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Final NHL Mock Draft: Big Russian Falls to Golden Knights



NHL Draft, Vegas Golden Knights

When Kelly McCrimmon and the Vegas Golden Knights finally get to the podium on Wednesday at the Bridgestone Arena, it will be deep into the night. After winning the Stanley Cup, the Golden Knights will have the final pick of the first round.

Before the Golden Knights get to take their next prospect to watch develop and come through the Silver Knights system, 31 other teams will snare the player they hope becomes their next top prospect.

After a couple of thin drafts, the 2023 NHL Draft is flush with talent deep into the second round, giving the Golden Knights a chance to select a player who has a legitimate chance to play in the NHL, though statistically, that won’t happen for a few years.

Outside the top 10, it’s increasingly rare for prospects to make the leap from juniors, NCAA, or Russia, straight to the NHL. However, as the National Hockey Now mock draft unfolded, a few solid players who fit the VGK profile were still on the board at No. 32.

NHN enlisted the help of our network writers, as well as guest experts Chris Peters of FloHockey, NHL Sirius/XM draft expert Russ Cohen, and Andy Strickland of Bally’s Sports.

When we made our selection, we liked a big Russian kid who will need time to develop but has the power forward potential and big frame the Golden Knights like.

The National Hockey Now NHL mock draft:

1. Chicago Blackhawks: Center Connor Bedard, Regina (WHL)

One of the two sure-fire picks of the draft. The Blackhawks are getting arguably the most anticipated player since Connor McDavid went to the Edmonton Oilers in 2015. Bedard is expected to jumpstart the rebuild and help Chicago exit faster than what looked like a long process. (Selection made by Chicago Hockey Now’s Nate Brown).

2. Anaheim Ducks: Center Adam Fantilli, University of Michigan (Big 10)

Fantilli is opting to return to the University of Michigan next season. That will give the Ducks time to figure out how to use their collection of quality young players best. Anaheim is starting to collect an impressive group of young centers. His overall game is superb, and he can be one of the NHL’s most dangerous players around the net in the near future. (Selection made by Sirius draft analyst Russ Cohen)

3. Columbus Blue Jackets: Center Leo Carlsson, Orebro (SHL)

In other years, Carlsson could have been a No. 1 pick overall. The Blue Jackets need a center, and he’s one of the best in the draft. Columbus Director of Pro Scouting Josef Boumedienne knows him from serving as assistant GM for Sweden’s national team. That team included potential Olympic selections for 2026. (Selection made by Cohen).

4. San Jose Sharks: Center Will Smith, USNTDP (USHL)

While Matvei Michkov is tempting here, there are obviously a lot of questions surrounding him in terms of when he’ll be able to come over to North America. Smith is a safer pick in that regard but still owns a top-of-the-lineup offensive upside. (Selection made by San Jose Hockey Now’s Sheng Peng)

5. Montreal Canadiens: Right Wing Matvei Michkov, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)

Despite the concerns regarding his contract in Russia, Michkov is simply too talented to ignore. The Canadiens desperately need players with elite offensive instincts, and Michkov fits the bill. He has the type of skill set that usually results in a first-overall choice. His fantastic shot, creativity, and elusiveness will serve him well in the NHL. (Selection Made by Montreal Hockey Now’s Marc Dumont).

6. Arizona Coyotes:  Defenseman David Reinbacher, Kloten HC (Swiss National League) 

The Coyotes desperately need defensive help in both the near and long term. Reinbacher projects favorably as a top-four defenseman with a chance to be a top-pairing guy. He has size and mobility that will make an impact in Arizona’s system. (Selection made by Chris Peters, senior content creator for FloHockey. )

7. Philadelphia Flyers: Forward Ryan Leonard, USNTDP (USHL)

The Flyers need help everywhere. Leonard plays with a physical edge — Philly fans love that — and he has shown a scorer’s touch. The 18-year-old plays with maximum effort and is defensive-minded, too. He is going to Boston College in the fall to join Flyers prospect, Cutter Gauthier. (Selection made by Philly Hockey Now’s Chuck Bausman.)

8. Washington Capitals: Center Dalibor Dvorsky, AIK (Allsvenskan)

The Capitals need to capitalize on the team’s first top-10 choice since 2007, and Dvorsky is the safe pick with Michkov and others already off the board. The 6-foot-1, 201-pound center is a cerebral playmaker and Central Scouting’s No. 3 International skater — drastically improving the Capitals’ prospect pool in one pick alone. (Pick made by Washington Hockey Now’s Jared Serre).

9. Detroit Red Wings: Center Oliver Moore, USNTDP (USHL)

Detroit GM Steve Yzerman is delighted to find Moore still on the board at No. 9. He’s the playmaking center that the Red Wings lack. With his explosive speed, he might also be the best skater in this draft class. As well, he’s sound defensively. Moore is destined for the University of Minnesota, and the Wings will like that they can be patient with his development. (Pick made by Detroit Hockey Now’s Bob Duff)

10. St Louis Blues: Right Wing Matthew Wood, Connecticut (Hockey East) 

The Blues need defense but can likely grab a player they want with one of their later picks in the first round. Taking the best player available in this case would be selecting Wood. He’s the youngest player in NCAA hockey and dominated the BCHL the year before. Has some Tage Thompson qualities, although not as big. He’s 6-foot-3 (but is still growing), and the Blues want to get bigger. (Pick by Andy Strickland, Rinkside Reporter Bally Sports Midwest, Host 590 the Fan KFNS)

11. Vancouver Canucks: Defenseman Tom Willander, Rogle BK (SHL)

Vancouver has forwards in the pipeline but could use a top-end D. Willander was super impressive at the combine in both the workouts and during interviews. (Pick by Strickland, Rinkside Reporter Bally Sports Midwest, Host 590, the Fan, KFNS)

12. Arizona Coyotes: Center Nate Danielson, Brandon (WHL)

The Coyotes can get a dependable two-way center with some size and play-driving ability. There is debate about his overall puck skills as he lacks the dynamic element of some others available. Still, the Coyotes can add a projectable middle-six pivot by selecting Danielson. (Pick by Chris Peters, senior content creator for FloHockey. )

13. Buffalo Sabres: Left Wing Quentin Musty, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)

Sabres GM Kevyn Adams appears to be looking to add a young power forward at #13. At the Draft Combine earlier this month, there was a lot of chatter about Buffalo being interested in Matthew Wood, but he went off the board to the Blues. Musty is a WNY product who played for the Jr. Sabres before heading to Sudbury. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound winger doubled his offensive output in his second OHL season with 78 points and is good two-way, but he needs to work on his skating. (Pick by Buffalo Hockey Now’s Mike Augello)

14. Pittsburgh Penguins: Forward Zach Benson, Winnipeg (WHL)

It’s very tempting to snag a center like Brayden Yager here, but Benson is too good to pass up. He’s undersized (5-foot-9, 163 pounds), but many scouts think he’s a top-10 talent with speed and playmaking ability. He’s fearless in the corners and between the dots. A hard forechecker, Benson is compared to Mitch Marner. Despite the rough-and-tumble Metro Division, a difference maker on Evgeni Malkin’s or Sidney Crosby’s line is the type of pick that could add that bit of electricity back into the Penguins’ lineup sooner than later.

15. Nashville Predators: Right Wing Gabe Perreault USNTDP (USHL)

GM-in-waiting Barry Trotz wants some high-end swings from his scouting department, and Perreault certainly fits that bill after a breakout 2022 season in which he set USNTDP records for single-season points (132) and assists (79). His elusive skating and excellent puck-handling make him a threat to create scoring chances from anywhere on the ice, and his ability (and desire) to attack defenders 1-on-1 is exactly the kind of aggressive, offensive skill set that will thrive under newly hired head coach Andrew Brunette. (Selection made by Nashville Hockey Now’s Michael Gallagher).

16. Calgary Flames:  Center Brayden Yager, Moose Jaw (WHL)

The Flames need to focus on the future at center, and Yager has an elite shot and finishing ability they need after all those one-goal losses. (Pick made by Calgary Hockey Now’s Steve MacFarlane)

17. Detroit Red Wings: Defenseman Axel Sandin-Pellikka, Skelleftea (SHL)

The flashy Swede is the best puck-moving defenseman in the draft. He’s slick with the puck, a superb decision-maker. The Red Wings are looking to add more right-shot young defensemen. (Pick made by Detroit Hockey Now’s Kevin Allen)

18. Winnipeg Jets: Defenseman Dmitri Simashev, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL)

The 6-foot-4-inch defenseman has a high ceiling. He is already over 200 pounds, has room to get stronger, is already a very good skater, and is slippery in the offensive zone, creating chances for teammates. He has top-four defenseman written all over him. (Pick by Sirius Radio draft analyst Russ Cohen) 

19. Chicago Blackhawks: Left Wing Colby Barlow,  Owen Sound Attack (OHL)

Many believe Andrew Cristall will go here, but there are just too many boxes that Barlow checks not to take him. The Blackhawks are flush with centers and defensemen in the prospect pool, allowing them to take a skilled winger. Barlow scored 46 goals in 59 games and is Owen Sound’s captain. He would be another leadership voice in a future Blackhawks locker room. Beyond that, his commitment at both ends of the ice, scoring gifts, and other intangibles make him Davidson’s pick at 19. (Pick by Chicago Hockey Now’s Nate Brown)

20. Seattle Kraken: Center Riley Heidt, Prince George (WHL)

He has plenty of speed, is a quick decision-maker on odd-man breaks, and is a precision passer. The pivot has a pro-one-timer, too. ( Pick by Sirius Radio draft analyst Russ Cohen) 

21. Minnesota Wild: Center/Wing Otto Stenberg, Frolunda (SHL)

Stenberg’s speed off the wall makes scouts believe he will be a winger at the next level. His one-timer is terrific, and he’s a two-way player with excellent physical strength already. (Pick by Cohen) 

22. Philadelphia Flyers: Defenseman Lukas Dragicevic, Tri-City (WHL)

After selecting Ryan Leonard at No. 7, the Flyers want to beef up their defensive corps. Dragicevic has size at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, and is an excellent skater. He likes to charge forward with the puck and will turn defense into much-needed offense. (Selection made by Philly Hockey Now’s Chuck Bausman.)

23. New York Rangers: Right Wing Gavin Brindley, University of Michigan (Big Ten)

Brindley is a smaller, slippery forward with 38 points in 41 games during his freshman season with the Wolverines. He’s a nifty stick handler who competes hard and has proven he can thrive in high-traffic areas. He has plenty of speed. (Pick by Cohen) 

24. Nashville Predators: Left Wing Andrew Cristall, Kelowna (WHL)

Cristall averaged two points per game in 2022 and finished sixth in the WHL scoring, despite missing 14 games. Tallying 35 goals and 95 points is the kind of production expected out of a Brunette-coached offense, and Cristall is a gifted playmaker with offensive creativity in spades. He will likely fall to the mid-20s because of his 5-foot-10, 167-pound frame, and Nashville will reap the benefits. (Pick by Nashville Hockey Now’s Gallagher)

25. St. Louis Blues: Winger Eduard Sale, Brno (Czechia)

Boasting some of the best hands in the draft, Sale knows how to find seams in the defense. Doesn’t always seem dangerous, but if you lose track of him, he will find the net. He buries his chances. Some teams have him rated close to the top 10. (Pick by Detroit Hockey Now’s Allen)

26. San Jose Sharks: Defenseman Oliver Bonk, London Knights (OHL)

At the Trade Deadline, Mike Grier added young defensemen Shakir Mukhamadullin, Nikita Okhotiuk, and Henry Thrun. He will likely continue his bid to re-shape the Sharks’ defense of the future by selecting the son of Radek, a 6-foot-2 blueliner who defends well and can move the puck. (Selection made by San Jose Hockey Now’s Sheng Peng)

27. Colorado Avalanche: Center David Edstrom, Frolunda (SHL)

It is an ideal spot to trade down for the asset-poor Avalanche, but they select the very smart Edstrom. The 6-foot-3 center excelled at every level in Sweden before finishing strong at the U-18’s. A hard worker and good skater with a high hockey IQ. These are all the attributes Colorado looks for. (Selection made by Colorado Hockey Now’s Evan Rawal)

28. Toronto Maple Leafs: Defenseman Luca Cagnoni, Portland (WHL)

The Leafs will select the best player available late in the first round, but with the scouting staff of former GM Kyle Dubas still running the draft, they will not shy away from a smaller player. Toronto will feel fortunate if Cagnoni is there at No. 28. The 5’9″, 180 lb defenseman scored 64 points (17 goals, 47 assists) in 67 games for the Winterhawks, and after trading Rasmus Sandin at the deadline, Toronto may want to bolster their organizational depth on the blue line. (Pick by Buffalo Hockey Now’s Augello)

29. St. Louis Blues: Center/Left Wing Samuel Honzek, Vancouver (WHL)

The skilled Slovak put up 56 points in 43 games for Vancouver. Honzek is 6-foot-4 and owns a quick release and hard shot. He will use his body and goes hard to the net. Impressive on the power play, he projects to be a second-line forward with the ability to score and play a strong all-around game. (Pick by Detroit Hockey Now’s Kevin Allen)

30. The Carolina Hurricanes:  Right Wing Jayden Perron, Chicago Steel (USHL)

Perron’s speed sets up his offense, and his two-way game is on point, keeping with the Hurricanes’ way. (Pick by Cohen).

31. Montreal Canadiens: Center Calum Ritchie, Oshawa Generals (OHL)

Ritchie projects as a two-way forward that can play a 200-foot game. His defensive awareness should allow him to find a role in the NHL and quickly become a coach’s favorite. (Pick by Montreal Hockey Now’s Dumont)

32. Vegas Golden Knights: Left Wing Daniil But, Yaroslavl (KHL)

A 6-foot-5, 203-pound scorer with a quick release and creative puck skills. But is already playing in the KHL. He owns a powerful shot and has good offensive instincts. He’s a project, but he has a high upside. Last season, he had two goals in 15 KHL games with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. Most draft guides have But in the 20s, but as low as No. 43. (Pick by Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief Dan Kingerski). 

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