This article is part of our Prospects Analysis series.
This is the second of our annual two-part series detailing the top prospects in the NHL entering the 2023-24 season.
A couple quick notes on this year's list before we get started.
- Nobody but the first name listed below was ever considered for the top spot.
- In terms of tiers, I would rank the the top-100 as follows: 1, 2-7, 8-15, 16-32, 33-47, 48-74, 75-100
1- Connor Bedard (C, CHI): The No. 1 overall pick in this past June's draft, Bedard is the best prospect to enter the NHL in years, certainly since Auston Matthews in 2016 and perhaps since Connor McDavid in 2015. Bedard closed his WHL career with 134 goals and 271 points in 134 games. He has one of the best shots of any player in the world, regardless of age. His ability to curl and drag the puck and beat goaltenders from distance is hysterical. Bedard's hockey sense is truly elite, as he appears to have eyes in the back of his head and can make even the most difficult plays seem routine. Players that have been on the prospect map as long as Bedard has typically get picked apart simply because they are in the spotlight for so long, but no one has been able to find any flaws in his game. In terms of overall talent, the Blackhawks remain one of the worst teams in the NHL. Otherwise, I would say Bedard is a legitimate point-per-game candidate in his first NHL season. He's going
This is the second of our annual two-part series detailing the top prospects in the NHL entering the 2023-24 season.
A couple quick notes on this year's list before we get started.
- Nobody but the first name listed below was ever considered for the top spot.
- In terms of tiers, I would rank the the top-100 as follows: 1, 2-7, 8-15, 16-32, 33-47, 48-74, 75-100
1- Connor Bedard (C, CHI): The No. 1 overall pick in this past June's draft, Bedard is the best prospect to enter the NHL in years, certainly since Auston Matthews in 2016 and perhaps since Connor McDavid in 2015. Bedard closed his WHL career with 134 goals and 271 points in 134 games. He has one of the best shots of any player in the world, regardless of age. His ability to curl and drag the puck and beat goaltenders from distance is hysterical. Bedard's hockey sense is truly elite, as he appears to have eyes in the back of his head and can make even the most difficult plays seem routine. Players that have been on the prospect map as long as Bedard has typically get picked apart simply because they are in the spotlight for so long, but no one has been able to find any flaws in his game. In terms of overall talent, the Blackhawks remain one of the worst teams in the NHL. Otherwise, I would say Bedard is a legitimate point-per-game candidate in his first NHL season. He's going to be one of the best players in the world sooner rather than later, with the production to match.
2- Matvei Michkov (RW, PHI): The only player available in this past June's draft that can come anywhere close to matching Bedard in terms of pure ability, Michkov ended up going No. 7 overall to Philadelphia. It's a potential grand slam for a club amid a full-blown rebuild. He belongs to the loaded SKA St. Petersburg KHL organization in his native Russia, but there wasn't room for him to get consistent ice time there last season, so they loaned him to Sochi. Michkov also didn't get a chance to perform on the international stage with Russia being banned from the World Juniors. Michkov's hockey sense is remarkable for such a young player. He is seemingly always in the correct spot and always knows how to go about attacking opposing defenders. I'd term him more of a finisher than a playmaker, but he possesses a well above average all-around offensive game. He's the best Russian prospect since Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin went 1-2 in 2004. The earliest Michkov can reportedly come to the NHL is the fall of 2026, although he said on draft weekend that he is hopeful to come over as soon as possible. SKA isn't going to give up an all-world prospect without a fight, so Philadelphia fans may have to wait the full three years before the excitement begins.
3- Adam Fantilli (C, CLS): The odds-on favorite to go No. 2 overall throughout the draft process, Fantilli ended up dropping down to No. 3, at which point the Jackets immediately (and wisely) pounced. The lone collegiate player on the Canadian World Junior team which won the Gold Medal this past January, Fantilli was inconsistent during the tournament and still finished with five points in seven games. His freshman season at Michigan was anything but inconsistent. He finished the year with 30 goals and 65 points in 36 games, one of the best NCAA debuts in recent memory and more than enough to take home the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's best player. Fantilli is strong enough to plow through opposing defenders and talented enough to dance around them. He has an excellent shot and the size (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) to consistently win board battles. 18-years-olds that bring this type of offensive package to the table are nearly impossible to find. Fantilli's natural abilities will carry him as he develops early in his professional career. The long-term ceiling is exceptionally high here. Fantilli will almost certainly play in Columbus this coming year.
4- Logan Cooley (C, ARI): Cooley's freshman season at the University of Minnesota was a rousing success, as he finished second in NCAA scoring (60P in 39GP) behind only Fantilli. He led the country in assists (38) and was named to the All-Star team at the World Juniors. Cooley is noticeable nearly every single time he's on the ice. He's a wizard with the puck on his stick and has shown a constant ability to impact a game in the rare instances in which he isn't creating offense. The talk since the Gophers' season ended was that the Coyotes wanted to get Cooley, the No. 3 overall pick in 2022, signed and into their lineup for this coming year. For most of the summer, it appeared as if Cooley would be returning to school, but he changed his mind in late July and inked his entry-level deal. It saves a potential long-term headache for Arizona and ensure Cooley should be handed a top-six role with the club for the duration of the 2023-24 campaign.
5- Leo Carlsson (C, ANH): The Ducks surprised many by opting for Carlsson over Fantilli, although the latter is an elite prospect and would have been a worthy No. 1 overall pick most years. Playing in one of the best non-NHL leagues in the world, Carlsson was a consistent contributor for the SHL's Orebro (10G, 25P in 44GP) despite the fact he turned just 18 years of age the day after Christmas. He was good, if not dominant, for Sweden (6P in 7GP) at the World Juniors and finished the year with a strong showing (5P in 8GP) at the men's World Championship. Carlsson has excellent hands and is very good at making plays in tight spaces. He's difficult to knock off the puck at 6-foot-3 and nearly 200 pounds. Some scouts have debated Carlsson's foot speed. He'll never be mistaken for Connor McDavid, but I would term it about average and combined with his constant work ethic, I doubt it will hold him back. Carlsson can play both center and wing, although I imagine the Ducks will start him in the middle. He immediately becomes Anaheim's most important long-term asset.
6- Luke Hughes (D, NJ): Hughes was the best defenseman in college hockey last season, averaging more than a point-per-game (10G, 48P in 39GP) in his sophomore season at the University of Michigan. He signed with the Devils in April and played in two regular season games for the club in addition to three playoff contests. Like his two brothers, Hughes possesses elite physical gifts. His foot speed is exceptional, and his puck skills are well above average. He has all the makings of a two-way horse who averages close to 25 minutes per game, and I expect him to fill a top-four role for New Jersey this coming season. Having Hughes in your lineup for $925K seems unfair given the embarrassment of riches the Devils possess these days.
7- Will Smith (C, SJ): A no-doubt center with no significant warts in his game, Smith is the type of player that can seem quiet at times and then you look up and he has two points every single night. He's comfortable hanging onto the puck to make plays in the offensive zone and he's more than capable of finishing whatever looks at the net he may have. Smith has the smarts to play up and down a lineup in addition to having top-six offensive abilities. He's a high-floor prospect with a legitimately high ceiling. Smith, a native of Lexington, Massachusetts, is off to Boston College in the fall. He will be a key cog for Team USA at the World Juniors and could very well be in the San Jose lineup before the 2023-24 season ends. He's a good one.
8- David Jiricek (D, CLS): Jiricek's first season in North America could not have gone any better. He was named the Rookie of the Month in the AHL for December, ultimately finishing the year with 38 points in 55 games. He got into four scoreless games with the Jackets and was named Top Defenseman at the 2023 World Juniors. I always thought of Jiricek as a two-way guy with solid, but unspectacular offensive abilities, but his performance this season in the AHL as a 19-year-old made me re-think my assessment. He was always going to be a good player, but his ceiling may be even higher than I initially envisioned. Jiricek should be a regular for Columbus this season as they look to bounce back from a woeful 2022-23 effort in which next to nothing went right.
9- Cutter Gauthier (C, PHI): Gauthier was an impact player at three different stops this past season. He averaged more than a point-per-game in his freshman campaign at Boston College (16G, 37P in 32GP), dominated at the World Juniors (10P in 7GP), and then exploded (7G, 9P in 10GP) at the World Championships. The last stop was the most impressive of all. Gauthier displayed a consistent ability to score in a variety of different ways playing against men as a 19-year-old. Gauthier is fearless in driving to the net and not afraid to go to the difficult areas of the ice to make a play. He has a hard, accurate shot and his defensive game is advanced for such a young player. I couldn't be more impressed with the strides Gauthier has made. He, along with Michkov, should eventually lead the next era of Flyers hockey.
10- Simon Nemec (D, NJ): I have said repeatedly that Nemec wouldn't have been my pick at No. 2 overall in 2022, but that doesn't mean he isn't an excellent prospect and it's funny how a year later, I prefer him to the guy I had ranked No. 1 in the class, Shane Wright. Nemec spent his entire first season in North America playing in the AHL despite the fact he didn't turn 19 years of age until mid-February. Nemec's offensive production -- 12 goals, 34 points in 65 games -- far exceeded even my most optimistic expectations. Nemec doesn't have the raw skills of Hughes and he can't run a power-play like Dougie Hamilton, but few defensive prospects his age possess such a complete all-around game. The rich get richer.
11- Simon Edvinsson (D, DET): Edvinsson's first full season in North America was solid, if unspectacular. He played most of the year with AHL Grand Rapids, posting five goals and 27 points in 52 games. He scored twice in a brief nine-game trial with Detroit. My projection for Edvinsson coming into last season was a solid, all-around, middle-pairing defender and that's where I am still at. I think the big Swede has enough offense to his game to be a high-end No. 3 or low-end No. 2 rearguard, and a nice left-handed-shooting complement to Moritz Seider. Edvinsson took a regular shift in the SHL as an 18-year-old in 2021-22, so he should be ready for a full-time NHL gig.
12- Brandt Clarke (D, LA): Clarke began the season with the Kings and barely played, posting two assists in nine games with the club. He was eventually returned to OHL Barrie, where he put forth one of the most impressive junior performances in recent memory, finishing with a hysterical 23 goals and 61 points in 31 games. Insane totals for any player, let alone a rearguard. Clarke also averaged more than a point-per-game (8P in 7GP) in helping Canada to Gold at the World Juniors. As you would imagine when looking at the numbers, Clarke is a high-end offensive defenseman. His puck skills are elite. Clarke is never going to be the type to log heavy, tough defensive minutes at the NHL level, and that's okay. Just give him all the power-play time and offensive zone starts he can handle and go from there.
13- William Eklund (LW, SJ): Eklund recently completed his first full season in North America, playing the entire year at age 20 and producing a ton (17G, 41P in 54GP) at the AHL level. He also managed four assists in nine games with the Sharks. Eklund -- who went No. 7 overall to the Sharks in 2021 -- was the No. 2 player on my board that year behind only No. 1 pick Owen Power. Eklund is extremely crafty with the puck on his stick. He's a top-six offensive talent with the work ethic to match. I thought Eklund would have been a full time NHL player by this point, but I'm just as high on his long-term potential that ever before. I don't see any scenario in which Eklund doesn't force his way onto the San Jose roster in 2023-24.
14- Shane Wright (C, SEA): Wright had a very odd year on the heels of being selected No. 4 overall by Seattle in 2022. He began the year with the Kraken but barely played, spending long stretches of time in the press box as a healthy scratch. He captained Canada to a Gold Medal at the World Juniors and was predictably dominant (15G, 37P in 20GP) upon a midseason return to the OHL before finishing the year in the AHL with Coachella Valley, who lost to Hershey in Game 7 of the Calder Cup Final. The NHL minutes Wright played this past season weren't particularly encouraging, but he was 18 years old and not being deployed in a way that is conducive to his skill set. I still like him as a long-term No. 2 center for Seattle behind Calder Trophy winner Matty Beniers, but there's a bit more doubt in my mind than there was at this time a year ago.
15- Alexander Nikishin (D, CAR): While some NHL clubs play it safe in the draft, others, like Carolina, shoot for upside with every pick. Enter, Nikishin, who went No. 69 overall in 2020. The rearguard is fresh off a season in which he led all KHL players in assists (44), in addition to leading all KHL defenders in points (55 in 65 games). Oh, Nikishin played the entire season at age 21. The Hurricanes have flat out refused to make him available in any trade talks, and rightfully so. Nikishin plays with SKA St. Petersburg, one of the KHL's top teams, and his contract reportedly lasts two more seasons, through the 2024-25 campaign. Convincing Nikishin to cross the pond for an entry-level deal when he could be earning millions in his home country will not be easy, but Carolina seems likely to have a legitimate top-pairing defender on their hands if they can find a way to make it work.
16- Zach Benson (LW-BUF): Seemingly consistently a step ahead of everyone else on the ice, Benson was a top player all year long for arguably the best team in the WHL. After posting 25 goals and 63 points in 58 games in his first full junior campaign in 2021-22, Benson upped those totals to 36 goals and 98 points in 60 games this past year. Benson's hockey sense is exceptional, and although he doesn't possess breakaway speed, as many talented players do, he seems to move better with the puck than without it. My lone concern is the fact Benson is 5-foot-10 and about 160 pounds. He works his tail off and is constantly hounding opposing defenders whenever the opportunity presents itself, but you would ideally like to see such an undersized player skate a bit better than Benson does. Other than that, Benson projects as a no-doubt top-six forward that should be able to carve up opposing penalty killers with his vision and patience. Benson never should have lasted to No. 13 overall, which was where Buffalo got him this past June.
17- Jimmy Snuggerud (RW, STL): Snuggerud is on the short list of most improved prospects over the past 12 months. I ranked him No. 91 in this space a year ago and that was clearly too low. Snuggerud racked up a whopping 21 goals and 50 points in 40 games in his freshman season at the University of Minnesota. He added 13 points in seven games with Team USA at the World Juniors. Snuggerud has excellent size (6-foot-2) and a howitzer of a shot, but we knew that before last season began. What really impressed me was his secondary skills. He's a better playmaker than he gets credit for, and his hockey sense is more advanced than I thought. In retrospect, Snuggerud never should have lasted to No. 23 overall in the 2022 draft. I imagine the Blues will make a push to sign him once his sophomore season with the Gophers is over.
18- Logan Stankoven (C, DAL): The 2021-22 CHL Player of the Year, Stankoven would have had a real chance to make it two in a row if not for that Bedard kid. He posted a ridiculous 34 goals and 97 points in just 48 games for Kamloops, before leading by the WHL playoffs (30P in 14GP) and the Memorial Cup (11P in 7GP) in scoring. Oh, Stankoven has also won back-to-back Gold Medals for Canada at the World Juniors. Stankoven is a water bug on the ice. He's constantly in the middle of things despite standing just 5-foot-8. His shot is deadly and his passing top notch. Rated by most as a mid-to-late first-rounder in the 2021 NHL Draft, I can't for the life of me figure out how he fell to the Stars at No. 47 overall. Other than the lack of size, there's absolutely nothing stopping Stankoven from scoring a top-six pace at the NHL level.
19- Oliver Moore (C, CHI): Moore is a brilliant skater with the ability to weave in and out of traffic. He has a good shot and is willing to go to the difficult areas of the ice to make a play. Simply put, there's no real holes in his game. Moore's somewhat undersized at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, but his compete level is strong and he's responsible defensively. Moore has a real chance to be a middle-six NHL regular without a ton of improvements to his game. If those improvements come, he has star potential. He's committed to the University of Minnesota. While Bedard will be the focus of the Chicago offense for years to come, Moore makes for a perfect under-the-radar secondary scoring option.
20- David Reinbacher (D, MON): For the record, I think Montreal passing on Michkov in favor of Reinbacher at No. 5 overall was a massive mistake. That said, the Habs got an excellent prospect. One of Reinbacher's greatest selling points is how much high-level hockey he has played at such a young age. He was one of the top defenders for Kloten in the Swiss league this past season as an 18-year-old. Reinbacher also (and unsurprisingly) was Austria's most noticeable player at the 2023 World Juniors. Reinbacher has it all. He's a big (6-foot-2, 185 pounds), physical kid with solid mobility. He makes smart plays with the puck, even if he doesn't project as a power-play quarterback at the NHL level. It's difficult to see Reinbacher evolving into anything less than a middle-pairing defender with the ability to impact a game in all three zones given how much he brings to the table and how much we have seen from him so far.
21- Ryan Leonard (RW, WSH): I would be surprised, bordering on shocked, if Leonard doesn't become a useful NHL player in some capacity. He makes life miserable for opposing defenders and is relentless in his pursuit of the puck. He's not particularly creative in the offensive zone, but he can put the puck in the back of the net and has displayed the speed and smarts to fit in nicely alongside talented offensive players. Leonard's older brother, John, spent some time with the Sharks over the past few seasons. It's more floor than ceiling, but Ryan Leonard projects as a rock-solid middle-six winger, with the potential for more. Like his brother, Ryan is committed to the University of Massachusetts. He's probably looking at two seasons at Amherst.
22- Dalibor Dvorsky (C, STL): Dvorsky seemed to be a real option for Arizona at No. 6 overall this past June, so the Blues must have been thrilled to see him drop to No. 10. A native of Slovakia, Dvorsky has spent the past several years playing in Sweden. He spent this past season with AIK in Sweden's second tier Allsvenskan and was up and down in terms of performance (14P in 38GP). If you catch him at his best, Dvorsky will look like a clear-cut future top-six forward. He's always been an excellent playmaker and I've always found his shot to be underrated. There are consistency issues to work through here and Dvorsky's skating isn't great, so the team that drafts him will be hoping his smarts and skills can make up for that. There's also a chance Dvorsky may be forced to the wing because he can't keep up with the pace required for playing the middle. He's an excellent prospect, but there's enough concern for me to slide him down the list just a bit.
23- Kevin Korchinski (D, CHI): Korchinski had another massive season, finishing sixth in WHL defensemen scoring (73 points in 54 games) for a Seattle Thunderbirds team which won the WHL Championship before falling in the Memorial Cup final. At his best, Korchinski makes the game look easy. He's a big kid (6-foot-2) with the both the speed and agility to glide around opposing forecheckers. Although still not a strength, I thought his off puck defending improved throughout the course of the year. It's a highly intriguing combination of both size and skill and I think there's room for further improvement. Korchinski will probably get a long look in camp, but I expect the still-rebuilding Blackhawks to ship him back to the WHL for one more season, at which point he figures to be Team Canada's No. 1 defenseman at the 2024 World Juniors. He should be ready for full-time NHL duty by the fall of 2024.
24- Olen Zellweger (D, ANH): Anaheim's embarrassment of defensive riches continues with Zellweger, the reigning CHL Defenseman of the Year, who led all WHL defenders in goals with 32 in 55 games. I thought he was a minor reach at No. 34 overall in 2021 and I was wrong. Zellweger isn't going to threaten 30 goals and 80 points as a professional, but he does so many things well that I'd be shocked if he doesn't become a useful two-way NHL defenseman. Zellweger is about as good as any defensive prospect in the league in terms of retrievals and outlets in his own zone. He can really skate and is deceptively strong at 5-foot-10 and about 185 pounds. I'm a buyer. Zellweger should start the upcoming season in the AHL but projects to make his NHL debut at some point in the 2023-24 campaign.
25- Matthew Knies (LW, TOR): The Leafs finally got Knies signed following his sophomore season at the University of Minnesota (21G, 42P in 40GP) and he debuted for the club late in the year. He played in seven of Toronto's first eight postseason contests -- registering a goal and four points -- before a concussion ended his season. Knies was apparently close to returning if the Leafs had been able to keep their season alive, so he should be fine for training camp. Knies has excellent hands for a big kid (6-foot-3) and his all-around offensive game has steadily improved since his two-year stint in the USHL. Set to turn just 21 years of age in mid-October, Knies is going to be a regular for Toronto this coming season, perhaps in a top-six role. His $925K cap hit is a god send for a team that is constantly trying to find a way to save a penny wherever possible.
26- Matthew Coronato (RW, CGY): One of the most consistent performers in college hockey, Coronato put up the exact same numbers in his sophomore season at Harvard -- 36 points in 34 games -- as his freshman year. He signed with the Flames late in the year and got into one game at the end of the season before joining Team USA at the World Championships, where he was excellent in posting eight points in ten games. I've long been impressed with Coronato's all-around game. He's hard on the puck, has plenty of skill, and is reliable defensively. The Long Island native might not be a star, but he has the look of an excellent secondary scorer who can make plays in all three zones.
27- Jiri Kulich (C, BUF): Kulich arrived stateside last fall and spent the entire season with Buffalo's AHL affiliate in Rochester. He was hysterically productive (24G, 46P in 62GP) for a kid who played nearly the entire year at age 18. I thought Kulich was more floor than ceiling when the Sabres nabbed him at No. 28 overall in 2022, but the counting stats we saw this season, at such a young age, lead me to believe I underrated Kulich's long-term offensive potential. I still think he's best suited to play wing, but Kulich can fake center for a period if needed. He's the rare prospect that fits anywhere in a lineup, as Kulich has the skill to play a top-six role and the smarts and positioning to make an impact in all three zones.
28- Gabe Perreault (RW, NYR): Almost every single draft pundit, I included, thought New York's pick of Perreault at No. 23 overall in 2023 was one of the draft's greatest heists. I had him No. 11 overall on my big board. The son of former NHL center Yanic Perreault and brother of Anaheim prospect Jacob, Gabe was one of the US NTDP's best players this past season. All competitions combined, he finished with 155 points in 78 games. Perreault is one of the most creative playmakers in this draft, particularly in tight spaces. His vision is exceptional, as is his ability to carve up opposing defenders with the man advantage. The main concern regarding Perreault is his lack of breakaway speed combined with his average size at 5-foot-11 and about 170 pounds, although I've always found he moves better with the puck than without, a necessary trait for all good offensive players. Ultimately, I'm willing to bet on his smarts, work ethic, and easy top-six skill level. A Boston College commit, Perreault immediately becomes the Rangers' best prospect.
29- Matthew Wood (RW, NSH): Wood led the BCHL in goals (45) and points (85 in 46 games) two years ago. He took a regular shift for UConn this past season and averaged nearly a point-per-game (11G, 34P in 35GP) despite the fact he was the youngest player in college hockey, turning 18 years of age in early February. He is an excellent option with the man advantage and shoots it well enough to beat goalies consistently from distance. That's all the good news. The bad news is that Wood is a poor skater and his game lacks pace. That typically gets magnified the more you move up the ladder. And while I wouldn't say he shies away from contact, Wood's game lacks physicality despite being 6-foot-3 and upwards of 200 pounds. Wood's offensive production relative to his age and the level at which he played in 2022-23 was highly impressive, but there's legitimate concern his skill set won't translate particularly well to the professional ranks.
30- Nate Danielson (C, DET): Steve Yzerman and company have nailed the draft the past few years, leading to plenty of hope that their selection of Danielson at No. 9 overall this past June was the correct ones. Danielson was the captain and leading scorer (33 goals, 78 points in 68 games) for a mediocre Wheat Kings team which failed to make the WHL postseason in 2022-23. The offensive numbers may seem underwhelming for a perceived "top prospect", but it's easy to imagine him blowing past the 100-point mark if flanked by a better supporting cast. Danielson has no real holes in his game. He's a true center with solid foot speed and an excellent mix of size (6-foot-2) and skill in his game. You can squint hard and find a scenario in which Danielson develops into a legitimate top-line NHL center, although a respectable No. 2 pivot is a more likely scenario.
31- Jesper Wallstedt (G, MIN): Minnesota's platoon of Marc-Andre Fleury and Filip Gustavsson exceed expectations a year ago and the club will go with the duo again in 2023-24, but it remains quite clear Wallstedt is the Wild's goaltender of the future. The Swede was just fine in his North American debut, posting a 18-15-5 record, 2.68 GAA, and .908 save percentage in 38 games with AHL Iowa. Wallstedt is calm and composed in net, and at 6-foot-3 and north of 215 pounds, has the size all NHL clubs are looking for in goal. Fleury is signed for one more season at $3.5 million, so expect Wallstedt to spend another full year with Iowa before joining the club full time in the fall of 2024.
32- Lane Hutson (D, MON): Hutson was ranked No. 99 on this list at this time a year ago, and although I loved the player, I never could have foreseen the breakout that was forthcoming. Hutson finished his freshman season at Boston University with 15 goals and 48 points in 39 games. His hockey sense is among the best in the game today, at any level. Hutson lacks size (5-foot-10, 160 pounds) and speed. A common comp for Hutson is a left-handed Adam Fox, but Fox is thicker and a better one-on-one defender, even if both their games lack physicality. The production is elite, but I don't want to go overboard because there are virtually no NHL players that play the way Hutson does. He's going to tear the NCAA up again this coming season, at which point I expect Montreal to make a huge push to get Hutson signed.
33- Pavel Mintyukov (D, ANH): The winner of the Max Kaminsky Trophy as OHL Defenseman of the Year in 2022-23, Mintyukov led all OHL rearguards in scoring, posting 24 goals and 88 points in 69 games split between Saginaw and Ottawa. I trust Mintyukov's natural abilities, but I still find him forcing plays at times in both the offensive and defensive zones. That said, it's impossible to argue with the numbers. I never expect him to be the type to log heavy defensive minutes, but Mintyukov wants to make an impact when he's on the ice and I'd rather try to reign in a guy that is overly aggressive at times as opposed to a defender that is too passive. I'm not convinced there's true top-pair pro potential here, but Mintyukov comfortably projects as a solid No. 3 rearguard on a good team at the NHL level.
34- Marco Rossi (C, MIN): The Wild continue to be exceedingly patient with Rossi, who missed all the 2020-21 campaign as the result of heart complications brought on by a bout of COVID-19. Rossi again spent the majority of last season with AHL Iowa, averaging nearly a point-per-game (51P in 53GP). He managed just a lone assist in 19 games with Minnesota. Rossi's calling card is his hockey IQ. He's a sneaky offensive player with legitimate top-six skill, but his production is buoyed by the fact he thinks the game so well. I struggled with where to rank him on this list. On one hand, he seems fully healthy and will play this entire year at age 22. On the other, I expected him to have multiple NHL seasons under his belt at this point. I don't doubt the skill set and thus remain optimistic about Rossi's long-term chances, but I would like to see him seize a full-time NHL role in 2023-24 and produce to the point the Wild can never even consider sending him back to the minors.
35- Conor Geekie (C, ARI): Playing for one of the best teams in the WHL, Geekie didn't dominate to the level I expected. He scored 35 goals and averaged well over a point-per-game (77P in 66GP), but I wanted more. His playoff performance was so-so as well, with a half dozen goals and 17 points in 19 games. Geekie has ideal size (6-foot-4) and is a no-doubt center, so that alone gives him a ton of value, but I'm more worried about his future projection now than I was a year ago at this time. His game doesn't have a ton of pace to it and that's going to become a greater challenge as he moves up the ladder. I wouldn't be the least bit shocked if Geekie develops into a middle-six, three-zone pivot, which has a ton of value. I just thought his original ceiling was a bit higher. He's looking at one final year in the WHL.
36- Denton Mateychuk (D, CLS): Mateychuk was his usual steady self this past season, finishing with eight goals and 65 points in 63 games for WHL Moose Jaw, right in line with what we saw from him two seasons ago (13G, 64P in 65GP). He's easy to spot on the ice. Mateychuk is extremely fleet-footed, possessing the ability to regularly separate from opposing forwards, something you don't often see among NHL rearguards. I'm not sure Mateychuk is going to be a true top-pairing PP guy at the NHL level, but he thinks the game well enough that he should be good for 40-plus points in a consistent basis. I see a guy that is going to be a solid middle-pairing defenseman for a long time, with the potential for a tad more.
37- Danila Yurov (RW, MIN): The No. 9 overall played on my board for the 2022 draft, I love the Wild's pick of Yurov at No. 24, and still do. His six goals and a dozen points in 59 KHL games a season ago don't jump off the page, but he dominated the Russian Jr. league (4G, 15P in 12GP) and I would of loved to have seen what he could have done at the World Juniors had the Russians been eligible. Yurov is a player that wants to make a difference every single time he's on the ice. He hunts down loose pucks like it's his job (it is) and has top-six skill to boot. I'd be surprised if Yurov doesn't develop into a useful NHL player in some capacity. His KHL deal reportedly expires at the end of the 2023-24 campaign, so it's conceivable he could be ready to start his pro career in North America a year from now.
38- Yaroslav Askarov (G, NSH): Askarov was shockingly shopped at the draft as new Nashville GM Barry Trotz did everything possible to potentially acquire a top-four pick, but it never materialized, and he remains with the Preds. The big Russian recently completed his first season in North America, posting a 26-16-5 record, 2.69 GAA and .911 save percentage in 48 games. It was a solid if unspectacular performance. Askarov has everything you look for in a future franchise goaltender. He's big (6-foot-4), composed in net, and outside of a few random poor showings on the international circuit, doesn't tend to give up many bad goals. Juuse Saros has two years left on his deal that pays him $5 million per season, but his name has also popped up in trade rumors. Askarov is still a good bet to be a future NHL starting goaltender, but it's anyone's guess if it will be with the Predators or elsewhere.
39- Marco Kasper (C, DET): Kasper would not have been my pick at No. 8 overall in 2022, but he's a thorough, hard-working professional that coaches love. Kasper signed his entry-level deal with the Wings not long after the draft and was loaned back to Rogle of the SHL for the 2022-23 season. He managed eight goals and 23 points in 52 games before coming back stateside and getting into one game for Detroit late in the year. Kasper's compete level is exceptional. I would term his offensive skill set about average, but he does so many other things well that he should be a consistent source of secondary scoring at the NHL level. There was some talk of Kasper potentially moving to the wing, but that ship appears to have sailed after his strong effort in the middle last season. A No. 2 pivot isn't out of the question, but I think it's safer to project Kasper as a good, two-way No. 3 guy.
40- Matthew Savoie (C, BUF): Savoie had another monster years for WHL Winnipeg, posting nearly identical numbers (38G, 95P in 62GP) to what we saw from him two years ago (35G, 90P in 65GP). He added another 11 goals and 29 points in 19 postseason games for the Ice, who lost to the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL Championship. The No. 9 overall pick by the Sabres in 2022, it's clear Savoie has nothing left to learn at the junior level, although he's headed back there if he doesn't crack the NHL roster out of camp, which is unlikely. Savoie is deadly in open space and consistently find a way to make plays in the offensive zone despite having average speed and below average (5-foot-9, 180 pounds) size. Savoie's hockey sense is most certainly worth betting on moving forward. He's part of a growing number of undersized, uber-talented offensive playmakers in the Buffalo system.
41- Brayden Yager (C, PIT): Yager should help supply some much-needed offensive juice to what is arguably the worst prospect pool in the NHL. The 2021-22 CHL Rookie of the Year, Yager -- who has been on the map as a top prospect for a while -- had a somewhat underwhelming season (28G, 78P in 67GP) in 2022-23 given what was expected of him. Yager has a bomb of a shot and has consistently displayed the ability to score both off the rush and off set pieces in the offensive zone. His passing is often underrated because of how well he shoots it, but Yager is a complete all-around offensive player. There isn't much here in terms of size (6-foot, 170 pounds), but the smarts and effort level Yager possesses should allow him to remain in the middle moving forward.
42- Ivan Miroshnichenko (LW, WSH): I'm willing to give Miroshnichenko a total pass on what was a so-so season in terms of on-ice production following his return from Hodgkin's Lymphoma. He appeared inconsistent and rusty, playing at three different levels in his native Russia, which is understandable. When on top of his game, Miroshnichenko is one of the most intriguing goal-scoring prospects in the entire league. He has a cannon of a shot and good hands. I've also always found him to be an underrated playmaker. Still just 19 years of Miroshnichenko will play this season with AHL Hershey and is a candidate to fly up the rankings in short order.
43- Brennan Othmann (LW-NYR): Othmann had a strange season. Too young to play in the AHL, he returned to the OHL and his production was way down (29G, 67P in 56GP) compared to two years ago (50G, 97P in 66GP). Yet he won his second straight gold medal with Team Canada at the World Juniors and helped Peterborough win the OHL Championship following a November trade from Flint. Othmann is a top-six offensive talent with an excellent shot, but he possesses the ability to impact a game in numerous ways. He loves to throw the body around and he's a pain-in-the-neck to play against. I'm not sure he's the true difference-maker up front the Rangers fan base is hoping for, but I expect him to have a long and productive NHL career. He should debut at some point this coming year.
44- Rutger McGroarty (RW, WPG): I was concerned McGroarty might struggle to adjust to the NCAA ranks due to his mediocre foot speed, but he averaged exactly a point-per-game (18G, 39P in 39GP) in his freshman season at the University of Michigan. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised, however. McGroarty's secondary skills are excellent. He's extremely effective in open space for a kid that isn't a blazer. He'll drive to the net to make a play and shoots it well enough to beat opposing goaltenders on a consistent basis. McGroarty's performance this past season was highly encouraging. He's going to take on an increased role for the Wolverines in 2023-24 and may very well sign with the Jets when his sophomore year comes to an end.
45- Shakir Mukhamadullin (D, SJ): Most everyone, I included, was highly critical of New Jersey's selection of Mukhamadullin at No. 20 overall in 2020. To the credit of the player, Mukhamadullin's game developed to the point the Devils were able to include him as a key piece of the late February trade which sent Timo Meier to Jersey. Mukhamadullin began last season in the KHL (6G, 25P in 67GP) before ending it in the AHL. His production (1G, 10P) in a brief dozen-game stint with the Barracuda was highly encouraging. Mukhamadullin is a tall (6-foot-4), lanky kid. His game lacks physicality, but his hockey IQ is fine, and he has more offensive ability than I originally gave him credit for. He looks like a solid mid-pairing defender, and one could be ready for full-time duty in San Jose at some point this coming season.
46- Frank Nazar (C, CHI): I like Nazar as a prospect, but he played just 13 games (2G, 7P) in his freshman season at the University of Michigan due to hip surgery. He showed flashes upon returning, but for the most part, appeared understandably rusty. At his best, Nazar brings an intriguing combination of speed and determination to the table. He consistently makes an impact on games even if he isn't putting up points, something that can be difficult for younger players at times. Nazar won't be 20 years of age until January, so his long-term ceiling isn't impacted in the least by the time missed, but we have no more information on him than we did a year ago at this time. The acquistions of Connor Bedard and Oliver Moore should help take the focus off Nazar a bit, something that can only help his development.
47- Quentin Musty (LW, SJ): A native of Hamburg, New York, just outside of Buffalo, Musty was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 OHL Draft. He had a good season for the Wolves (26G, 76P in 53GP) in 2022-23 and is one of the draft's younger players, as he won't turn 18 years of age until July 6. Musty looks the part of a future top-six forward. He's big (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) with very quick hands and the ability to make creative plays in the offensive zone. If everything comes together, Musty could be a star. If not, I'm worried about his ability to impact a game. Musty doesn't project as a bottom-six grinder, so he's going to have to put up points to justify his first-round selection, but at No. 26 overall he was well worth the risk for San Jose.
48- Colby Barlow (LW, WPG): Barlow has multiple NHL-caliber traits, although I'm a bit torn regarding what type of player he will become at the NHL level. He's been a big-time goal scorer in junior, lighting the lamp 76 times in 118 games with OHL Owen Sound, including 46 this past season. He has a massive shot with the ability to beat opposing goaltenders clean from distance, but his playmaking skills are lacking, and I could absolutely see a scenario in which he's best served as a third liner and penalty-killer that can chip in some secondary offense for a club as opposed to being a main generator. Barlow's floor is high because he's plenty strong enough to win board battles and finish whatever chances are presented to him from his linemates. His selection at No. 18 overall by the Jets this past June felt like a "safe" pick for a team looking for a win.
49- Mikhail Gulyayev (D, COL): The Avalanche were one of a handful of NHL teams with a strong enough current roster to roll the dice on Gulyayev in Round 1 this past June. Based on pure ability, Gulyayev should have been in the mix to be the first defenseman selected. For starters, he's a brilliant skater, one of the few in this draft with the ability to pull away from opposing forwards. Gulyayev is also smart and creative enough to be a legitimate power-play QB1 at the NHL level. He played KHL games this past season as a 16-year-old and struggled defensively in his brief 13-game cameo, but that can be chalked up to youth. There's enough here in terms of speed and hockey IQ to believe Gulyayev will eventually be able to defend at an average level. If that is indeed the case, his offensive abilities will carry him the rest of the way. The main question at this point is the fact Gulyayev hasn't made it clear when he plans to come to North America.
50- Joakim Kemell (LW, NSH): Kemell began the year in his native Finland, where he was good (12G, 15P in 43GP but not great. He was also so-so at the World Juniors (4P in 5GP). His production took off in a major way upon arriving in North America, however, finishing with 14 goals and 23 points in 28 combined regular/postseason games for AHL Milwaukee. Kemell looks the part of a top-six NHL forward. He can really shoot the puck and I've always found his playmaking to be underrated, despite his low assist total this past year. In short, he has a skill set very few in the Nashville system can match. Kemell's effort level is fine, with the one knack on him being a lack of breakaway speed for an undersized (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) player. He should be able to consistently beat goaltenders at the NHL level, so at that's left for him at this point is to round out the remainder of his game.