Earlier this week, I launched my preliminary top 64 ranking for the 2023 NHL Draft and opened up submissions for this mailbag to accompany it. Your questions included submissions on the upcoming draft, particular NHL prospects, scouting and extra.

Here, I’ve tried to reply as lots of them as potential. Questions that had been comparable in scope have been included collectively.

(Questions have been calmly edited for readability and size)

In a draft as deep as this yr’s class, are we top-line expertise into the ten to twenty vary, or nonetheless a second-line likelihood in that vary? — Matt G.

How does the 5 to 10 vary of the 2023 draft examine to different years? — Robbie H.

All good drafts are carried by the power of their excessive finish. Great drafts, although, are supported by the celebrities that emerge from outdoors the slam dunk territory. This draft shall be good. There’s little doubt about that. All of Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli and Matvei Michkov mission as stars, and possibly superstars. They’re three of the higher prospects that I’ve watched at this age since I started doing this work a couple of decade in the past.

But in the event that they’re you’re Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Mitch Marner from 2015 (the one draft that I’ve coated that rivals this one), does this draft have the Zach Wereneksis and Mikko Rantanens within the prime 10, the Mathew Barzals, Kyle Connors, Thomas Chabots, Brock Boesers, Travis Konecnys, and Sebastian Ahos within the late first/early second, and the Kirill Kaprizovs or Troy Terrys to be discovered in a while?

It’s actually not a positive factor, however I like its odds actually. Leo Carlsson seems like he profiles as a possible star. The Zach Bensons, Brayden Yagers, Dalibor Dvorskys, Eduard Sales, Calum Ritchies, and Will Smiths will make for a enjoyable 5-15 vary. I’d depend on certainly one of Matthew Wood and Andrew Cristall actually hitting as a price decide within the mid-to-late first spherical. I’d depend on one of many pro-built trio of Colby Barlow, Ryan Leonard and Ethan Gauthier hitting above their hardworking complementary winger projection. If one of many ability guys with much less buzz — a Jayden Perron, or an Alex Ciernik, or a Gabe Perreault — can hit, all of a sudden you’ve obtained the makings of a draft that’s nice.

Are there any goalies you suppose may very well be first-round abilities this yr? — Michael S.

Who are the highest goalies within the 2023 draft that you’ve been in a position to view up to now? What rounds do they begin to come off the board? Are there any future drafts (2024, 2025, 2026) that mission to have high quality goaltending expertise? — Ben G.

How would you rank the 6-foot-6 Omaha goaltender (Hrabal) relative to different latest first-rounders of their draft years (Cossa, Askarov, Wallstedt, Knight)? — Scott N.

If you’d requested me this query a yr in the past, I’d have informed you ‘no.’ But one of many nice surprises of my work early on this yr has been how impressed I’ve been with the goalies. Czech goaltender Michael Hrabal — all 6-foot-6 of him — of the Omaha Lancers is thirty fourth on my checklist, which speaks to the truth that I’d take into account him within the late first at this stage. Jacob Fowler, my second-ranked goaltender (57th), is on the older aspect (November 2004) and shorter aspect (6-foot-2) however performs mature and appears massive within the web. Plus, the NTDP’s Trey Augustine and WHL netminders Scott Ratzlaff (Seattle’s spectacular 6-foot-1 goaltender has challenged one of many prime goalies within the league, Thomas Milic, early on this season) and Carson Bjarnason (one of many youthful goalies within the draft and off to a fantastic begin in Brandon) had been amongst my closing cuts for my preliminary rating. I think about all 5 of them shall be on my closing prime 100, which might be 5 greater than appeared on my 2022 checklist.

As for upcoming drafts, the large title to regulate at this admittedly-early stage is 2025-draft-eligible Gabriel D’Aigle, who was drafted with the No. 2 decide (!) within the 2022 QMJHL draft. After trying like he nonetheless wanted to seek out himself in Victoriaville’s preseason, D’Aigle has been spectacular as a 15-year-old within the Q (a .920 save share in 5 video games up to now with Victoriaville) to begin his junior profession. There are some goalie people who’re actually enthusiastic about him.

Here’s the place I’d rank Hrabal relative to the place I used to be at on every of the highest goalie prospects of latest drafts on the time (no dishonest!):

  1. Jesper Wallstedt
  2. Yaroslav Askarov
  3. Sebastian Cossa
  4. Michael Hrabal
  5. Spencer Knight

Are there any overagers that might push for a spot within the first 2-3 rounds this yr? — Trevor M.

Where would you rank Markus Vidicek? Off to a torrid begin as an overager! — Mathieu B.

For reference, right here had been the seven gamers from my closing prime 100 for the 2022 draft who weren’t picked:

44. Markus Vidicek
72. Antonin Verreault
73. Oskar Asplund
81. Tyler Duke
82. Mathew Ward
84. Pano Fimis
92. Elmeri Laakso

And whereas my checklist is my very own and isn’t meant to be a predictor for the draft, you may in all probability get a great sense for the chance of a participant to be drafted on re-entry by cross-referencing these names in opposition to NHL Central Scouting’s gamers to look at checklist for 2023, which charges gamers by grades ‘A’ (first-round candidates), ‘B’ (second- or third-round candidates), and ‘C’ (fourth-, fifth- and sixth-round candidates).

And if you try this, you get this:

Markus Vidicek 
Antonin Verreault
‘C’ Oskar Asplund
Tyler Duke
Mathew Ward
Pano Fimis
Elmeri Laakso

One participant who I wrote about in my closing cuts column final yr, Jake ‘the roadrunner’ Livanavage of the Chicago Steel, was additionally given a ‘C’ ranking from NHL Central Scouting. As did University of Minnesota freshman defenseman Luke Mittelstadt, who truly appeared on my 2021 draft board (No. 97).

Asplund’s case stays a fairly compelling one and I’m assured he’ll get picked and/or signed in some unspecified time in the future. He turns 19 subsequent week and he’s already one of many higher offensive defensemen within the second-tier HockeyAllsvenskan and a candidate for Sweden on the world juniors, which may give him a lift if he works his method onto the group. Mittelstadt has loads of expertise and has match proper into a powerful blue line in faculty hockey.

And thanks for asking about Vidicek, if solely to therapeutic massage my ego! I don’t suppose any of these 2022 Mooseheads children (Vidicek, Blue Jackets third-rounder Jordan Dumais, and Sharks fifth-rounder Jake Furlong) obtained sufficient respect final yr. He’s on the smaller aspect (5-foot-10, about 160 kilos), and he performs with Dumais, so he’s going to have measurement and the notion that his linemates (2023’s Mathieu Cataford being the opposite) prop up his manufacturing, however he’s obtained good imaginative and prescient east-to-west and he’s doing his injury in opposition to opposing prime pairings. If he passes by way of once more, I’d possible take into account giving him a tryout or a deal post-QMJHL.

How far may Michkov drop given the state of affairs with Russia, his KHL contract, and the hesitation we realized from groups drafting Russians within the final draft? — Nick M.

If you had been Kent Hughes, you had the No. 3 decide, and Fantili was already gone, would you relatively take Michkov or Carlsson? — Andrés C.

What do you make of Michkov’s lack of enjoying time within the KHL? I can solely see his stats pages so I don’t know the place he’s trending, however he’s principally enjoying within the VHL. Is this regarding contemplating a lot lesser prospects play full time within the KHL throughout their draft yr (even when they’ve just about no manufacturing)? — Harris B.

Somehow I don’t suppose these would be the final questions I get about Michkov this yr.

As far as him falling goes, although, I feel it’s vital to set the next baseline: This isn’t Danila Yurov falling from top-10 to No. 24. Yurov was allowed to fall as a result of the hole between him and the gamers groups had ranked within the half a dozen or so spots after him on their lists wasn’t so pronounced as to make it inconceivable to cross up on.

Teams are going to hit that “we can’t skip on this kid, no matter the uncertainty” threshold a lot, a lot earlier with Michkov, as a result of the hole shall be so pronounced as to necessitate it.

As a end result, I can’t think about him falling any decrease than third or possibly fourth if the suitable group is drafting third, that group covets a middle, and Carlsson retains at it within the SHL.

Coincidentally, the Habs would possibly simply be a type of groups. Clear void at heart? Check (see: depth after Nick Suzuki). High-end younger expertise on the wing? Check (see: Cole Caufield, Juraj Slafkovsky). If it had been me, I’m nonetheless taking Michkov. He’s that good. Carlsson’s a star prospect. Michkov’s probably the greatest prospects a hockey superpower has ever produced.

To reply these final questions on Michkov being within the VHL: No, I don’t suppose it’s regarding in any respect. In reality, lastly, I’m assured — nay, positive — that if he had been enjoying for SKA proper now in a top-nine/PP position that he’d be extra productive and impactful than a number of the gamers they’ve in that blend presently, and that’s a really proficient group.

But if KHL groups aren’t ready to play gamers like him in these roles, they need to be enjoying within the VHL greater than they historically have! It’s good for him to be there, nonetheless doing issues that others haven’t executed production-wise at that stage, and getting used to going into battles and corners with males. It’s additionally price noting that he was injured in preseason play and that his time spent within the VHL to begin might have additionally had extra to do with getting him again up and working in a lower-stress setting than any knock on his means to play within the KHL. He’ll be having success within the KHL earlier than we all know it.

Matvei Michkov. (Maksim Konstantinov / SOPA Images / Sipa USA / Sipa by way of AP Images)

As troublesome as it’s to foretell, the place do you are feeling Bedard’s profession will rank relative to the more moderen “generational” sort No. 1 picks (Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin) within the NHL? Is he going to problem for a point-per-game proper out of the gate? — Thane A.

Crosby and Ovechkin have a Mount Rushmore case, and McDavid could have one by the point he’s executed. I don’t suppose Bedard goes to get to that echelon as a result of he received’t have the two-way influence Crosby has had, nor the singular pace that McDavid has, nor the facility/capturing mixture that has made Ovechkin’s the sport’s best purpose scorer. I’d sooner count on him to get to the Patrick Kane/Pavel Bure echelon, the place he might turn into probably the most electrical participant within the league, and he’ll do issues that others simply can’t, and he’ll win some Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophies, however he might by no means be universally considered the undisputed greatest participant on the earth.

I do, nevertheless, suppose he has point-per-game (or at not far off) potential subsequent yr in the suitable state of affairs, although. He’s going to play PP1 straight away and rack up factors there. With the suitable linemates and deployment at five-on-five (he’ll in all probability want a coach who’s going to play him 17 to 19 minutes per sport), I don’t suppose 35-40 targets or 70-80 factors is out of the query in any respect.

How most of the prime guys on the prime of your rating would have been within the dialog for No. 1 in the event that they had been a part of the final couple draft lessons? — Glenn M.

The prime three would have been No. 1 locks over every of Juraj Slafkovsky, Owen Power, and Alexis Lafrenière if we return three drafts. Leo Carlsson, my No. 4 in the intervening time, would have been within the dialog and possibly a frontrunner, too. I used to be in all probability greater on Power on the time, personally. But I’d be keen on Carlsson over Slafkovsky for positive, and doubtless would have been with Lafrenière too. I’m not satisfied I’d have ranked Slafkovsky over the blokes in my fifth to eighth (Zach Benson, Brayden Yager, Dalibor Dvorsky, Eduard Sale) vary in the intervening time, both, however I’m admittedly decrease on him than most.

Four of the highest six picks from the 2022 draft are enjoying within the NHL or AHL. Who’s trying one of the best and who’s trying a bit underwhelming? — Logesh B.

The “Feeling Good About Yourself” meter, would in all probability look one thing like this:

  1. Juraj Slafkvosky
  2. David Jiricek
  3. Shane Wright
  4. Simon Nemec

Between Slafkovsky’s harm, Jiricek’s robust first couple of video games within the NHL, Wright’s utilization, and Nemec’s not trying like himself actually in any respect, I wouldn’t say issues have gone swimmingly for any of them. But Slafkovsky nonetheless has his confidence and the Habs appear proud of him, and Jiricek appeared actually good within the AHL earlier than his promotion, so these two have that going for them.

The Wright state of affairs is hard. I’ve spoken to folks round him about it. I’ve spoken to people across the OHL and NHL about it. It’s not in a great spot for anyone (together with the Kraken, who’re enjoying with hearth with an asset that ought to imply extra to them than short-term wins in pursuit of a playoff spot they’re possible not proficient sufficient to achieve). There are some who don’t suppose he’s prepared for the NHL and {that a} starring position on Team Canada on the world juniors may very well be a great reset for him.

Dave Hakstol clearly isn’t there both. There are others who suppose he must be within the NHL and enjoying a constant shift. Others have informed me that if he had been to return to the OHL, {that a} commerce would possible be required in order that he may go to a group with Memorial Cup aspirations and get extra out of it than he would with the Frontenacs (who’re off to a surprisingly robust begin of their very own!). That provides others layers of complexity, too.

For one, the Frontenacs would face a troublesome choice on whether or not to attempt to persuade Wright to remain and cargo up round him to offer it one other go, or work to facilitate a commerce that kickstarts a full-on rebuild and has a ripple impact on different gamers on the group. For two, even when they’d like to hold onto him, Wright and his camp should still wish to go elsewhere — which may doubtlessly necessitate a troublesome goodbye to a group that has meant a lot to him. Any of the above really feel like a greater spot to be in, even when they aren’t excellent, than his present state of affairs although.

And then there’s Nemec, whose studies out of the Buffalo rookie event, his first coaching camp, and the AHL haven’t been constructive. He has struggled, specifically, with two issues:

  1. Running the facility play, the place he has appeared not sure of his strengths and uncomfortable strolling the purpose
  2. Forcing choices with the puck

That final level has been little bit of a shocker to those that watched him final yr, when his poise, reads, and decisions had been such a power. I’m nonetheless assured it’ll come there although.

While the category is clearly forward-heavy, we see time and time once more groups within the prime of the draft “reach” for a defenseman who was possibly rated a tier under previous to the draft. Who do you suppose is more than likely to take a defenseman primarily based on system want? What defenseman do you most realistically see making the bounce presently of the season? — Reed L.

What is the ceiling for the way excessive may you see Hunter Brzustewicz going on this draft class? He appears to be one of many prime defensemen on this class however how most of the forwards can he overtake? — David S.

In the conversations I’ve been having with scouts and workers within the early days of this season, the D within the 2023 class have been the speaking level. Everyone is aware of the forwards are good. But there’s uncertainty in regards to the defensemen. The presumptive most proficient defenseman within the class, Mikhail Gulyayev, is 5-foot-10 and has to deal with the return of the “Russian factor,” as famous above. Cam Allen, who was the 1a or 1b to Gulyayev coming into the yr, has sputtered and appeared like he’s forcing issues too usually.

Swedes Axel Sandin Pellikka and Theo Lindstein, Slovak Maxim Strbak, Americans Andrew Strathmann and Gavin McCarthy, and Canadians Caden Price, Lukas Dragicevic, Etienne Morin, and Luka Cagnoni, amongst just a few others, appear to be second-round abilities who might push up into first-round consideration on account of place, relatively than mid-firsts who may push into the highest 10 per se.

Brzustewicz is an fascinating one, although. He was a star rising up and we’re seeing extra of his imaginative and prescient, and poise, and skating now that he’s not within the shadow of gamers like Lane Hutson and Seamus Casey on the nationwide program. Because he needed to change his sport a bit on the U.S. NTDP, he additionally seems polished in his personal zone and cozy in his two-way sport on the OHL stage. If he retains enjoying like he has, and the Rangers go deep within the playoffs, he’s going to be a first-rounder. The query is whether or not the suitable group will like him within the teenagers or the fringes of the highest 10. You’re proper to presume that the highest of the draft isn’t simply going to be ahead, ahead, ahead. Someone will emerge.

Do you suppose Matthew Wood will more than likely be a late first-/second-rounder on account of his skating? I simply can’t see him taken anyplace within the prime 20 until his manufacturing/play on the finish of the yr is phenomenal. — Douglas L.

My rating of Wood (No. 11) is actually on the upper aspect for the child, given the considerations many have about his skating. And whereas these considerations might effectively make him a late first, he’s not going to fall so far as the second spherical. His monitor document and statistical profile are too robust (his season within the BCHL final yr was higher than these of Alex Newhook, Tyson Jost, Kent Johnson, and so on. on the identical age and now he’s pushing level per sport as a freshman), and he’s nonetheless a 6-foot-4 pure scorer with loads of ability and a head for the sport/spacing/timing.

Who is probably the most underrated prospect in your rating? — David T.

If you side-by-side my rating with NHL Central Scouting’s gamers to look at checklist, probably the most notable variations are with Andrew Cristall (No. 13 on my checklist, given a “B” ranking by NHL Central Scouting) and Jayden Perron (No. 25 on my checklist, given a “C” ranking by NHL Central Scouting). In conversations I’ve had with NHL scouts about Cristall, although, most view him as a first-rounder although. Perron, however, seems like he is perhaps a sleeper regardless of each being a reputation prospect rising up and enjoying for the Chicago Steel. It’s a bit odd, too, contemplating I’ve heard from a number of sources, together with one other one yesterday, saying even I’m too low on him (he little doubt has the respect of those that’ve labored with him, as effectively those that’ve performed or coached in opposition to him).

Thoughts on Marco Kasper? I do know you weren’t tremendous excessive on him on the No. 8 spot, however he appears to be producing fairly effectively this yr within the SHL for an 18-year-old. Has his play and manufacturing modified your thoughts? — James N.

Between his play within the Champions Hockey League and the SHL, Kasper’s post-draft season has undoubtedly adopted the event path you’d hope for therefore far. He’s a official professional participant in a official professional league at a younger age.

But I nonetheless suppose on upside that I had him in the suitable tier after I ranked him within the 13 to twenty-eight group. Would I rank him greater, immediately, than No. 24 particularly? Certainly. Would I draft him No. 8? Probably not. I’m nonetheless going Matt Savoie there, I feel, and I nonetheless view him in the identical tier as most of the gamers I had in that tier on the time (Kevin Korchinski, Cutter Gauthier, Jiri Kulich, Rutger McGroarty, Danila Yurov, and so on.). Could you make a case for him as a greater participant proper now than these guys? Absolutely. Might he turn into a greater participant within the NHL? Sure. But the query I had about drafting Kasper No. 8 then is similar one I’ve immediately: He’s going to be a great NHL participant however does he have the dynamism to turn into a star? If he turns into a aggressive 50- to 60-point top-six ahead, the Red Wings are going to be proud of that choice. But will there be gamers who I had ranked forward of him and had been drafted after him, who turn into extra productive NHLers? I’d wager sure.

He seems like an honest decide there nonetheless, although, and he’s an A-minus prospect. Drafting him that prime has extra to do with philosophy than anything. I feel I used to be a bit too low however in the suitable headspace.

Note: If you submitted a query and I didn’t reply it right here, I’ll circle again to all the submissions and reply them one after the other over the following couple of days. Thanks, as all the time, on your engagement.

(Top photograph of Connor Bedard: Larry MacDougal / AP)

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