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B/R’s Preliminary 2023 NHL Draft Rankings: Connor Bedard and the Remainder of the Prime 5

Adam HermanMay 8, 2023B/R’s Initial 2023 NHL Draft Rankings: Connor Bedard and the Rest of the Top 5 0 of 5Minas Panagiotakis/Getty ImagesThe 2023 NHL draft is expected to feature one of the best classes in recent memory.The grand prize? Connor Bedard, a 17-year-old phenom considered to be a generational-level prospect on the level of

B/R’s Preliminary 2023 NHL Draft Rankings: Connor Bedard and the Remainder of the Prime 5

Adam HermanCould 8, 2023

B/R’s Preliminary 2023 NHL Draft Rankings: Connor Bedard and the Remainder of the Prime 5

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    HALIFAX, CANADA - DECEMBER 31:  Connor Bedard #16 of Team Canada skates during the second period against Team Sweden in the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship at Scotiabank Centre on December 31, 2022 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Team Canada defeated Team Sweden 5-1.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

    Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Photos

    The 2023 NHL draft is anticipated to characteristic the most effective courses in current reminiscence.

    The grand prize? Connor Bedard, a 17-year-old phenom thought-about to be a generational-level prospect on the extent of Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.

    Forward of Monday evening’s NHL draft lottery, we’re unveiling the primary version of Bleacher Report’s NHL draft rankings.

    Agree or disagree with our assessments? Pontificate on them within the feedback part of the B/R app.

    Gamers’ statistics, heights and weights through Elite Prospects.

1. Connor Bedard, C, Regina Pats (WHL)

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    The highlight put a threatening glow on Bedard this season. Thought of the perfect prospect since Connor McDavid in 2015, Bedard had a litany of gamers behind him who in another season is perhaps thought-about for the primary decide. Any falloff may have created doubt about his skill to deal with the immense strain of expectations.

    He did not even flinch. Bedard posted 71 objectives and 72 assists in 57 video games for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League. His 2.51 factors per recreation have been the very best by a WHL participant of any age since Ray Whitney’s 2.57 in 1991.

    His 23 factors in seven video games for Canada on the 2023 World Junior Championship topped the leaderboard, with USA’s Logan Cooley (final 12 months’s No. 3 general draft decide) a distant second with 14. Actually, it was the fourth-highest complete by any participant on the match all-time and simply the perfect by a draft-eligible participant. The Vancouver resident beat out the earlier file of 18 held by Jaromir Jagr (additionally in seven video games).

    Bedard’s palms are what make him a generational expertise. Merely put, he is among the greatest shooters hockey has ever seen. His shot launch is easy. He has zero inform and casually hits the corners of the web with velocity.

    His secret is that he would not want house. He assaults the center lane and rifles off a shot the very second a lane turns into accessible to him. His small measurement (5’10”, 185 kilos) truly turns into a bonus on this manner as he simply must discover a small pocket to skate into after which the slimmest of capturing lanes. Bedard will push or pull the puck to the toe or heel of his blade to vary the angle and shoot in a flash.

    Defenders usually really feel compelled to mark him tightly, as even a window of house means hazard. However doing so can also be perilous. Bedard is a superb stickhandler who beats defenders with intelligent maneuvers and informal evasiveness. He alters the angle of assault the second he sniffs out a defender about to make an aggressive attain for the puck and navigates round them.

    Even the perfect makes an attempt to defend him are largely futile. Bedard is the uncommon type of shooter for whom there is no such thing as a such factor as a low-danger shot. He beats goaltenders from dangerous angles with regularity.

    This goal-scoring skill serves as the inspiration for an nearly equally spectacular knack for organising teammates. Groups can not defend him as they’d another participant, which creates all types of tears of their defensive construction. Bedard creates these breakdowns after which exploits them.

    Adam Herman @AdamZHerman

    Here is the facility of Connor Bedard. Everyone seems to be so afraid of his shot {that a} ahead abandons his project to remove his house to shoot.

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    Bedard sees this and has the poise to saucer cross it to his teammate backdoor for a simple end.

    He has little bodily recreation to talk of and has work to do defensively. That latter level will probably be notably essential on condition that he performs middle. He is by no means going to be an entire participant like a Sidney Crosby. Bedard is so good offensively that the weaker factors of his recreation are write-offs.

    It is easy to get wrapped up in draft hype—notably with a draft class as robust as this one—however with Bedard, there is no such thing as a such factor as getting carried away. So long as he stays dedicated and results in a wholesome setting, Bedard ought to have an extended profession during which he’s difficult for the league lead in objectives and factors perennially.

2. Adam Fantilli, C, College of Michigan (NCAA)

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    Here’s a shining instance of how rebuilding an NHL group requires luck as a lot as the rest. Some group that loses the Connor Bedard sweepstakes will nonetheless land a participant that the lottery winners in each 2022 and 2021 want had been accessible to them at first general.

    With Fantilli, the opposition has a greater thought of what he’s about to do however is helpless in stopping him. There aren’t any actual flaws to his recreation bodily.

    Those that can sustain with the 6’2″, 187-pound Canadian usually lack the power to take care of him bodily. He assaults the center lane and pushes by way of like a linebacker bursting by way of an offensive line.

    Fantilli is unpredictable with the puck. His wrist shot is highly effective, and the left-hander picks his corners. On the facility play, he units up in the fitting circle for one-timers. He’ll carry the puck to the web entrance and rating from in-tight with smooth palms. With capturing as his base, Fantilli will promote the shot to misdirect the protection and slip the puck to a teammate down low for tap-ins.

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    The Michigan freshman produced one of many biggest seasons within the historical past of NCAA hockey. His 1.81 factors per recreation (from 65 factors in 36 video games) is probably the most by a draft-eligible participant since Maine’s Paul Kariya in 1992-93, and Fantilli scored extra objectives (30) than Kariya (25) in three fewer video games. Over the previous 20 NCAA seasons, Fantilli has the second-best PPG price of any under-20 participant; solely a 19-year-old Kyle Connor produced higher (1.87) seven seasons in the past for the Wolverines.

    Fantilli may make a profession on offense alone. That’s all of the extra cause he deserves reward for his all-around recreation. Fantilli is a heavy forechecker and ferocious hitter. He is a laborious backchecker who comes under his personal objective line to assist the play and helps create turnovers and zone exits.

    And it is not simply that he’s in a position to play the penalty kill; he’s implausible in that function. He takes away lanes, forces turnovers and is a menace to create offense.

    Irrespective of the state of affairs, Fantilli nonetheless holds up. Faceoffs? Fantilli is 52.9 % on the dot, per InStat. Want some hearth and fervour? Fantilli will deliver vitality throughout a lull within the recreation or get right into a chirping match after whistles. His solely severe problem is a propensity for attempting to do an excessive amount of at occasions and make a hero play with the puck. It is a widespread drawback for a proficient younger participant who simply moved to a better stage of competitors.

    Fantilli isn’t the perfect participant within the draft, however he’s probably the most full. He’ll be a bona fide first-line middle within the NHL who thrives in each state of affairs.

3. Matvei Michkov, LW/RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)

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    Here’s a sentence I don’t write evenly: Matvei Michkov is the perfect draft-eligible winger the NHL has seen since 2007, when Chicago chosen Patrick Kane first general.

    Michkov is at his greatest when he is beginning alongside the partitions or behind the web and is a menace to create even from these ostensibly low-danger positions. He is a high-end playmaker who penetrates the center lanes and finds teammates in scoring areas.

    He doesn’t hesitate to hold the puck into the offensive zone even when he’s alone towards a number of defenders. Regardless of the mismatch, Michkov normally maintains possession lengthy sufficient for teammates to hitch him. The Russian winger is the draft’s greatest stickhandler, and it is on this manner that Michkov’s 5’10”, 148-pound body truly turns into a bonus; with brief arms and a low middle of gravity, Michkov maneuvers round defenders with ease even when he is seemingly backed right into a nook.

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    Adam Herman @AdamZHerman

    It is a small play however take a look at how 5 gamers in yellow stare at Matvei Michkov in possession and shut down on him.

    The second-best league on the earth is frightened of an 18-year-old.

    Michkov is not a bodily participant, however he is energetic in stick battles. Whereas he is not going handy out many hits, he doesn’t draw back from contact, both. He’s robust on the waist and within the legs, and opposing gamers battle to knock him off the puck.

    Let’s put his season in perspective. Michkov tallied 9 objectives and 11 assists in 27 video games with Sochi of the KHL (plus three with dad or mum membership St. Petersburg), which is way and away the league’s best-ever displaying by a first-time draft-eligible participant. Michkov’s 0.67 factors per recreation ranks above what Artemi Panarin, Vladimir Tarasenko, Kirill Kaprizov and Pavel Buchnevich tallied of their age-19 seasons.

    When watching him play, it is onerous to overlook the similarities between him and gamers like Panarin and Nikita Kucherov. Like Panarin, he creates zone entries in unimaginable conditions and reveals unimaginable playmaking skill. Like Kucherov, he’s a deadly capturing menace. There may be each cause to imagine Michkov will probably be a celebrity simply as these two are—perhaps higher.

    In addition to his skating and protection, the largest concern with Michkov is his availability. Russia’s struggle with Ukraine has created quite a few geopolitical penalties which are bleeding into hockey. Even with out that, Michkov is beneath contract with St. Petersburg for 3 extra seasons. The earliest Michkov’s drafting group will see him is the spring of 2026.

    However we’re speaking a couple of uncommon participant who ought to have the ability to give his drafting group 10-15 years of superstardom. Michkov is the perfect Russian prospect since Evgeni Malkin in 2005. If not for the off-ice context, he’d be the second participant on this checklist with out hesitation. If he does fall due to optics and/or logistics, then it may be a franchise-changing second for whoever decides to make the leap.

4. Leo Carlsson, C/LW, Örebro (SHL)

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    Leo Carlsson is B/R's No. 4 prospect for the 2023 NHL Draft.

    Leo Carlsson is B/R’s No. 4 prospect for the 2023 NHL Draft.Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Photos

    Bedard, Fantilli and Michkov have been locked in because the draft’s three greatest prospects earlier than the season started. The fourth spot is the place the draft seems vast open.

    Leo Carlsson beats out heavy competitors due to one of the crucial spectacular seasons by a Swede in current reminiscence. The Örebro ahead tallied 10 objectives and 15 assists in 44 regular-season video games, which places him tied for ninth general by factors per recreation since 1990. Higher but, he performed a few of his greatest hockey for Örebro through the playoffs, amassing 9 factors in 13 video games.

    It may be straightforward to neglect Carlsson’s age. The left-hander is a intelligent stickhandler given his measurement (6’3″, 194 kilos). He makes use of his size nicely to carry the puck away from defenders or get round them. Though he is not a very agile skater, he navigates round defenders with modifications of route with the puck.

    Carlsson is predominantly a playmaker within the offensive zone. When he is at his greatest, he is transferring the puck nearly as shortly as he receives it. He has robust spatial consciousness and is aware of his passing choices previous to receiving the puck. In consequence, he is usually making fast one-two passing performs to seek out teammates in open areas faster than the protection can modify for.

    Carlsson lacks actual capturing skill. The objectives he does rating come from smooth palms across the web.

    Whereas at occasions he makes use of his measurement nicely, there are different moments the place he seems underripe. He may be leveraged out of puck battles and unsuccessful when attempting to tie up a puck-carrier.

    Though he performed on the wing for Örebro, Carlsson has performed middle on the junior stage, and that is the place the place his drafting group ought to initially goal to develop him. His excessive hockey IQ and playmaking skills in the course of the ice make him projectable at middle. No matter whether or not he finally ends up, Carlsson tasks as a first-line playmaker who thrives on the facility play.

5. Zach Benson, LW, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)

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    Benson stood out final season within the WHL by holding tempo with the Ice’s different prime gamers; amongst them have been Matthew Savoie (drafted ninth general in 2022) and Connor Geekie (eleventh).

    The 5’10”, 159-pound winger managed to do even higher this season as Winnipeg’s greatest participant, main the group with 98 factors in 60 video games. Benson drives possession in a lot of totally different eventualities however is at his greatest when he is pushing the tempo. Along with his mixture of straight-line velocity and talent to vary instructions expeditiously, Benson is ready to create and assault open ice.

    Benson additionally makes sound selections with the puck. When Benson is within the offensive zone, he’s formidable and decisive. When he finds a capturing lane, the left-hander takes it. When he dishes the puck to a teammate, he is instantly transferring to the subsequent spot to get open for a return cross.

    However he could make performs in different methods as nicely. When missing choices, Benson can gradual the sport down and maintain up the puck. He is efficient within the cycle, regardless of his measurement, due to his tenacity and stickwork.

    Benson is a real twin menace within the offensive zone as a passer and shooter who can create from the perimeter but additionally rating in high-traffic areas.

    He will not get the complete credit score he deserves due to his measurement, however Benson is an entire winger. He is dogged on the forecheck and backcheck. He fights for pucks and makes up for lack of power by creating leverage along with his stick, working onerous within the defensive finish and forcing turnovers on the blue line.

    Benson is not going to flip 18 till Could 12; the British Columbia resident is among the youthful gamers within the draft and will have extra room for progress. As a result of he already thinks the sport at a excessive stage, Benson will probably be NHL-ready as soon as his physique catches up.

    “Benson goes to be a high-end choice maker with two-way utility the second he steps into the league,” one NHL scout instructed Bleacher Report. “He is so bodily uncooked that that may take a few years, however he will be a legit driver proper off the hop.”

    On this manner, Benson is one thing of a step down from the 4 names above him on this board; all of these gamers are both on the precipice or instantly able to step onto NHL ice. However, Benson is immensely proficient and has the entire instruments to turn into a first-line, possession-driving winger within the NHL.

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