2023 NHL Draft 1st-round results, analysis | NHL.com (2024)

Complete coverage of all 32 selections from Nashville, beginning with Blackhawks at No. 1

Check out all 2023 NHL Draft First Round selections

By Adam Kimelman

@NHLAdamK NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The first round of the 2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville is in the books. It was an incredible night with some surprise picks and NHL.com deputy managing editor Adam Kimelman was there to provide analysis of all 32 picks made.

RELATED: [Complete 2023 NHL Draft coverage]

1. Chicago Blackhawks -- Connor Bedard, C, Regina (WHL)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 1 (North American skaters)

Bedard (5-foot-10, 185 pounds) became the first Western Hockey League skater with at least 140 points in 27 seasons and had a 35-game point streak (44 goals, 46 assists) from Sept. 24 to Feb. 1. He had 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in seven WHL playoff games to become the first WHL player since 2012 to score at least 10 goals in a single series. Bedard led all players at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship with 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in seven games and was named the tournament's top forward and most valuable player, helping Canada win a second straight gold medal. He is the second player from Regina selected No. 1 in the NHL draft, joining Doug Wickenheiser (Montreal Canadiens, 1980). The last player from the WHL chosen No. 1 was Red Deer forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2011 NHL Draft.

NHL.com analysis:The new era of the Blackhawks officially begins with the selection of Bedard, the most heralded NHL prospect since Connor McDavid was picked No. 1 by the Edmonton Oilers at the 2015 NHL Draft. Bedard's best asset is his shot, and he combines it with elite skating and hockey IQ. He's been a star at every level he's played at while also being the youngest player on almost every team he's been on, from starring as a 15-year-old in the Western Hockey League to dominating the World Juniors this season at age 17 (he won't turn 18 until July 17). There's little doubt Bedard will continue to excel next season in the NHL.

2. Anaheim Ducks, Leo Carlsson, C, Orebro (SWE)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 1 (International skaters)

Carlsson (6-2, 194 pounds) had 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) and seven power-play goals in 44 games in the Swedish Hockey League. The 18-year-old was named Swedish Junior Hockey Player of the Year after he led all under-19 players in the SHL in goals and points and tied for first in assists. Carlsson had six points (three goals, three assists) in seven games playing mostly on the wing for fourth-place Sweden at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship, and five points (three goals, two assists) in eight games playing center at the 2023 IIHF World Championship. Carlsson became the seventh Sweden-born player to be chosen among the top three in the NHL draft, joining Rasmus Dahlin (Buffalo Sabres, No. 1, 2018), Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado Avalanche, No. 2, 2011), Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning, No. 2, 2009), Daniel Sedin (Vancouver Canucks, No. 2, 1999), Henrik Sedin (Canucks, No. 3, 1999) and Mats Sundin (Quebec Nordiques, No. 1, 1989).

NHL.com analysis: The Ducks have done a fantastic job stockpiling young talent, some of which already has made its way to Anaheim, like forwards Trevor Zegras, 22, and Mason McTavish, 20. Now Carlsson has the chance to be the foundational top-line center their future success revolves around. He's strong and smart, with elite vision. While his skill set won't pull you out of your seat, he's effective in all areas of the game, similar to Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers.

3. Columbus Blue Jackets -- Adam Fantilli, C, Michigan (NCAA)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 2 (North American skaters)

Fantilli (6-2, 195) won the Hobey Baker Award as the top men's player in NCAA ice hockey this season. The 18-year-old freshman led NCAA players with 65 points and was tied for first with 30 goals in 36 games. He had points in 33 of 36 games and 19 multipoint games. Fantilli's list of accomplishments also include the Tim Taylor National Rookie of the Year award, first-team All-America, Big Ten Tournament MVP, Big Ten Freshman of the Year, College Hockey News and USCHO Player of the Year, first-team All-Big Ten, Big Ten All-Rookie Team and NCAA All-Regional Team honors. He had five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games to help Canada win the gold medal at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship, and three points (one goal, two assists) in 10 games to help Canada win gold at the 2023 IIHF World Championship.

NHL.com analysis:The Blue Jackets never have been able to draft and develop a top-line center, but that trend should end when Fantilli gets to the NHL. Fantilli was the best player in NCAA hockey with his great vision and elite offensive skills and he plays with enough of an edge that physical play at the NHL level won't bother him. He'll likely spend one more season at Michigan but all that will do is make him an even more effective player when he gets to the NHL.

4. San Jose Sharks -- William Smith, C, USA U-18 (NTDP)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 3 (North American skaters)

Smith (6-0 180) led all players and tied a United States record held by Jack Hughes with 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in seven games to help the U.S. win the gold medal at the 2023 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. The 18-year-old was second on USA Hockey's National Team Development Program Under-18 team with 127 points (51 goals, 76 assists) in 60 games, including 40 points (16 goals, 24 assists) in 22 games against NCAA competition. He is committed to play at Boston College next season.

NHL.com analysis:Smith is a game-breaking offensive talent with a well-rounded game who can be the best player on the ice whether he has a hat trick or doesn't get a point. The Sharks have started to accumulate young talent up front with William Eklund, Thomas Bordeleau and Filip Bystedt, but Smith has the chance to anchor a top line and energize a power play. He'll be well worth the wait after he plays at least one season at Boston College.

5. Montreal Canadiens -- David Reinbacher, D, Kloten (SUI)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 5 (International skaters)

Reinbacher (6-2, 194) had 22 points (three goals, 19 assists) in 46 games in National League, the top men's professional league in Switzerland. It was the second-most points by an under-19 defenseman in National League history behind Roman Josi, who had 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists) in 42 games in 2008-09. Reinbacher also played for his native Austria at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship and the 2023 IIHF World Championship. Scouts believe the 18-year-old could be the most NHL-ready defenseman in the 2023 draft class.

NHL.com analysis:The Canadiens opt for the best defenseman available. Reinbacher has experience playing against older, more-experienced competition in National League in Switzerland and at the World Championship. He has a well-rounded game and is strong enough to handle things in his end. A potential top defense pair of Reinbacher and Lane Hutson, the best defenseman in NCAA hockey last season, will make all the high-end young forwards they've assembled -- Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, Kirby Dach -- that much better.

6. Arizona Coyotes -- Dmitriy Simashev, D, Yaroslavl Jr. (RUS-JR)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 19 (International skaters)

Simashev (6-foot-4, 198 pounds) made his Kontinental Hockey League debut this season with seven shots on goal and an average ice time of 6:55 in 18 games. The 18-year-old left-handed shot also had 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in 29 games with Yaroslavl in Russia's junior league.

NHL.com analysis: The Coyotes pull off the first big surprise of the draft, but Simashev has the profile of a top-pair defensem*n whenever he comes to the NHL. He's a strong skater with a smart stick able to break up plays, and his size and strength should allow him to adapt to playing against NHL forwards. After selecting Maveric Lamoureux (6-6, 196) in the first round (No. 29) of the 2022 NHL Draft, the Coyotes are starting to build a big, physical defense.

7. Philadelphia Flyers -- Matvei Michkov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 2 (International skaters)

Michkov (5-10, 172) began his season with no points and 3:11 of ice time for SKA St. Petersburg, but his season changed when he was loaned to Sochi, where he had 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) and averaged 15:51 of ice time in 27 games. Michkov's average of 0.67 points per game was the highest for a first-time draft-eligible player in Kontinental Hockey League history. The 18-year-old is signed with SKA St. Petersburg through the 2025-26 season.

NHL.com analysis:The Flyers add arguably the second-most talented player in the draft with Michkov. Philadelphia is in the right spot to select the forward, who is signed in the KHL through the 2025-26 season. But as they lean into their rebuilding effort, three seasons from now should be when the other young prospects they've added, topped by Cutter Gauthier, the No. 5 pick of the 2022 NHL Draft, as well as whoever they select with the No. 22 pick Wednesday, should be coming together to form the core of a player contender.

8. Washington Capitals -- Ryan Leonard, RW, USA U-18 (NTDP)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 5 (North American skaters)

Leonard (6-0, 190) has a high compete level, grittiness and a willingness to stir the pot when his team needs a spark. The 18-year-old had 94 points (51 goals, 43 assists) in 57 games, including 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 22 games against NCAA competition. Leonard capped his season with 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in seven games for the United States at the 2023 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, including the overtime goal against Sweden in the gold-medal game. Leonard will play at Boston College next season.

NHL.com analysis: Leonard's play got better as the season went on, capped by his outstanding run at the World Under-18s. As skilled as Leonard is, there's a mean streak to his game that is reminiscent of Florida Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk. He'll play at Boston College next season, but he projects as a great complement not just to the current Capitals core of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson and T.J. Oshie, but the future along with Connor McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre, who just helped Hershey win the Calder Cup, and 2022 first-round pick (No. 20) Ivan Miroshnichenko.

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

NHL Central Scouting: No. 7 (North American skaters)

Danielson (6-1, 186) made one of the most significant jumps in Central Scouting's final rankings, from No. 13 on the midterm list. The 18-year-old led Brandon in goals (33), assists (45), points (78), power-play goals (13) and short-handed goals (three), and tied for the lead in game-winning goals (five) in 68 games. A dynamic skater with good speed who can play all situations, Danielson also led Brandon with 667 face-off wins on 1,267 chances (52.6 percent).

NHL.com analysis: Danielson stood out on a Brandon team that struggled this season, and scouts were impressed with how he continued to develop the offensive side of his game to complement a defensive game that Bedard said made him the most difficult player to skate against in his draft class. With Dylan Larkin entrenched as the Red Wings' No. 1 center, having a player with Danielson's skill set gives Detroit enviable depth at the position moving forward.

10. St. Louis Blues -- Dalibor Dvorsky, C, AIK (SWE-2)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 3 (International skaters)

Dvorsky (6-1, 200) is great with the puck on his stick and can attack in several different ways, has good hands and is skilled at protecting the puck. The 18-year-old was third among under-19 players in Allsvenskan, Sweden's second division, with 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 38 games, and also had 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) in 10 games Sweden's junior league. Dvorsky had 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in seven games for Slovakia at the 2023 IIHF World Under-18 Championship and three points (one goal, two assists) in five games for his country at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship. On Feb. 2, 2021, Dvorsky broke a 24-year-old record set in 1998 by countryman and former NHL forward Marian Gaborik when he became the youngest goal scorer in the Slovak Extraliga, with Banska Bystrica at age 15 years, 7 months, 18 days.

NHL.com analysis: The Blues have focused on the center position during the offseason, first trading for Kevin Hayes from the Philadelphia Flyers and now adding Dvorsky. He plays a smart, skilled game with quickness. A future Blues lineup with Robert Thomas and Dvorsky at the top of the center depth chart has to be appealing to the Blues.

11. Vancouver Canucks -- Tom Willander, D, Rogle Jr. (SWE-JR)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 12 (International skaters)

Willander (6-1, 180) had 25 points (four goals, 21 assists) in 39 games in Sweden's junior league, and eight points (three goals, five assists) for Sweden at the 2023 IIHF World Under-18 Championship to help them win the silver medal. The 18-year-old right-handed shot impressed scouts with his poise and calmness. Willander played well enough that he was promoted to Rogle's team in the Swedish Hockey League but never played for them so he could maintain his NCAA eligibility; he will play at Boston University next season.

NHL.com analysis:The Canucks have selected two defensem*n in the top two rounds of the draft since 2017, Quinn Hughes and Jett Woo with their first two selections in the 2018 NHL Draft. Finding more talent at that position is an imperative. Willander, who will play at Boston University next season, brings a complete game with a nice competitive edge who got better and more impressive as the season went on.

Tom Willander drafted by Vancouver Canucks

12. Arizona Coyotes -- Danil But, LW, Yaroslavl Jr. (RUS-JR)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 9 (International skaters)

But (6-5, 203) has intriguing size and playmaking ability, and moves well for a big player. He had 26 points (15 goals, 11 assists) in 26 regular-season games with Loko Yaroslavl in Russia's junior league and nine points (four goals, five assists) in seven playoff games before an illness ended his season. He also scored two goals in 15 games in the Kontinental Hockey League with Lokomotiv, where he'll likely spend a full season in 2023-24. But's father, Anton But, was selected in the fifth round (No. 119) by the New Jersey Devils in the 1998 NHL Draft and played 19 seasons in Russia.

NHL.com analysis:The Coyotes add more size with But, a highly skilled wing who skates well and knows how to use his size to protect the puck, clear space for himself and finish from anywhere in the offensive zone. With his size and strength below the dots, he projects to be an outstanding linemate for ecenter Logan Cooley, the No. 3 pick of the 2022 NHL Draft who was one of the top players in NCAA hockey last season.

Daniil But drafted by Arizona Coyotes

13. Buffalo Sabres -- Zach Benson, LW, Winnipeg (WHL)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 6 (North American skaters)

A terrific skater and relentless contributor on the forecheck, Benson (5-10, 170) led Winnipeg and finished third in the Western Hockey League with 98 points (36 goals, 62 assists) in 60 games, then had 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 15 WHL playoff games. The 18-year-old had 20 power-play points (four goals, 16 assists) and six short-handed goals during the regular season, proving his willingness to go to the tough areas of the ice and battle hard despite his size. Benson had eight game-winning goals and led Winnipeg with an average of 1.63 points per game. His best asset is his hockey smarts and he's improved his defensive game playing for Winnipeg coach James Patrick, a former NHL defenseman. Benson helped Canada win the gold medal at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup in August, when he had seven points (two goals, five assists) in five games.

NHL.com analysis: Benson has elite-level hockey IQ with a work ethic to match. The Sabres should know Benson's game well because his linemate is Buffalo top forward prospect Matt Savoie. The Sabres have built an impressive array of young offensive talent, led by Tage Thompson , Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, Dylan Cozens and Jack Quinn, plus top prospects Jiri Kulich and Isak Rosen. Benson has the potential to make that strong group even better.

14. Pittsburgh Penguins -- Brayden Yager, C, Moose Jaw (WHL)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 11 (North American skaters)

Yager (5-11, 170) was second on Moose Jaw with 78 points (28 goals, 50 assists) in 67 regular-season games and finished second on the team in the Western Hockey League playoffs with 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 10 games. He was awarded the Brad Hornung Memorial Trophy as the most sportsmanlike player in the WHL after he had 14 penalty minutes during the regular season. The 18-year-old improved his playmaking ability to complement his powerful shot, is responsible in all three zones and won 52.4 percent of his face-offs (613-for-1,169).

NHL.com analysis: Yager is a strong, quick skater and a puck hound with a dynamic shot. He needs to get stronger, but the upside is a top-line center that can make players around him better. It's imperative for the Penguins to find centers that can eventually replace Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and Yager has the potential to develop into a strong top-six player.

Yager drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins

15. Nashville Predators -- Matthew Wood, RW, Connecticut (NCAA)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 4 (North American skaters)

Wood (6-foot-4, 197) led Connecticut with 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) and 102 shots on goal in 35 games, and the 18-year-old was the youngest player in NCAA Division I men's hockey this season. He also helped Canada win the bronze medal at the 2023 IIHF World Under-18 Championship with team-highs in goals (seven) and points (13) in seven games.

NHL.com analysis: Incoming Predators general manager Barry Trotz said he wanted his scouts to "take some high-end swings on some guys," and Wood might have the highest ceiling of any prospect selected in the first round. His size and skill make him one of the best players below the dots in this draft class. He'll likely spent at least one more season in college but he projects to be a top-line power forward.

16. Calgary Flames -- Samuel Honzek, LW, Vancouver (WHL)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 9 (North American skaters)

Honzek (6-3, 195) had 56 points (23 goals, 33 assists) in 43 games in his first season in the Western Hockey League after leaving his native Slovakia. The 18-year-old is considered a versatile forward who can play all situations. He played two games for Slovakia at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship but sustained a skate cut to his left calf that sidelined him for two months. Despite that, he finished the season with 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in 12 regular-season games and four points (one goal, three assists) in four WHL playoff games, and also tested well at the 2023 NHL Scouting Combine presented by adidas.

NHL.com analysis: Honzek's strength and hockey IQ stood out this season, his first in the Western Hockey League after coming over from his native Slovakia. He can make plays off the rush and use his big body to hold off defenders to create time and space to use his quick, heavy shot. Were it not for the skate cut to his left calf that sidelined him for almost two months, he might have gone even earlier. Honzek projects to be a dynamic power forward with a shot that can beat goalies form a distance.

17. Detroit Red Wings -- Axel Sandin Pellikka, D, Skelleftea Jr. (SWE-JR)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 7 (International skaters)

Sandin Pellikka (5-11, 180) had 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 31 games in Sweden's junior league. The 18-year-old right-handed shot also made his Swedish Hockey League debut this season with five points (two goals, three assists) and an average ice time of 8:34 in 22 games. Sandin Pellikka was second among defensem*n at the 2023 IIHF World Under-18 Championship with 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in seven games to help Sweden win the silver medal.

NHL.com analysis:After shoring themselves at center with Danielson, the Red Wings add arguably the most offensively gifted defenseman in the draft. Adding Sandin Pellikka's offensive gifts to a defense corps that already includes emerging stars Simon Edvinsson and Moritz Seider is another outstanding building block. Sandin Pellikka still needs to get stronger and more adept in defending, but he projects to be a top-pair right-shot defenseman who can run a power play whenever he comes to the NHL.

18. Winnipeg Jets -- Colby Barlow, LW, Owen Sound (OHL)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 12 (North American skaters)

Barlow (6-0, 195) can beat defenders with his speed or strength in shielding them off 1-on-1 in tight quarters. He also can handle physical play along the boards and could develop into a top-nine forward at the NHL level. The 18-year-old led Owen Sound with 79 points (46 goals, 33 assists), 13 power-play goals and 12 game-winning goals in 59 games as captain and received the Bobby Smith Trophy, awarded to the Ontario Hockey League's scholastic player of the year. Barlow also led Owen Sound with three goals on nine shots in four OHL playoff games.

NHL.com analysis:The Jets appear to be going through some changes, with Pierre-Luc Dubois traded to the Los Angeles Kings and questions surrounding the future of Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele. But Barlow is a dynamic goal-scorer with a shot reminiscent of Buffalo Sabres forward Jeff Skinner. And he was a rare 18-year-old captain in Owen Sound this season, showing what teammates and coaches think of his leadership ability and character.

19. Chicago Blackhawks -- Oliver Moore, C, USA U-18 (NTDP)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 8 (North American skaters)

Moore (5-11, 195) had 75 points (31 goals, 44 assists) in 61 games, and nine points (four goals, five assists) in seven games to help the United States win a gold medal at the 2023 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. The 18-year-old is regarded as the fastest skater in the 2023 draft class and can play center or wing. He will play at the University of Minnesota next season.

NHL.com analysis:After taking the best player in the draft Bedard, they add the best skater in the draft with Moore. The University of Minnesota-bound center is a burner with skill similar to Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin. With Bedard and Moore, the Blackhawks have established a strong foundation through the middle.

20. Seattle Kraken -- Eduard Sale, LW, Brno (CZE)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 4 (International skaters)

Sale (6-2, 175) had 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 43 games and was named rookie of the year in Extraliga, the top men's professional league the Czech Republic. The 18-year-old also had six points (one goal, five assists) in seven games to help Czechia win the silver medal at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship, and six points (four goals, two assists) in five games at the 2023 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.

NHL.com analysis:After selecting centers Matty Beniers and Shane Wright in the first round in their first two drafts, the Kraken opt for a high-skill wing to go with them. Sale was rookie of the year in the top Czech men's professional league and has high-end puck skills and a high hockey IQ that will allow him to develop into a top option for the power play and penalty kill.

Eduard Sale drafted by Seattle Kraken

21. Minnesota Wild -- Charlie Stramel, C, Wisconsin (NCAA)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 30 (North American skaters)

Stramel (6-3, 222) had 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 33 games as a college freshman, and had three assists in seven games to help the United States win the gold medal at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship. Though the 18-year-old didn't have the scoring totals that were expected, some of that could have been because of Wisconsin's struggles this season. Stramel's size and athleticism were impressive even in a down season.

NHL.com analysis: The Wild need have great talent on the wing with Kirill Kaprizov and Matt Boldy in their prime, but they lack the kind of centers that could get the most out of them; Ryan Hartman and Joel Eriksson Ek are solid options but better suited to be lower in the lineup. Stramel didn't score like he might have expected as a freshman at Wisconsin this season, but that could have been part of the Badgers' struggles as a team this season. But he has the size, skating and skill to make a mark as a top-line power center.

22. Philadelphia Flyers -- Oliver Bonk, D, London (OHL)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 20 (North American skaters)

Bonk (6-1, 180) had 40 points (10 goals, 30 assists) in 67 regular-season games and 11 assists in 21 playoff games to help London reach the Ontario Hockey League final. He also played at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Games on Jan. 25, and had a plus-1 rating for Team White while playing most of the game against Team Red's top forwards. The 18-year-old right-handed shot is the son of retired NHL forward Radek Bonk.

NHL.com analysis: Bonk projects to be a top-four right-shot defenseman who can play on the power play and penalty kill. He joins a group of defenseman prospects that includes Emil Andrae, Ronnie Attard, Adam Ginning and Ethan Samson, but Bonk brings an edge to go with high-end hockey sense and skill. The Flyers likely are envisioning a future top pair of Cam York and Bonk.

23. New York Rangers -- Gabriel Perreault, RW, USA U-18 (NTDP)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 10 (North American skaters)

Perreault (5-11, 163) set the USA Hockey National Team Development Program record with 132 points (53 goals, 79 assists) in 63 games, topping the record set by Auston Matthews (117 points) in 2014-15. The 18-year-old also led the NTDP Under-18 team in goals and assists, including a team-leading 42 points (21 goals, 21 assists) in 22 games against NCAA competition. He also had 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in seven games to help the United States win the 2023 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. His father, Yanic Perreault, played 14 NHL seasons and his brother, Jacob Perreault, is an Anaheim Ducks forward prospect.

NHL.com analysis:Where the Rangers are stacked at left wing in the NHL with Chris Kreider, Artemi Panarin and Alexis Lafreniere, as well as top prospect Brennan Othmann, they don't have a lot of depth on the right side, which makes Perreault a smart choice. He has elite hockey sense that he'll continue to hone for at least a season or two at Boston College.

Perreault drafted by the New York Rangers

24. Nashville Predators -- Tanner Molendyk, D, Saskatoon (WHL)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 28 (North American skaters)

Molendyk (5-11, 181) had 37 points (nine goals, 28 assists) and was a plus-31 in 67 regular-season games and eight points (three goals, five assists) in 18 Western Hockey League playoff games. The 18-year-old also had an assist for Team White at the 2023 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Jan. 25. Scouts have been impressed by his skating and offensive instincts.

NHL.com analysis: The Predators need to add young defensem*n to their prospect group and Molendyk has the speed and skill to develop into a first-unit power-play quarterback. Though his offensive game is what will get him to the NHL, Molendyk's defensive game is solid. He's the first defenseman Nashville has selected in the first round since Dante Fabbro (No. 17) in the 2016 NHL Draft.

Tanner Molendyk drafted by the Nashville Predators

25. St. Louis Blues -- Otto Stenberg, C, Frolunda Jr. (SWE-JR)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 6 (International skaters)

Stenberg (5-11, 185) led Sweden with 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in seven games at the 2023 IIHF World Under-18 Championship to help them win the silver medal. The 18-year-old had 26 points (11 goals, 15 assists) in 29 games in Sweden's junior league and made his Swedish Hockey league debut with three points (one goal, two assists) in 23 games with Frolunda. An outstanding leader with a propensity to come up big in clutch situations, Stenberg can play wing or center.

NHL.com analysis:After taking Dvorsky at No. 10, the Blues select another center in Stenberg, who broke out at the World Under-18s and is considered a smart, skilled player who has been a leader on every team he's played for. Whether Dvorsky or Stenberg eventually play on the wing or in the middle, the Blues have done a great job building their forward depth with the first two of their three first-round picks.

26. San Jose Sharks -- Quentin Musty, LW, Sudbury (OHL)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 14 (North American skaters)

Musty (6-1, 200) finished second on Sudbury with 78 points (26 goals, 52 assists) in 53 regular-season games. The 17-year-old was invited to the 2023 Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January but didn't play because of an injury. Musty is a playmaker with a good shot but needs to improve his defensive game and consistency.

NHL.com analysis:The Sharks continue to bolster their deep pool of prospects at forward with Musty, a power forward who skates well and can be elusive with the puck in transition. With Smith and Musty, the Sharks did well adding two forwards who project to be game-breaking top-six players.

Quentin Musty drafted by San Jose Sharks

27. Colorado Avalanche -- Calum Ritchie, C, Oshawa (OHL)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 13 (North American skaters)

Ritchie (6-2, 184) was third among Oshawa players with 59 points (24 goals, 35 assists) in 59 games, and won 53.0 percent of his face-offs (413-for-779). The 18-year-old also had nine points (three goals, six assists) in seven games to help Canada win the bronze medal at the 2023 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. He had surgery after the tournament to repair a shoulder injury he sustained playing at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in August, but is expected to ready well before training camp begins.

NHL.com analysis:The Avalanche's biggest need last season was a second-line center, and they might have found a player who can develop into that role in Ritchie. Despite playing through a season-long shoulder injury, he impressed scouts and was a difference-maker in almost every game he played in the OHL as well as at the World Under-18s. He had shoulder surgery before the 2023 NHL Scouting Combine in May and is out of his sling and projects to be fully healthy when next season starts.

28. Toronto Maple Leafs - Easton Cowan, RW, London (OHL)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 51 (North American skaters)

Cowan (5-10, 170) had 53 points (20 goals, 33 assists) in 68 games in his first Ontario Hockey League season, and 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists), including two game-winning goals, in 20 OHL playoff games.

NHL.com analysis: Cowan going here probably was the biggest surprise of the first round. But he had a great run during the OHL playoffs and there's some significant raw skill there with his skating, hockey sense and defensive ability. He scratched the surface of his offensive potential as the season went on, and likely will have a larger role moving forward in junior. There's some significant projection there, but the Maple Leafs felt it was a chance they were wiling to take.

Easton Cowan drafted by Toronto Maple Leafs

29. St. Louis Blues -- Theo Lindstein, D, Brynas (SWE)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 14 (International skaters)

Lindstein (6-foot, 185 pounds) had two points (one goal, one assist) in 10:01 of ice time 32 games in the Swedish Hockey League; it was the most games for an undrafted under-19 defenseman in the SHL. The 18-year-old also had five points (one goal, four assists) to help Sweden win the silver medal at the 2023 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.

NHL.com analysis: The Blues finish a productive night with Lindstein, a smart, skilled left-shot defenseman who could develop into a power-play quarterback at the NHL level. He likely won't be the kind of player who goes end to end with the puck, but he's safe and rarely turns the puck over. The pick also fills a need for young talent at the position; Lindstein is the first defenseman chosen in the first round by the Blues since Jordan Schmaltz at No. 25 in the 2012 NHL Draft.

Theo Lindstein drafted by St. Louis Blues

30. Carolina Hurricanes -- Bradly Nadeau, LW, Penticton (BCHL)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 17 (North American skaters)

Nadeau (5-10, 160) led the British Columbia Hockey League with 113 points (45 goals, 68 assists), 10 game-winning goals and an average of 2.09 points per game, tied teammate Aydar Suniev for the league lead in goals in 54 regular-season games, and was awarded the Vern Dye Memorial Trophy as the league's most valuable player. He tied his brother, Joshua, for the BCHL lead during the playoffs with 35 points (17 goals, 18 assists) in 17 games and won the playoff MVP award after Penticton won the league championship. The 18-year-old is committed to play at the University of Maine next season. Nadeau's play has been compared to Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner.

NHL.com analysis: With their first first-round pick since 2020, the Hurricanes opt for a high-skill forward who was the best player in the BCHL this season. He'll need to get bigger and stronger starting next season in college, but he projects to be a strong two-way forward who should play somewhere in the top-six forward group. The Hurricanes are built to have patience, as their top-six forward group, led by Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teravainen and Jarvis, still are in their primes.

31. Colorado Avalanche -- Mikhail Gulyayev, D, Omsk Jr. (RUS-JR)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 10 (International skaters)

Gulyayev (5-10, 172) made his debut in the Kontinental Hockey League this season with one assist and 6:37 of ice time in 13 games. The 18-year-old left-handed shot played most of the season in Russia's junior league, where he had 25 points (two goals, 23 assists) in 22 games.

NHL.com analysis:Gulyayev skates well enough to be a one-man breakout and is positionally strong all over the ice. Other than Sean Behrens, a second-round pick (No. 61) in the 2021 NHL Draft, who is developing at the University of Denver, the Avalanche lack top-end defenseman prospects. Gulyayev has time left on his KHL contract but the reward for that patience could be an outstanding defenseman to complement Cale Makar on the Avalanche's second power-play unit.

32. Vegas Golden Knights -- David Edstrom, C, Frolunda Jr. (SWE-JR)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 25 (International skaters)

Edstrom (6-3, 185) had 28 points (15 goals, 13 assists) in 28 games in Sweden's junior league, and made his debut in the Swedish Hockey League with four points (two goals, two assists) in 11 games with Frolunda. The 18-year-old also was second for Sweden with five goals in seven games at the 2023 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.

NHL.com analysis:The Golden Knights selected centers in the first round three of the previous four years at the draft, but only Brendan Brisson (2020, No. 29) remains as Vegas traded Zach Dean (2021, No. 30) to the St. Louis Blues as part of the Ivan Barbashev trade and Peyton Krebs (2019, No. 17) to Buffalo Sabres to acquire Jack Eichel. Those moves helped Vegas win the Stanley Cup this season, but left their prospect cupboard bare. Edstrom is a smart playmaker with great size and really stood out at the World Under-18s.

David Edstrom drafted by Vegas Golden Knights

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