Mid-Season 2023 NHL Draft Top 10 Rankings

Opinion posted January 26, 2023 in CommRadio, Sports by Anthony Desher

We’re nearing the NHL All-Star Game and some teams have one word in mind: “tank”. Let’s take a look at the ten best prospects that are turning heads in their draft year.

1. Connor Bedard, Forward, Regina

Generational talent. That’s what I think when I think of Connor Bedard. The kid can do it all, just look at Team Canada’s World Junior records. His shot is so nice and his hands are smoother than the world’s smoothest silk.

During the tournament Bedard scored 23 points in just seven games, driving Canada to their second consecutive gold medal. With the Regina St. Pats, he’s got 39 goals and 42 assists for 81 points in just 33 games. Yes, you read that right.

2. Adam Fantilli, Forward, Michigan

Fantilli has been dominating the NCAA all year as a freshman. He has 33 points in 20 games and is in the conversation for the Hobey Baker Award, the accolade given to the best player in the NCAA.

He plays his role as a power forward very well and can be a great number-one center in the NHL.

3. Leo Carlsson, Forward, Örebro HK

Carlsson has been climbing a lot of draft boards recently as he has been tearing it up. In 7 games at the World Juniors, he had 6 points, and with Örbero in Sweden, he’s got 17 points in 30 games.

Carlsson is a very good player, thus why he is in the top three, and any team should be thrilled to draft him.

4. Matvei Michkov, Forward, HK Sochi

Michkov is in an interesting spot because he is such a fantastic player on a bad team. Sochi isn’t a very good team, but Michkov is still finding ways to collect points. 6 points in 13 games might not look great to the eye, but Michkov has such a talent for goal-scoring.

There is a concern that might cause his stock to fall, and that is his contract with the KHL. He is signed with SKA Saint Petersburg until the 2025-26 season. Teams might be hesitant to draft him knowing he might not see North American ice anytime soon.

5. Will Smith, Forward, USNTDP

We’re talking about the hockey player, not the actor. The center has been so good for the USA Development Team this year putting up 64 points in 34 games. He can score and find his teammates with 24 goals and 40 assists.

Smith has the potential to be a top-six player in the NHL and could be a keystone piece to a team’s core.

6. Zach Benson, Forward, Winnipeg

An offensive threat with speed and high hockey IQ. His great shot allowed him to score 25 goals in 38 games, 65 points total. He is second in the WHL in points only behind Connor Bedard.

The Winnipeg Ice are 33-5-1 thanks to a little help from Benson, and If he can keep this up as he develops, the NHL might see a new Maurice Richard contender too.

7. Andrew Cristall, Forward, Kelowna

Cristall has gained a lot of traction when it comes to draft rankings, deservedly so. He is another one of those gifted offensive players who can take control of a play with his great hands. 62 points in 36 games have him third in the WHL in the category.

Cristall was originally seen as a mid-first-round pick, but with his recent play, it makes sense to see him possibly going top 10.

8. Dalibor Dvorsky, Forward, AIK

Puck handling, offensive skill, and speed are all in the name of Dvorsky’s game. His passing is great along with his shooting too. Dvorsky’s numbers might not pop, but the talent will most likely translate very well once he reaches North America.

11 points in 24 games are where Dvorsky stands this season, and with a strong finish, he could always rise a few spots in the rankings.

9. Axel Sandin-Pellika, Defense, Skellefteå AIK

Our first blue liner makes his appearance on the list. Defense doesn’t stand out in this draft, but if your team requires a defenseman, I have someone you should meet.

Sandin-Pellika is so smart when he has the puck. You can put him in almost any situation and he’ll impress.

Any team would love to have this calm, cool, and collected defender on their blue line.

10. Brayden Yager, Forward, Moose Jaw

Yager has slowed down a little bit, but he still can absolutely rip a puck. In 46 games, he’s got 20 goals and 54 points total. He’s on pace to score 80 points as a 30-goal scorer.

Yager shouldn’t be down for long as he has the talent to take control and lead his team to victory.

Anthony Desher is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email acd5698@psu.edu.