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NHL Draft First Round Recap

On Wednesday, June 28 the NHL held its annual draft welcoming in the league’s next generation of talent. The event held place in Nashville, Tennesse and the night began with the Chicago Blackhawks selecting the “next Connor Mcdavid” in Connor Bedard with the first overall pick. This article will cover the top ten picks of last night with an analysis of every selection.

Connor Bedard is an incredibly gifted player that has dominated at every level he’s ever played at. The 17-year-old from Vancouver, Canada had 143 points (71 goals and 72 assists) in just 57 games played last season playing for the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League. In the World Juniors, Bedard continued putting up video game numbers with 23 points in just a mere seven games. Bedard has been the consensus first-overall selection in the 2023 NHL Draft for at least half a decade now and Chicago was extremely lucky to be able to select this generational talent. Connor Bedard selected by Chicago Blackhawks with No. 1 pick.

The Anaheim Ducks shocked the hockey world and did not select the consensus second-best player in Adam Fantili from Michigan but opted for the 6’3 Swedish playmaker in Leo Carlsson. Anaheim already has two promising young centers down the middle with Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish and with Fantili a center, the Ducks believed they would be too stacked in one position. Leo Carlsson played center and wing in Sweden and Anaheim will likely slot him at wing next to Zegras or Mctavish which is probably a better fit. At third overall, Adam Fantili fell right into the lap of the Columbus Blue Jackets who were ecstatic to be able to select the best college prospect in the entire draft class. Fantili put up 65 points in 36 games last season playing at the University of Michigan and while he had a quieter World Juniors performance (5 points in 7 games) Fantili will slot in next season with Columbus just fine. After Fantili was drafted last night reports came out that he had meetings with Columbus and Anaheim and “preferred” Columbus over Orange County. “Adam Fantilli told CBJ staffers well before the draft that he saw Cbus as his preferred destination. (They have a recording of this, apparently.) Why Cbus? ‘It’s close to home. It’ll be a great fit. There’s a lot of Michigan guys. It felt like it would be the right spot,’”(Aaron Portzline). Aaron Portzline on Twitter This is very interesting and it makes more sense why Anaheim passed on Fantili for Carlsson. 

At pick four, the San Jose Sharks selected Will Smith the center from ​​The USA Hockey National Team Development Program and this was expected. Smith will be a good if not great player for San Jose in a few years. At picks five and six the Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes made some head-scratching selections and this is where the draft really opened up. This draft class has some good defensemen but none that garnered top five nor top ten selections but both Montreal and Arizona reached on defenseman at picks five and six. Fifth overall Montreal selected David Reinbacher from Austria and at pick six the Coyotes took Dmitriy Simashev from Russia. Reinbacher is a solid prospect that will eventually see him in the NHL but his ceiling is pretty limited and he doesn’t exactly slot in as a top-pairing defenseman which at pick five is a reach. The Coyotes took Simashev at sixth overall and standing at nearly 6’5 without skates it appears Arizona is looking to add height to their future roster. Simashev is a boom or bust prospect that could work out exceptionally well for them or it could go up in flames, and again at pick six that is too much of a gamble. 

At pick number seven, the Philadelphia Flyers finally selected Russian superstar Matvei Michkov. Michkov is closer to Connor Bedard than anyone else in this draft class and the only reason he fell to number seven was because of some character concerns and him telling teams he would never play for them. However, he told Philly, “I think my biggest wish and biggest expectation is I want to come to Philadelphia, and I want to help them win a Stanley Cup,” Michkov said. “I know we've been waiting a long time for one. And that's my goal, and that's why I'm coming,” (Flyers’ Matvei Michkov pick boldest sign yet about their rebuild and ‘new era’ - The Athletic). Reports continued to come out after he was drafted saying that Philadelphia secretly met with Michkov twice last week and he convinced them that he really did want to play for the Flyers. Another report suggested that during interviews with Arizona, Michkov insisted that if the Coyotes drafted him he would never play for them. These character concerns and the fact that Michkov is committed to playing for three years in the KHL were the reasons he slipped to number seven last night. At picks eight and nine both the Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings made fine selections with Washington taking Ryan Leonard from  USNTDP (USA Hockey National Team Development Program) and Detroit taking Nate Danielson from the WHL. Both of these players were ranked in the mid-teens so it was a little early but the two players are safe picks that will eventually make the NHL. Both Danielson and Leonard are jacks of all trades, masters of none; they can do a lot of things well but they don’t have one specific talent that is super elite. To round up the top ten, the St. Louis Blues selected Dalibor Dvorsky the 18-year-old center from Slovakia. Dvorsky played last season in HockeyAllsvenskan a pro-Swedish hockey league with men of all ages not just teenagers unlike many of the other players drafted in the top ten. Dvorsky plays with a bite to his game and projects as a middle-six center that contributes both on offense and defense in the NHL. 

That concludes the top ten picks of the 2023 NHL Draft and what a night it was, filled with intrigue and excitement at every selection.



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