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Mock draft 2023 Top-15: CH’s fifth-place decision

It’s almost forgotten in the Montreal bubble, but 2023 is Connor Bedard’s draft, yes yes!

The Vancouver native should become McDavid’s worthy successor, and everyone in Chicago has been grinning from ear to ear since the May 8 lottery.

But, of course, it’s only after the Hawks have been selected that the real show will begin!

In this respect, it’s Kent Hughes who could well become the master of ceremonies, as he “holds the keys” to this draft, according to Barry Trotz, the Preds’ new GM.

What will Kent Hughes do at No. 5? That’s the big question that has obsessed us all for weeks, and we’ll have the answer tonight.

In the meantime, to keep you waiting, you can always read mine below!

That said, mock drafts are always to be taken with two or three grains of salt, which is why this year I’m content to predict the top-15, which is always the most interesting part of the draft anyway. After that, we often enter rather obscure territory…

I also give myself fairly modest targets. I’ll be satisfied to have identified four players at the right rank and 11 players in the top-15.

Let’s get on with it!

1. Chicago | Connor Bedard, C/AD

The Hawks are ecstatic: they only had the third-best chance of drafting first overall, and here they are with Connor Bedard! Their intentional tanking worked like a charm!

(Credit: Screenshot)
Now, is Bedard a generational player?

Right now, most observers and fans don’t hesitate to call him one, along with the now classic “best prospect since McDavid”.

All this is possible, probable even, but not certain.

But why not?

Remember a certain John Tavares.

Tavares won the OHL’s Outstanding Player award at the age of 15, and went on to make a couple of breakthroughs for Team Canada at the 2009 WJC, just before being claimed first overall. Everyone saw him as a “generational player, the best since Crosby”.

Tavares wasn’t a disappointment, but what followed was a little more modest than anticipated, let’s put it that way.

The Ontarian lacked Crosby’s skating touch and will to win. What’s more, several other forwards of his generation have become as good or better than him: Stamkos, Kucherov, Benn, Hall, Gaudreau, P. Kane, for example.

The fact remains that Bedard has a wrist shot that the NHL has never seen in its 100-year history. His magic hands, patience and confidence with the puck may not have the same devastating effects in the NHL as they did at junior level, but they will remain attributes that make him a special player.

The best since McDavid?

Without a doubt.

2. Anaheim | Adam Fantilli, C

Fantilli represents a great consolation prize for the Ducks, who finished last in the overall standings. Fantilli certainly doesn’t have Bedard’s talent, intelligence for reading the game or finesse, but his physical strength, dynamism with the puck, enthusiasm and exceptional speed are qualities that will serve him well in the NHL. And who’s to say that in the famous “playoff field hockey” his attributes won’t make him a more useful player than Bedard? In Zegras, McTavish and Fantilli, the Ducks can count on three talented youngsters with complementary styles. The sun will rise again for the Ducks…

3. Columbus | Will Smith, C

Considering the modest market in which they operate, the Blue Jackets want to build a culture, an identity, a sense of belonging within the team and, with Gaudreau and Werenski already in the saddle for the long haul, a very good way to do this would probably be to bank on a strong contingent of top American players.

Here’s one who could put down roots in Ohio for a while.
(Credit: screenshot)

Leo Carlsson, with his talent and size, remains a real possibility for Jarmo Kekaleinen’s gang in the third spot, but the chances that Smith will want to stay in Columbus for longer than the age of his autonomy are much greater. Will Smith therefore becomes the logical choice for this rather special deal…

4. San Jose | Leo Carlsson, C

Unsurprisingly, comrade Michkov is still available. The Sharks and their new GM Mike Grier are in no hurry to become competitive again, having just traded Timo Meier, who was just entering his prime.

Will they be tempted by the young Russian marvel who would have at least another three years left in Putin’s country? Hmmm… Not impossible, certainly not illogical from a field hockey point of view, but with talented Swedish center Leo Carlsson right there, with no complications whatsoever, why bother?

Grier walks serenely to the podium to announce his choice, humming an Abba tune.OHHH! We have a trade to announce! The CH shakes up the draft and for the first time in over 15 years trades a top-5 player!

The ever-popular Gary Bettman takes to the stage in excitement…
(Credit: Screenshot)

If the Caps, Wings or any other team hadn’t come up with an interesting offer, the CH would have turned without regret to Austrian right-handed defenseman David Reinbacher, the best defenseman of the 2023 auction. This scenario may still be very plausible, if not the most realistic, especially if Hughes isn’t overly interested in Michkov.

But in our scenario, Montreal trades its5th-round pick for Washington’s 8th- and40th-round picks in 2023, the Caps’ first-round pick in 2024 and Hendrix Lapierre, 22nd overall in 2020!

Hughes is very hopeful of getting his hands on one of the three players they still hold in very high regard at 8th between Reinbacher, Dvorsky and Leonard. He also partly replaces the loss of the 31st and 37th picks sold for Alex Newhook with the acquisition of the Caps’ 40th. This means he doesn’t have to wait until the 69th to speak again.

He also nabs another interesting young 22-year-old center, a recent1st-round pick who has yet to truly blossom in the pros.

Finally, with the Caps’ first-round pick in 2024, Hughes is betting on a somewhat miserable Capitals season next year, when they could still finish in the worst 10 teams in the standings.

The bright young Lapierre doesn’t have as much potential as Kirby Dach, that goes without saying, or Alex Newhook for that matter. But Hughes gets a quality young player, perhaps a little underrated, who already has a few full seasons of development behind the tie and who nevertheless had an encouraging first campaign in Hershey in the AHL with 30 points in 55 games, winning the Calder Cup in the process.

With Montembault, Savard and Harvey-Pinard all seemingly finding their feet in the Montreal fold in fine roles, the CH is regaining a little more of the team’s Francophone identity by betting on another hard worker who won’t have to suffer the pressure of a savior. Lapierre will be a great option on the third line before long.

For the Capitals, an opportunity like this doesn’t come along every year… As we said yesterday, Mitchov’s pick value was at least 20 wins over 7 years, the equivalent of an excellent1st overall in a more normal year. So we had to give it our all.

For its part, by giving the Caps the 10th-ranked pick next year, Montreal gets its hands on an approximate pick value of 18.5 wins over 7 years. Will that be enough?

It all depends on how the team develops!

5. Washington | Matvei Michkov, AD

The Caps are well aware that their core isn’t what it used to be and that it’s time to rebuild the team’s foundations for the next 15 years. If there’s one team that can welcome the second most talented player in this draft and hope to see him land in town without a hitch no later than the end of his three-year deal with St. Petersburg – maybe even earlier, who knows – it’s Washington!

The young Russian waves to Montreal fans, who may be a little disappointed…
(Credit: Screenshot)

Ovechkin, who will soon be the NHL’s all-time leading scorer and who wasn’t exactly a perfect young man when he arrived in the NHL, will thus be passing the torch to his young compatriot and will no doubt have some sound advice to give him to become a positive leader. Diplomatic relations between Ovy and Putin will finally have served their purpose!

Mitchkov follows in the footsteps of his compatriot Ivan Miroshnichenko, drafted 20th by Washington last year. Ovy’s succession is assured, and with rumors of the team’s move to Virginia, we’ll need a star to sell season tickets.

6. Arizona | David Reinbacher, DD

With Jakob Chychrun leaving for Ottawa, Soderstrom not progressing as expected and last year’s selections of two top-10 forwards, Gunther and Geekie, Arizona isn’t thinking too long before rushing to the podium to select the Austrian defenseman.

7. Philadelphia | Dalibor Dvorsky, C

The Flyers have needs at just about every position, and we’ve liked the American pipeline in recent years, so Ryan Leonard could certainly tempt them. But new GM Daniel Brière can’t pass up the chance to get his hands on an 8th-ranked center who could eventually become as good as Leo Carlsson if the stars align a little.

Dvorsky has an excellent shot, good size and doesn’t hesitate to do what his club needs to win. Add to that the fact that Sean Couturier’s career may be in jeopardy, and the odds are stacked in favor of the good Dalibor.

8. Montreal | Ryan Leonard, AD

Would the Canadiens have preferred Reinbacher, or even Dvorsky, to Leonard? Perhaps, but the difference between the three was not great enough in their eyes to refuse the Caps’ offer at the risk of having to fall back on the American winger. Hughes seems to adore Leonard, whose style of play he recently compared to that of the Tkachuk brothers, even if he does concede them 3-4 inches and more than 20-25 free.

The CH considers itself pretty well endowed at center with Suzuki, Dach, Dvrorak and the recent addition of Newhook, and will be looking for a second straight year for another winger in the draft who will be called upon to play a more physical role on an offensive trio.

Personally, Leonard isn’t my favorite player in this draft, but at #8, if his style lends itself well to the playoffs, I could live with that. But let’s just say I’d see him more as an improved version of Brendan Gallagher – bigger, faster, with better hands – than a Matthew or Brady Tkachuk light 2.0TM. Tkachuk are monsters on the ice. Leonard is more of a high-octane player who disturbs opponents.

That said, I don’t agree with Simon “Snake” Boisvert, who sees him as a future 3rd trio player.

9. Detroit | Zach Benson, AG

The Wings tried to convince the CH to give them the5th spot and Michkov with picks 9, 17, 41 and 42, but the risk of not being able to draft Reinbacher, Dvorsky or Leonard, as well as the Caps’ famous first pick in 2024, finally tipped the scales in their favor.

In a style not so far removed from Michkov’s – even their stature is similar – the dynamic, competitive and agile Benson will soon be joining the Wings and racking up his share of points.

10. St.Louis | Colby Barlow, AG

The Blues have just lost their Tarasenko ace. In Barlow, they get a power winger who doesn’t mind getting his nose dirty and, like their former Russian glory, has quite a shot. Barlow, perhaps the OHL’s top prospect in 2023, scored 46 goals in 59 games with Owen Sound, a poor club. Physically mature, he’ll soon be complementing the fine play of Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou.

11. Vancouver | Oliver Moore, C

With the departure of young veteran Bo Horvat, the Canucks must quickly replenish their bank of quality center prospects, as they have none worthy of the name. Oliver Moore, the most explosive skater of the 2023 auction, is their man. In Will Smith’s shadow with the U.S. NTDP, playing with less effective wingers to round out his play, Moore impressed me greatly at the U18. A little hidden card at number 11.

12. Arizona | Matthew Wood, AD

The big, burly Wood impressed at U18 and had an excellent freshman campaign at Connecticut, averaging almost a point a game. Wood isn’t the best skater, but he does have very good hands, reminiscent of those of Tage Thompson. Others like to compare him to Mark Stone. A project that could pay off big in a few years’ time when he completes Logan Cooley’s games.

13. Buffalo | Quentin Musty, AG

Sabres scouts crossed into Ontario several times to see the progress of this former OHL top pick in 2021, and they weren’t disappointed. Musty, a 6’2, 200 lbs American, has more than doubled his production from his rookie season in “the best junior league in the world”. He can literally do anything on the ice, being equally adept at filling the net and distributing the puck. Simon “Snake” Boisvert’s favorite could indeed become one of the gems of this draft.

14. Penguins | Axel Sandin-Pellikka, DD

The Penguins have needs all over the place, Samuel isn’t developing as expected at center and they have a big thought for Brendan Yager and Nate Danielson still available. But Sandin-Pellikka is the best player still available and could just as easily become the best defenseman in this draft.

Sandin-Pellikka could become a worthy successor to Kris Letang, and the young Swede would have just a few years to develop behind the likeable Quebecer.

15. Nashville | Brendan Yager, C

Barry Trotz tried to convince Kent Hughes to give him the5th spot in return for 15th and 24th-round picks and a certain goaltender named Yaroslvav Askarov, but Hughes, not interested in breaking out of the top 10 and reluctant to rebuild the team around a goaltender, didn’t go for it.

Yager had a somewhat disappointing season in Moose Jaw, having long been seen as a potential top-5 prospect in 2023. But he possesses too many qualities at his position for the Preds, whose center line is stunted, to start making light work of him. The Albertan, a complete player and one of this draft’s good shooters, will need a little time to develop properly. Nashville will have to be patient.

There, now you know everything, and I don’t need to teach you how to shoot rocks!
Feel free to comment on Facebook with your top-15. We’ll have a great time!

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