home run swing, but Leonard might be the best long-term organizational fit.

WATCH: Ryan Leonard 2023 NHL Draft Profile

6. Arizona Coyotes: Dalibor Dvorsky, C, AIK

The Coyotes are not a team I think is in a position to take the risk of drafting Michkov, who has some leverage other prospects do not. I also think Arizona really needs to add a defenseman at some point, but there is growing speculation that they covet Dvorsky as a scoring center that can slot in comfortably behind Logan Cooley and give the team some additional two-way value. 

7. Philadelphia Flyers: Matvei Michkov, RW, HK Sochi

The wild card player of the draft goes to the wild card team of the draft. The Flyers have expressed publicly that they plan to meet with Michkov and if they’re serious about rebuilding, they could find no better value than the immensely skilled Russian forward. Michkov has franchise-changing potential if he hits. Risky? Sure, but Danny Briere has a chance to put his stamp on the rebuild by adding the player who is by far the best available on the board.

8. Washington Capitals: David Reinbacher, D, Kloten

The Caps I’m sure would love to add Michkov to the mix but they may have to trade up to get him. If they don’t get him, the best path forward for them could be to add the best defenseman available in the draft. Reinbacher has a bunch of projectable tools and the Caps have a system shallow on defensive talent. Reinbacher has top-four potential and may not have an especially long NHL transition timeline.

9. Detroit Red Wings: Matthew Wood, C/W, UConn

The Red Wings have an opportunity to get bigger, to increase their scoring depth and add a player who could potentially score an awful lot of goals playing alongside Detroit’s other forward talent in the system. Wood doesn’t have great feet which is why this may be a tenuous pick for the Red Wings, but he can score and can make plays down low. The rest of the players available here among forwards are similar to what they already have in their system. 

10. St. Louis Blues: Nate Danielson, C, Brandon Wheat Kings

The Blues are retooling a bit and can use a little of everything. Strengthening their team down the middle is likely going to be a priority. Danielson checks a lot of the boxes the Blues look for and of the centers left on the board may have the highest floor of all of them. He’s a good two-way option with some size and skill. I could also see the Blues exploring their options of adding a strong defender here like a Tom Willander or Dmitri Simashev, but with multiple picks later perhaps the focus should be on a center in this particular range. 

11. Vancouver Canucks: Tom Willander, D, Rogle U20

The Canucks have needs throughout their system, but can address the right side of their blue line by getting the high-end skating, play-killing Willander. He defends at a high level and while his offensive upside is limited relative to some of the other D prospects, he has top-four written all over him.

12. Arizona Coyotes: Dmitri Simashev, D, Yaroslavl

After focusing on forwards with their earlier pick, I think the Coyotes have to find a way to come away with one of the top defensemen in this slot. Axel Sandin Pellikka could be a serious option for them here, but Simashev has size, defensive ability and mobility. The Coyotes don’t have a cornerstone defenseman at the moment and while I’m not sure Simashev is that at this point, he’d be their best defense prospect immediately.

13. Buffalo Sabres: Axel Sandin Pellikka, D, Skelleftea

The Sabres have a well-stocked prospect pool with players in all positions. They are loaded on the left side of their defense, but could stand to shore up the right side with an actual right-shot defenseman. Sandin Pellikka is the best remaining options on that front. Adding him to a blue line that already moves pucks at an exceptional level could make Buffalo a long-term possession juggernaut with how well that D corps is structured.

14. Pittsburgh Penguins: Gabe Perreault, LW, U.S. National Under-18 Team

The Penguins have needs all over the place in their prospect system, so there’s no reason to get too picky here. By selecting Perreault, they’d get the second most productive player in the draft and one of its very best playmakers. Betting on skill and hockey sense would allow the Pens to pick up a new No. 1 prospect in their system with Perreault.

15. Nashville Predators: Oliver Moore, C, U.S. National Under-18 Team

The Preds have been fairly aggressive at adding wingers, so getting a chance to nab one of the best centers remaining could be a huge benefit. On top of that, Moore is one of the best skaters in the draft. The value here should be too good to pass up to add to team speed with Moore.

WATCH: Oliver Moore's 2023 NHL Draft Profile

16. Calgary Flames: Samuel Honzek, LW, Vancouver Giants

The Flames could add a nice dose of optimism and upside in landing one of the draft’s bigger forwards in Honzek. Had he played a whole season, perhaps he’s more firmly in the top 10 conversation, but this is a loaded group at forward. The Flames need to add a lot in the coming years, getting a big winger with scoring pop in this range is a solid add.

17. Detroit Red Wings: Zach Benson, LW, Winnipeg Ice

After addressing size and scoring with their first pick, the Red Wings can nab one of the most skilled players remaining in Benson. He is undersized and his skating is only OK, but he has a high motor and a tenacity that should resonate with Steve Yzerman and his staff. If Yzerman gets any Brayden Point vibes from Benson, maybe that's the pick at nine instead of the great fortune of landing him at 17.

WATCH: Zach Benson 2023 NHL Draft Scouting Report, Highlights

18. Winnipeg Jets: Colby Barlow, LW, Owen Sound Attack

The Jets have to remake their roster a little bit this offseason and while Barlow does not necessarily fit into their near-term plans, he'd be a great asset in the long term. One of the draft's most gifted shooters, Barlow has true scoring potential at the NHL level. He's also a high-character player who was the captain of his team and shined brightly on the international stage this year.

WATCH: Colby Barlow 2023 NHL Draft Scouting Report, Highlights

19. Chicago Blackhawks: Daniil But, LW, Yaroslavl U20

After adding their center of the future, the Blackhawks could go with big-time upside here with But, who also brings much-needed size to their forward group of the future. But has great hands and an ability to score in a 6-foot-5 frame. There are a lot of good options left here, but the highest-ceiling option could be enticing to a team that’s in the midst of a rebuild.

20. Seattle Kraken: Brayden Yager, C, Moose Jaw

Once unfathomable to see Yager slip this far, the Kraken can take advantage of adding another high-skill center to their mix after bringing in Matty Beniers and Shane Wright. Yager has goal-scoring ability and may ultimately end up as a wing at the NHL level. Having a player with his scoring and playmaking potential makes Seattle’s forward corps a little more dynamic. The one question I’d have with this pick is that they’ve probably got to think about getting bigger up front at some point.

21. Minnesota Wild: Otto Stenberg, C/W, Frolunda U20

If you want work ethic, skill and pace Stenberg can bring all of that. The Wild have made a few key selections out of Sweden in recent years, most notably last year with Liam Ohgren. Stenberg had a spectacular U18 World Championship and put himself in the discussion to be a top 20 pick. 

22. Philadelphia Flyers: Calum Ritchie, C/W, Oshawa Generals

If the Flyers land the high-risk, high-reward Michkov at No. 7, they could keep pushing to add more scoring. They may be tempted to add a defenseman, but I think there’s too much offensive talent available here. Ritchie played hurt most of the season and in a tough situation, but at various stages of his season he looked like a high-upside scorer with size and the ability to make some plays.

23. New York Rangers: David Edstrom, C, Frolunda U20

The Rangers have a good group of young players that are already part of their NHL squad and some solid prospects waiting in the wings. With a more established core, perhaps taking a swing on the high-upside center with size could be the order of the day for the Rangers. Edstrom’s stock has been soaring since U18 Men’s Worlds.

24. Nashville Predators: Oliver Bonk, D, London Knights

After going forward with their earlier pick, the Preds can do what they’ve done best for years, which is drafting quality defensemen that can play big minutes in the NHL. Bonk’s offensive upside is a little bit lower than some other blueliners in this class, but his defensive game and competitiveness allow him to comfortably project into a regular role on an NHL blue line.

25. St. Louis Blues: Tanner Molendyk, D, Saskatoon Blades

The Blues could have this pick in play for a trade, which could make things interesting as we get closer to the draft. However, if they hold onto the pick Molendyk may offer the Blues something they don’t have a ton of in their system, which his highly-mobile defensemen who can play a two-way game and showcases some offensive upside. Molendyk is one of the more enticing blueliners in this range thanks to his elite skating ability.

WATCH: Tanner Molendyk 2023 NHL Draft Scouting Report, Highlights

26. San Jose Sharks: Eduard Sale, LW, HC Kometa Brno

Sale’s draft stock has fallen a bit as the season has progressed, but he’s still a highly-skilled player with some clear offensive upside. There’s a chance he can round out into a top-six scorer with higher-end vision and an ability to get pucks to the net. His stock is waning a bit because some scouts are concerned about his in-and-out effort level in some viewings this year.

27. Colorado Avalanche: Michael Hrabal, G, Omaha Lancers

Maybe it’s counterintuitive to take a huge risk when you have few picks in a draft, however, I think the Avalanche are well-positioned to take a swing. This franchise has had a dearth of homegrown goalies. This is a class that has several good options. If they don’t pick one now, they won’t have another pick until it’s too late. Hrabal has a massive ceiling on him and would immediately become the Avs' goalie of the future.

28. Toronto Maple Leafs: Gavin Brindley, C/W, Michigan

Gavin Brindley is one of the most tenacious, quick forwards in this draft. While the Maple Leafs could go for size here, Brindley might be a good overall fit for their team. Despite the size disadvantage, he's good on the forecheck, can play well off the puck and showed this season that you put him with talent and he will provide offensively.

WATCH: Gavin Brindley 2023 NHL Draft Profile

29. St. Louis Blues: Charlie Stramel, C, Wisconsin

Stramel checks a lot of boxes for the Blues. He's big, he's fast and he's physical. Stramel's game off the puck improved this year, but his offense took a bit of a dive. I don't anticipate that will continue for him. While there are some hockey sense concerns, I think the athletic toolkit and his versatility will make him a strong pick here.

30. Carolina Hurrianes: Andrew Cristall, LW, Kelowna Rockets 

The Hurricanes are one of the teams not consumed over size and Cristall has the offensive capability to provide a little more upside than your average undersized player. To get a player with his offensive ability this late in the draft could be viewed as a win for the Hurricanes as they’ve often been unafraid to take bets teams pass on due to risk. 

WATCH: Andrew Cristall 2023 NHL Draft Scouting Report, Highlights

31. Montreal Canadiens: Quentin Musty, RW, Sudbury Wolves

I think Montreal would be very fortunate if Musty slipped here, but that's just the way this board turned out. The Habs would get a bigger forward with scoring pop as they continue to beef up their offensive cupboard. Musty has higher-end playmaking ability but sometimes doesn't have the pace which is why he could realistically slip.

32. Vegas Golden Knights: Riley Heidt, C, Prince George Cougars

The Golden Knights could take a bigger swing, but Heidt is one of the better offensive talents left on the board. He competes, has high-end hockey sense and while doesn't have size, he gets to the inside well. Vegas tends to let their first-rounders go pretty easily so Heidt may not want to get comfortable in gold, but he'd be a fine pick at this stage of the first round.

33. Anaheim Ducks: Danny Nelson, C/W, U.S. National Under-18 Team

34. Columbus Blue Jackets: Theo Lindstein, D, Brynas

35. Chicago Blackhawks: Anton Wahlberg, RW, Malmo U20

36. San Jose Sharks: Bradly Nadeau, LW, Penticton Vees

37. Montreal Canadiens: Kasper Halttunen, RW, HIFK

38. Arizona Coyotes: Carson Rehkopf, LW, Kitchener Rangers

39. Buffalo Sabres: Oscar Fisker Molgaard, C, HV71

40. Washington Capitals: Ethan Gauthier, LW, Sherbrooke Phoenix

41. Detroit Red Wings: Mikhail Gulyayev, D, Omsk U20

42. Detroit Red Wings: Lenni Hameenaho, RW, Pori

43. Detroit Red Wings: Lukas Dragicevic, D, Tri-City Americans

44. Chicago Blackhawks: Jakub Dvorak, D, Liberec

45. Buffalo Sabres: Gracyn Sawchyn, C, Seattle Thunderbirds 

46. Nashville Predators: Etienne Morin, D, Moncton Wildcats

47. Nashville Predators: Felix Nilsson, C, Rogle U20

48. Calgary Flames: Nick Lardis, LW, Hamilton Bulldogs

49. New York Islanders: Maxim Strbak, D, Sioux Falls Stampede

50. Seattle Kraken: Carson Bjarnason, G, Brandon Wheat Kings

51. Chicago Blackhawks: Nico Myatovic, LW, Seattle Thunderbirds

52. Seattle Kraken: Koehn Ziemmer, RW, Prince George Cougars

53. Minnesota Wild: Hunter Brzustewicz, D, Kitchener Rangers

54. Los Angeles Kings: Adam Gajan, G, Chippewa Steel

55. Chicago Blackhawks: Trey Augustine, G, U.S. National Under-18 Team

56. Edmonton Oilers: Easton Cowan, RW, London Knights

57. Seattle Kraken Beau Akey, D, Barrie Colts

58. New Jersey Devils: Mathieu Cataford, C/W, Halifax Mooseheads

59. Anaheim Ducks: Jacob Fowler, G, Youngstown Phantoms

60. Anaheim Ducks: Jayden Perron, RW, Chicago Steel

61. Dallas Stars: Kalan Lind, RW, Red Deer Rebels

62. Carolina Hurricanes: Andrew Gibson, D, Soo Greyhounds

63. Florida Panthers: Coulson Pitre, RW, Flint Firebirds

64. Minnesota Wild: Jesse Kiiskinen, RW, Lahti Pelicans