2023 NHL draft prospects 20-1: Andrew Cristall, Matthew Wood, David Reinbacher, Zach Benson, Connor Bedard and more
By Zach Laing2 months ago
Over the days heading into the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, we’re going to be diving into the Top 100 prospects as ranked by Daily Faceoff’s Steven Ellis.
We’re diving into prospects ranked from numbers 20-1: Andrew Cristall, Eduard Sale, Nate Danielson, Gabe Perreault, Samuel Honzek, Matthew Wood, Dmitri Simashev, Riley Heidt, Colby Barlow, Oliver Moore, Axel Sandin Pellikka, Dalibor Dvorsky, David Reinbacher, Zach Benson, Ryan Leonard, Will Smith, Leo Carlsson, Matvei Michkov, Adam Fantilli, and Connor Bedard.
Cristall, a 5’10, 165 lb. left-winger, scored 39 goals and 95 points in 54 WHL games last year. The Kelowna Rockets’ assistant captain added one goal in four playoff games.
Scouting Report: “Cristall would have easily blown past the 100-point mark had he not had a lower-body injury. From a skill perspective, Cristall has everything going for him. His skating can be a bit of a disaster at points, though. In a vacuum, there’s a lot to like. When he has the puck on his stick, though, he’s dangerous. Surround him with quality linemates and you should be fine.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Sale, a 6’2, 174 lb. right-winger, played in the Czechia men’s league last year scoring seven goals and 14 points in 43 games. Don’t let those numbers concern you, as he dominated against his age group in the world U18 and U20 events.
Scouting Report: “Consistency was an issue for Sale, especially in the second half after the World Junior Championship. He showed enough big-game potential at that event, though, that I’m still quite intrigued. He’s best when he’s being deceptive, which comes more with confidence. I do wonder if he’ll go to the AHL and follow a similar route as Buffalo’s Jiri Kulich, which could be beneficial.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Danielson, a 6’1, 187 lb. centre, captained the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings last year scoring 33 goals and 78 points.
Scouting Report: “Danielson feels like a “safe” pick. I’m not sure he’s more than a 45-50 point guy in the NHL, but he’s consistent and valuable enough at both ends of the ice that he’ll have a solid, young career. You won’t find a ton of 18-year-old captains, either.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Perreault, a 5’11, 186 lb. right-winger, played for the US National Development team last year. In 63 national team games, he scored 53 goals and 132 points adding another 19 goals and 45 points in 23 USHL games.
Scouting Report: “Perreault’s greatest concern this season was perceived reliance on his teammates to get stuff done. But you don’t break the 100-point barrier by accident, especially when so few players have managed to do so. The biggest hangup is his skating, but he plays a similar skilled offensive game to Lucas Raymond’s.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Honzek played his first season in North America last year joining the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. The 6’3, 185 lb. centre scored 23 goals and 56 points in 43 games.
Scouting Report: “I don’t think Honzek has a huge offensive ceiling, but I think he’s going to have a long career. He throws punishing hits, is a fantastic two-way presence and has a great release on his shot. Honzek’s game is built around power, and I love him as a potential middle-six option.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Wood is coming off his freshman season in the NCAA with the University of Connecticut. The 6’3, 190 lb. left-winger scored 11 goals and 34 points in 35 games.
Scouting Report: “A point-per-game average as a freshman on one of the best teams in Hockey East is a solid way to kick off your college career. All he has done at every level is produce points and excel on the power play. His chemistry with top 2024 prospect Macklin Celebrini is a big reason why Canada won bronze at the U-18s.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
The big Simashev spent most of his time last year in the MHL, but also had stints in the KHL and VHL. In 29 MHL games, the 6’4, 201 lb. left-shot defenceman scored one goal and 10 points.
Scouting Report: “I didn’t love his game in the first half, but his late-season play really grew on me, especially during the MHL playoffs. Against his own age group, he can carry the load on the blueline and can be physically intimidating. Scouts are all over the place with him, but I like his potential.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Heidt, a 5’11, 181 lb left-shot, left-winger scored 25 goals and 97 points in 68 WHL games with the Prince George Cougars last year.
Scouting Report: “One of the best point producers in the WHL, Heidt was a huge part of Prince George’s resurgence this year. I know scouts were hoping to see him remain a consistent producer throughout the year – no issues there. It’s his play away from the puck that some are more concerned about.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Barlow had a very productive year with the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack scoring 46 goals and 79 points in 59 games.
Scouting Report: “One of the few players to come close to hitting the 50-goal mark this season, Barlow has scored at all levels and is as confident as anyone handling the puck. There’s room for his all-around game to grow, but scoring clearly isn’t an issue. He was banged up during the OHL playoffs but had a decent showing at the U-18s.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Moore, a 5’11, 180 lb. centre, was with the US National Development team last year. The 11th ranked prospect is committed to the University of Minnesota next season.
Scouting Report: “Want a speedy, defensively reliable two-way center? Moore’s your guy. Some scouts I’ve talked to think Moore has some untapped potential to become one of the better players in this draft class. He’s so quick, but knows how to use his speed to his advantage as a playmaker, too.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Pellikka dominated in the Swedish J20 league last year scoring 16 goals and 36 points in 31 games, but saw his production drop playing against men in the SHL. Still, the 5’11, 181. the right-shot defenceman is one of the top prospects in the draft.
Scouting Report: “Pellikka fell in my rankings, but not really due to poor performance or anything. It’s just that I like the forward options more. He was a feral beast at the U-20 level, but much more reserved against men in the SHL. If he can unlock a bit more of that intensity with Skelleftea next season, that’ll be awesome.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Dvorsky, a 6’1, 201 lb. left-shot centre, split time between the J20 junior league and the Swedish second league.
Scouting Report: “Most hype has quieted down for Dvorsky over the past year, but he still put decent numbers playing against men. The raw talent is there, and if he falls outside the top 15, Dvorsky could just become one of the bigger steals. It feels like we’re always looking for a bit more out of him. Still, the raw skill is there, and he has a solid CV. Plus, he earned some MVP consideration for the way he dominated with Slovakia at the U-18s.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Reinbacher, a 6’2, 187 lb. right-shot defenceman, spent last season in the Swiss league and scored three goals and 22 points in 46 games.
Scouting Report: “Not many people had Reinbacher as a first-round pick heading into the season. Now, most have Reinbacher as the best defenseman in the class. He put up excellent numbers in the top Swiss league, a division that hasn’t always been kind to younger blueliners. Reinbacher looked mature beyond his years and could immediately jump over and make an impact in the AHL next season if that ends up being the plan.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Benson had a great year playing for the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice where he scored 36 goals and 98 points in 60 games. The left-winger stands at 5’10, 159 lbs.
Scouting Report: “Benson dealt with an injury to close out the season, but still managed to pot 36 goals and 98 points. He’s only 5-foot-10, but he’s strong, has a great release and his shift-to-shift effort level will never waver. Benson’s going to be a big-time play driver.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Leonard is committed to Boston College next year after spending the previous two with the US National Development team. The right-shot centre stands at 5’11, 181 lbs.
Scouting Report: “Leonard is coming off an absolutely ridiculous U-18 tournament, which was capped off by scoring the championship winner. The seven-game affair was a perfect microcosm of Leonard’s true abilities: good speed, skill and physicality all wrapped into one. He’s the type of player every team wants.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff –
Smith, a 6’0, 172 lb. centre, scored two points per game with the US National Development team and had a tremendous showing at the World Juniors.
Scouting Report: “Smith was named MVP of the U-18 Worlds after scoring nine goals and 20 points in just seven games en route to a gold. It was one of the best tournament performances ever, with Smith recording at least a point in every single game. His creativity is among the best in the class, and he’s as good of a playmaker as it gets.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Carlsson, a 6’3, 194 lb. centre, is one of the best prospects in the class. For his age, his 10 goals and 25 points were solid in the SHL against men and dominated his age group in international competition.
Scouting Report: “Carlsson combines speed, physicality and a penchant for highlight-reel plays. He has size, creates havoc in front of the net and held his own against quality competition in the SHL. The highest-scoring U-19 player in Sweden, Carlsson isn’t far from being NHL-ready. He showed signs of that being the case at the men’s World Hockey Championship, where he served on the top line with Lucas Raymond all tournament long.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Michkov is the most intriguing prospect in the draft. A wild card in terms of where he could be selected, the 5’10, 148 lb. right-shot winger is as offensively electric as they come.
Scouting Report: “It might be understated just how good Michkov’s time with Sochi was. Playing on the worst team in the league, he managed to finish with 20 goals in 27 games to finish fourth in team scoring. Six of the team’s nine wins came with Michkov in the lineup, and his 0.74 points-per-game during his time with Sochi is the best by a U-19 in league history – beating out Evgeny Kuznetsov, Eeli Tolvanen, Vladimir Tarasenko, Kirill Kaprizov and Artemi Panarin, among others. He’s special, but since he has a KHL deal until 2026, NHL teams must be patient. There’s always the chance he never comes over, but that’s a risk teams should be willing to take.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Next to Connor Bedard, it’s between Fantilli and Carlsson as the next top centre prospects. Fantili, standing at 6’2, 187 lbs., dominated at the University of Michigan last year scoring 30 goals and 65 points in 36 games as a freshman.
Scouting Report: “Fantill’s rookie campaign saw him lead the NCAA with 65 points en route to the Hobey Baker Award as the best men’s college hockey player. That’s one heck of a consolation prize for the team that misses out on Bedard, because Fantilli would go No. 1 in most other years. Whether or not he decides to return to Michigan next year, it’s clear Fantilli is ready for the big leagues. Think Jonathan Toews during his prime.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Simply put, Bedard is one of the best draft prospects ever. He finished his WHL career scoring two and a half per game this past season with 71 goals and a staggering 143 points in 57 games. Over his 134 game WHL career, he scored as many goals and 271 points as one of the most productive players to ever come through the league. The 5’9, 185 lb. centre is a right-shot.
Scouting Report: “You already know everything you need to know about the NHL’s next superstar. After scoring 71 goals and 143 points in 57 regular season games, Bedard followed it up by scoring 10 goals and 20 points in just seven playoff games with Regina. The Pats fell in the end, marking the conclusion of one of the best junior careers we’ve ever seen. Truly a special season for an exceptional prospect. Congrats, Chicago.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
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