Here are my Preseason Player rankings for the 2023 Draft: 23-34.
Related: Preseason Rankings #11-22
23. Otto Stenberg
Otto Stenberg played for Frolunda last season, splitting time with the J18 and J20 teams. He played in 12 games in the J18 league, putting up 8 goals and 24, along with 3 goals and 5 points in 3 playoff games. With the J20 team, he played in 38 games, putting up 16 goals and 35 points, along with 2 points in 3 playoff games. Stenberg was also a part of Sweden at the U18s, where he had a solid showing, with 2 points in 6 appearances. Stenberg is a Strong skater with exceptional hands and puck control, his hockey sense and vision are off the charts which makes him a very good playmaker. Stenberg can play both center and wing but he excels playing center, as he is able to run the powerplay from the half board and use the Gretzky position from behind the net to set up teammates constantly. He was also able to win many key faceoffs, making him a reliable center to use in crucial situations. As good as Stenberg is offensively, he is mediocre defensively and has poor defensive awareness at times. Otto Stenberg has the potential to be a top 6 forward at the NHL level and should be a 1st round pick in next year’s draft.
24. Ondrej Molnar
Ondrej Molnar started the year playing for Team Slovakia, splitting time with its U20 team and the team in its Tier 2 Men’s league; then he moved to HK Nitra, where he played for both it’s U20 and Pro Men’s team. With Team Slovakia U18, he put up 7 goals and 10 points in 11 games it’s the U20 league, as well as 4 goals and 5 points in 8 games in Slovakia2 league games.
With HK Nitra, he played the majority of the season with its U20 team, putting up 13 goals and 19 points in 25 games, as well as 3 points in 3 playoff games. As a 16/17 year old player, Molnar played in 30, HK Nitra games, which is impressive considering it is a professional league. Molnar has represented Slovakia at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup the past two seasons; he put up 6 points in 5 games, helping Slovakia win a Silver Medal in 2021, followed by a less impressive 3 points in 4 games at this year’s Hlinka Gretzky tournament. Ondrej Molnar is an excellent skater with a great release on his shot and is also a gifted passer as well; this makes a threat to both shot or pass when he has the puck in the offensive zone. He has the potential to be a top 6 forward at the NHL level and could be a 1st round pick.
25. Colby Barlow
Colby Barlow was one of the top selections for the OHL Priority Selection Draft, and was drafted by Owen Sound Attack; with Owen Sound, he scored 30 goals and 47 points in 59 games, as well as 5 goals and 6 points in 7 playoff games in his rookie season. With such a dominant performance last season, Barlow earned OHL First All-Rookie team honors.
Barlow was a vital part of Canada’s Gold Medal-winning team at the Hlinka Gretzky Tournament in 2022, putting up 6 points in 5 games. Colby has unmatched speed that makes him an offensive threat; every time he gets the puck on his stick in his own zone, he possesses the skill to take it end-to-end by himself. To compliment his skating abilities, his puck control is also on a level of its own. His control of the puck at top speed is a key aspect of his game. He is hard to knock off the puck and keeps it on his stick to create unique scoring opportunities. At 6’1,190 lbs, Barlow’s size jumps out at you, most players his age need to grow and add more muscle to excel at the next level, but Barlow is one of those players that doesn’t have to do that. Barlow’s combination of skating, puck skills, and size would suggest that he should be a top 6 caliber forward at the NHL level, and most likely will be a 1st round pick.
26. William Whitelaw
William Whitelaw has been a standout with Shattuck Saint Mary’s 18U Prep since 2020-21, where he started playing when he was 15 years old. After putting up 46 goals, 64 assists, and 110 points in 55 games with Shattuck St. Mary’s, Whitelaw was selected by the Youngstown Phantoms with the 1st overall pick in the USHL draft. After getting drafted by the Youngstown Phantoms, Whitelaw only put up 3 points in 9 regular season games, but he did put up 1 point in 2 playoff games. He was a part of Team USA during the Hlinka Gretzky Cup for the 2022-23 season and put up 4 points in 4 games. William is an exceptional hockey player who possesses elite skill,
skating, and competition level; his skill and work ethic is top-notch, which will lead to a long and successful NHL career. Whitelaw is a player who can play in all situations, as he
is a reliable two-way player who will compete and give 100% effort on every shift. His work ethic and relentlessness along with his elite skill should allow him to excel at the NHL level.
He has the potential to be a top 6 forward and could be a borderline 1st round pick depending on how he performs this coming season.
27. Gavin Brindley
Gavin Brindley is committed to the University of Michigan for the 2022-23 season and was a stand out the Tri-City Storm of the USHL during the 2021-22 season, where he put up 14 goals and 42 points in 51 games, as well as 2 points in 3 playoff games. Brindley played for the US National U18 team for 15 games and put up 9 points in those games. Gavin was also a part of Team USA at the U18 WJC, where he put up 4 points and 6 games, helping USA to a Silver Medal. Brindley is a speedy forward with quick hands and puck skills and very good playmaking abilities. He has the vision and passing ability to find teammates to set them up for scoring chances routinely. There is no doubt about Gavin’s offensive capability, but scouts will question his size and strength, as he is only 5’9/157, and if he is good enough defensively to not be a liability. So it is highly likely that he will slip in the draft, but he should have the potential to be a top 6 forward at the NHL level.
28. Lukas Dragicevic
Lukas Dragicevic was a highly regarded prospect, as he was drafted 4th overall by the Tri-City Americans in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft. Dragicevic played a significant role on the Tri-City’s Blueline during the 2021-22 season, where he put up 32 points in 62 games and played in all situations. His play was good enough to land him a spot on Team Canada’s U18 WJC roster, where he put up 3 points in 4 games. Lukas is a highly skilled offensive defenseman who possesses tremendous hockey IQ and leadership skills. He’s an effortless skater with an outstanding shot and has the ability to quarterback a power play. Dragievic projects to be a top 4 offensive defenseman, who can anchor a powerplay, but I don’t expect him to be used in all situations like he was at Tri-State. With how weak this year’s crop of defensemen are, I can see Dragicevic being picked in the first round.
29. Ethan Gauthier
Ethan Gauthier rose to prominence at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he scored 6 goals and 7 points in 5 games, helping Canada win the Gold Medal. His 6 goals were good enough for most Goals in the tournament. Ethan played for the Sherbrooke Phoenix during the 2021-22 season, scoring 18 goals and 39 points in 65 games, along with 4 points in 11 playoff games. The son of former NHL defenseman, Dennis, Gauthier plays much bigger than his stature suggests. He is a gifted playmaker and is very skilled around the net. Gauthier is the type of player that all coaches would love to have on their team. Solid on his skates, he plays the game with a lot of power and intensity. Ethan has the potential to be a top 6 forward, but if he doesn’t reach the potential, he should be able to be a reliable checking line forward. His draft stock is rising because of his performance at the Hlinka Gretzkys, and if he has a great year next year, he should be a 1st round pick.
30. Koehn Zimmer
Koehn Ziemmer had a solid season for the Prince George Cougars of the WHL this past season, scoring 30 goals and 57 points in 68 games. Ziemmer has shown throughout his junior career to be a consistent goal scorer, and he has just had a knack for scoring goals. The Knock on him is that he is not a great skater, but he makes up for it with his hockey sense and knowledge of where to be in the offensive zone. Ziemmer has a bit of Mark Stone in him, and he has the potential to grow into that type of player. The strengths and weaknesses of Ziemmer is very similar to Stone, but the difference is Ziemmer actually had a more proven track record in juniors than Stone, who is more of a late bloomer and has only gotten better with experience. Koehn definitely has the potential to be a top 6 Right Winger at the NHL level and is a borderline first-round pick.
31. Jesse Nurmi
Jesse Nurmi started the year with KooKoo U18, he scored 6 goals and 8 points in 5, U18 SM-sarja games. For the majority of the year, Nurmi played with KooKoo U20, he tallied 15 goals and 30 points in 40, U20 SM-sarja games. Nurmi played for Finland at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he put up 1 point in 5 games, in their Bronze Medal finish. Jesse showed flashes of brilliance at times, showcasing his elite skating ability and puck control ability, which is the staple of his game. Perhaps what will be his ticket to being an NHL regular is his ability to be an excellent penalty killer, and be a threat short-handed, using that speed of his. Nurmi may not be the type of player who puts up a lot of points, but he has the potential to be an elite two-way forward at the NHL level, and he is a borderline first-round pick.
32 Emil Jarventie
Emil Jarventie had a solid 2021-22 season as one of the youngest players in U20 SM-sarja. He scored 13 goals and 21 points in 20 games with Ilves U20, and he also spent some time
with their U18 team, where he averaged 2 points per game in the regular season, and had 15 points in 10 playoff games. Jarventie was drafted by the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the
USHL Phase 1 Draft, where he put up 6 points in 19 games. Jarventie was a standout for Finland at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, scoring 5 points in 5 games, helping them win the Bronze medal. Emil is a player who can excel in all situations, as he thrives both on the powerplay and on the penalty kill. He skates fast both with and without the puck, being able to maintain control of the puck at high speeds. He has good touch, accuracy and firmness on his passes, and he sees openings to move the puck up the ice. Furthermore, he can both finish plays and set up his teammates for scoring chances. Jarventie has the potential to be a top 6 left winger in the NHL and is a borderline first-round pick.