NHL Mock Draft: Pronman and Wheeler predict the first two rounds (2024)

Table of Contents
Round 1 Round 2

Welcome to The Athletic’stwo-round mock of the 2023 NHL Draft. In recent days, prospects writers Corey Pronman and Scott Wheeler took turns making the first 64 selections of the upcoming NHL draft.

The rules were simple: There would be no trades, there would be no discussions between Pronman and Wheeler about who they were going to pick, and the order of selections 29-32 (which are still to be finalized pending the results of the conference final and Cup Final) would be determined by the last four playoff teams’ regular season finishes in the standings. The goal was simple, too: These are meant to be each writer’s predictions for how things will actually play out on draft day, based on their own understanding of the consensus as well as specific team needs, preferences and tendencies. These are notthe picks they would make themselves.

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After a coin flip, Wheeler picked first and made the odd-numbered selections, and Pronman made the even-numbered ones. Here’s how it played out.

Final 2023 NHL Mock Draft

Round 1

1. Chicago Blackhawks (Pick by Scott Wheeler): Connor Bedard, C, Regina

No need for me to spend too much ink on this one when the Blackhawks have surely already stamped it.

2. Anaheim Ducks (Pick by Corey Pronman): Adam Fantilli, C, University of Michigan

This is not a sure thing, and the World Championships may reshape this debate as that tournament continues to progress because Leo Carlsson is a very serious consideration, but as of today, I think Fantilli is the guy at No. 2.

New post @TheAthleticNHL: My first round one 2023 NHL mock drafthttps://t.co/eS8oxZCJLo

— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) May 11, 2023

3. Columbus Blue Jackets (Pick by Wheeler): Will Smith, C, NTDP

Smith to the Blue Jackets just feels like it makes a lot of stylistic sense for both the way they scout and what they need to continue to add. They could use an ultra-talented, point-producing center about as much as any team in the league.

Read more: NHL Staff Mock Draft 2.0: Bedard is No. 1, but where do Fantilli, Carlsson, Michkov land?

4. San Jose Sharks (Pick by Pronman): Leo Carlsson, C, Orebro

Sharks get a player with a chance to be a first-line forward if not first-line center in the NHL and be the foundation of their rebuild.

5. Montreal Canadiens (Pick by Wheeler): Ryan Leonard, RW, NTDP

I’m sure the Canadiens will consider winger Matvei Michkov, center Dalibor Dvorsky, and defenseman David Reinbacher here. But they go with Leonard, a universally-liked player who brings competitiveness and scoring.

6. Arizona Coyotes (Pick by Pronman): David Reinbacher, RHD, Kloten

Arizona jumps at the opportunity to draft the best defenseman in the draft and give themselves a new foundational blueliner after dealing Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Jakob Chychrun.

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7. Philadelphia Flyers (Pick by Wheeler): Dalibor Dvorsky, C, AIK

The Flyers targeted a potential center when they drafted Cutter Gauthier at No. 5 last year. Daniel Briere doubles down down the middle with his first selection, drafting another potential center in Dvorsky. They may not both play C at the NHL level, but they offer a good foundation of skill, pro size and roundedness.

8. Washington Capitals (Pick by Pronman): Matvei Michkov, RW, SKA

Washington takes the most talented player available on the board. They just got Ivan Mirosnichenko out of his KHL deal early and have a great track record of recruiting Russians.

9. Detroit Red Wings (Pick by Wheeler): Zach Benson, LW, Winnipeg

I think the Red Wings strongly consider centers Nate Danielson, Oliver Moore and Brayden Yager here, but Benson’s skill-competitiveness combo has earned him a lot of fans and fits with what Steve Yzerman and co. are typically looking for.

10. St. Louis Blues (Pick by Pronman): Tom Willander, RHD, Rogle

Willander’s stock has skyrocketed since the U18s. He’s a highly-mobile two-way defenseman and gives the Blues a defense talent in their system they haven’t had in a long time.

11. Vancouver Canucks (Pick by Wheeler): Nate Danielson, C, Brandon

The Canucks get their 2/3C of the future behind Elias Pettersson with Danielson, a pivot with coveted pro size, skating, and two-way skill.

12. Arizona Coyotes (Pick by Pronman): Samuel Honzek, LW, Vancouver

Arizona gets to add size, speed and skill up front into their young core in Honzek. He will complement Logan Cooley very well down the line.

13. Buffalo Sabres (Pick by Wheeler): Gabe Perreault, LW, NTDP

The Sabres likely consider UConn forward Matthew Wood and Skelleftea defenseman Axel Sandin Pellikka here, but they can’t pass on the playmaking and handedness of Perreault to complement right-shot scorers like Jack Quinn and some day replace Jeff Skinner at left wing in the top six.

14. Pittsburgh Penguins (Pick by Pronman): Brayden Yager, C, Moose Jaw

Yager adds an excellent combination of compete, speed and scoring ability to the Penguins system. Hopefully he can get there within the next few years to provide a scoring option to the wing of Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

15. Nashville Predators (Pick by Wheeler): Oliver Moore, C, NTDP

Barry Trotz starts his restock at a position of need down the middle within the Preds organization and adds a driver and the best skater in the draft in the process.

16. Calgary Flames (Pick by Pronman): Axel Sandin-Pellikka, RHD, Skelleftea

Calgary adds much-needed young depth to the blue line in their pipeline with arguably the best puck-mover in the draft.

17. Detroit Red Wings (Pick by Wheeler): Colby Barlow, LW, Owen Sound

After adding the small-but-determined playmaking of Benson at No. 9, the Red Wings add another determined winger at No. 17 with Barlow, whose scoring and strength should mesh with his new teammate down the line.

18. Winnipeg Jets (Pick by Pronman): Oliver Bonk, RHD, London

The Jets add a big, mobile puck-moving right-shot defenseman in Bonk to a system that has added a lot of scoring talent in recent years but could use a defenseman like Bonk.

19. Chicago Blackhawks (Pick by Wheeler): Daniil But, LW, Yaroslavl

The Blackhawks add a long, versatile and talented scoring winger in the 6-foot-5 But, a player who should really complement a Bedard or a Frank Nazar long term.

20. Seattle Kraken (Pick by Pronman): Quentin Musty, LW, Sudbury

Wheeler’s 2023 NHL Mock Draft 1.0

My best guesses for the first round based on team preferences/needs, consensus, and in some cases specific interest.

New @TheAthletic: https://t.co/zBo88YfCxT

— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) May 10, 2023

Seattle adds a dynamic playmaker and overall scorer to potentially play next to two-way centers like Matty Beniers or Shane Wright down the line.

21. Minnesota Wild (Pick by Wheeler): Matthew Wood, RW, UConn

The depth of the Wild’s pool across positions puts them in an advantageous position. They go with Wood, a rangy natural scorer with plenty of puck skill and room to develop.

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22. Columbus Blue Jackets (Pick by Pronman): Mikhail Gulyayev, LHD, Avangard

Columbus adds to an already rich group of defense prospects by drafting one of the best skaters and playmakers from the back end in the draft, although undersized.

23. New York Rangers (Pick by Wheeler): Calum Ritchie, C, Oshawa

The Rangers have drafted wingers with their last five top picks. They go for a natural center here and take Ritchie, a committed two-way player with skill and size.

24. Nashville Predators (Pick by Pronman): Dmitri Simashev, LHD, Lokomotiv

Nashville drafts a big, mobile defenseman in Simashev who can move the puck. Their organization has had a good recent history of recruiting Russians.

25. St. Louis Blues (Pick by Wheeler): Riley Heidt, C, Prince George

After drafting a defenseman earlier in the round, the Blues address another area of need and take Heidt, a competitive center with skill and playmaking.

26. San Jose Sharks (Pick by Pronman): David Edstrom, C, Frolunda

San Jose gets back-to-back big Swedish centers. Edstrom provides speed and excellent two-way play.

27. Colorado Avalanche (Pick by Wheeler): Eduard Sale, LW, Brno

The Avalanche’s cupboards lack skill, so they swing on the most talented player remaining in the draft in Czech star Sale.

28. Toronto Maple Leafs (Pick by Pronman): Oscar Fisker Molgaard, C, HV71

Toronto adds much-desired center depth to their cupboard with a player who has the speed, skill, and compete to potentially play the middle in the NHL.

29. Montreal Canadiens (Pick by Wheeler): Andrew Cristall, LW, Kelowna

A winter injury and tough spring finish in the WHL playoffs and at U18 Worlds push the diminutive Cristall into the late first round, but the Canadiens don’t let one of the most gifted players in the draft slip into the Day 2, adding more skill and a potential WHL scoring champion next year to their pool.

30. St. Louis Blues (Pick by Pronman): Charlie Stramel, C, University of Wisconsin

The Blues add a big fast center in Stramel who has a lot of physicality and could provide secondary offense as a pro.

31. Vegas Golden Knights (Pick by Wheeler): Otto Stenberg, C, Frolunda

After moving a forward prospect in Zach Dean at the deadline, the Golden Knights add the captain of this Swedish age group and NHL Central Scouting’s highest-ranked Swedish ’05 in Stenberg, a hard-working and skilled forward who can play multiple positions and projects to have up-and-down the lineup utility.

32. Carolina Hurricanes (Pick by Pronman): Gavin Brindley, C, University of Michigan

Carolina adds a player with high-end quickness and compete in Brindley who had a great freshman season although he’s quite undersized.

Round 2

33. Anaheim Ducks (Pick by Wheeler): Ethan Gauthier, RW, Sherbrooke

The Ducks have had a lot of success drafting out of the QMJHL and they go back to the well for Gauthier, a competitive and skilled winger who fits their identity.

34. Columbus Blue Jackets (Pick by Pronman): Juraj Pekarchik, LW, Nitra

Pekarchik’s stock has skyrocketed since the U18s. He’s a toolsy wing, with NHL size, speed and skill, and is only a few days away from being 2024 NHL Draft eligible.

35. Chicago Blackhawks (Pick by Wheeler): Bradly Nadeau, LW, Penticton

The Blackhawks can afford to wait on a smallish college-bound player, and they swing on the talent of Nadeau, who torched the BCHL this season and is one of the only remaining forward prospects with legit top-six/PP1 talent if things break right.

36. San Jose Sharks (Pick by Pronman): Lukas Dragicevic, RHD, Tri-City

The Sharks add a highly-talented defenseman in Dragicevic with decent size who posted huge WHL numbers this season and can possibly run their power play one day.

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37. Montreal Canadiens (Pick by Wheeler): Michael Hrabal, G, Omaha

After taking forwards with their two first-round picks, the Canadiens take the first goalie of the draft, selecting the 6-foot-6 Hrabal with the hope that he’ll be their netminder of the future.

38. Arizona Coyotes (Pick by Pronman): Maxim Strbak, RHD, Sioux Falls

Strbak is a tall, mobile defenseman who competes at a very high level. He’s the kind of defenseman Arizona will want playing behind guys like Reinbacher.

39. Buffalo Sabres (Pick by Wheeler): Tanner Molendyk, LHD, Saskatoon

The Sabres add one of the more mobile defensem*n in the draft in Molendyk, a projected No. 4-5 D who some believe still has another level to reach offensively and could slot in nicely behind Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power long term.

40. Washington Capitals (Pick by Pronman): Danny Nelson, C, NTDP

Washington adds the very toolsy Nelson who is 6-foot-3, can skate, has some skill, and can play both center or defense.

41. Detroit Red Wings (Pick by Wheeler): Hunter Brzustewicz, RHD, Kitchener

After taking two forwards in the first round, the Red Wings use their first of three consecutive second-rounders to address an area of slight organizational need: right-shot defensem*n. They consider Barrie’s Beau Akey here as well but settle on Brzustewicz, who could become a nice third-pairing guy behind Mo Seider and Simon Edvinsson someday.

42. Detroit Red Wings (Pick by Pronman): Anton Wahlberg, C, Malmo

Detroit adds a big, fast Swede with skill in Wahlberg whose stock rose sharply in the second half of the season.

43. Detroit Red Wings (Pick by Wheeler): Theo Lindstein, LHD, Brynas

The Red Wings think about doubling down on righties with Akey here as well, but add yet another Swedish defensem*n in the ever-reliable Lindstein instead.

44. Chicago Blackhawks (Pick by Pronman): Kalan Lind, C, Red Deer

Chicago adds one of the most competitive players in the draft in Lind who was a big part of a top WHL team.

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45. Buffalo Sabres (Pick by Wheeler): Carson Rehkopf, LW, Kitchener

In Rehkopf, the Sabres add a rangy, talented, north-south, scoring left-shot winger who many feel is just scratching the surface. He should complement what they’ve already got in their system, too.

46. Nashville Predators (Pick by Pronman): Etienne Morin, LHD, Moncton

Nashville adds a highly-skilled and productive QMJHL defenseman. It worked out last time with Samuel Girard even if he didn’t become a full-time Predator.

47. Nashville Predators (Pick by Wheeler): Kasper Halttunen, RW, HIFK

The Preds drafted two of the top Finns in the 2022 draft class and had success graduating Finn Juuso Parssinen this year. In Halttunen, they land Finland’s captain at U18 worlds and a stocky pro-sized winger with an NHL shot.

48. Calgary Flames (Pick by Pronman): Felix Nilsson, C, Rogle

Calgary drafts a quick, skilled two-way center in Nilsson whose stock kept rising in Sweden as the season went along.

49. New York Islanders (Pick by Wheeler): Koehn Ziemmer, RW, Prince George

The Islanders have a history of drafting heavyset players with below-average footspeed and turning them into NHLers, and it’s not often you can draft a 40-goal scorer out of the CHL in the second round. They add the talented and hard-working Ziemmer, a player with legitimate NHL upside if they can help him get a little quicker.

50. Seattle Kraken (Pick by Pronman): Coulson Pitre, RW, Flint

Pitre is well thought of in the league and could be a second-round pick to Seattle due to his speed, skill, stature and well-rounded play.

51. Chicago Blackhawks (Pick by Wheeler): Mathieu Cataford, RW, Halifax

The Blackhawks add a hard-working, versatile forward with good instincts and overall skill in Cataford, who could become a solid third-line player for them someday.

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52. Seattle Kraken (Pick by Pronman): Andrew Gibson, RHD, Sault Ste. Marie

Gibson had a very good U18 Worlds and his stock is on the rise. He’s a big, mobile physical defenseman and could be coveted by a team like Seattle looking to build their pool of defense talent.

53. Minnesota Wild (Pick by Wheeler): Jayden Perron, RW, Chicago

The Wild love smart hockey prospects and they add one of the draft’s highest IQ forwards in the second round with Perron.

54. Los Angeles Kings (Pick by Pronman): Jakub Dvorak, LHD, Liberec

Dvorak is a huge defenseman who can move the puck fairly well and will complement the defensem*n in the Kings’ system.

55. Chicago Blackhawks (Pick by Wheeler): Nico Myatovic, LW, Seattle

Despite being a December 2004, Myatovic is a late bloomer who impressed scouts this season for the way he fit in up and down a loaded Thunderbirds lineup, scoring 30 goals and playing a variety of roles. He’s got size, versatility, skill, room to fill out and pro habits already and could eventually fit in nicely behind the Blackhawks’ first-round talents.

56. Edmonton Oilers (Pick by Pronman): Adam Gajan, G, Chippewa

Gajan is the most athletic goalie in the draft and was named top goalie at the world juniors. He provides a potential goalie of the future in Edmonton.

57. Seattle Kraken (Pick by Wheeler): Beau Akey, RHD, Barrie

The Kraken only used four of their 18 draft picks in 2021 and 2022 on defensem*n. They make it more of a priority again here and draft the smooth-skating Akey.

58. New Jersey Devils (Pick by Pronman): Lenni Hameenaho, RW, Assat

Hameenaho is a versatile forward with NHL speed and skill who was very good versus men this season. He is a potential third-line wing one day for the Devils.

59. Anaheim Ducks (Pick by Wheeler): Nick Lardis, LW, Hamilton

Lardis’ stock surged in the second half after an offensive explosion following a trade from Peterborough to Hamilton. The Ducks add one of the better skaters in the draft, and a player with a great finishing touch.

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60. Anaheim Ducks (Pick by Pronman): Carson Bjarnason, G, Brandon

The Ducks need a goalie of the future, and Bjarnasson is in the mix to be among the very first goalies picked in the draft due to his frame and great athleticism.

61. Florida Panthers (Pick by Wheeler): Gracyn Sawchyn, C, Seattle

Sawchyn has some of the faster hands in the draft and blends his skill on the puck with a real competitiveness off of it. He fits the Panthers’ type, too, and can play center or the wing.

62. Dallas Stars (Pick by Pronman): Caden Price, LHD, Kelowna

Price is a mobile defenseman who can provide value at both ends and has a decent-sized frame.

63. Minnesota Wild (Pick by Wheeler): Luca Cagnoni, LHD, Portland

The Wild have as their captain one of the great diminutive defensem*n success stories in the NHL in Jared Spurgeon. How’d he do it? With smarts and know-how. They go to one of the smartest defensem*n in the draft by drafting the 5-foot-10 Cagnoni.

64. Carolina Hurricanes (Pick by Pronman): Roman Kantserov, RW, Magnitogorsk

Kantserov is a very speedy and skilled scoring wing who fits into the type of player Carolina tends to target in the draft.

(Illustration: Sean Reilly / The Athletic; photos: Minas Panagiotakis, Getty Images; Jari Pestelacci / Eurasia Sport Images / Getty Images)

NHL Mock Draft: Pronman and Wheeler predict the first two rounds (2024)
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