A first look at the top options for Ducks in the 2023 NHL draft – Orange County Register

For the first time in a long time, a generation player is available in the 2023 NHL Draft.

One of the rare by-products of a season gone haywire for the Ducks is that they’re in contention for the draft of Connor Bedard, a 17-year-old who plays for the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats.

Bedard wowed scouts at World Juniors and is the most anticipated draft-eligible player since Connor McDavid in 2015.

The Ducks are in their bye week right now, and once they’re active again, the race for bottom will be the focus, not just in Anaheim, but in a half-dozen other markets around the NHL that are also keeping an eye out have beds.

In the NHL, last overall does not guarantee first overall pick in the draft due to the existence of the draft lottery. But the chances of getting the first pick are significantly higher if you happen to have the worst record in the league.

The other feature that sets the 2023 design apart from others is the depth beyond Bedard. Up to five players eligible for this year’s draft could have been contenders for first place overall last year. With that in mind, here’s a first look at what the top of the 2023 draft looks like. One of those six could end up with the ducks.

Input for the following comes from Craig Button, TSN’s director of scouting, a former NHL general manager who spent years scouting players in the Dallas Stars organization.

Connor Bedard, C, Regina Pats (WHL), 5-ft-10, 185 lbs

Ranking: No. 1 (All).

Stats: 42 goals, 43 assists in 34 games.

Button’s take: “Narrowing down one thing about Connor Bedard – which stands out the most – would belittle Connor Bedard. Brilliant as it is, the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts.

“What impressed me most about him? Choose a day. Choose a game. He scores that fantastic goal in extra time against Slovakia. He was in his 54th second of a shift. What impresses you more? The goal or perseverance?

“As (Regina GM) John Paddock told me last spring, he’s been in the limelight since he was 12 years old. No spotlight is too bright for him.”

Adam Fantilli, C, University of Michigan, 6ft 2, 187lbs

Ranking: #2 in most major scouting services. #3 on Sportsnet.

Stats: 16 goals, 24 assists in 22 games.

Button’s view: “He absolutely rips it, shreds NCAA hockey as a freshman. He was phenomenal.

“That shouldn’t come as a surprise. He has high end skills. He has a physical maturity that has allowed him to break into the NCAA and really make a significant impact. You combine all of these things and it should come as no surprise that he excels at the level he is.

“Fantilli could be a bit better scorer. (Leo) Carlsson could be a little better playmaker. Whatever you want – you want the goalscorer, you want more playmakers – they are both really good players.”

Leo Carlsson, F, Orebro HK (SHL), 6-foot-3, 194 lbs

Ranking: #2 (Sportsnet), #3 (TSN, The Hockey News), #4 (Dobber Prospects).

Stats: Five goals, 13 assists in 31 SHL games

Button’s take: “He’s grown a lot in the last 12, 16 months. He was more of a tall, lean player. Now this physical maturation has taken place. He’s heavier, heavier. I think he’s still adjusting to some of his height and strength gains.

“He is powerful and competitive. If you’re looking at a 6-2 1/2, 6-3 centerman who can play the way Adam and Leo play, please stand up, NHL team, and say who’s not a 6-2 ½, 6 – would like to have. 3 middleman.

“When you look at these two, someone has to make a choice. Take Adam or we Leo? I can’t see much of a difference between the two in terms of their impact on the NHL.”

Eduard Sale, F, HC Kometa Brno (Czech Republic), 6-foot-1, 168-lbs

Ranking: #4 (Button, TSN), #7 (The Hockey News), #7 (Dobber Prospects). No. 20 (sports net)

Stats: Three goals, five assists in 34 games.

Button’s opinion: “He reminds me of (Calgary’s) Jonathan Huberdeau in terms of his thinking, his playing style and his skills. That kind of thinker, that kind of playmaker.

“It might not show in the points but I’ve seen him excel in his age group and play a year younger than his age group. Last year at the U18 tournament he was a year younger than everyone else and he excelled. At the Hlinka Gretzky tournament last summer – that’s his age group – he was outstanding. He might not be rated incredibly highly, but the boy has all kinds of skills. I think the boy has a chance to be a star.”

Will Smith, C, USNTDP, 6ft, 172lbs

Ranking: #5 (The Hockey News), #6 (TSN), #7 (Sportsnet)

Stats: 28 goals, 41 assists in 36 games (USA U18 national team).

Button’s view: “He’s so deceptive. He knows there are four choices, and if you defend three of them, he’ll find the one to capitalize on. Good at letting you believe he will do one thing and maybe open up something else entirely. He has this innate ability to survey the landscape and then understand where I’m going.

“There must be a lot of deception when you’re a war general. Maybe you want your opponent to think you’re going to attack them on a flank, and you want to do everything you can to make them think so. That’s how Will plays hockey. He plays hockey with what I would call a Battlefield mentality.”

Matvei Michkov, F, HK Sochi, 5-ft-10, 148 lbs

Ranking: #4 (McKenzie, TSN), #5 (Button, TSN), #3 (Dobber Prospects), #4 (Sportsnet).

Stats: Four goals, two assists in 14 games (HK Sochi).

Button’s opinion: “He’s a joker. For me he is the ultimate joker.

“Out of sight, out of mind doesn’t mean he has no good prospects. But he was out of sight and maybe not out of mind, but not in his mind. No (NHL) decision maker is watching him (in person). It’s hard to ask a team to really push and say we’re taking this guy when your key decision makers aren’t seeing him. It’s hard to do. I’m not saying you can’t.

“If I say Carlsson, Fantilli – you can see them at World Junior. You can see Fantilli play in Michigan. You can go to Europe and see Carlsson play. You can factor in Eduard Sale. But there’s no chance to go and say, ‘Let’s go to Michkov now.’”

https://www.ocregister.com/2023/01/31/an-early-look-at-the-top-options-for-ducks-in-the-2023-nhl-draft/ A first look at the top options for Ducks in the 2023 NHL draft – Orange County Register

Russell Falcon

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