Day 1 of the 2023 NHL Draft has come and gone. This draft has been said to be one of the deepest in history so it was destined to be an interesting day and it definitely was. The day was obviously headlined by generational talent, Connor Bedard, who unsurprisingly went first overall. Selections were all over the place, some being extremely surprising and others being the safe pick. If not for those surprises, the night would’ve been incredibly boring as no trades were made for the first time since 2007. With all that out of the way, let’s breakdown the first day of the draft.
The overall biggest riser was selected near the end of the round by the Toronto Maple Leafs with pick 28. Easton Cowan of the London Knights heard his name called and went from a projected second- to third-round to an actual first-round selection. Cowan was such an off-the-board pick that he did not make the top 85 in TWC’s consolidated rankings. Cowan is a smaller-sized winger who will bring solid playmaking abilities and a hard-working motor to the Leafs.
Now the highest climber that actually made our consolidated rankings is Swedish defenceman, Tom Willander. Willander jumped up a great 43 spots going from 54th in our rankings to 11th in the actual draft. An interesting shutdown defender is what Willander is. He has strong skating, fast speed that’s paired with good edgework. He uses that skating and his physical strength the lock down the ice and stop opposing attacks from generating.
Another riser in the first round was Russian forward, Daniil But. But comes with a blistering shot that highlights his game. He possesses other offensive skills such as passing, a silky set of hands, and a solid sense for the game. But also uses his frame to bring decent physicality. In our consolidated rankings, But was ranked 30th and in the draft, he saw himself go 12th to the Arizona Coyotes.
A few other defencemen mark themselves as high risers after the first round. Dmitri Simashev, a smooth skating, big, defensive defenceman with two-way potential went from being ranked 19th to sixth overall. Then came Oliver Bonk, a strong shutdown defenceman who likes guaranteed to play NHL games. The safeness of him saw him rise from 38th to 22nd.
Finally was another Swedish defenceman, Theo Lindstein. Lindstein was a top talent in this draft a few years ago, but a couple of bad seasons saw his stock fall. He has nice skating and projectable two-way ability. Banking on a bounce bank saw him go from 50th to 31st.
Something that was really surprising from the night was some of the fallers in the draft.
To start, Andrew Cristall, a super-talented and creative winger wasn’t even selected. Concerns over his skating, size, and rough second half are likely reasons that may have led to this. Our consolidated rankings had Cristall at seventh, so even though we don’t know his draft ranking yet, he will have dropped a minimum of 26 spots.
Another player who has yet to be drafted, but at the minimum will fall a decent amount is USHL winger, Jayden Perron. Perron is an under-sized forward who brings some crazy good hands, well-built passing tools, and a high IQ. Factors that have probably played into his dropping are his already mentioned, small size and skating problems. Perron was found at 20th in April and has now fallen at least 13 picks.
Now moving on to fallers who have been drafted, we’ll start with Seattle Kraken selection, Eduard Sale. Sale at some point was considered one of the best prospects in this draft, shown by being ranked 10th in our rankings. Sale is super skilled, but his inconsistent drive to play and his rough production after the Hlinka Gretzky Cup both played a part in his fall. Add in that there is some uncertainty about his translatability and the drop makes some sense. He eventually went 20th overall, dropping him 10 spots.
The other player who dropped a solid amount and was drafted so far, was Russian defender, Mikhail Gulyayev. Gulyayev is an offensive defenceman with some of the best skating in this draft that’s paired with a quick set of hands. He has the potential to be one of the better defencemen out of this class, but his size and being a longer-term project saw him fall from 18th to 31st.
Fun moments from the night
There weren’t too many fun moments from tonight, but there were a few worth mentioning.
When it was the San Jose Sharks’ turn to select fourth overall, they called upon legend and all-time games-played leader, Patrick Marleau to make their selection. Marleau played 1,779 NHL games (1,607 with the Sharks) and scored a fantastic 1,197 points. He saw his number 12 get raised into the rafters by the Sharks this past season. With the fourth overall pick, Marleau announced that the Sharks were taking American forward, Will Smith.
Tonight also had some name problems when it came to legends announcing teams’ picks. At first, the Montreal Canadiens called upon Carey Price to state their selection at fifth overall. He did the basic “we are proud to select” and then say the player’s first name “David”. Price then seemed to forget the pick’s last name as he had a confused look on his face. He stuttered and then turned to Canadiens GM, Kent Hughes, who jokingly said they had planned it this way and announced the selection of David Reinbacher.
Then came the time for Roman Josi and Pekka Rinne to announce the Nashville Predators’ pick at 24th overall. Whether it was poking fun at Price or not, Rinne stuttered on the player’s last name before fully saying his name, Tanner Molendyk.
Going back into the top 10, we had a funny moment when Dmitri Simashev’s name was called by the Arizona Coyotes. The camera obviously cut to Simashev, but he was completely shocked. He had his hand covering his mouth and looked like the most surprised person in the building at his own selection.
Interesting selections throughout the first round
The night became interesting right after Connor Bedard was selected as the Anaheim Ducks surprised almost everyone. At second overall, the Ducks decided to not take the consensus guy in Adam Fantilli and selected Leo Carlsson instead. No knock on Carlsson at all as he’s super talented, it just caught everyone by surprise that Fantilli slipped into the Columbus Blue Jackets’ hands.
Then came slippage of Matvei Michkov. Although a top-three, arguably top-two talent in this draft, Michkov was destined to fall a bit due to his contract in the KHL and concerns if he would come over to play in North America. Every team after Columbus had rumours of taking Michkov with their pick. First came the Sharks who picked Will Smith, then the Canadiens took David Reinbacher, and the Coyotes went off the board taking Dmitri Simashev.
The Philadelphia Flyers were now on the clock and there was lots of belief from fans that they were taking Ryan Leonard and Michkov would become a Washington Capital, joining Russian star, Alex Ovechkin. In a shocking turn of events, this did not happen, the Flyers took Matvei Michkov and the Capitals settled for Ryan Leonard. Later on, statements came out saying Michkov told the Flyers in interviews that he wanted to play for their team.
Another interesting pick was by Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings. At ninth overall, they took Brandon Wheat Kings captain, Nate Danielson. You’ll be on a long hunt if you want to find a mock draft that had Danielson going to the Red Wings at #9—he was rarely top 10 in rankings. In a way, this selection started the drop of arguably a top-five talent in Zach Benson. The St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks had players they liked in Dalibor Dvorsky and Tom Willander, leaving the Coyotes to take Benson. But they didn’t, taking Daniil But instead. This allowed Zach Benson to fall into the Buffalo Sabres’ lap and bolsters their already strong, young core.
A couple of other players who ranked top 10 in some rankings and fell a bit due to all the interesting picks were speedy, American centre Oliver Moore who went 19th to the Chicago Blackhawks, and agile, Swedish defenceman, Axel Sandin Pellikka to Detroit at 17th.
Full first round results
|1||Connor Bedard (C)||Chicago Blackhawks||Canada|
|2||Leo Carlsson (C)||Anaheim Ducks||Sweden|
|3||Adam Fantilli (C)||Columbus Blue Jackets||Canada|
|4||Will Smith (C)||San Jose Sharks||United States|
|5||David Reinbacher (D)||Montreal Canadiens||Austria|
|6||Dmitri Simashev (D)||Arizona Coyotes||Russia|
|7||Matvei Michkov (RW)||Philadelphia Flyers||Russia|
|8||Ryan Leonard (RW)||Washington Capitals||United States|
|9||Nate Danielson (C)||Detroit Red Wings||Canada|
|10||Dalibor Dvorsky (C)||St. Louis Blues||Slovakia|
|11||Tom Willander (D)||Vancouver Canucks||Sweden|
|12||Daniil But (LW)||Arizona Coyotes||Russia|
|13||Zach Benson (LW)||Buffalo Sabres||Canada|
|14||Brayden Yager (C)||Pittsburgh Penguins||Canada|
|15||Matthew Wood (LW)||Nashville Predators||Canada|
|16||Samuel Honzek (LW)||Calgary Flames||Slovakia|
|17||Axel Sandin Pellikka (D)||Detroit Red Wings||Sweden|
|18||Colby Barlow (LW)||Winnipeg Jets||Canada|
|19||Oliver Moore (C)||Chicago Blackhawks||United States|
|20||Eduard Sale (LW)||Seattle Kraken||Czech Republic|
|21||Charlie Stramel (C)||Minnesota Wild||United States|
|22||Oliver Bonk (D)||Philadelphia Flyers||Canada|
|23||Gabe Perreault (RW)||New York Rangers||United States|
|24||Tanner Molendyk (D)||Nashville Predators||Canada|
|25||Otto Stenberg (C)||St. Louis Blues||Sweden|
|26||Quentin Musty (LW)||San Jose Sharks||United States|
|27||Calum Ritchie (C)||Colorado Avalanche||Canada|
|28||Easton Cowan (RW)||Toronto Maple Leafs||Canada|
|29||Theo Lindstein (D)||St. Louis Blues||Sweden|
|30||Bradly Nadeau (LW)||Carolina Hurricanes||Canada|
|31||Mikhail Gulyayev (D)||Colorado Avalanche||Russia|
|32||David Edstrom (C)||Vegas Golden Knights||Sweden|
What there is to look forward to on Day 2 of the NHL Draft
With Day 1 over, Day 2 looks to hopefully be more enjoyable. Day 1 had interesting movements and some fun moments, but it lacked insider info and trades. Day 2 should have said info and trades. Besides that, there is still plenty of quality names left highlighted by Andrew Cristall.
Joining him will be forwards Gavin Brindley, Riley Heidt, William Whitelaw, Jayden Perron, Ethan Gauthier, Gracyn Sawchyn, etc., as well as defencemen Lukas Dragicevic, Caden Price, Luca Cagnoni, and more. Get caught up with some other potential selections with our looks on quality forwards and quality defencemen and goalies who were slotted for Day 2 selections heading into the draft.
Day 2 is set to be an extremely intriguing day with players who have solid potential still remaining. The trade front should also be more active. Let’s hope teams make some moves and interesting selections, creating an eventful day.