Here are some Under the-Radar players/Underrated Players in the 2023 NHL Draft.
1. Riley Heidt, Prince George Cougars, WHL
Even as a 16-year-old player last season, Riley Heidt was already arguably the best player on the Prince George Cougars of the WHL. Despite finishing last season with 21 goals and 58 points in 65 regular season games, as well as with a point per game in the playoffs, Heidt aims to be even more consistent in his draft year and develop into a reliable go-to guy for the club. Riley helped Canada win Gold at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he scored 3 goals and 6 points in 5 games. Heidt has already shown his ability to be an excellent 200 ft center, who can play in any situation and is excellent in the faceoff circle. Heidt will be able to excel at the NHL level because he processes the game at a very high level, he’s always in the right position, and he is also a very hard-working player who is willing to battle in the trenches. Riley Heidt is so under the radar in the draft, barely anyone is talking about him but I think he has some traits that are comparable to Patrice Bergeron. Not saying that he will be Bergeron, but Heidt can be an effective two-way player that excels in the faceoff dot and plays in all situations.
2. Daniil But, Loko Yaroslavl, MHL
Daniil But is a big and skilled, Russian Winger who is getting severely overlooked because of the Russian factor and because he plays in the MHL, which is the equivalent of the minors to the KHL. But was also a member of Russia when they won Gold at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in 2021. At 6’4/198, he has the size to be a prototypical power forward, but he plays more with finesse, so it never seems like he is 6’4. But was dominant at Russian Nationals in 2021, and served as the Captain of the team, he put up 2 points per game in the 7 games he played in the tournament. Someone is going to get a really phenomenal hockey player in Daniil But in the 2nd or even third round because teams are afraid to take Russian players no matter how skilled they are. Daniil But has first-round talent, but because of the political climate right now, he may not be drafted until late in the second round.
3. Cameron Johnson, Chilliwack Chiefs, BCHL
Cameron Johnson is a small but dynamic forward, who dazzles every time he has the puck on his stick. The University of Harvard Commit is a point-scoring machine and he has been at every level he has played at. After scoring 11 points in 20 games in his first season with the Chilliwack Chiefs, Johnson scored 25 goals and 65 points in the regular season as well as 9 points in 11 playoff games. Cameron was also awarded the Bob Fenton Trophy, which is awarded to the BCHL’s most Sportsmanlike Player. Although the is less concern about smaller players being able to succeed at the NHL level, his lack of size and strength and there are also some concerns to defend against bigger players at the next level. As we have seen with players like Johnny Gaudreau, Alex DeBrincat, and Cole Caufield, Cameron Johnson to has the potential be a good top 6 winger at the next level, however, because he plays in the BCHL and is undersized, he will be glossed over and may end up falling to the 4th or even 5th round.
4. Noah Erliden, HV71 J20, J20 Nationell
Noah Erliden spent last season with the HV71 J18 Region and Nationell clubs; with the Region team, he was dominant, putting up a 14-3-0 record, along with a 2.44 GAA and .907 SV%. Noah was promoted to the Nationell team, where he still thrived, putting up a 9-5 record, a 2.64 GAA, .917 SV% in the regular season, then a 2.10 GAA and .928 SV% in 7 playoff games. For his performance, Noah was named J18 Best U18 Goaltender. Erliden made his name known on the international scene for Sweden at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. In that tournament, he was flawless, with a 3-1 record, a 2.53 GAA and .915, backstopping the team to a silver medal. Without Erliden’s steadiness in the Swedish crease, they may have never had the opportunity to pull away, and they might not have been able to survive a tough match out against Slovakia, stopping 32 of 33 shots. The 5-foot-10 netminder battled hard throughout the game, with a run of saves through the middle half of period one that could have easily allowed the Slovaks to get out to a lead. There is no doubt about Erliden’s ability to steal games at the junior level, but his size is going to be a concern for scouts at the NHL level, with teams now looking for bigger goalies. For this reason, Erliden will be overlooked tremendously in the draft despite being better than some goalies ahead of him.
5. Dylan MacKinnon, Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL
Dylan MacKinnon is not getting the type of draft hype that he should because he does not score a whole lot, so he isn’t going to be generating a lot of pre-draft hype. MacKinnon is a defensively responsible defenseman, who plays with poise in his own end, has great positioning, and has good instincts and Defensive IQ. Dylan plays bigger than he actually is and is not afraid to throw his weight around if necessary. He has great four-way mobility and is good and skating pucks out of the defensive zone. Dylan is everything that you want in a defenseman; he is skilled, Hardworking, Intelligent, Focused, Poised, and Confident, and possesses all the intangibles to become an effective defender. Despite being listed at 6’1/175, Mackinnon is a rugged, hardnosed defenseman, who likes to play a physical brand of hockey similar to that of Shea Weber or Dustin Byfuglien, but at the same time being able to have the skating ability of a Rasmus Dahlin. While it is highly unlikely that MacKinnon ever becomes an all-star caliber defenseman, MacKinnon is capable of being a top 4 shutdown defenseman at the next level, just don’t expect him to provide any offense.
6. Arttu Karki, Tappara U20, U20 SM-sarja
Arttu Karki started at the U18 level and ended up playing top-four minutes on a playoff team in the U20 league, Kärki has been one of the risers of the season. He finished up the 2021-22 season as the best point producer among draft-minus-one defencemen in the U20 circuit by a large margin. Karki was an important part of Finland’s U20 World Junior team that took home silver in 2022 and showed flashes of his two-way ability in the tournament. Karki plays with a lot of confidence and isn’t scared to try stuff with the puck. Karki has very good hands and can even if he relies on them a bit too much at times. He could provide real value as a puck-mover defenseman, and as a potential top 4 defenseman in the future. Considering Karki is always playing against players older than him and has excelled, he should have no issue playing against men, the only question is his ability to adapt to playing defense on a smaller rink. I feel like Karki is super underrated, and most mocks have him slotted as a 3rd round pick, but if he is able to reach his potential, he should be able to be a Jacob Slavin-type defenseman in the NHL.