2023 NHL Draft Rankings: THW’s Early Consensus Picks

With rookie tournaments underway for most NHL clubs, the 2022-23 NHL season is upon us. Soon the puck will drop on preseason games with another highly anticipated regular season to follow. All the while, prospectors around the hockey world will be watching the upcoming class of prospects as they head into their respective draft years and gear up for the 2023 NHL Draft.

2023 NHL Draft THW Consensus Picks Rankings Connor Bedard Adam Fantilli Matvei Michkov
Connor Bedard Adam Fantilli Matvei Michkov (The Hockey Writers)

While we here at The Hockey Writers await one more set of rankings — that of Matthew Zator — once we get a little further into the year, three of our writers have already released their way-too-early rankings for the upcoming draft.

With that, after putting their respective rankings together and seeing how each one has their early picks lining up, here’s how everything stacks up in the first edition of The Hockey Writers’ consensus rankings. What we’ll do is take each of Peter Baracchini, Devin Little and my rankings, average out the placement of each prospect and set the order based on where they each land.

Without further ado, here are the way-too-early consensus rankings.

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

Well, it’s the obvious choice. All three of our rankers had him ranked atop their respective lists and rightfully so. At this point, league-wide, he has to be the consensus number one with what he’s done throughout his junior career.

This might be the most top-heavy we’ve seen a draft in recent years when it comes to offensive talent, but the leader of the pack — without question — is Bedard and he’ll show everyone once again this season just how special of a player he is.

Baracchini’s Rank: 1st
Little’s Rank: 1st
Forbes’ Rank: 1st

2. Matvei Michkov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)

There was a little bit of a differing of opinions on this one, from my standpoint, but there’s no wrong answer here. Michkov — like Bedard — has an innate ability to put the puck in the net from all over the offensive zone. His shot is top-notch. His skating is impressive. He’s a top-end talent with a number of above average skills.

Matvei Michkov
The Nikolai Puchkov memorial tournament. SKA (St.Petersburg) – HC Sochi (Sochi). @ Matvey Michkov (photo credit: photo.khl.ru)

Generational might be used slightly loosely in this draft, but he’s two-of-two when it comes to generational talents to lead off this draft. Don’t be surprised to see him torch the NHL when he gets there with his seeing-eye shot. He places it perfectly on goalies and has become the talk of the town — next to Bedard, of course.

Baracchini’s Rank: 2nd
Little’s Rank: 2nd
Forbes’ Rank: 3rd

3. Adam Fantilli, C, University of Michigan (NCAA)

Here’s a guy that could break up that one, two punch of Bedard and Michkov atop this year’s draft rankings. He’s got size and skill and he plays down the middle. Almost the perfect prospect in the eye of most. If this was any other year, the likelihood of him being atop the draft at number one would be almost 100 percent. However, as was mentioned, there is a lot of talent in this draft and Fantilli’s mix of size and skill might not overpower the potential that comes with Michkov and Bedard, but it sure is close.

Add to that the fact that he’s going to get some time in at Michigan, a solid NCAA option when it comes to college hockey, and Fanitlli will have team salivating to get in the top three this year. Could he play himself into that second spot? Sure. Anything is possible.

Baracchini’s Rank: 3rd
Little’s Rank: 3rd
Forbes’ Rank: 2nd

4. Dalibor Dvorsky, C, AIK (HockeyAllsvenskan)

Let’s keep it rolling with centre options and take a look at Dvorsky. This is the first prospect that our writers had some wider differing opinions on. Now, each of them still had him ranked in their top five, but it differed nonetheless.

Dvorsky is a crafty middle man that keeps opponents on their edges. When the puck is on his stick, watch out, his skill is above average and his craftiness allows him to get opportunities and also opens the ice for his teammates giving them chances on net as well.

His skating is a bit more of a question mark, but that’s not going to hold him back from being, at he very least, a top ten pick in 2023.

Baracchini’s Rank: 4th
Little’s Rank: 5th
Forbes’ Rank: 4th

5. Brayden Yager, C, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)

One thing about high-end offensive talents is that quite often they lack some of the defensive responsibility. But that’s what make Yager such an intriguing prospect. He has the ability to play with the puck and has a quick release on his shot that keeps goaltenders guessing, but he also plays well in the defensive zone understanding what his duties are from the blue line down to the goal line.

Not only does he engage opponents within his zone, but his stick work makes him a touch defender to get by. That, with the added bonus of him having clean breakouts, and Yager is a prospect that a number of clubs will have their eyes on throughout 2022-23.

Baracchini’s Rank: 5th
Little’s Rank: 4th
Forbes’ Rank: 5th

6. Calum Ritchie, C, Oshawa Generals (OHL)

Another prospect that seemingly has it all — size, skill and plays down the middle, of course — Ritchie is the first OHL prospect on our list and really does make a case for being a top-five pick at times. His hockey IQ is up there and he sees the game on another level, but then he can bring the offence as well opening up the game for his teammates.

Calum Ritchie Oshawa Generals
Calum Ritchie, Oshawa Generals (Josh Kim / The Hockey Writers)

His vision is a result of his hockey IQ and in seeing the ice so well he makes pinpoint passes through the seems to his linemates. Another productive centre make it seem like we’re getting repetitive in this draft, but what team isn’t looking for a solid, skilled prospect down the middle to add to their pipeline?

Baracchini’s Rank: 6th
Little’s Rank: 9th
Forbes’ Rank: 8th

7. Kasper Halttunen, F, HIFK (U20 SM-sarja)

Physically gifted and with the shot he possesses, Halttunen could be the next generation of power forwards that make their way into the NHL. While each of our writers have him ranked lower than seventh, the differing ranks of other prospects actually boosted him to our seventh ranked prospect on our consensus picks.

He’s quick in his directional changes and plays with an intensity that goes well with his size. He gets into the corners, draws out the puck and provides second and third chances for his team in the offensive zone.

Size alone might not be a driving factor in getting Halttunen drafted, but that mixed with his physical edge and offensive skill set make him a top-ten probability for the upcoming draft.

Baracchini’s Rank: 8th
Little’s Rank: 8th
Forbes’ Rank: 9th

8. Zach Benson, C, Winnipeg ICE (WHL)

Was it his supporting cast in Winnipeg last season that drove Benson to be as prolific as he showed, or is he genuinely a top-10 or even top-five talent in this draft? This might be one of the more debatable picks in our top-10, while Peter has him as far down as 14th in the 2023 NHL Draft.

His season in the WHL this year will dictate a lot for this kid and while he does possess a ton of talent, he will write his own future with the Winnipeg ICE in 2022-23. Benson is positionally sound and because of that can make smart hockey plays that benefit his team. He is a threat with the puck, but let’s temper our expectations a little until we see just how he approaches the new season.

Baracchini’s Rank: 14th
Little’s Rank: 6th
Forbes’ Rank: 6th

9. Charlie Stramel, F, University of Wisconsin (NCAA)

Another prospect where there’s some discrepancies on where he belongs in the draft is Charlie Stramel. A big part of that is the fact that he missed some significant time due to injury last season and that hurt his game. But what we have seen from him is that he can be a powerhouse on the ice.

He’s a big-bodied, skilled player that has the ability to be a distraction in front of the opposing net and on top of that skates well enough to be a threat in all aspects of the game. He’s not afraid to use his size which makes him tough to play against, but staying healthy this season will be the key to him remaining in the top-10.

Baracchini’s Rank: 13th
Little’s Rank: 7th
Forbes’ Rank: 7th

10. Leo Carlsson, C, Örebro HK (SHL)

The first prospect that no one could agree on is Leo Carlsson. Ranked as high as seventh and as low as 11th, Carlsson found his way into the SHL last season as a 16-year-old. He skates incredibly well and stick handles through defenders which makes him a tough threat coming down the ice.

His poise might be one of his most telling characteristics on the ice as he plays incredibly calm with the puck and shows a maturity on the ice beyond his years. He controls the tempo well and this allows him to make plays at top speed when needed — a trait that could see him jump in the rankings as the year goes on.

Baracchini’s Rank: 7th
Little’s Rank: 11th
Forbes’ Rank: 10th

11. Cameron Allen, D, Guelph Storm (OHL)

The first defenceman to go in this draft, likely, Allen is a two-way defender that can get the job done at both end of the ice. He’s mobile and can move the puck and he transitions the play at a high level. He turns defensive stops into offensive opportunities by getting the puck out of the zone and up the ice quickly.

In his end, he plays a physical game and doesn’t shy away from the battles along the boards. He has an active stick and it allows him to break up plays before they manifest into offensive opportunities for the opposition.

While he may not crack that top-10, our writers all agree that he’ll be awfully close to being a top-10 pick in 2023.

Baracchini’s Rank: 10th
Little’s Rank: 10th
Forbes’ Rank: 11th

12. Matthew Wood, F, Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)

Another player that ranges in rankings from the THW team, Wood cracked Peter’s top-10 while he’s as low as 14th on my early rankings. As Devin points out in his rankings, Wood possesses power forward type of size and skill which isn’t seen as often at the NHL level as it once was.

His hands are crafty and he can make plays in tight. He plays with a confidence that makes him more dangerous because he’s willing to try anything in the offensive zone. As for what could make him a liability, it’s his skating. He’s not the best skater of our top-16 and while there is room for improvement, it’ll come down to his progress when teams decide just where he belongs in that first round.

Baracchini’s Rank: 9th
Little’s Rank: 12th
Forbes’ Rank: 14th

13. Colby Barlow, RW, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)

As we close out the first half of the first round here, it seems like we’re getting back on the same page. Peter has Barlow ranked one spot higher than Devin and I do, but not much difference in opinion here.

Barlow has an incredible ability to score goals. Period. His shot might be one of the top 10 in his draft and his accuracy is — well — on point. Given the time and the space to work, this kid can score from virtually anywhere and his release is what sets him aside from others. He’s another guy that can move up in this draft with a big year in Owen Sound.

Baracchini’s Rank: 12th
Little’s Rank: 13th
Forbes’ Rank: 13th

14. Eduard Šalé, LW, HC Kometa Brno U20

I think we can all agree that Šalé is a player that might’ve already made some progress on his standing within our rankings since our first release. He was a standout for Czechia at the U18 Championship and the way that he sees the ice may be amongst the best in the draft.

His hands are one of his best traits and he’s not afraid to make pinpoint passes cross ice and in tough areas and they are crisp and create opportunities. He’s quick on his feet and can change direction so swiftly that often times it gives him the upper hand on the opposing players. Don’t be surprised to see Šalé move up in the rankings as the year goes on.

Baracchini’s Rank: 15th
Little’s Rank: 15th
Forbes’ Rank: 16th

15. Nate Danielson, C, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

Injury aside, Danielson had a solid first year with the Wheat Kings in the WHL averaging over a point per game. He has great vision and is a good skater that allows him to beat opposing players to the outside.

His shot may is an underrated shot as he has a quick release and can find good opportunities in the offensive zone from all areas inside the blue line. He’s a prospect that might not be too high on most rankings, but one that should get more of a look as the season gets going. While he might not be a top-10 talent, the first round isn’t out of the question.

Baracchini’s Rank: Honourable Mention
Little’s Rank: Honourable Mention
Forbes’ Rank: 12th

16. Quentin Musty, LW, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)

Another guy that was ranked just once out of our three rankings, was Quentin Musty. While he was an honourable mention on the other two rankings, Peter had him ranked just outside his top-10.

He’s highly-skilled with high-end playmaking ability and it’s no fluke that he went first overall to the Sudbury Wolves in the 2021 Priority Selection Draft. He can score and sees the ice at such a high level that he’s a threat every time he touches the puck and what makes him even more dangerous is that he can do it at top speed as well.

He’s not afraid to engage in battles for the puck and with a little more strength could excel in that part of his game as well moving forward.

Baracchini’s Rank: 11th
Little’s Rank: Honourable Mention
Forbes’ Rank: Honourable Mention

Final Thoughts

While this won’t be a year-round approach to our rankings, it was a good way to look at just how our rankings match up in house. The variations make sense as we all scout and see the game from different perspectives and shows in how we’ve ranked each player respectively.

As mentioned, Bedard is the consensus pick which is no different from the rest of the hockey world, while there’s a little more of discussion to be had between number two and number three — and Fantilli and Michkov.

From there, there’s a slight drop off in talent and overall impact they will have right out of the gate, but when looking at the skill in the 2023 NHL Draft, this will be one of the deeper drafts that we’ve seen in recent memory. Even to see a player with the skillset of Musty closing out our top-16 shows just how much talent is wrapped up in the early part of this draft.

Be sure to share your thoughts on who’s missing and who fits where by commenting below.