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NHL mock draft: Kevin Weekes’ projections for every first-round pick

Welcome to the 2023 NHL draft.

Well, almost.

The draft, which begins Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville (7 ET, ESPN and ESPN+), is a starting point both for the prospects and the teams that pick them. One thing to remember is that some players will go higher than they were projected, others will go lower and still others won’t even get chosen.

But know that the draft is not the be-all and end-all. I played with guys who were late picks or undrafted. Jonathan Marchessault, who just won the Conn Smythe Trophy, was undrafted.

A note on the format: These picks are based on what I think could happen. But as we know, everything this time of year is fluid and a lot can change between now and when it comes time for the pick to be made. While I didn’t do any trades in this mock, don’t be surprised if you see some teams **looks at the St. Louis Blues** decide to get creative with their picks when the time comes.

DOB: 07/17/05 | Ht: 5-9.75 | Wt: 185 | Shot: R
GP: 57 | G: 71 | A: 72 | P: 143

You saw the gold the Blackhawks struck in the mid-2000s. If Bedard can be even 70% or 80% of what Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane was, it’d be great for Chicago. You think of his ability to play in all situations and the fact that he’s expected to be the guy. He’s also a fellow hockey nerd, and I like to see hockey nerds excel. There is something to be said for people who eat, breathe and sleep the game. He’s not one of those kids who became an outstanding prospect and that’s it.

2. Anaheim Ducks: Adam Fantilli, C, Michigan (Big 10)

DOB: 10/12/04 | Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 195 | Shot: L
GP: 36 | G: 30 | A: 35 | P: 65

Former Wisconsin coach Tony Granato told me the other day that for Fantilli to be a true freshman and do what he did in college hockey on what he called an “NHL lite” roster, that’s saying something. They had a strong group, and to come in and run the way he did, winning the Hobey Baker Award, was impressive. Granato also noted that when the game was on the line, Fantilli wanted the puck. The Ducks are starting to assemble some good young pieces with Trevor Zegras, Mason McTavish and Jamie Drysdale. Fantilli brings a different dimension: a big body and a powerful game.

DOB: 12/26/04 | Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 198 | Shot: L
GP: 44 | G: 10 | A: 15 | P: 25

I might have gone with Matvei Michkov here, but there’s now an urgency in Columbus with the trades they have made to get Ivan Provorov and Damon Severson. That follows them getting Johnny Gaudreau last offseason. Because of all that, I’d go with Leo Carlsson. He’s got size, he’s long and rangy and he’s been playing against men. I think center is the more responsible play for them with where they are right now, and they won’t have to wait (as teams will with Michkov).

4. San Jose Sharks: Matvei Michkov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)

DOB: 12/09/04 | Ht: 5-10 | Wt: 172 | Shot: L
GP: 30 | G: 9 | A: 11 | P: 20

San Jose’s window to challenge for a playoff spot is not as close as Columbus or Montreal. They are still disassembling in order to rebuild. When you draft a player like Michkov, you want to get him in your fold, but you’re going to have time to make that happen. My understanding is that he intends to honor his three-year deal in Russia. The Sharks are a team that can be patient and get an elite talent after that deal is up.

5. Montreal Canadiens: Colby Barlow, LW, Owen Sound (OHL)

DOB: 02/14/05 | Ht: 6-0.25 | Wt: 190 | Shot: L
GP: 59 | G: 46 | A: 33 | P: 79

I’ll go off board here. Barlow can score, and he uses his size well. Aside from having Josh Anderson, the Canadiens seldom seem to have enough size in the lineup. They have a lot of young players on the back end with that size, but smaller players up front. It’s tough to pass up a big power forward sort of player like Barlow. He can score, has some good wheels and gets involved on the forecheck too.

6. Arizona Coyotes: Will Smith, C, USA U-18 (NTDP)

DOB: 03/17/05 | Ht: 5-11.75 | Wt: 181 | Shot: R
GP: 52 | G: 42 | A: 62 | P: 104

He’s a super talented player. Very skilled, and I loved him at the U18s. He’s part of that group of kids who are going to Boston College. He thinks the game exceptionally well, and can see it well too. You do wonder with the Coyotes: Do they trade Clayton Keller? Does St. Louis make a play for him to bring him home? The Blues have three first-round picks in this draft. That’s some pretty good capital. Just thinking out loud here: If the Coyotes can draft a guy like Will Smith, are they more willing to part with Keller?

DOB: 10/25/04 | Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 185 | Shot: R
GP: 46 | G: 3 | A: 19 | P: 22

He’s mobile, a very good skater, can close gaps and can skate well when he has the puck. He also relishes those 1-on-1 matchups. A lot of people have said to me that if you like Moritz Seider, this guy gives you a lot of the Seider flavor. He brings a lot of similar intangibles to the table in addition to skill. That’s a big compliment. That’s why I think if you are Philly, now that you have moved on from Provorov, Reinbacher gives you a chance to get that No. 1 or No. 2 defenseman right back.

DOB: 01/21/05 | Ht: 5-11.5 | Wt: 192 | Shot: R
GP: 49 | G: 42 | A: 34 | P: 76

Another Boston College commit. We don’t know what the center position is going to look like in Washington for the future. But I’d give Leonard a try at center. He’s a play-driving winger and if you consider guys like Nikita Kucherov, Artemi Panarin or Kane, they’re wingers who can drive plays like a center. They’re not just going up and down the wing firing shots. I also like his motor and creativity.

9. Detroit Red Wings: Matthew Wood, RW, UConn (Hockey East)

DOB: 02/06/05 | Ht: 6-3.5 | Wt: 193 | Shot: R
GP: 35 | G: 11 | A: 23 | P: 34

I was close to going with Axel Sandin Pellikka. But the Wings have Seider and Simon Edvinsson, so, it’d be a bit of redundancy. Instead, I’ll go with Matthew Wood. He’s got a big body, can move and skate and he’s got skill. When I think of their young forwards, and in their prospect pool, he adds a different dimension to them as a bigger-bodied player. GM Steve Yzerman has never been in a rush, and that will be better for Wood’s development. He gives them a different look than what they already have with guys like Lucas Raymond.

10. St. Louis Blues: Gabe Perreault, RW, US U-18 (NTDP)

DOB: 05/07/05 | Ht: 5-10.75 | Wt: 165 | Shot: L
GP: 55 | G: 46 | A: 64 | P: 110

Again: Does St. Louis keep this pick? We at least have to ask this question. It’s a top-10 pick but do they keep it, trade up or move it for a veteran? I’m not necessarily sure. But it brings a little intrigue, right? If they stay here, they probably select Gabe Perreault. Very heady player. Very skilled player. He’s one of those guys who can play in all situations, and is another player headed to Boston College. For the Blues, I don’t think he has to be a four-year project. I don’t think he cooks for all four years at BC. If you look at the history of the National Team Development Program, Perreault had one of the best years you could have there. He can play everywhere. There’s a lot to like.

11. Vancouver Canucks: Zach Benson, LW, Winnipeg (WHL)

DOB: 05/12/05 | Ht: 5-9 | Wt: 163 | Shot: L
GP: 60 | G: 36 | A: 62 | P: 98

Zach Benson adds to the young skill they already have in Winnipeg. His command of his edges is elite. He has a high motor, and generates plays all over the offensive zone. He’s instant offense and a max-effort player. People are not sure about his size, but the people I have spoken to about him have said you notice him for all the right reasons on every shift.

12. Arizona Coyotes (from OTT): Tom Willander, D, Rogle Jr. (Sweden-2)

DOB: 02/09/05 | Ht: 6-1.25 | Wt: 180 | Shot: R
GP: 39 | G: 4 | A: 21 | P: 25

He’s playing college hockey next year at Boston University, which will help him get acclimated to the North American game. He’s one of those defensemen who can skate well, and is a puck mover. Defensemen like that help you with those zone exits. It’s almost like preventative defense in how they can skate it out of trouble.

13. Buffalo Sabres: Dalibor Dvorsky, C, AIK (Sweden-2)

DOB: 06/15/05 | Ht: 6-1 | Wt: 201 | Shot: L
GP: 38 | G: 6 | A: 8 | P: 14

There are a few options the Sabres could go with here. I’ll go with Dvorsky because he has such a high offensive ceiling. The Sabres have become a good offensive team and it feels like he would be a fit there. He’s got size, definitely has the skill, he has the vision and certainly has creativity. He can not only generate offense for himself, but he can do it for his teammates too.

14. Pittsburgh Penguins: Axel Sandin Pellikka, D, Skelleftea Jr. (Sweden-2)

DOB: 03/11/05 | Ht: 5-10.75 | Wt: 176 | Shot: R
GP: 31 | G: 16 | A: 20 | P: 36

We don’t know what the long-term is going to be with the Penguins’ franchise-best defenseman of this era in Kris Letang. Sandin Pellikka is another puck mover who is skilled. He has good deception, can skate the puck out of trouble and make plays in the o-zone too. Besides, we know how they can develop defensemen in their sleep in Sweden, and Sandin Pellikka looks like another great one.

15. Nashville Predators: Andrew Cristall, LW, Kelowna (WHL)

DOB: 02/04/05 | Ht: 5-9.5 | Wt: 167 | Shot: L
GP: 54 | G: 39 | A: 56 | P: 95

I was close with Andrew Cristall or Brayden Yager at this spot. I’ll go with Cristall. He had some real big numbers in Kelowna, and he’s skilled. The reason I’d take him this high? The justification is more the team needs and the team fits. Sometimes, they say “take the best player in the draft” or go with “the best player available.” The best player available may not work with where you are at and how you want to play. Does that player fit with what you do? I think Cristall fits with what new coach Andrew Brunette wants to do.

16. Calgary Flames: Dmitri Simashev, D, Yaroslavl Jr. (MHL)

DOB: 02/04/05 | Ht: 6-4 | Wt: 198 | Shot: L
GP: 33 | G: 1 | A: 11 | P: 12

Noah Hanifin wants to be traded. The Flames have four defensemen, including Nikita Zadorov, who have a year left on their contracts. There are a lot of questions in Calgary right now, and a few of them are on defense. Calgary looks like it could be in a rebuild and I don’t know how they could let a defenseman such as Simashev at that size and with his length get past them at No. 16.

17. Detroit Red Wings (from NYI via VAN): Otto Stenberg, C, Frolunda Jr. (Sweden-2)

DOB: 05/29/05 | Ht: 5-11.25 | Wt: 180 | Shot: L
GP: 29 | G: 11 | A: 15 | P: 26

We are all aware that the Red Wings know and draft Swedish players really well. They have probably had their eyes on a player like Stenberg for a while. He’s one of those players I think can play at center or at winger. He’s another one of those Frolunda players, too. You know that they have likely seen enough of him based on how much they watched their own prospect Edvinsson.

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

DOB: 01/03/05 | Ht: 5-11 | Wt: 166 | Shot: R
GP: 67 | G: 28 | A: 50 | P: 78

Yager is a pass-first player, rather than a sniper. I think for Winnipeg, they are going to try and stockpile as much young skill as they can. He plays just up the road from them in a league with which they are quite familiar. He’s also a center and that helps, too. But you also wonder about Winnipeg’s future given some moves they could make this summer. A pick like Yager could make a lot of sense for them now and in the future.

19. Chicago Blackhawks (from TB): Oliver Moore, C, US U-18 (NTDP)

DOB: 01/22/05 | Ht: 5-11 | Wt: 188 | Shot: L
GP: 53 | G: 26 | A: 38 | P: 64

He could go much higher. Really good skater, very crafty and had some big numbers at the NTDP this year. I think you are getting so much skill for a team that is trying to collect as much of that skill as possible. The fact that he slipped? I don’t see how you don’t take him here if you’re Chicago. So why is he going late in this mock draft? I’m looking at some of these teams based on their fit. I think there are certain teams in this draft that are more established at forward, whereas going to Chicago would be a better opportunity for him to flourish with a guy like Bedard.

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

DOB: 07/06/05 | Ht: 6-1.75 | Wt: 200 | Shot: L
GP: 53 | G: 26 | A: 52 | P: 78

He brings a different dynamic to that Kraken squad. I like the numbers and the season that he had. I like his game. He can grip it and rip it. I could not stop hearing about him from the scouts that saw him in The O. I like the size a lot. The reason being is it’s one thing to have smaller guys who can get into spots or shoot from the perimeter. But it’s another to have a guy with that size who can drive and is unafraid to be in or around the net. I think he could be a very nice player for Seattle.

21. Minnesota Wild: Calum Ritchie, C, Oshawa (OHL)

DOB: 01/21/05 | Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 185 | Shot: R
GP: 59 | G: 24 | A: 35 | P: 59

Let me say this: Musty would have been a player that GM Bill Guerin would love to get into the Wild’s system. But that’s why I will go with Calum Ritchie. He’s a solid, point-per-game guy who was a good balance between offense and defense. He makes plays, can score and has good edges. I think stylistically he is a good fit and he’s similar in size to Musty, too.

DOB: 03/10/05 | Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 174 | Shot: L
GP: 43 | G: 7 | A: 7 | P: 14

Another talented, heady player. I just think there is so much there to work with. For the Flyers, I feel since they are doing another rebuild, it’ll afford him the time to develop without having to do so with the pressure of being ready today.

23. New York Rangers: Oliver Bonk, D, London (OHL)

DOB: 01/09/05 | Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 180 | Shot: R
GP: 67 | G: 10 | A: 30 | P: 40

He’s projected to be a late first-round pick. He’s a good skater, has smart defensive IQ, sees the game well and can make a play. He’s also a right-handed shot. The Rangers’ D is stacked and he’d be a good addition. My thing with the Rangers is I am not sure how many of these D they can keep. What happens if you have to move on from one of them? Bonk helps fill the need.

24. Nashville Predators: Riley Heidt, C, Prince George (WHL)

DOB: 03/25/05 | Ht: 5-10.25 | Wt: 178 | Shot: L
GP: 68 | G: 25 | A: 72 | P: 97

Heidt is one of those guys who always seems to be in motion. He’s not the biggest guy, but he has a motor that does not stop. I also see a guy going from 58 points in his second season to 97 points in his third season in the same amount of games, but with fewer penalty minutes. That is a huge uptick in production. Nashville is looking for guys with offensive upside, and he fits.

25. St. Louis Blues (from TOR): Daniil But, LW, Yaroslavl Jr. (MHL)

DOB: 02/15/05 | Ht: 6-5 | Wt: 203 | Shot: R
GP: 32 | G: 18 | A: 14 | P: 32

One factor here is that the Blues have had (and still have) Russian players. So it’s an easier sell to take a Russian player here. He’s a really good forward, and is long and rangy. I could see him being there at 25, too. But again with St. Louis, does it still have that pick? I keep thinking it could be a retool for the Blues, and not a rebuild. GM Doug Armstrong is aggressive and not someone who is going to nibble around the edges.

26. San Jose Sharks: Carson Bjarnason, G, Brandon (WHL)

DOB: 06/30/05 | Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 186 | Catches: L
GP: 47 | GAA: 3.08 | SV%: 0.900 | SO: 3

It feels like it has been a while since the Sharks have had any luck with an internal goalie prospect they could truly call their own since Aaron Dell, and he was undrafted. Really, the main guy they developed has been Evgeni Nabokov, and he last played for them in 2009-10. I look at Bjarnason. The size, the skill set, the technique. He’s competitive, it looks like his teammates play hard for him. For all those reasons and more, San Jose adds a really good goalie prospect here. Even though he might not be ready right away, we know the Sharks are at the front end of their rebuild.

27. Colorado Avalanche: Kasper Halttunen, RW, HIFK (Liiga)

DOB: 06/07/05 | Ht: 6-2.75 | Wt: 207 | Shot: R
GP: 27 | G: 0 | A: 1 | P: 1

Halttunen is another one of those forwards who is rangy, skilled and very talented. I thought he was good at the U18s. Colorado is also an organization that has comfort with what it’s done in Finland, including what they have seen from Mikko Rantanen. Halttunen also gives them another big body up front.

28. Toronto Maple Leafs: Lukas Dragicevic, D, Tri-City (WHL)

DOB: 04/25/05 | Ht: 6-1 | Wt: 190 | Shot: R
GP: 68 | G: 15 | A: 60 | P: 75

We can go on and on about the Leafs. But the biggest thing for them is they have clearly committed to playing a certain style. That certain style is an up-tempo skilled game. They have not had many young defensemen — especially now that they moved Rasmus Sandin to Washington — who are in the system. Maybe Dragicevic, who is a skilled point producer, can replace Sandin in that role.

29. St. Louis Blues: Bradly Nadeau, LW, Penticton (BCHL)

DOB: 05/05/05 | Ht: 5-10 | Wt: 161 | Shot: R
GP: 54 | G: 45 | A: 68 | P: 113

He’s a one-man highlight reel. He plays bigger than his size but has the sort of skill that allows him to run numbers. I am excited to see him play next season at the University of Maine and see how his game translates to that level. I think at this point, it could be a Johnny Hockey sort of situation — smaller player, but so much skill. That’s the comparison for me.

30. Carolina Hurricanes: Samuel Honzek, LW, Vancouver (WHL)

DOB: 11/12/04 | Ht: 6-3.5 | Wt: 186 | Shot: L
GP: 43 | G: 23 | A: 33 | P: 56

He’s intriguing. He’s long, rangy and skilled. I would experiment with him at center, too. Carolina has had success with European players — both with trading for them and drafting them. They seem to have a penchant for European players. He could potentially fit in with their group.

31. Montreal Canadiens: Koehn Ziemmer, RW, Prince George (WHL)

DOB: 12/08/04 | Ht: 6-0 | Wt: 202 | Shot: R
GP: 68 | G: 41 | A: 48 | P: 89

Ziemmer is another one of those players who had a big progression from the previous season. He increased his offensive output by 11 goals in the same amount of games. He increased his assists by almost 20. As a guy who is both an offensive generator and a shooter, he has a balanced game. Quite often, you are one or the other. The fact he has that balance is really impressive for me.

32. Vegas Golden Knights: David Edstrom, C, Frolunda Jr. (Sweden-2)

DOB: 02/18/05 | Ht: 6-2.75 | Wt: 185 | Shot: L
GP: 28 | G: 15 | A: 13 | P: 28

A very lengthy player with range. Very skilled. He’s a good finisher and a good playmaker. He has a 200-foot game and plays a complete game. It’s also a very consistent game, too. For all those reasons and more, he’s the pick here for the Cup champs.

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