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2023 NHL mock draft: Top 4 is locked in, but who follows?

Julian Catalfo / theScore

The 2023 NHL Draft begins Wednesday, so theScore's Kyle Cushman, Nick Faris, John Matisz, and Josh Wegman projected all 32 first-round picks. See our first mock here (published May 9), our draft guide here, and visit the app's NHL News section for full draft and free-agency coverage.

Connor Bedard, C, Regina (WHL)

Drafting Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in successive years springboarded the Blackhawks to three championships. The arrival of Bedard, a deadeye shooter and hockey genius, makes the franchise relevant again, even though Chicago's current roster is brutal by design. Bedard's ready to light up NHL goalies, but the team should still be bad enough to select a star sidekick in 2024.

Adam Fantilli, C, Michigan (NCAA)

If Bedard's a grand slam for Chicago, Fantilli's a home run for Anaheim. A first overall pick most other years, the power forward combines an advanced skill set (high-end skating, stickhandling, shooting) with enticing physical attributes (6-foot-2, 195 pounds). Scouts also rave about the Hobey Baker Award winner's compete level and strong character. The Ducks are surely considering Leo Carlsson, but Fantilli's ultimately the right choice.

Leo Carlsson, C, Orebro (SHL)

Carlsson cemented his status as the third-best player in the class after a quality showing at the World Championship (three goals and two assists in eight games). The Blue Jackets desperately need a franchise center, and the 6-foot-3 Swede - who models his game after Anze Kopitar, Evgeni Malkin, and Aleksander Barkov - could be just that.

Will Smith, C, USNTDP U-18

Though the Sharks are tempted by Russian Matvei Michkov with their longer timeline back to relevancy, they ultimately decide to go with a future first-line center in Smith. On the heels of a monstrous season with the U.S. national program, Smith solidified his top-five position at the under-18 worlds in April with a whopping 20 points in only seven games. The highly creative, offensive pivot is headed to Boston College in the fall.

David Reinbacher, D, Kloten (Swiss National League)

Defensemen are always drafted early: The last time none were taken within the first five picks was in 2003. The opportunity to land Reinbacher, the best blue-liner in this cohort, dissuades the Canadiens from drafting Michkov. Reinbacher shoots right, moves the puck cleanly, plays a complete defensive game, and has shouldered big minutes in Switzerland's top pro division.

Ryan Leonard, RW, USNTDP U-18

The Coyotes opt to avoid uncertainty, passing on the wild card that is Michkov. In Leonard, Arizona gets the closest thing in the class to Matthew Tkachuk. The Massachusetts native and Boston College commit is a dogged forechecker with fantastic hockey sense and a wicked shot. Leonard projects to be a play-driving winger in the NHL - an archetype the Coyotes could use.

Matvei Michkov, RW, Sochi (KHL)

The Flyers aren't about to let Michkov fall any further. Sure, there are concerns about his signability, as the 18-year-old's KHL contract runs through the 2025-26 season. But Philadelphia's just beginning its teardown/rebuild under new general manager Daniel Briere. They're likely willing to wait a few years if it means one day having a dynamic offensive weapon like Michkov.

Dalibor Dvorsky, C, AIK (Allsvenskan)

Don't be fooled by the narrative around Dvorsky's perceived high floor and low ceiling - there's actually plenty of offensive upside in the prospect. He's been a dominant player against his peers and a leader with Slovakia on the international stage at a young age. The Capitals will be ecstatic to add an exciting center to their pipeline with the club's first top-10 pick since 2007.

Zach Benson, LW, Winnipeg (WHL)

Because Benson is 5-foot-9 and not explosively fast, there's a slight chance he could tumble to the Red Wings at No. 17. Enamored with what he does well, Detroit opts to nab him ASAP instead. A battler with an active stick and elite vision, Benson's a legitimate difference-maker in all three zones. Except for Bedard, no draft prospect in the Canadian Hockey League topped his 98 points in 60 games.

Nate Danielson, C, Brandon (WHL)

The Blues are thrilled to snag Danielson, who fits the mold of a "typical St. Louis Blue." He's a relatively big, 200-foot player with wheels and versatility in his game. Danielson's responsible, wins faceoffs, protects the puck well, and is equipped with pretty good puck skills. St. Louis is the only team with three first-round selections, so going with a high-floor player here makes sense.

Tom Willander, D, Rogle (J20)

The Canucks selected Axel Sandin Pellikka in our last mock, but they're tapping a different right-shot Swedish defenseman this time around. Willander's stock has been on the rise of late. He isn't as dynamic offensively as Sandin Pellikka, but he's bigger (6-foot-1), superior defensively, and one of the best skaters in the draft.

Axel Sandin Pellikka, D, Skelleftea (SHL)

After landing Leonard at No. 6, the Coyotes address a glaring need for high-end potential on the back end with Sandin Pellikka. The Skelleftea product has played significant minutes for Sweden at the U18s and world juniors as a puck-mover and power-play quarterback. Arizona needs blue-liners who can get the puck to its forwards of the future, and Sandin Pellikka fits the bill.

Colby Barlow, LW, Owen Sound (OHL)

Tickling twine is Barlow's forte. The OHL's fifth-leading goal scorer potted 46 in 59 games. Barlow, who kills penalties and is lauded for his stickhandling and competitiveness, netted 12 game-winners to pace the entire CHL. He becomes the seventh forward Buffalo has drafted in Round 1 since 2019, joining the likes of Dylan Cozens, Jack Quinn, and Matthew Savoie.

Oliver Moore, C, USNTDP U-18

Moore is a perfect first pick for new executive Kyle Dubas. Hailed as the best skater in the class, the 5-foot-11, 195-pounder is relentless on both the forecheck and backcheck and is armed with a quick release and good hockey sense. In other words, Moore should mesh well with longtime coach Mike Sullivan's system in Pittsburgh. First, though, he's off to the University of Minnesota.

Brayden Yager, C, Moose Jaw (WHL)

There are several enticing wingers in the Predators' prospect pipeline but very few centers. There's no guarantee the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Yager sticks down the middle, yet his speed and high motor give him a fighting chance. His defining trait is his wicked shot, which will play at any forward position.

Matthew Wood, RW, UConn (NCAA)

New GM Craig Conroy made it clear in his introductory press conference that he's looking for players who want to be in Calgary. After the departures of Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk last summer and given the impending exodus of the remaining core, selecting Wood - who has only three years until he can elect free agency - may seem bold on the surface. Despite playing in the NCAA, the UConn product is from nearby Lethbridge, seemingly mitigating any potential concerns about whether he would sign with the Flames. His package of size and skill is too tantalizing to pass up at No. 16.

Dmitri Simashev, D, Yaroslavl (MHL)

The Red Wings' corps of mobile, imposing young defensemen expands to include the 6-foot-4 Simashev, who drew into 18 KHL games in his draft year. Fleet of foot and physical when needed, Simashev is the fourth player taken at his position. Detroit will be pleased if he eventually slots in behind Simon Edvinsson on the left side.

Gabe Perreault, LW, USNTDP U-18

The Jets select the best player available. Perreault set a record for most points in a single season by a U.S. national program player in his draft year, with an eye-popping 132 in 63 total games. The son of former NHLer Yanic and brother to Ducks prospect Jacob, Perreault gets high marks in the hockey IQ and playmaking categories. He can finish his own scoring chances as well.

Samuel Honzek, LW, Vancouver (WHL)

Honzek is another gem to come out of the rapidly improving Slovak development system. A rangy, competitive, 6-foot-4 winger with good speed and two-way ability, he could be the ultimate complement to Bedard one day.

Quentin Musty, LW, Sudbury (OHL)

Musty is among the most enticing high-upside swings in the back half of the opening round thanks to his immense skill and power forward frame. The New York native was on pace for 100 OHL points this past season before getting injured in January. The Kraken are quite familiar with Musty's game, seeing as he manned the opposite wing of Seattle prospect David Goyette.

Eduard Sale, LW, Brno (Czech Extraliga)

Headlined by Marco Rossi, Brock Faber, and Jesper Wallstedt, the Wild's prospect pool is superbly talented and well-rounded. They get deeper on the wing by adding Czechia's top 18-year-old. The 6-foot-2 Sale shines and coasts in spurts, but at his best, he can strain defenses as a shooter, dangler, speedster, or passer through tight windows.

Oliver Bonk, D, London (OHL)

Bonk, a fairly safe choice here, complements the Flyers' bet on Michkov. He's a right-shot blue-liner with offensive skills, an active stick, and a strong gap. The son of longtime NHLer Radek is a projected top-four NHL defenseman.

Riley Heidt, C, Prince George (WHL)

Heidt is a polarizing prospect, but there's no denying his ceiling. His incredible hands and vision allowed him to tear up the WHL with 72 assists this season, tying Bedard for the league lead. Nice value for New York.

Andrew Cristall, LW, Kelowna (WHL)

Incoming GM Barry Trotz wants his scouting staff to take swings on high-end talent, and nobody fits that description quite like Cristall at this stage of the first round. Only outscored on a per-game basis by Bedard among CHLers in the class, Cristall is arguably the most divisive prospect this year with his immense offensive potential but lackluster skating and small frame. The Preds prove Trotz's statement of intent was no bluff with this upside swing.

Daniil But, LW, Yaroslavl (MHL)

Nifty with the puck for a 6-foot-5 behemoth, But is a natural finisher who beats goalies from distance. He netted 35 goals in 81 games over the past two Russian junior seasons. But skated in 15 KHL contests in 2022-23, suggesting he could compete against men for most or all of next year.

Mikhail Gulyayev, D, Omskie (MHL)

Gulyayev is a smart, undersized defenseman who put up 25 points in 22 games in Russia's top junior league. He's a menace in transition thanks to his advanced skating and puck skills. The main reason Gulyayev is still around at No. 24: his size. However, the Sharks gladly scoop him up to pair with Smith.

Calum Ritchie, C, Oshawa (OHL)

The Avalanche really need a long-term second-line center behind Nathan MacKinnon. While this pick doesn't fill that void immediately, it gives Colorado someone in the pipeline who could eventually be that guy. The 6-foot-2 Ritchie has all the tools to be a top-six pivot, he just lacks the necessary consistency at times. At No. 27, rolling the dice on someone with his upside is a worthwhile gamble.

Otto Stenberg, LW, Frolunda (SHL)

Stenberg revitalized his stock with a terrific U18s, matching William Nylander's single-tournament scoring record for a Swede. After an underwhelming season in the Frolunda system, the hope is that his underage campaign and international results are the true Stenberg, not the player who was outscored by two other draft-eligible skaters on his U20 team. Possessing an exhilarating shot, Stenberg makes for a mighty fine first pick of the Brad Treliving era, even if Toronto's new GM isn't involved in the selection process.

Lukas Dragicevic, D, Tri-City (WHL)

The Blues' first-round haul is balanced. They add a center in Danielson, a winger in But, and a right-handed defenseman in Dragicevic, the playmaker who compiled a 27-game point streak in the WHL. Dragicevic's puck poise and prowess as a power-play quarterback are worth betting on in this range.

Gavin Brindley, RW, Michigan (NCAA)

Brindley has "future Carolina Hurricane" written all over him. The Florida native is a speedy forechecker whose compete level is off the charts. Brindley had a great first year in the NCAA, collecting 38 points in 41 games while playing against older and bigger competition (he's 5-foot-8, 168 pounds).

David Edstrom, C, Frolunda (SHL)

It might be tough for the Canadiens to pass up QMJHL product Ethan Gauthier here, but Edstrom is one of the few pure centers in this draft. He doesn't dazzle offensively, but he's 6-foot-3 and skates very well, putting him in the mold of a two-way pivot such as the Wild's Joel Eriksson Ek.

Bradly Nadeau, LW, Penticton (BCHL)

A two-time BCHL champion, Nadeau has one of the best shots in the class. He tallied 62 goals in 71 games across the regular season and playoffs, capturing the league and postseason MVP awards in the process. The University of Maine commit is a boom-or-bust swing. He's a worthwhile pick for Vegas, which has only one prospect taken in the first round in the pipeline.

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