NHL Draft

Quality forwards past the first round of the 2023 NHL Draft

We have covered most of the players we think will go in the top 32 during the first day of the upcoming 2023 NHL draft on Wednesday. The first round is usually where the best players come from and hold the most value, but when day two of the draft comes on Thursday, there should still be some quality players available.

Here are some names that should be enticing picks that have high potential despite not being bona fide first-round picks.

Gracyn Sawchyn

Highest Ranking: 13th

Lowest Ranking: 90th

It wouldn’t be surprising if Gracyn Sawchyn wasn’t available at the start of Day 2, but if he is, he’ll be one of, if not the best player available. Sawchyn typically ranks between the late twenties to early thirties with some placements being in the teens. He possesses many skills of a first-rounder such as his vision and creativity, motor, puck control, edgework and power of his shot.

He also has flashes of high-end skill, but they’re not frequent enough to be sure that they will amount to something. The knocks on his game come from his lack of speed and shot accuracy, as well as his inconsistent production. Sawchyn projects to at the very least be a bottom-six player with it being more likely that he’ll be playing in some team’s middle- or top-six.

Timur Mukhanov

Highest Ranking: 25th

Lowest Ranking: 152nd

Timur Mukhanov has the most interesting rankings of any player in this article as you can find him ranked in the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth round. The first thing that sticks out about Mukhanov is that he is 5’8″ playing professional hockey in his draft year. He has a lot of raw talent and flashes of high-end skill. Mukhanov has great vision and playmaking abilities that are arguably near the top of the class.

To go with that, he has a several other good traits such as his skating, hands, forechecking and hockey IQ. Unlucky is a word that may be used to describe Mukhanov as he provided many quality chances, but could not get a point. His size and inability to create space for himself may hold him back, but he should still at least make the NHL as bottom-six power-play specialist with top-six upside.

Alex Ciernik

Highest Ranking: 36th

Lowest Ranking: 93rd

Alex Ciernik is one of those players you’ll see when someone is trying to create a hot take about this draft and it’s for good reason. Ciernik has the talents of a player who has a successful career in the NHL. He has quick speed that is complemented by his acceleration and edgework. His hands are also able to move just as fast as his feet and it allows him to create nifty plays.

All of this is wrapped together by his solid shot and passing. Ciernik has fallen victim to some very frustrating moments as he’ll take low-quality chances over high-quality due to his unwillingness to push for the latter. His size also causes some problems of being outmuscled and not being able to be deployed in plays he’d excel in. Ciernik somewhat screams boom or bust prospect, but if you hit that boom, you are getting a very good player.

Luca Pinelli

Highest Ranking: 37th

Lowest Ranking: 86th

Luca Pinelli is looking to follow in his brother’s (Francesco) footsteps and be drafted by a NHL team. Luca should and will get drafted as he has top-six potential, but probably won’t be more than a second line guy. Pinelli is an intelligent player, he reads the ice well and knows how to attack in the offensive zone. He is consistent with his pace of play and motor and coaches will love it.

Goal scoring is something Pinelli is good at and he possesses a pretty good shot. His skating is around average and the explosiveness he does not have holds him back. A bigger concern with Pinelli is his current lack of true high-end skill and is where the limited ceiling comes from.

Felix Unger Sorum

Highest Ranking: 37th

Lowest Ranking: 109th

One of the youngest players in this draft is Felix Unger Sorum. Unger Sorum really sticks out when it comes to his creativity, vision, and playmaking. He’s really strong at making passes to the slot and generating high-danger chances because of it as well as being a good passer in transition. Highlight reel plays such as lacrosse goals have been seen due to his creativity. His creativity also allows him to be nifty and deceptive and cause defenders to be confused.

There is some concern with his skating as his separation speed stops him from being a complete threat offensively and his smaller size makes him easier to push around, but hopefully his age will allow him to improve these two weaknesses. If he makes the NHL, Unger Sorum should be a skilled middle-six forward with potential to be in a top-six.

Denver Barkey

Highest Ranking: 38th

Lowest Ranking: 81st

Denver Barkey is a really fun and intriguing prospect as he’s 5’8″ and 174lbs but plays like he’s 6’3″ and 200+ lbs. Barkey is really skilled at pulling defenders. He uses this skill to create space for his teammates, cut to the middle of the ice, and to forecheck. Positioning himself for different types of plays such as give and goes, drive to the nets, one timers, etc., is something that Barkey excels at.

His whole game is rounded out by his solid shot, passing, and defensive game. His stride could use some work but it won’t necessarily hold him back. Barkey projects to at least be a bottom-six forward, possibly a top-six guy.

Yegor Klimovich

Highest Ranking: 53rd

Lowest Ranking: 200th

Yegor Klimovich has the biggest difference between his lowest and highest ranking out of anyone in this piece with the two rankings being 147 picks apart. I tend to agree with Klimovich being ranked later in the draft. He has very attractive production with 49 points and 19 goals in 36 MHL games. That production is similar to an earlier round pick, but he doesn’t necessarily have the skillset to back it up.

Klimovich is speedy and not only does he use that speed offensively, he also uses it defensively. He has a knack to outwork his opponents and steal the puck. Klimovich also has a good set of hands that he uses to create chances. Besides that, Klimovich has a lacklustre shot, some average playmaking abilities, and size that can hold him back.

Klimovich has the potential to be a useful player in the NHL but it will take time and some good development. For that reason, I probably wouldn’t take Klimovich until about the late third, maybe fourth round, but after that he could be a pick with some very good value.

Aiden Fink

Highest Ranking: 72nd

Lowest Ranking: 132nd

Aiden Fink won AJHL MVP after having a tremendous campaign putting 97 points in 54 games. Fink’s season saw him be ranked in the mid rounds of the draft and could be a quality selection. Fink definitely has skill shown with his crafting passes, versatile shot, quick hands, and overall deceptiveness. He also has good secondary abilities such as his forechecking and net-driving.

His projection is hard to make as his size and at best average skating paired with playing in a lower-level junior league raise questions about his ability to transition to the NHL level. It’ll come down to how his next few seasons go as he will be playing in the NCAA and he could really show just how good he is. Fink would be a decent selection in the second round, but a quality pick in any round after it.

Zeb Forsfjall

Highest Ranking: 77th

Lowest Ranking: 141st

Zeb Forsfjall is a prospect I probably like more than other people, whether it’s because of his cool name or just him as a player. Forsfjall is a smaller, hard-working, two-way forward with good skating. His skating helps him be strong in transition whether it’s because of his speed or his four-way mobility.

His game seems to already be quite mature as he made the SHL at 17 and is trusted to play against higher competition. He shows flashes of higher playmaking but it’s limited due to his unwillingness to stray away from perimeter hockey. I think Forsfjall probably makes it to the NHL as a bottom-six player, but some development and more trust in his abilities could see him play in the middle-six.

Andrei Loshko

Highest Ranking: 89th

Lowest Ranking: 218th

Andrei Loshko steps out as a really mature two-way forward. His coaches usually deployed him as the shutdown guy against opposing teams’ top lines and he took that role and still put up over a point per game in the QMJHL this season. Nothing about Loshko’s game is really below-average, but nothing is really above-average either.

The only trait that sticks out is his hockey IQ and smarts. He has good awareness in both the offensive and defensive zones and that gives him his projectability. If he makes the NHL, he probably won’t be anything more than a third line centre and likely a fourth line guy.

Final thoughts

The Flames need to desperately have a good draft after the past few have been weak. They could realistically walk out of the draft with a couple of these forwards and that would be huge for them. All of these players vary, some are low-ceiling with high floors, some have raw talent needing to be developed, some are boom or bust, and other look to be guaranteed NHLers so preference can play a massive role.

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