The 2023 NHL Upper Deck Draft will take place June 28-29 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The first round will take place on June 28 (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN, TVAS) while rounds 2-7 will be held on June 29 (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS). Until then, NHL.com is setting the table for the draft with various texts related to the best prospects. Today’s overview of the best eligible center players.
There’s Connor Bedard, and there’s the others.
It is no surprise that the 17-year-old right-hander is the consensus first choice of the 2023 vintage among center players. Bedard (5-foot-10, 185 pounds) won top prospect and top scorer awards as well as the David Branch Trophy as CHL Player of the Year this season after leading the the West (WHL) in goals (71) and points (143) in 57 games with the Regina Pats.
READ ALSO : Draft 2023: Top-10 goaltenders
« It’s very difficult for the youngest player in a team to be the best player for his club, and that’s what he’s been able to do every night, in almost every game, » said NHL Central Scouting vice-president Dan Marr. “That puts him in a special category. There are several words that start with the letter « C » that are difficult to judge by advanced statistics, such as character. Another is consistency. And he always plays with consistency, he always shows character, every night. It is really impressive. »
When Wheat Kings goaltender Brandon Carson Bjarnason was asked to describe Bedard, he used the word « humble. »
Five center players were chosen from the top-15 in the 2022 draft: Logan Cooley (3rd, Arizona Coyotes), Shane Wright (4th, Seattle Kraken), Matthew Savoie (9th, Buffalo Sabers), Conor Geekie (11th, Coyotes), Frank Nazar (13th, Chicago Blackhawks).
Here are NHL.com’s top 10 goaltenders eligible for the 2023 draft:
1. Connor Bedard, Regina (WHL)
Central Office Ranking: 1st (North American skaters)
Bedard became the first WHL player to record 140 or more points in 27 years and had a 35-game point streak (90 points) from September 24, 2022 to February 1, 2023. He had 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in seven WHL playoff games to become the first player in the league since 2012 to have 10 or more goals in a single playoff series. Bedard finished first in scoring at the 2023 World Junior Championship (WJC) with 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) and was named the tournament’s top forward and most valuable player, helping Canada win a second consecutive gold medal. He could become the second Regina player to be selected first overall in the NHL draft, following Doug Wickenheiser, who was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1980. The last WHL player drafted first overall was forward Ryan Nugent Hopkins of Red Deer by the Edmonton Oilers in 2011.
2. Adam Fantilli, University of Michigan (NCAA)
Central Office Ranking: 2nd (North American skaters)
Fantilli (6-2, 195) won the Hobey-Baker Trophy, given to the NCAA’s most valuable player, this season. The 18-year-old freshman led the league with 65 points in 36 games and tied for first with 30 goals. The Nobleton, Ont., native has scored in 33 of 36 games and had 19 multi-point games. In addition to the Hobey-Baker, Fantilli also picked up several accolades, including NCAA Rookie of the Year, First Team All-National, Tournament Most Valuable Player Big Ten Association, Big Ten Rookie of the Year, and College Hockey News and USCHO Player of the Year. He played with Bedard at the WJC and had five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games to help Canada win gold. He also won gold with Canada at the Senior World Championship, where he had three points (one goal, two assists) in 10 games.
3. Leo Carlsson, Orebro (SHL)
Central Office ranking: 1st (European skaters)
The 18-year-old center (6-3, 198) had 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) and seven power play goals in 44 games in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), allowing him to winning the title of junior player of the year in Sweden as he was the best player on the circuit in his age group in assists and points, in addition to finishing second in goals.
Carlsson had six points (three goals, three assists) in seven games when he was used mostly on the wing with fourth-placed Sweden at WJC 2023. His boyhood idol was Sidney Crosby, but his style of play is more like that of Auston Matthews and Anze Kopitar. Carlsson could become the seventh Swedish player to be picked from the top three in the draft, along with Rasmus DahlinGabriel Landeskog, Victor HedmanDaniel and Henrik Sedin and Mats Sundin.
4. William Smith, USA U-18 (NTDP)
Central Office Ranking: 3rd (North American skaters)
(Smith 6-0, 181) finished second in scoring on the USA Hockey National Development Program (NTDP) Under-18 team with 127 points (51 goals, 76 points) in 60 games. In 22 games against NCAA teams, he had 40 points (16 goals, 24 assists). He is expected to play at Boston College next season. The right-handed forward finished first in World Under-18 Championship scoring with nine goals and 20 points in seven games, helping USA climb to the top step of the podium. He was named the tournament’s MVP.
5. Nate Danielson, Brandon (WHL)
Central Office Ranking: 7th (North American skaters)
Danielson (6-1, 185) is one of the players who made a significant jump in the Bureau’s final standings, jumping from 13th to 7th place on the mid-season list. He led the Wheat Kings in goals (33), assists (45), points (78), power-play goals (13) and shorthanded goals (3) in 68 games. A dynamic skater with good speed who can be used in any situation, Danielson also finished tied for the club lead with five game-winning goals. He was also the best on his team in the face-off circle (667 out of 1,267).
6. Oliver Moore, USA U-18 (NTDP)
Central Office Ranking: 8th (North American skaters)
Moore (5-11, 188) is very fast and has the potential to eventually play on the NHL’s first line. He will report to the University of Minnesota this fall. He could be used on the wing at the top level, which didn’t stop him from having 31 goals and 75 points in 61 games for the NTDP. The left-handed forward also had nine points (four goals, five assists) in seven games with Team USA at the Under-18 World Cup.
7. Otto Stenberg, Frolunda Jr. (SWE-JR)
Central Office ranking: 6th (European skaters)
Stenberg (5-11, 180) is blessed with excellent offensive qualities, including quick hands and accurate shooting. He had 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in seven games for Sweden at the Under-18 World Championship. He also had one goal and two assists in 23 games with Frolunda in the SHL as well as 26 points (11 goals, 15 assists) in 29 games with the Frolunda junior team. An undisputed leader who knows how to deliver when the pressure is on, Stenberg can also play on the wing.
8. Brayden Yager, Moose Jaw (WHL)
Central Office Ranking: 11th (North American skaters)
Yager (5-11, 166) has improved his playmaking skills this season, which makes him even better, as he has a hard shot, is responsible in all three areas and is effective on bets gambling (52.4 percent). He has 78 points (28 goals, 50 assists) in 67 games this season and 16 (six goals, 10 assists) in 10 playoff games. Yager won the Brad Hornung Trophy, awarded to the WHL’s most gentlemanly player, who has recorded just 14 penalty minutes this season.
9. Calum Ritchie, Oshawa (OHL)
Central Office Ranking: 13th (North American skaters)
Ritchie (6-2, 185) finished fourth in scoring for the Oshawa Generals with 59 points (24 goals, 35 assists) and six power-play goals in 59 league games Ontario hockey. He excelled in the face-off circle with a 53 percent save percentage. He also had nine points (three goals, six assists) in seven games for Canada at the World Under-18 Championship. He had shoulder surgery in the offseason and is expected to start training again in two weeks.
10. Gavin Brindley, University of Michigan (NCAA)
Central Office Ranking: 23rd (North American skaters)
The diminutive right-hander (5-8, 165) is one of the most improved prospects in the second half of the season, finishing fifth in Wolverines scoring with 38 points (12 goals, 26 assists) for 41 matches. He dropped from 40th on the mid-season list to 23rd. He finished second overall at Michigan with 41 blocked shots and fourth with 127 shots. The 18-year-old rookie also had one goal and three assists in seven games for the United States at WJC 2023.
Photo: Paige Bednorz