2023 NHL Draft

2023 NHL Draft: Best Players Available On Day 2 Led By Cristall, Brindley

2023 NHL Draft: Best Players Available On Day 2 Led By Cristall, Brindley

As we head into Day 2 of the 2023 NHL Draft, Chris Peters lists his best available players for Rounds 2-7 including Gavin Brindley and Andrew Cristall.

Jun 29, 2023 by Chris Peters

NASHVILLE, Tennessee -- The first round of the 2023 NHL Draft came and went with a bunch of intrigue and plenty of surprises. After all 32 picks were selected, four players from FloHockey's Top 100 list still remain on the board, with plenty of value still to be had in the second round.

With the second round slated to begin at 10 a.m. CT in Nashville, here's a look at a selection of the best remaining players available per the FloHockey Top 100, which can be read in full here.

Best Players Available On Day 2

24. Andrew Cristall, LW, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

As creative as any player in the draft, Cristall simply knows how to score. His ability to anticipate and read the defense to find the right spot to put himself is next level. The legitimate concern beyond his below-average size is that he is also a below-average skater. Despite thinking the game at a high level, he can sometimes be behind the play and may not have the pace to be a driver. Still, the rare commodity of high-end to elite offensive sense gives me some belief he can overcome some limitations. There is a real boom-bust potential with drafting a player like Cristall this high, but the hockey sense wins the day here for me.

25. Gavin Brindley, RW, University of Michigan (NCAA)

A spark-plug player with impressive speed and tenacity, Brindley saw his production shoot up in the second half of the season at Michigan. He got moved to the top line and was able to more than hold his own. Size is the primary concern with the 5-foot-8.5 and 165 pounds, but Brindley’s skating and work ethic show he can play a lot of different ways and find success. There are some legitimate questions about his overall offensive upside, too, but I think his versatility is where the value lies. He can play any way you need him to and often did for Michigan. To coin a phrase, he's got that dog in him.

30. Riley Heidt, C, Prince George Cougars (WHL)

With high-end vision and playmaking ability, Heidt has potential to be an offensive weapon at the higher levels. His skating, however, leaves some to be desired and that’s where I grow a little leery of his potential to fit into a top six. That said, his offensive instincts and ability to spot plays is near the upper echelon of this draft. He put up 97 points highlighted by 72 assists. A lackluster showing at the World Under-18 Championship where he was a late arrival didn’t give the best last impression, but his feel in the offensive zone is such that I can’t see a team letting him slip far despite legitimate concerns about skating and competitive edge.

31. Ethan Gauthier, RW, Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)

Offensively, there is little to quibble with when it comes to Gauthier. He has a good shot, moves well and clearly has the one-on-one skill to get by defenders and make plays in tight. He’s closer to average in the size department, but still doesn’t shy away from contact and getting aggressive. He was over a point-per-game this season with Sherbrooke and had a standout performance for Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup. There’s a good chance he goes a bit higher in the first round than I have him ranked.

34. Lukas Dragicevic, D, Tri-City Americans (WHL)

With good offensive skills highlighted by an accurate, quick shot, Dragicevic has a chance to go in the first round. He has the size and is a right-shot, which are attractive qualities, but so is the fact that he had 75 points in 68 games for Tri-City. The big concern is a valid one in that Dragicevic is below average defensively and lacks awareness at times in his own zone. The offensive toolkit is immense and alluring, but I don’t know if he’s well-rounded enough to warrant the inherent value afforded first round picks. That said, it's not so much of a concern that I'd drop him any further than here. Those offensive traits are pretty excellent.

35. Michael Hrabal, G, Omaha Lancers (USHL)

Perhaps the goaltender with the highest ceiling in this draft, Hrabal is also one of the biggest. At 6-foot-6, he’s athletic, composed and he battles. His team this season struggled in front of him and that led to sub-par numbers. That said, Hrabal has all the tools teams are looking for in NHL goalies, even beyond his size. At this point, he is expected to head to UMass next season to begin a career in college hockey. Coming off of a World U18 where he did everything he could to keep Czechia in games, we got to see how competitive Hrabal really is. It was a tough evaluation at times this year, but his athleticism and projectable tools suggest he'll be the first goaltender off the board and could yet be picked in the first round.

37. Kasper Halttunen, RW, HIFK (Liiga)

Halttunen came into the season with first-round aspirations thanks to his 6-foot-3 frame and legitimate power game. He had his struggles throughout the year, but put together a productive U18 World Championship despite Finland’s early exit. He has heavier feet and while he can absolutely finish plays, he’s probably not the guy you want carrying the puck a lot. He’s going to require some patience on the development side of things, but his athletic package is going to be too attractive for teams to let him slip too far on Day 2 of the draft. Heck, there may be a team who still sees him as a first, though that buzz has certainly cooled.

38. Gracyn Sawchyn, C/W, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)

One of the more gifted puckhandlers in the draft, Sawchyn has creativity and the ability to extend plays with his sure-handedness. He averaged a point per game on one of the best teams in junior hockey and has the hockey sense to make a lot of good things happen. Next year, he’ll likely be in a more prominent role for the Thunderbirds as many of their best players graduate out of junior. That should be good for his development as he has a special skill level as it appears the puck is glued to his stick at times. 

40. Etienne Morin, D, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)

A massively productive season for the average-sized left-shot defenseman has Morin at least in the conversation to sneak into the first round. He moves pucks exceptionally well, posting 51 assists this season. His defending is adequate, but he’ll need to tack on more strength over time. Morin did just about everything he needed to do to make a case for himself in this draft and that offensive upside is going to go a long way for him.

41. Maxim Strbak, D, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)

A highly mobile right-shot defenseman, Strbak is a mature defender who is committed to protecting his own zone and gets pucks up ice. He doesn’t have a ton of offensive value, though, which is what likely keeps him out of the first round. Strbak has good-enough hands and can move pucks well, but he’s not going to be a significant threat in the offensive zone. A 6-foot-2, right-shot defenesmean with good skating ability will get a lot of long looks, especially with the way he played at major international events this season.

42. Anton Wahlberg, C, Malmo U20 (Sweden U20)

In multiple viewings this season, my eye kept gravitating towards Wahlberg. He has size and good touch on the puck and he makes plays. He appeared in 17 games at the top pro level in Sweden and produced at a reasonable rate as a U20 as well. Internationally, he was a handful for his age peers to handle. Wahlberg is 6-3 and has some rawness to his game, but he battles and wins his share of pucks. With some additional development time, the ceiling on him is immense, especially with the hand skills he possesses to go along with that imposing frame.

43. Danny Nelson, C/W, U.S. National Under-18 Team (NTDP)

A raw prospect with good athletic tools and size, Nelson played one season at the NTDP. It took him some time to get up to speed, but he showed versatility throughout the season and good enough hands to make some plays. Being a consistent finisher is going to be the challenge in Nelson’s projection because that wasn’t always evident this season. He thinks the game at a high enough level and has a lot of the physical traits that could allow him to sneak into the first round, but I’d like to see him finish off more plays to agree with that projection.

44. Carson Rehkopf, LW, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)

Skilled for days, Rehkopf has make-you-miss ability. The hard part about evaluating him, however, is that he’d have wild swings in games. Sometimes it didn’t look like the effort was there. Other times he wouldn’t be denied. There’s so much talent there and he’s got the size, it just has to come together more consistently. I wonder if Rehkopf would have challenged more for a spot in the first round if he had his best every night. Still, he's got that skill that makes you believe he can find a role for himself down the line.

45. Kalan Lind, LW, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)

Despite average size, Lind plays with jump and edge. He’s a fierce competitor and there's a real nastiness to his game, which will still attract a number of NHL suitors. The question will be if his offensive skillset is high-end enough to warrant a high pick. There’s no doubt his hard-nosed play and ability to get to the interior is going to win him some fans, but the upside projection is a bit more difficult given than Lind does not have natural high-end puck skills.

46. Oscar Fisker Molgaard, C, HV-71 (SHL)

You’ll never miss Molgaard on the ice, that’s for sure. He plays with pace and is on pucks in a hurry. His ability to hunt pucks could carry him a long way. On top of that, he has the offensive ability to make some plays and finish chances. He appeared in 41 SHL games this season as a U18 player and didn’t look out of place because his motor is always running.

47. Caden Price, D, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

Beyond a good skating ability, I’m not sure you can say any one element of Price’s game stands out. He’s average sized, has average offensive capabilities, defends well enough and he’s got a good work ethic on the ice. He looks like he could round out into a bottom-pairing defenseman with a chance to boost his stock with a more refined offensive game.

48. Gavin McCarthy, D, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)

A right-shot defenseman with good mobility, McCarthy defends well and moves pucks with ease. He didn’t have a highly-productive year as Muskegon struggled and he also dealt with a knee injury that kept him off the ice for a few months. That said, McCarthy showed notable progression from the beginning of the year to the end, suggesting some upside. As McCarthy gets stronger, he’ll only be better defensively and the puck-moving tools are good enough to suggest he can produce at a higher level as he moves forward. There’s still plenty of development time ahead for him.

49. Nico Myatovic, LW, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)

Playing on one of the best teams in junior hockey, it can be tough to stand out, but there have been times where Myatovic has. He can absolutely fire the puck and as he gains a little more of a goal-scorer’s touch, he should be able to find the net more. Offensively, he’s got plenty to like and the effort he gives off the puck is good. There are legitimate concerns about his skating, however, but players at his size and with his competitiveness often find a way.

50. Koehn Ziemmer, RW, Prince George Cougars (WHL)

With 41 goals and 89 points in 68 games, Ziemmer showed off a vast offensive toolkit. The hockey sense and skill are high end traits, but his skating is a big concern at this point. Guys that think the game and have the offensive creativity like Ziemmer does give themselves a chance, but you’ve got to be able to play at a higher pace as you move up the ranks.

51. Luca Cagnoni, D, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

An impressive puck-mover with high-end skating ability, Cagnoni has just about everything going for him except for his size. He was an exceptional offensive performer for Portland this season with 17 goals and 64 points in 67 games after a strong rookie season the year before. If he can continue to move pucks out of his zone as effectively as he did this season, he’s going to give himself a chance despite the size concerns.

52. Jayden Perron, LW, Chicago Steel (USHL)

After a slow start to his USHL season, Perron had a big second half and started showing some more dynamic elements to his game. He’ll have to contend with doubts about his size, but his game took off down the stretch. That improvement is encouraging. Perron has good vision, skates extremely well and has quick enough hands to challenge defenders and keep them guessing. His goal scoring also picked up this year thanks to a high-end shot and an ability to get it off in a lot of different ways. He will constantly have to prove himself because of the size, but he put himself in position to get picked reasonably early on Day 2. 

53. Adam Gajan, G, Chippewa Steel (NAHL)

One of the most gifted goaltenders from an athletic standpoint, Gajan made his presence in this draft class known at the World Junior Championship with a win over USA and pushing Canada to the brink in an overtime loss. A second-year draft eligible, Gajan was a top goalie in the NAHL this year and showed well in a brief USHL stint. Committed to Minnesota Duluth, he’s got plenty of time to develop more of his technical skills at a program that has seen a number of goalies get NHL opportunities in recent years. The quickness and his ability to compete make up for the lack of refined technique, but he seems to have a good feel for the game, too.

54. Hunter Brzustewicz, D, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)

A gifted skater who has a fluidity and easiness to his stride, Bruztewicz put up very good numbers in his first OHL season after a few years at the NTDP. With 57 points in 68 games, he was able to show more offense than he did as a U18 and made some mature decisions with the puck. His footwork is a big part of his overall game and projection as he can still afford to be better defensively. More development time will go a long way for Brzustewicz as he has a nice foundation to his game at htis point.

55. Trey Augustine, G, U.S. National Under-18 Team (NTDP)

Winning a World U18 gold medal and playing some of his best hockey in that gold-medal game was a validating performance. Augustine lost one game in regulation all season. He posted a .926 save percentage, too. At 6-foot-1, he’s right on the edge for NHL teams who value size more in goaltending, but his poise and composure are hugely attractive qualities in a goalie. On top of that, Augustine has legitimate technical skill, reads the game exceptionally well. His coaches also laud his preparation and intense focus.

SEE MORE: FloHockey's Top 100 Rankings