NHL mock draft: After Blackhawks pick Connor Bedard, choices become less obvious

A rough guess on how things might — but inevitably won’t exactly — play out with all 32 first-round picks (as well as the Hawks’ four second-round picks).

SHARE NHL mock draft: After Blackhawks pick Connor Bedard, choices become less obvious
Connor Bedard takes a shot.

Connor Bedard to the Blackhawks at No. 1 is one of few obvious picks in the draft order.

AP file photo

Plenty of teams will face difficult decisions in the 2023 NHL Draft — the most talented and, thus, the most important draft in years — but not the Blackhawks.

At least, not at first.

Winning the lottery for the No. 1 pick made the Hawks’ choice obvious. They’ll get the first round underway Wednesday in Nashville by selecting Connor Bedard. But a few hours later, once the No. 19 pick comes up, general manager Kyle Davidson’s life will become a bit trickier.

Here’s a rough guess on how things might play out with all 32 first-round picks, as well as the Hawks’ four second-round selections:

LOTTERY PICKS

1. HAWKS: Connor Bedard, C, Regina (WHL)

The most anticipated draft prospect since Connor McDavid in 2015 is headed to Chicago, without question.

2. Ducks: Adam Fantilli, C, Michigan (NCAA)

Anaheim has a rather obvious choice with this pick, too. Fantilli, the mature-beyond-his-years power forward playing alongside Frank Nazar at Michigan, will join a young and loaded forward corps.

3. Blue Jackets: Leo Carlsson, C, Orebro (Sweden)

Columbus and San Jose will almost certainly end up with Carlsson and Will Smith, but it’s anybody’s guess which one will go first. Carlsson surged up the rankings throughout the season with strong showings in international tournaments.

4. Sharks: Will Smith, C, USNTDP

San Jose will get whichever player the Jackets pass on. In this hypothetical, it’s Smith, putting him in the same state as his Hollywood namesake. The creative Boston College recruit enjoyed a very productive season.

5. Canadiens: Matvei Michkov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (Russia)

Michkov is arguably the second-best prospect in two years, talent-wise, but his character has been questioned and he’s signed in Russia until 2026. That leads to a wide range of possible landing spots. Talent often wins out above all else, though.

6. Coyotes: David Reinbacher, D, Kloten (Switzerland)

Reinbacher is the consensus best defenseman. Arizona, having recently traded cornerstone defenseman Jakub Chychrun, can take him and still nab a talented forward later.

7. Flyers: Ryan Leonard, RW, USNTDP

New GM Danny Briere can add to his dramatic rebuild with Leonard, who is known for his character and competitiveness.

8. Capitals: Dalibor Dvorsky, C, AIK (Sweden)

Dvorsky is a proven scorer who fits Washington’s type, but the selections become much less predictable starting with this pick.

9. Red Wings: Nate Danielson, C, Brandon (WHL)

This marks the seventh consecutive year Detroit has owned a top-10 pick; the Wings would like it to be the last. Danielson is one of this year’s best defensive forwards.

10. Blues: Zach Benson, LW, Winnipeg (WHL)

By comparison, this is St. Louis’ first top-10 pick since 2007. Benson overcomes his 5-9 size with tireless work ethic and magnetism toward dirty areas.

11. Canucks: Tom Willander, D, Rogle (Sweden)

It will be interesting to see which teams reach for defensemen, which are relatively scarce this year. Vancouver’s prospect pool is shallow in that regard, making them a good candidate for Willander.

12. Coyotes (from Senators): Oliver Moore, C, USNTDP

Moore boasts elite skating ability. Picking him would complement Reinbacher in Arizona’s draft haul.

13. Sabres: Matthew Wood, RW, Connecticut (NCAA)

Buffalo has struck gold in another UConn product, Tage Thompson. Wood is a similar type of player: big, talented and late-blooming.

14. Penguins: Gabriel Perreault, LW, USNTDP

Perreault, the son of Hawks development coach Yanic Perreault, inherited his father’s intelligence and hockey sense. Might Pittsburgh be willing to trade down?

15. Predators: Daniil But, LW, Yaroslavl (Russia)

But is an adept playmaker with good size and a confusing name. Nashville has been historically open to drafting Russians.

16. Flames: Dmitri Simashev, D, Lokomotiv (Russia)

Calgary has used only one first-round pick on defensemen since 2009, so the Flames would probably like to do so this year.

LATER PICKS

17. Red Wings (from Islanders): Axel Sandin Pellikka, D, Skelleftea (Sweden)

Detroit would like to get one defenseman out of its two high picks. Pellikka is light but skilled.

18. Jets: Brayden Yager, C, Moose Jaw (WHL)

Yager needs to add weight, calling his position into question, but he’s electric with the puck.

19. HAWKS (from Lightning): Samuel Honzek, LW, Vancouver (WHL)

Honzek checks Davidson’s favorite box — skating ability — while also bringing substantial size. The Slovakia native is reliable offensively and defensively.

20. Kraken: Quentin Musty, LW, Sudbury (OHL)

Musty makes sense for Seattle, which has prioritized centers and defensemen in its first two draft classes.

21. Wild: David Edstrom, C, Frolunda (Sweden)

Minnesota’s excellent prospect pool is incomplete only at center, and Edstrom is a speedster.

22. Flyers (from Kings): Oliver Bonk, D, London (OHL)

Philadelphia would like a defensemen here. Bonk, a solid but nondescript prospect, is the best option left.

23. Rangers: Colby Barlow, LW, Owen Sound (OHL)

Barlow is another strong candidate for the Hawks’ 19th pick as a great shooter who also brings physicality. Pick No. 23 would be low for him.

24. Predators (from Oilers): Eduard Sale, LW, Brno (Czechia)

Once a possible top-10 pick, Sale has been knocked down by concerns about his work ethic and consistency.

25. Blues (from Maple Leafs): Calum Ritchie, C, Oshawa (OHL)

Ritchie would be the perfect foil to Benson in St. Louis. He’s sizable and poised on the puck but struggles with consistency.

26. Sharks (from Devils): Charlie Stramel, C, Wisconsin (NCAA)

Stramel’s stock has dipped, but his 6-3, 216-pound frame hasn’t changed.

27. Avalanche: Otto Stenberg, C, Frolunda (Sweden)

Stenberg is a crafty center who might need some time to round out his game.

28. Maple Leafs (from Bruins): Oscar Fisker Molgaard, C, HV71 (Sweden)

Molgaard, who has been frequently connected to Toronto, will be Denmark’s first draftee in four years.

29. Blues (from Stars): Etienne Morin, D, Moncton (QMJHL)

If St. Louis wants a defenseman, it can choose between Morin, Mikhail Gulyayev, Tanner Molendyk and Lukas Dragicevic.

30. Hurricanes: Gavin Brindley, C, Michigan (NCAA)

Brindley brings work ethic in spades, despite his diminutive size.

31. Canadiens (from Panthers): Tanner Molendyk, D, Saskatoon (WHL)

Florida’s run to the Stanley Cup Final hurt Montreal, which hoped this pick would be 17th.

32. Golden Knights: Andrew Cristall, LW, Kelowna (WHL)

Where Cristall, Bedard’s longtime best friend, will land is the subject of much debate.

HAWKS’ SECOND-ROUND PICKS

35. Bradly Nadeau, LW, Penticton (BCHL)

Nadeau is a relatively high-ceiling, low-floor prospect headed to the University of Maine after torching the BCHL, a second-tier Canadian junior league.

44. From Senators: Jayden Perron, RW, Chicago (USHL)

Perron has spent the last two seasons playing with the Steel in Geneva. His strongest attributes are his skating and hockey IQ.

51. From Lightning: Adam Gajan, G, Chippewa (NAHL)

The Hawks will likely grab a goaltender in the second or third round since they haven’t drafted one since 2020. Gajan, a Minnesota-Duluth commit, is considered the second-best behind Michael Hrabal.

55. From Rangers: Beau Akey, D, Barrie (OHL)

The Hawks will also likely pick a right-handed defenseman since their existing defensive prospect pool leans left-handed. They could pursue Dragicevic, Maxim Strbak or Hunter Brzustewicz earlier or wait for Akey or Cam Allen here.

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