What Scouts are Saying About the Depth of the 2023 NHL Draft

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What Scouts are Saying About the Depth of the 2023 NHL Draft

Chicago Blackhawks

For the Chicago Blackhawks, this season is a painful stepping stone on their way to adding elite talent in the exciting 2023 NHL Draft class. As painful as the losses are for fans, the payoff at the end of the rainbow could be a generational player (Connor Bedard).

We’ve been talking about it since… the last draft. And Blackhawks general manager started stockpiling picks before the trade deadline last year when he acquired an extra first rounder from Tampa in the Brandon Hagel trade.

Everyone wants the top pick, but a team can only guarantee itself the best odds if winning the NHL Draft Lottery. However, the worst record in the league would assure the Blackhawks of a top-three pick in this summer’s draft. And, based on scouting reports, that would assure the Blackhawks of an incredibly highly regarded prospect — if not the No.1 pick overall.

However, Chicago has made the first overall pick only once in its franchise history. And that was Patrick Kane 16 years ago. So when we start discussing the impact that a top pick can have, look no further than the success we have all enjoyed in Chicago while 88 has been here.

Emily Kaplan at ESPN wrote a terrific column looking ahead to the Class of 2023, and it reiterates why teams like the Blackhawks are trying to collect as much draft capital as possible for this coming summer — and why acquiring more high picks might be harder around the trade deadline.

“We’ve been told about how exciting the 2005s (their birth year) are for a while now,” one NHL general manager told ESPN. “It’s why a lot of clubs are looking to hold on to their first-round picks this year. Sounds like you can even get first-round talent in the second round, too, and those picks may be stronger than first-round picks [in 2024].”

Another statement that jumped off the page to me was this from Dan Marr, the NHL’s VP of central scouting: “There are 50-60 really good prospects. After that it does start to level off.” That, coupled with the comment from the anonymous GM above, tells us that NHL front offices see the first and second rounds of the coming draft as being incredibly valuable.

Reminder: the Blackhawks have their own first and second round picks as well as the first and second rounders of the Tampa Bay Lightning (the first from the Hagel trade, the second from the deal that sent Brent Seabrook’s LTIR space to Tampa for Tyler Johnson). The Blackhawks also own Dallas’ third-round pick this summer, giving them six picks over the first three rounds.

Something else that Marr said that got my attention was the role COVID a couple years ago will play in the possibility that more over-age skaters (19 and 20) could be drafted this year. Because of a cancelled junior year in Canada, the development curve for a lot of players in Canada was altered; many believe Shane Wright’s draft stock was impacted by the year off. Last year, the Blackhawks drafted Dominic James and Aidan Thompson in their second and third years of eligibility, respectively.

And, for what it’s worth, Marr drew a familiar comparison for Blackhawks fans when talking about top pick Connor Bedard. Marr told Kaplan Bedard is “one of the more natural scorers to come along since Patrick Kane.”

Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab