Friday morning brought one of the fun days on the calendar for teams with no prayer of the playoffs. NHL Central Scouting released their mid-term rankings of the top draft-eligible prospects for the 2023 NHL Draft.
If you aren’t familiar with the rankings, the NHL’s group breaks them up into North American Skaters and Goalies (separate lists) and European Skaters and Goalies (also separate). So we’ve got four lists to consider.
In the case of the Blackhawks, we’re staring at the top of the board. Even with three straight wins, the Blackhawks are still in prime position to have good (the best) odds of winning the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery and landing the clear, consensus, no-brainer top prospect in this year’s deep class: Connor Bedard.
Bedard was the top-ranked skater on the North American list, followed by possible No. 2 overall pick and Michigan center Adam Fantilli, who was Bedard’s teammate on Canada’s gold medal-winning roster at the recent World Juniors.
Will Smith — not the one who slapped Chris Rock — is the third-ranked North American skater and has climbed into the conversation for the picks between 5-7. I think we’re all hoping the Blackhawks don’t “fall” that far, but he’s still a player worth considering just in case. He’s a good center skating for the US National Development Program.
Where I was really interested was the European skater rankings. The long-held belief was that Russian forward Matvei Michkov was the No. 2 overall prospect in the class; some scouts and analysts have said they believe he’s the closest in total package to Bedard. He’s playing in the KHL right now and has dealt with injuries this season, so his numbers are somewhat limited. And because Russia was banned from the World Juniors, we unfortunately didn’t get to see him skate against the other top prospects.
We did get to see center Leo Carlsson skate with Sweden in the WJC, and he was very impressive. Apparently impressive enough that he has jumped Michkov into the top spot on the European Skater rankings.
Michkov’s injuries, the remaining three years on his KHL contract and Carlsson’s strong performance at the WJC were likely all factors in the move. But I think there’s a case to be made that Carlsson might be in play as high as No. 2 overall in the 2023 NHL Draft. He’s got the size (6-3, 198) to compare favorably with Fantilli (6-2, 195) and he showed much better at the WJC in my opinion.