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Mid-Term 2023 NHL Draft Rankings: It's Connor Bedard's World

The Regina Pats superstar put an exclamation point on his No. 1 status at the world juniors, but other kids had great showings, as well.
Connor Bedard

Welcome to my mid-term 2023 draft rankings. With the world juniors behind us, it felt like an appropriate time to weigh in, and while there is still much more work to be done, we're starting to see some players separate themselves from the pack. Perhaps what is most interesting for me right now is how some of these prospects respond in the second half, as there are notable players who have struggled to date. Scouts and NHL execs often talk about players taking off after the holiday break, and maybe that's the refresh some of these kids needed.

So this particular list is still very much long on opinion, as I will start mining my scouting contacts soon in preparation for The Hockey News' annual Future Watch edition. I tend to be conservative in nature when it comes to rankings, so there are some kids who have slid down since the summer but not completely out of the first round – there was obviously something there to begin with, and I want to see if they can recapture that top-end potential in the coming months.

Having said that, the world juniors in Halifax and Moncton did give us a nice little window into the potential of this year's high end, so you can guess what the top of my board looks like.

Without further ado, let's get to it.

1. Connor Bedard, C, Regina (WHL): The world junior MVP performance was simply a confirmation of the electric season this young man is putting together. Bedard can basically score at will, and his passion and physicality are great to see in a phenom.

2. Adam Fantilli, C, University of Michigan (NCAA): He may not have had as large a role on Team Canada at the world juniors, but Fantilli's tools were all obvious there. Big, fast, strong and talented, there's a reason the Wolverines freshman has dominated the NCAA.

3. Leo Carlsson, RW, Orebro (Swe.): You can see the future for Carlsson already: Big, powerful, Kopitar-esque, albeit while playing on the wing. He was one of Sweden's best players at the world juniors, and his ability to come out of the corner with the puck is a great sign for his future.

4. Matvei Michkov, RW, SKA-St. Petersburg (KHL): The mystery man of the draft, we know Michkov won't be coming to North America anytime soon, but his skill set is impossible to ignore. Talent-wise, he can hang with Bedard. How high will he actually go in the draft? That's for NHL teams to sort out in terms of risk management.

5. Will Smith, C, NTDP (USHL): Just a powerhouse of an offensive player, Smith is the top center on a very good NTDP squad and part of an excellent Boston College recruiting class. With his dazzling array of moves and offensive weapons, it's not hard to see the upside.

6. Andrew Cristall, LW, Kelowna (WHL): There is a knot of smaller but crazy-skilled players from the 'Dub' this year up top, and Cristall is certainly deserving of his slot. Second only to Bedard in WHL scoring, this kid is a human highlight machine with plenty of room to fill out.

7. Eduard Sale, LW, Kometa Brno (Cze.): Not only did Sale earn his spot on Czechia's top line at the world juniors, but he thrived in the position. He even saw multiple OT shifts in the gold-medal loss to Canada. Sale is an excellent playmaker who looks really solid already.

8. Colby Barlow, RW, Owen Sound (OHL): Bit of a down year for the OHL, but Barlow has held up his end of the bargain, putting up great numbers for the Attack. One of the top scorers in the league, Barlow is a big-time shooter with some decent size.

9. Zach Benson, LW, Winnipeg (WHL): Another smaller wunderkind from out west, Benson plays for a loaded Ice team but carries his weight and then some. Super smart and incredibly talented, he'll hunt down pucks and kill you with his passing and his shot.

10. Brayden Yager, C, Moose Jaw (WHL): A talented center with a decent frame, Yager has shown the ability to play an all-around game this season, contributing two shorthanded goals, winning the majority of his draws and ranking second in team scoring.

11. Dalibor Dvorsky, C, AIK (Swe.)

12. Ryan Leonard, C, NTDP (USHL)

13. Axel Sandin Pellikka, D, Skelleftea (Swe.)

14. Oliver Moore, C, NTDP (USHL)

15. David Reinbacher, D, Kloten (Swi.)

16. Matthew Wood, LW, University of Connecticut (NCAA)

17. Quentin Musty, LW, Sudbury (OHL)

18. Lukas Dragicevic, D, Tri-City (WHL)

19. Charlie Stramel, C, University of Wisconsin (NCAA)

20. Riley Heidt, C, Prince George (WHL)

21. Gavin Brindley, RW, University of Michigan (NCAA)

22. Mikhail Gulyayev, D, Omsk (Rus.)

23. Nate Danielson, C, Brandon (WHL)

24. Gabe Perreault, LW, NTDP (USHL)

25. Cal Ritchie, C, Oshawa (OHL)

26. Oliver Bonk, D, London (OHL)

27. Otto Stenberg, C, Frolunda (Swe.)

28. Zeb Forsfjall, LW, Skelleftea (Swe.)

29. Samuel Honzek, LW, Vancouver (WHL)

30. Daniil But, LW, Yaroslavl (Rus.)

31. Cam Allen, D, Guelph (OHL)

32. Adam Gajan, G, Green Bay (USHL)

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