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MCKEEN’S 2023 NHL DRAFT GUIDE – Two Round Mock Draft

First Round

1 - Chicago Blackhawks - Connor Bedard (Regina, WHL)

Regardless of whether you believe that the Hawks deserved to win the first overall selection…it did happen. And the timing for the Chicago organization couldn’t have been better as they transition from the Patrick Kane/Jonathan Toews era to the Connor Bedard era. This is a game changer that should accelerate the Blackhawk’s rebuild.

2 - Anaheim Ducks - Adam Fantilli (Michigan, NCAA)

Talk about power down the middle. By selecting the University of Michigan star, the Ducks can now boast a one/two punch at center of Mason McTavish and Adam Fantilli. That likely pushes Trevor Zegras to the wing long term, which might not be a terrible thing considering his struggles at the faceoff circle and defensively. Fantilli is one of the most polished two-way forwards in the league and his speed and strength should allow him to jump into the NHL immediately.

3 - Columbus Blue Jackets - Leo Carlsson (Orebro, SHL)

This is where things get really interesting. Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen doesn’t draft a ton out of Sweden (Finnish bias?, however I believe that this would be the best pick for the organization. Carlsson is the most ready to make an immediate impact in the NHL and he would give the Jackets a potential two-way rock to build their forward group around. This is a team who wants to compete soon and turn their fortunes around.

4 - San Jose Sharks - Will Smith (USNTDP)

For the life of me, I just can’t see Mike Grier going with Michkov here. Smith would give San Jose a highly skilled playmaker to continue to build around. He could help to elevate the play of some of the team’s complementary players. He may take a few years in College with BC, but the end product should be a high-end offensive player. Question…would it be shocking to see the Sharks reach for a defender like David Reinbacher here?

5 - Montreal Canadiens - Ryan Leonard (USNTDP)

It really seems like the Canadiens would pass on Michkov should he be available to them. It could be smoke and mirrors, but all signs do point to that fact. So, who do they select? Lots of hype around Reinbacher. I think they’re happy with their defensive depth right now. IMO. I truly believe that Ryan Leonard could be their target. Here’s a forward who can make an impact in a lot of different ways and who plays the power game that Montreal really seems to want to play in the future. Obviously Dalibor Dvorsky could be an option here too.

6- Arizona Coyotes - Matvei Michkov (HK Sochi, KHL)

I just can’t see Michkov falling that far. Yes, there is inherent risk. But the reward is so great. Arizona wants to become relevant again, but they also want to have sustainability. They haven’t shied away from drafting Russians in recent years, and this is a big fish. The timing of his arrival in the NHL should be perfect for Arizona’s inevitable resurgence.

7- Philadelphia Flyers - David Reinbacher (Kloten, NL)

A big, right shot defender, it seems like a sure thing that he’ll be drafted in the top ten, even if he’s our third ranked defender. The Flyers seem like a really good fit for him. Reinbacher is a potential two-way force from the right side who could develop into an all-situations player for Philadelphia and would complement other young defenders like Cam York and Emil Andrae exceptionally well.

8 - Washington Capitals - Oliver Moore (USNTDP)

Would it be shocking to see Moore drafted ahead of Ryan Leonard? I don’t think so. NHL teams put such a premium on true centers and Moore is just that. Watching the Capitals in recent years, it’s obvious that they need to focus on upgrading the speed quotient of this team again and Moore is the best skating player available this year. The range of outcomes for him runs the gamut of Dylan Larkin to Andrew Cogliano, but Moore should play and would fit in well with this roster, perhaps better than some of the power wingers slated to go here. Nate Danielson could be an option here too, especially given Washington’s Western bias.

9 - Detroit Red Wings - Dalibor Dvorsky (AIK, Allsvenskan)

I think one thing Detroit proved at last year’s draft was that they wanted to focus on getting back to being difficult to play against in the future. There is a desire for the full rebuild to be over and it’s now time to focus on getting players who can be strong playoff performers. Dvorsky is raw, but as we have seen internationally, he is a big game player who can potentially grow into an all-situations type.

10 - St. Louis Blues - Axel Sandin Pellikka (Skelleftea, SWEJ20)

One of the top offensive defenders available this year, Sandin Pellikka proved at this year’s U18’s that he can defend too. The progression in his game over the course of the year should have teams lining up to select him given the weakness of the defense crop. St. Louis needs to inject new life into their blueline, specifically in the puck moving department.

11 - Vancouver Canucks - Nate Danielson (Brandon, WHL)

Lots to like here for the Canucks. Danielson is a strong candidate to be an all situations top six center for them in the future. And let’s face it, the center depth in the organization isn’t amazing right now. There is a need for a player like Danielson. He’s really the last player in this grouping of ranked players who is likely to stick down the center, so I’d expect all these guys to go high.

12 - Arizona Coyotes (via Ottawa) - Matthew Wood (UConn, NCAA)

Skating concerns be darned, someone is going to bite on Matthew Wood early in the first round. He’s just been too good the last few years. As we’ve seen with Jason Robertson, skating development can occur as conditioning improves. Wood has so many other good qualities and he would be the perfect complementary player for them in the future.

13 - Buffalo Sabres - Dmitri Simashev (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, KHL)

Our top ranked defender, can you imagine a future where the Sabres have both Owen Power and Dmitri Simashev? The massive defender skates well and should at least develop into a high end stay at home type. The Sabres haven’t been scared off by taking Russian players too. This seems like a great fit.

14 - Pittsburgh Penguins - Daniil But (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, KHL)

One of the things Pittsburgh needs to do at the draft this year is focus on selecting players with upside. For far too long, the focus was on safer prospects and the combination of that, plus a lack of first round selections, has left the system in disarray. Insert Daniil But, a big winger who could end up being an Evgeni Malkin kind of player thanks to his combination of power and skill. The Penguins have had some success drafting out of Russia, so I don’t see it scaring them off.

15 - Nashville Predators - Tom Willander (Rögle, SWE J20)

One of the draft's biggest risers, Willander was so good in the second half, and it has caused many (including us) to shift their opinion of his potential. He now looks like a lock to be a top four, right shot defender. I see Nashville looking at adding a potential defender at this spot and perhaps they go more offensively oriented with Gulyayev or Dragicevic, but the well-rounded profile seems to fit them more.

16 - Calgary Flames - Zach Benson (Winnipeg, WHL)

The fall for Benson ends here with Calgary selecting him. We love Benson, but there’s definitely some concern that NHL scouts are concerned with the fact that he’s undersized and not a dynamic athlete. However, his playmaking ability would really help the Flames moving forward and I think they need to gamble on his upside. I could also see Calgary opting for an offensively oriented defender here too.

17 - Detroit Red Wings (via New York Islanders) - Mikhail Gulyayev (Avangard Omsk, KHL)

One of the top skating defenders available this year, Gulyayev would be a great fit in the Detroit system. The Red Wings have a lot of solid young defenders in their system, but none have the skating ability, shot, and powerplay quarterbacking potential that Gulyayev possesses. Getting him and Ryan Leonard in the first round would be terrific for an organization trying to take that next step and sustain it.

18 - Winnipeg Jets - Colby Barlow (Owen Sound, OHL)

Obviously, there are a lot of different routes that the Jets could take here, but Barlow makes a lot of sense. The high-end goal scorer is also very versatile and plays a powerful North/South game. Maybe there are some similarities between him and Rutger McGroarty, but this Jets team wants to have multiple players of that ilk on their roster.

19 - Chicago Blackhawks (via Tampa Bay) - Gabe Perreault (USNTDP)

Where Perreault goes on draft day will be really interesting. His athletic tools aren’t terrific, but you can’t argue with the success he had this year. He’s just such an intelligent and creative player. With your new team identity forming around Connor Bedard, Perreault seems like an amazing fit to play with him in the future. Plus, Perreault is a bit of a local kid, having grown up as part of the Chicago Mission program.

20 - Seattle Kraken - Samuel Honzek (Vancouver, WHL)

The Kraken wouldn’t have had to travel far to get a good look at Honzek this year. After using their top picks on centers in their first two drafts, they opt for a big, skilled winger to play with them in 2023. Honzek’s upside is excellent, and he is actually someone who could go much higher than this.

21 - Minnesota Wild - David Edstrom (Frölunda, SWE J20)

Doesn’t this just scream a Minnesota Wild selection. Edstrom was a late season riser thanks to the progression he showed over the year from an offensive perspective. He has both a solid floor and a high ceiling and given the draft’s lack of true centers, I expect him to go pretty high on draft day.

22 - Philadelphia (via Columbus, via Los Angeles) - Eduard Sale (HC Kometa Brno, Czechia)

Philly is up for the second pick of the first round, acquired in the Provorov trade. After adding a defenseman to replace him with the seventh pick, they opt for the best forward available on the board. That is a quality playmaking winger with size in Eduard Sale, currently ranked #17 by McKeen's. Sale could definitely go higher than this too, so the value is terrific.

23 - New York Rangers - Cal Ritchie (Oshawa, OHL)

Cal Ritchie grew up playing for the Oakville Rangers, so this just seems like a great story. Tons of pictures of him wearing Rangers gear at a young age! But this would be a great pick for New York for a lot of reasons. Ritchie is one of the most intelligent forwards available this year and while his OHL season wasn’t outstanding, his international performances were.

24 - Nashville Predators (via Edmonton) - Brayden Yager (Moose Jaw, WHL)

Maybe Yager goes higher than this. We’re certainly lower on him than the consensus in the scouting community. However, he seems like the kind of player that Nashville would love to add into their system; the kind of player they’ve been drafting for the last decade or so, helping them to remain consistently strong.

25 - St. Louis Blues (via Toronto) - Quentin Musty (Sudbury, OHL)

We’ve got Musty outside of the first round because of concerns over his feet and wavering compete levels, but given his size and skill package, it seems unlikely that he falls out of the first. St. Louis would be a good place for Quentin, and I could see them being quite interested in him. There’s a need to inject new skill and life into the wing group in St. Louis and Musty has one of the higher offensive ceilings in the draft.

26 - San Jose Sharks (via New Jersey) - Bradly Nadeau (Penticton, BCHL)

The Sharks have focused on drafting some pretty good playmakers in recent years and they took Will Smith fourth overall earlier in this mock. So why not take a chance on a high-end finisher like Brad Nadeau. Nadeau also brings a strong compete level and is someone with a good upside, so long as you believe that the BCHL competition was good enough to truly challenge him this year.

27 - Colorado Avalanche - Ethan Gauthier (Sherbrooke, QMJHL)

A solid complementary goal scorer, Gauthier has a good motor too. There is a need for him to get quicker and consistency was an issue at times this year. However, the Avs are going to want a player who can jump into their lineup in a few years and help them win and Gauthier has a lot of strong pro level attributes already. He scores from between the dots and Colorado missed that a bit this year with so many injuries to those types of players.

28 - Toronto Maple Leafs (via Boston) - Gavin Brindley (Michigan, NCAA)

Kyle Dubas is no longer at the helm, but for now it looks like the scouting staff will remain the same under Brad Treliving. Brindley is the type of player that the Leafs organization has been targeting lately at the draft. His compete level and skating are at the top of this draft class and his offensive upside might be a tad underrated. This is someone who is going to play through the middle six for years to come.

29 - St. Louis Blues (via Dallas) - Oliver Bonk (London, OHL)

The Blues have the luxury of three first round picks this year and that gives them a ton of flexibility. So far in our mock they’ve taken Sandin Pellikka and Musty, so grabbing a safer defender like Bonk could make a lot of sense. A highly intelligent two-way player, Bonk has the bloodlines and the work ethic to help him improve.

30 - Carolina Hurricanes - Anton Wahlberg (Malmö, SHL)

The Hurricanes always seem to align their draft ideals with the amateur scouting community, often selecting independent scout darlings in recent years. Insert Anton Wahlberg. Much like Swedish teammate David Edstrom, he improved massively over the course of the year, learning to use his size and quickness to be a very effective player inside the offensive zone. The athletic tools are going to be very intriguing to Carolina.

31 - Montreal Canadiens (via Florida) - Riley Heidt (Prince George, WHL)

Coming into the year, this pick would have been seen as a steal, but this is sort of where Heidt is projected to go now. I could see Montreal being very interested in Heidt as he possesses similar qualities to other forwards they have drafted recently. How his game ultimately comes together at the pro level remains a mystery, but he has a lot of interesting tools.

32 - Vegas Golden Knights - Tanner Molendyk (Saskatoon, WHL)

Molendyk is not only one of the smarter defenders available this year, but he’s also one of the better skaters. That combination will be very intriguing to a team like Vegas. He’s way more athletic than the defenders they have been selecting the last five or so years and would give the organization a bit of a different look on the back end.

Second Round

33 - Anaheim Ducks - Michael Hrabal (Omaha, USHL)

If we don’t have a goalie taken in the first round, I would suspect that we see a huge run on them early in the second. The Ducks haven’t drafted a goalie since Lukas Dostal. He’s turned into a great prospect, but there’s a need to look further down the road. Hrabal is raw, but he might have the best upside of the goalies available.

34 - Columbus Blue Jackets - Carson Bjarnason (Brandon, WHL)

The goalie run continues with the Jackets taking Carson Bjarnason. He has number one upside as he continues to learn to harness his athleticism and he helps fill an organizational need in the future.

35 - Chicago Blackhawks - Lukas Dragicevic (Tri-City, WHL)

It could be surprising if Dragicevic drops out of the first round considering the talent he brings from the back end, but there are definitely concerns over how good he can become defensively. The Hawks are swinging for true upside here and hope that he can be a strong powerplay quarterback for them in the future.

36 - San Jose Sharks - Carson Rehkopf (Kitchener, OHL)

One thing that the Sharks really seem to be focusing on as a scouting team is drafting athletes. They’re looking for guys who can play fast, who bring size, and who have a large runway to improve. Rehkopf had a very inconsistent year, but the talent is there. With all the graduations in Kitchener this year, it’ll be his team to run moving forward.

37 - Montreal Canadiens - Trey Augustine (USNTDP)

We know how commonly the Canadiens have gone to the U.S. Development program in recent years and Augustine was the rock for that team in net, helping them capture gold at the U18’s. It seems likely that Montreal will look to draft a goalie fairly high this year because Primeau hasn’t really developed according to plan, and they let Dichow’s rights expire.

38 - Arizona Coyotes - Otto Stenberg (Frölunda, SHL)

I really like Stenberg. I think he’s a lot better than he showed in the SHL and when playing outside of international competition. Part of me doesn’t believe that he falls, but players with his profile have fallen outside of the first many times. This would be a great selection for Arizona, adding speed and skill to their forward group in the future.

39 - Buffalo Sabres (via Philadelphia) - Danny Nelson (USNTDP)

One of the most improved players in this draft class from start to finish this year, Nelson is an intriguing athlete. There’s a chance that he might not be more than an Adam Lowry type. But it will be interesting to see how his offensive game develops outside of the shadow of Smith and Moore. The Sabres system is stacked, but this type of center is something that they could focus in on.

40 - Washington Capitals - Adam Gajan (Chippewa, NAHL)

I fully expect someone to jump on Gajan pretty early. He was so good at the U20’s this year and he has the athletic tools needed to reach a high ceiling as an NHL starting netminder. The Capitals haven’t focused a ton of attention on goaltenders at the draft in recent years, but there is a need to add one into the system. Additionally, they have been an organization that does not shy away from drafting re-entry players.

41 - Detroit Red Wings - Kasper Halttunen (HIFK, Liiga)

The first of three consecutive selections for the Wings, look for variance in these selections. In Halttunen, the Wings get a high upside goal scoring winger who struggled playing against men this year, but who dominated his own age group. He could easily go higher than this.

42 - Detroit Red Wings - Maxim Strbak (Sioux Falls, USHL)

Strbak would be a great selection for the Wings in this area as a potential top four, defensively oriented defender. He is a fierce competitor, and his offensive skill set might be a tad underrated. If the feet can improve more at Michigan State, he could be quite the player.

43 - Detroit Red Wings - Charlie Stramel (Wisconsin, NCAA)

There is a significant chance that Stramel will go in the first round even after a poor year at Wisconsin. NHL teams love his profile; that big power center with middle six upside. For the Wings, I believe that this would be a no- brainer if he is still available. Stramel is a little more athletic than Rasmussen and has better physical tools than Veleno.

44 - Chicago Blackhawks (via Ottawa) - Nick Lardis (Hamilton, OHL)

One thing that the Hawks really focused on last year at the draft was adding speed and strong skaters to their prospect group. I’m sure that this was extremely intentional and there aren’t many better skaters than Nick Lardis available this year. His second half explosion has vaulted him up into this kind of territory thanks to his combination of speed and goal scoring ability.

45 - Buffalo Sabres - Andrew Cristall (Kelowna, WHL)

Quite the fall for Cristall, but there is real concern inside the NHL scouting community around his size and skating combination. He is so reliant on using his edges and lacks the linear quickness to gain separation against better skating defenders. But the upside is so significant because of his creativity, skill, and IQ. Well worth the risk in this area of the draft, especially for an organization with a deep talent pool.

46 - Nashville Predators (via Pittsburgh) - Nico Myatovic (Seattle, WHL)

This is the kind of player that the Predators have won with previously, that hardnosed, physical, strong two-way forward out of the CHL. Myatovic improved a lot in the second half with the Thunderbirds and he is the type of player that I believe NHL scouts are going to like a lot more than independent, amateur ones.

47 - Nashville Predators - Arttu Karki (Tappara U20, U20 SM-sarja)

After taking Willander in the first, the Predators take Karki, a strong puck moving defender who was excellent in Finland this past season. Lots to like about his skating ability and offensive upside. He’s almost like a more athletic version of Kulonummi, who they took last year.

48 - Calgary Flames - Beau Akey (Barrie, OHL)

After taking Zach Benson in the first round, the Flames opt for an athletic blueliner from the OHL in the second, taking Akey. He is one of the better skating defenders in the draft and is still learning how to use that mobility to his advantage at both ends. Shades of a young TJ Brodie here, waiting to be unlocked and that worked out well for the Flames in 2008.

49 - New York Islanders - Jayden Perron (Chicago, USHL)

This is the fourth straight year that the Islanders don’t have a first-round selection and their talent pool is hurting because of it. So, the focus needs to be on selecting a player with significant upside. The highest upside player remaining is probably Perron, an undersized, but skilled forward with the Chicago Steel. He excels playing with pace and would immediately become one of the better prospects in their system.

50 - Seattle Kraken (via Winnipeg) - Andrew Gibson (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL)

One of the better defensive defenders available in the draft this year, Gibson would give the Kraken a type of player that they haven’t really drafted yet in their two years of existence; a staunch, physical defender with reach. He had a really good U18’s for Canada and we know how much Seattle loves drafting from the OHL.

51 - Chicago Blackhawks (via Tampa Bay) - William Whitelaw (Youngstown, USHL)

This just seems like the type of player that Chicago scouts would really love. Again, we have the speed component. But we also have a competitive player who can score goals. There are concerns over his size and IQ, but he had a great playoff for Youngstown in helping them capture a Clark Cup.

52 - Seattle Kraken - Jacob Fowler (Youngstown, USHL)

Personally, I believe Fowler is the top goaltender in this class. But I think that because his physical/athletic tools aren’t quite as strong as the likes of Hrabal and Bjarnason, he probably ends up more in this range. His performance in the Clark Cup playoffs was a masterpiece. Yes, Seattle did draft Niklas Kokko early last year, but when you’re trying to build out a strong prospect group, you need good goaltending depth.

53 - Minnesota Wild - Coulson Pitre (Flint, OHL)

Pitre is exactly the kind of player that the Wild could use in their system; a competitive power winger who can play in all situations. Pitre is one of the most physical forwards available this year and he is that rare kind of power forward who also has good vision with the puck. He’s the perfect complementary piece.

54 - Los Angeles Kings - Oscar Fisker Mølgaard (HV71, SHL)

The second straight draft that the Kings don’t have a first-round selection and they have to be very happy to see Oscar Fisker Mølgaard still available here. The Kings love players like him. He’s a competitive two-way forward with versatility who can probably move through their system pretty quickly.

55 - Chicago Blackhawks (via New York Rangers) - Tristan Bertucci (Flint, OHL)

At this point, the Blackhawks have about half the picks in the first two rounds it seems like. Here they nab Tristan Bertucci, a player who improved substantially in the second half at both ends. He has intriguing physical and athletic tools and could project as a John Marino kind of player with the right development.

56 - Edmonton Oilers - Koehn Ziemmer (Prince George, WHL)

It seems like Edmonton has been searching for this kind of player at the draft for several seasons now. They took Reid Schaefer last year but then dealt him in the Ekholm deal. Ziemmer is a pure goal scorer, but he also brings a competitive edge. The only thing holding him back is a lack of dynamic skating ability.

57 - Seattle Kraken (via Toronto) - Carey Terrance (Erie, OHL)

Speed is the name of the game for Terrance. But versatile is a word that also fits. He showed at the U18’s with the U.S. team that won gold, that he can play a complementary role different from the play driving role that he fills in Erie. He is already a committed two-way player too. Lots to like here.

58 - New Jersey Devils - Gracyn Sawchyn (Seattle, WHL)

Definitely a bit of a fall for Sawchyn, at least compared to where a lot of independent scouting agencies have him ranked (including us). But there are concerns over his slight frame and lack of dynamic skating. That said, this is a great selection for a New Jersey team that doesn’t have a first this year. Sawchyn has great offensive upside and the Devils haven’t shied away from taking players with skating weaknesses in recent years.

59 - Anaheim Ducks (via Colorado) - Easton Cowan (London, OHL)

Have to think that there were quite a few NHL scouts impressed with Cowan’s playoff performance for London in the OHL playoffs where he transformed into a much more assertive offensive player. He has speed to burn and he’s tenacious to boot. This is a future high character, middle six guy for the Ducks.

60 - Anaheim Ducks (via Boston) - Aram Minnetian (USNTDP)

Pretty rare to see the first U.S. NTDP defender off the draft board this late, but it’s an odd group. Minnetian seems like the most likely to go in the second-round range (or Fortescue). This is a solid upside pick for the Ducks because of how well Minnetian skates. Consistency was an issue for him, especially in the defensive end, but he’ll be given time to grow.

61 - Dallas Stars - Martin Misiak (Youngstown, USHL)

It took some time for Misiak to adjust to the USHL, but as the USHL playoffs rolled around, he was firing on all cylinders along with Will Whitelaw. He was a huge piece of that Phantoms’ Clark Cup winning team. He plays a two-way power game and projects as a solid middle six option for Dallas in the future.

62 - Carolina Hurricanes - Jakub Dvorak (Bili Tygri Liberec, Czechia)

It wasn’t the easiest season for Dvorak, as he battled through injuries. However, he returned in time to play at the U18’s, giving scouts a taste of what he can bring to the table as a future top four, stay at home defender. The Hurricanes love raw, toolsy types like Dvorak and they’ve drafted players out of Czechia the last two drafts.

63 - Florida Panthers - Felix Nilsson (Rögle, SHL)

It was really unfortunate that Nilsson had to miss the U18’s due to a wrist injury. He was shooting up draft lists with his strong second half. Ain intelligent and high energy playmaking center, Nilsson fits the Florida Panthers MO at the draft and would be a great pick for a team without a first-round selection this year.

64 - Minnesota Wild (via Los Angeles) - Drew Fortescue (USNTDP)

No defender on the U.S. U18 team improved as much as Fortescue did this year. His athletic tools are through the roof and at the very least, he looks like he could be a solid #5, safe, stay at home type. But what if his game continues to improve at a rapid rate? The Wild have targeted similar kinds of defenders at the draft in recent years.