2023 NHL Draft top prospects 20-1: Samuel Honzek, Matthew Wood, Oliver Moore, Leo Carlsson, Matvei Michkov, Connor Bedard and more
By Zach Laing2 months ago
Welcome to our series taking a look at the top 100 prospects for the 2023 NHL entry draft as ranked by Daily Faceoff’s Steven Ellis.
Today, we’re looking at the prospects ranked from number 20-1: Andrew Cristall, Eduard Sale, Nate Danielson, Gabe Perreault, Samuel Honzek, Matthew Wood, Dmitri Simashev, Riley Heidt, Colby Barlow, Oliver Moore, Axel Sandin Pellikka, Dalibor Dvorsky, David Reinbacher, Zach Benson, Ryan Leonard, Will Smith, Leo Carlsson, Matvei Michkov, Adam Fantilli, and Connor Bedard.
The Kelowna Rockets’ assistant captain scored 39 goals and 95 in 54 WHL games last year. The left-winger stands 5’10, 165 lbs.
Scouting Report: “Cristall would have easily blown past the 100-point mark had he not had a lower-body injury. From a skill perspective, Cristall has everything going for him. His skating can be a bit of a disaster at points, though. In a vacuum, there’s a lot to like. When he has the puck on his stick, though, he’s dangerous. Surround him with quality linemates and you should be fine.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Sale wasn’t very productive in the Czech men’s league last year, but was very productive against his own age class internationally. The right-winger has size standing at 6’2, 174 lbs.
Scouting Report: “Consistency was an issue for Sale, especially in the second half after the World Junior Championship. He showed enough big-game potential at that event, though, that I’m still quite intrigued. He’s best when he’s being deceptive, which comes more with confidence. I do wonder if he’ll go to the AHL and follow a similar route as Buffalo’s Jiri Kulich, which could be beneficial.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Last season saw Danielson score 33 goals and 78 points in 68 WHL games. The 6’1, 187 lb. centre was the Brandon Wheat Kings’ captain.
Scouting Report: “Danielson feels like a “safe” pick. I’m not sure he’s more than a 45-50 point guy in the NHL, but he’s consistent and valuable enough at both ends of the ice that he’ll have a solid, young career. You won’t find a ton of 18-year-old captains, either.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Perrault has spent the last two seasons with the US National Development team. The 5’11, 186 lb. right-winger scored over two points per game in national team games.
Scouting Report: “Perreault’s greatest concern this season was perceived reliance on his teammates to get stuff done. But you don’t break the 100-point barrier by accident, especially when so few players have managed to do so. The biggest hangup is his skating, but he plays a similar skilled offensive game to Lucas Raymond’s.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Standing at 6’3, 185 lbs, the big centre scored 23 goals and 56 points last year with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. He was very productive in his first 43 games in North America.
Scouting Report: “I don’t think Honzek has a huge offensive ceiling, but I think he’s going to have a long career. He throws punishing hits, is a fantastic two-way presence and has a great release on his shot. Honzek’s game is built around power, and I love him as a potential middle-six option.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Wood, a 6’3, 190 lb. left-winger, was one point away from a point-per-game clip as a freshman at the University of Connecticut last year.
Scouting Report: “A point-per-game average as a freshman on one of the best teams in Hockey East is a solid way to kick off your college career. All he has done at every level is produce points and excel on the power play. His chemistry with top 2024 prospect Macklin Celebrini is a big reason why Canada won bronze at the U-18s.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Simashev, a 6’3, 201 lb left-shot defenceman, played most of his games last year in the MHL in Russia.
Scouting Report: “I didn’t love his game in the first half, but his late-season play really grew on me, especially during the MHL playoffs. Against his own age group, he can carry the load on the blueline and can be physically intimidating. Scouts are all over the place with him, but I like his potential.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Heidt had a great year with the WHL’s Prince George Cougars last year scoring 25 goals and 97 points in 68 games.
Scouting Report: “One of the best point producers in the WHL, Heidt was a huge part of Prince George’s resurgence this year. I know scouts were hoping to see him remain a consistent producer throughout the year – no issues there. It’s his play away from the puck that some are more concerned about.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Barlow scored 46 goals and 79 points in 59 games with the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack. The left-shot, left-winger stands at 6’1, 187 lbs.
Scouting Report: “One of the few players to come close to hitting the 50-goal mark this season, Barlow has scored at all levels and is as confident as anyone handling the puck. There’s room for his all-around game to grow, but scoring clearly isn’t an issue. He was banged up during the OHL playoffs but had a decent showing at the U-18s.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Moore is committed to the University of Minnesota next year. The 5’11, 180 lb. centre spent his last two years with the US National Development team.
Scouting Report: “Want a speedy, defensively reliable two-way center? Moore’s your guy. Some scouts I’ve talked to think Moore has some untapped potential to become one of the better players in this draft class. He’s so quick, but knows how to use his speed to his advantage as a playmaker, too.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Pellikka, a 5’11, 181 lb. right-shot defenceman crushed the competition in the Swedish Junior league last year, but struggled a bit against men.
Scouting Report: “Pellikka fell in my rankings, but not really due to poor performance or anything. It’s just that I like the forward options more. He was a feral beast at the U-20 level, but much more reserved against men in the SHL. If he can unlock a bit more of that intensity with Skelleftea next season, that’ll be awesome.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Dvorsky played in both the Swedish J20 league, and the Swedish second league last year. The 6’1, 201 lb. centre shoots left.
Scouting Report: “Most hype has quieted down for Dvorsky over the past year, but he still put decent numbers playing against men. The raw talent is there, and if he falls outside the top 15, Dvorsky could just become one of the bigger steals. It feels like we’re always looking for a bit more out of him. Still, the raw skill is there, and he has a solid CV. Plus, he earned some MVP consideration for the way he dominated with Slovakia at the U-18s.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Reinbacher is an interesting prospect coming out of Switzerland. The 6’2, 187 lb. right-shot defenceman is considered one of the best in the class.
Scouting Report: “Not many people had Reinbacher as a first-round pick heading into the season. Now, most have Reinbacher as the best defenseman in the class. He put up excellent numbers in the top Swiss league, a division that hasn’t always been kind to younger blueliners. Reinbacher looked mature beyond his years and could immediately jump over and make an impact in the AHL next season if that ends up being the plan.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Benson, a 5’10, 159 lb. left-winger, scored 36 goals and 98 points in 60 WHL games last year.
Scouting Report: “Benson dealt with an injury to close out the season, but still managed to pot 36 goals and 98 points. He’s only 5-foot-10, but he’s strong, has a great release and his shift-to-shift effort level will never waver. Benson’s going to be a big-time play driver.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Leonard, a 5’11, 181 lb. centre, scored at a great clip with the US National Development team last year. He and his right-shot are off to Boston College next year.
Scouting Report: “Leonard is coming off an absolutely ridiculous U-18 tournament, which was capped off by scoring the championship winner. The seven-game affair was a perfect microcosm of Leonard’s true abilities: good speed, skill and physicality all wrapped into one. He’s the type of player every team wants.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff –
Smith dominated with the US National Development team last year and in international competition. The 6’0, 172 lb. centre is also committed to Boston College for next season.
Scouting Report: “Smith was named MVP of the U-18 Worlds after scoring nine goals and 20 points in just seven games en route to a gold. It was one of the best tournament performances ever, with Smith recording at least a point in every single game. His creativity is among the best in the class, and he’s as good of a playmaker as it gets.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Carlsson scored 10 goals and 25 points in 44 SHL games last year, but don’t let those numbers fool you. He was a head above in international competitions.
Scouting Report: “Carlsson combines speed, physicality and a penchant for highlight-reel plays. He has size, creates havoc in front of the net and held his own against quality competition in the SHL. The highest-scoring U-19 player in Sweden, Carlsson isn’t far from being NHL-ready. He showed signs of that being the case at the men’s World Hockey Championship, where he served on the top line with Lucas Raymond all tournament long.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Nobody knows where Michkov could go in the top of this draft class. He’s widely considered to be one of the most talented, but his situation is complicated as he’s under contract for a few more years in Russia. Still, the 5’10, 148 lb. winger will be an early selection.
Scouting Report: “It might be understated just how good Michkov’s time with Sochi was. Playing on the worst team in the league, he managed to finish with 20 goals in 27 games to finish fourth in team scoring. Six of the team’s nine wins came with Michkov in the lineup, and his 0.74 points-per-game during his time with Sochi is the best by a U-19 in league history – beating out Evgeny Kuznetsov, Eeli Tolvanen, Vladimir Tarasenko, Kirill Kaprizov and Artemi Panarin, among others. He’s special, but since he has a KHL deal until 2026, NHL teams must be patient. There’s always the chance he never comes over, but that’s a risk teams should be willing to take.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Fantilli, along with Leo Carlsson, are considered the top centre prospects in the class beyond the No. 1 Bedard. He dominated as a freshman at the University of Michigan last year scoring 30 goals and 65 points in 36 games. He has some size already at 6’2, 187 lbs.
Scouting Report: “Fantill’s rookie campaign saw him lead the NCAA with 65 points en route to the Hobey Baker Award as the best men’s college hockey player. That’s one heck of a consolation prize for the team that misses out on Bedard, because Fantilli would go No. 1 in most other years. Whether or not he decides to return to Michigan next year, it’s clear Fantilli is ready for the big leagues. Think Jonathan Toews during his prime.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Connor Bedard is already being pencilled in as a future generational talent. He’s the best draft prospect since Connor McDavid and it makes sense. Bedard had an incredible season in the WHL this year scoring 71 goals and 143 points in 57 games, a 2.5 point per game clip. At 5’9, 185 lbs., the right-shot centre will be a fun player to watch with the Chicago Blackhawks next season.
Scouting Report: “You already know everything you need to know about the NHL’s next superstar. After scoring 71 goals and 143 points in 57 regular season games, Bedard followed it up by scoring 10 goals and 20 points in just seven playoff games with Regina. The Pats fell in the end, marking the conclusion of one of the best junior careers we’ve ever seen. Truly a special season for an exceptional prospect. Congrats, Chicago.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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