The 2023 NHL Draft is still very far away but because there are two potential generational talents in next year’s draft, I think it is worth doing a very early preview of the 2023 NHL Draft, focused primarily on Connor Bedard and Matvei Michkov, and this could be the best 1-2 in the draft since Ovechkin-Malkin.
The 2023 NHL Draft is loaded with top-end talent, which includes the likes of Connor Bedard, Matvei Michkov, Adam Fantilli, Dalibor Dvorsky, and Brayden Yager. Most of the hype has been focused on Bedard and Michkov, but don’t sleep on the other three players I mentioned, because they all have the potential to be stars in the league. In the case of Bedard and Michkov, they have been dominating their competition, and are the two players that stick out the most in this draft.
Connor Bedard has been under the spotlight since he was granted exceptional status as a 14-year-old to play in the WHL for the Regina Pats. In doing so, Bedard became just the 7th player to be granted exceptional status, joining the likes of Connor McDavid, John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, and Shane Wright. Since being drafted by Regina, Bedard has done nothing but dominate the WHL, as in his Rookie year, he scored 12 goals and 28 points in just 15 games. Bedard made his presence known on the international scene, as he put up a whopping 7 goals and 14 points in 7 games in the WJC U18s, as a 15-year-old, and even broke McDavid’s records in the U18s. This season with the Regina Pats, Bedard put up 51 goals and 100 points in 62 games, and also served as the team’s alternate. Bedard was named Captain for the team and claimed a second-place finish at the 2022 U18s, where he put up 7 points in 4 games. Bedard was the seventh 16-year-old to be selected to play for Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship, joining the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Eric Lindros, Jason Spezza, Jay Bouwmeester, Sidney Crosby, and Connor McDavid.
Make no mistake about it, Connor Bedard is a Superstar in the maker, he has that it factor and has supreme confidence when he has the puck on his stick. He is a player who is capable of completely changing the fortunes of a franchise, and can make other players around him better. What stands out to me about Bedard is his shot and how quick he can get his shot off while not even breaking stride, but you also can’t overlook his playmaking ability. Like most superstars, Bedard can play at different gears and can shift to a different gear than most players just aren’t capable of. People like to make the comparison of Bedard to McDavid, but their playstyles aren’t that similar, Bedard is more of a scorer than McDavid, and is a past first player, while Bedard has a short first mentality, and would be more comparable to Auston Matthews in playstyle, but he is not big and strong as Matthews is. Connor Bedard really shouldn’t be compared to any current player, because ultimately he is good enough to be the next superstar in the league and forge his own legacy.
The Other superstar talent in this draft is Matvei Michkov, arguably the best Russian player to come out of Russia since Alex Ovechkin, which is saying a lot. Michkov is special, he has dominated the Russian Junior ranks in ways that are uncommon, and as a 17-year-old tore up the MHL, which is absurd. Michkov made his name known to the hockey world when he dominated the Russian U16 league, scoring 70 goals and 109 points in 26 games, which is a 2.69 goals per game average and a 4.19 Points per game average. Michkov was clearly too good to stay in the junior ranks, so he started to play in the MHL as a 16-year-old, and still was dominant; he had 35 goals and 52 points in 50 games, as well as 3 points in 5 playoff games playing with SKA-1946 St. Petersburg. With Russian at the U18s, he was utterly dominant,
and was Russia’s best player in the tournament; he scored a whopping 12 goals and 16 points in 7 games. Michkov continued to be dominant in the 2021-22 season in the MHL ranks;
he scored 22 goals and 38 points in 22 games, then 13 goals and 17 points in 17 playoff games, helping SKA-1946 St. Petersburg win the Championship.
Michkov is a superstar in the making, he always seems to be steps ahead of plays, due to his superb Hockey IQ, world-class hands, and his unreal release on his shot. If you watch him play on film, always seems to be making his opponents look like complete fools and his confidence to do highly skilled moves under pressure with very little time, is what will make him a superstar. Michkov would seriously be in the consideration to be the first overall pick if he wasn’t committed to SKA St. Petersburg until the 2025-26 season, but because of that and because of the other generational talent in this draft, there really should be no debate about who goes number 1 overall.
Don’t overlook Adam Fantilli from the Chicago Steel of the USHL, who will be attending the University of Michigan in 2022-23. Fantilli is a big center, at 6’3, 192, and is also in the discussion to go number 1 although he’s more likely to compete with Michkov for the 2nd overall pick. Adam Fantilli has the potential to be the next great power forward in the league, and he rounds out the three-headed monster at the top of the 2023 draft. Fantilli is equally as dynamic and explosive as Bedard or Michkov, he’s a ferocious buck battler and electric goal scorer,
and he has one distinct advantage over Bedard and Michkov, size and strength. Fantilli was the USHL’s leading goal-scorer as a draft-minus-one player, with his 1.39 points per game outpacing all but Jack Hughes, Auston Matthews, and Jack Eichel for his age group in the past 10 years. Prospects like Fantilli don’t come around every draft. He’s a unique combination of explosiveness and finesse, overwhelming defenders with strength, speed, and handling skills.
Every game, he leaves behind him a path of destruction – and his desire to combine his skill and physicality only seems to increase. Had Bedard and Michkov not been prospects for this draft, Fantilli would be the clear-cut number 1 pick, but because there are just two superstar talents that are clearly at another level than him, he a safe bet for the third pick, unless something significant changes during this year.
Slovakian Center, Dalibor Dvorsky and Moose Jaw Center, Brayden Yager round out the top 5 prospects in the 2023 NHL Draft. Dvorsky had 20 goals, 40 points in 33 regular-season games, and 6 points in 6 playoff games with AIK’s team in Sweden’s junior league. Dvorsky was a standout for Slovakia at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he scored 8 goals in the tournament, helping the team win the silver medal. He will need some seasoning, but in time, Dvorsky has shown the potential to be a star in the NHL because of his elite vision and hockey sense. Yager had 34 goals, 59 points in 63 regular-season games, and 7 points in 10 WHL playoff games with Moose Jaw this season. He led all WHL 16-year-old players in goals, points, and game-winning goals (6) while finishing with a share of the lead among his age group in PP points (11). With some development, Yager has the potential to be a goal-scoring winger at the NHL level.
With a quick glance at the 2023 NHL Draft, we can see that the draft is loaded with high-end offensive talent, which may change the dynamic of the league for a long time. Connor Bedard and Matvei Michkov had been marketed as rivals for a while now, so it would make sense for them to go 1-2 in the draft, and hopefully, they could have a rivalry similar to that of Crosby and Ovechkin, although not likely.
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