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Yet Another Draft Ranking: Half-wall Hockey's 2023 NHL Draft Final 100 and Honorable Mentions

All the players have a drop down menu to read more about them, and their names are clickable to EP profiles. Go ahead and click around! It is many, many hours of scouting, writing and tweaking. Enjoy!


TIER 1 - "Number One With a Bullet" (1)

#1 Connor Bedard - C, Regina, WHL

What else can be said about Bedard that isn't on every single scouting ranking that you've already read. Elite shot, dangerous playmaker, processes the game so fast that even for somehow who watches a ton of junior and minor hockey, I often can't figure out his next move until he makes it. Every time I watch another prospect I think about how Bedard is a better prospect. That sounds rude, and it most definitely is, but how damn good Bedard is right now is downright rude. He's going to be a superstar within 2 years in the NHL. There was a really interesting video on Bedard from the Eliteprospects.com folks here. I like this video because it demonstrates a hidden quality about Bedard, how he uses the threat of his own skills to convince players to make bad plays. Yes Bedard has excellent hands, passing skills and one of the deadliest shots in a prospect in awhile, but how he uses them is even more impressive. He knows his shot is a threat, so he uses that threat to force defenders to get out of passing lanes to block him, and he slips a pass through the open ice to a teammate. He knows that his handling skills can force defenders back and create space, even if he himself isn't going to get around them. His threatening attack style is amazing to watch because of his fearlessness to attack defenders, forcing them to make a move, and then capitalizing on that threat. It is manipulation that is unseen at this level.



TIER 2 - "Not-Bedard but Damn-good Tier" (2-3)

#2 Adam Fantilli - C, Michigan, NCAA

If you haven't been keeping up with Fantilli after the WJC's in the winter, he has burned down the NCAA in his freshman year. His PPG rate rivaled Paul Kariya's in his draft year. He's a remarkably complete player already possessing a high-level shot, excellent playmaking skills, and a heads-up and aggressive style of play. His mind for transition is far above even the college level, and he is no slouch defensively either. My only concern with him is just how stubborn he can be. He occasionally forgets to make the smart play and forces a hope pass, or tries to bully his way to the net when he doesn't have to. I think most, and myself included, think this will iron itself out as he reaches the NHL likely next year, but it's something to keep an eye on. He projects as a #1C at the NHL level, and there's little doubt to me anyways that he'll reach that projection. His overall size, skating talent, skills and position make him the 2nd most valuable asset to grab in this draft.

#3 Matvei Michkov - W, SKA St. Petersburg, KHL

TIER 3 - "Consolation Prizes of All Consolation Prizes" (4-6)

#4 Leo Carlsson - C/W, Örebro HK, SHL

I first noticed Carlsson while watching the summer Four Nations tournament (there's a post about it here!). He stood out immediately in that tournament for his ability to transition the puck with speed, find space, and create using his shot. With his size at 6'3" and a productive SHL season finishing up, there are serious talks about him in the top 3 of this draft. He's very solid overall and with some refinement to his physical play and defensive work he has a very high likelihood to become a top six winger or possibly center (he's been playing primarily wing in the SHL). He gets a little puck focused in the defensive zone and opens himself up to being passed through a lot. His production has been hit or miss especially at even strength, as one might expect from such a young player in a men's league. I originally had Carlsson as low as 5, but I watched more of his late-season play and moved him up. He became more confident with the puck every time I watched him, and his playoffs were excellent for his age. His playmaking has come a long way since the beginning of the year as well. He started to delay, use his frame and handling skill to shield pucks and find teammates with passes. If he goes back to the SHL next year, he's probably going to score a point per game and step into the NHL the year after. He has every tool an NHL club could ask for and I think that puts him at the top of this very small tier. With that being said it is its own tier in my eyes. Bedard, Michkov and Fantilli had near superstar and generational draft seasons. Carlsson had a star draft season. It goes to show just how deep this draft is. Carlsson did turn the heat on just a bit as his World Championship was outstanding for a player his age. He looked very comfortable playing center, which may drive him into top 3 territory for many teams.

#5 Will Smith - C, USA U18, NTDP

#6 Zach Benson - W, Winnipeg, WHL


TIER 4 - "Top Five In Any Other Year" (7-12)

#7 Ryan Leonard - W, USA U18, NTDP

Ryan Leonard has a certain confidence to him that is hard to quantify. He's part of the best line in junior hockey, Perreault-Smith-Leonard. He plays a very effective puck-protection game, able to shield off defenders using his frame, even if he isn't the biggest guy at 5'11". He's got a powerful lower body, and a heck of a shot, able to pick corners with ease. He actually will display some high level playmaking as well when he isn't shooting. He's effective on the boards as well. He's physical, commanding and plays bigger than his size. In any other draft year he would be top five, which is kind of the theme of this tier. I guess maybe he doesn't have the game-breaking ability of some of the other forwards, and it is difficult to parse out how much of his line's success is from him or Smith just being really, really good. I think one day though he finds a home in the middle/top of a lineup for a team given his physical tools, shooting skills, and overall smarts. He also now owns a fancy gold medal from the U18s, after an excellent shift in overtime, capped off with him powering his shot through Sweden's goalie.

#8 David Reinbacher - D, Kloten, NL

#9 Dalibor Dvorsky - C/W, AIK, HockeyAllsvenskan

#10 Axel Sandin Pellikka - D, Skellefteå AIK, SHL

#11 Andrew Cristall - W, Kelowna, WHL

#12 Oliver Moore - C, USA U18, NTDP


TIER 5 - "Best First Round in Years" (13-30)

#13 Matthew Wood - W, Connecticut, NCAA

Wood is super interesting. It's so rare to see someone with all of his skill, his production in the NCAA, his shooting talent, and one single flaw that could prevent him from a NHL future. Wood is a really awful skater. One of the worst I can remember in a first rounder. Like all bad skaters, people will point to clips of them at full speed, racing by a junior player or on a breakaway and say "see! look!". But that's not the point. Wood rounds his back, has upper body noise, and an awkward, choppy stride all at once. He's got no fluidity with his motions and his balance is poor as well. What worries me is not how good Wood can be sitting at the half-wall on the powerplay, or when he has a breakaway with the closest defender 40 feet away. What worries me is how he's going to get back to the play when the transition from offense to defense happens. What worries me is how he's going to get up to the point to block a shot, or take away a passing lane defensively. It has to change or else he'll be hard to place in the NHL. All of that being said, he's extremely intelligent, has good hands in tight, an excellent shot, and playmaking as well. He's the type of prospect that if I have two or three first rounders, he's one of them, but you better be sure you have players with your other picks. He was exceptional the U18s, at least offensively, showing that he belongs in the discussion for the top 15. I suspect a team falls in love with him and he goes higher than I have him. It's absolutely not a bad pick, just a risky one.

#14 Samuel Honzek - C/W, Vancouver, WHL

#15 Gabe Perreault - W, USA U18, NTDP

#16 Calum Ritchie - C, Oshawa, OHL

#17 Colby Barlow - W, Owen Sound, OHL

#18 Riley Heidt - C, Prince George, WHL

#19 Gavin Brindley - C/W, Michigan, NCAA

#20 Brayden Yager - C, Moose Jaw, WHL

#21 Dmitri Simashev - D, Loko Yaroslavl, MHL

#22 Nate Danielson - C, Brandon, WHL

#23 Quentin Musty - W, Sudbury, OHL

#24 Lukas Dragicevic - D, Tri-City, WHL

#25 Tom Willander - D, Rögle BK, J20

#26 Eduard Šalé - W, HC Kometa Brno, Czechia

#27 Mikhail Gulyayev - D, Omskie Yastreby, MHL

#28 Daniil But - W, Loko Yaroslavl, MHL

#29 Otto Stenberg - C/W, Frölunda HC, J20

#30 Jayden Perron - W, Chicago, USHL


TIER 6 - "High upside projects, Snipers, and First/Second Swings" (31-51)

#31 Gracyn Sawchyn - C/W, Seattle, WHL

Hands. Hands. Hands. He's got some slick hands. After showing out at the CHL top prospects game, Sawchyn has climbed up my list throughout the year. Sawchyn's production likely is a lot higher if he isn't playing on the second or third line of an absolutely stacked Seattle Thunderbirds team. He's got a mind for transition, able to enter the zone with ease, hit a man up the boards, or delay until a better option presents itself. I think his shot needs some work, but everything else seems to scream a middle six winger, able to push play with his hands, speed and skill. Don't be surprised if next year, once the big names in Seattle have moved on, he becomes a dominant force there and his production skyrockets.


I dropped him into this tier after spending the past few lists amongst the top crowd. He was largely ineffective after coming back from an injury late in the season, and just didn't display the necessary well-roundedness to his game to really take-over when the checking got tight. Still worth a first-round selection, but had to lower him just a tad. This tier has a bunch of project players, with certain flaws or inconsistencies holding them back. It also has some absolute snipers that if a team falls in love with, may go higher based on their shooting talents alone. Lastly it has a few guys that I think are just really solid bets to play an NHL role, but maybe aren't as dynamic as the tiers above.

#32 Felix Nilsson - C, Rögle BK, J20

#33 Tanner Molendyk - D, Saskatoon, WHL

#34 Luca Cagnoni - D, Portland, WHL

#35 Bradley Nadeau - C, Penticton, BCHL

#36 Alex Ciernik - W, Södertälje, SK J20

#37 Beau Akey - D, Barrie, OHL

#38 Michael Hrabal - G, Omaha, OHL

#39 Kasper Halttunen - W, HIFK, U20 SM-sarja

#40 David Edstrom - C, Frölunda HC, J20

#41 Roman Kantserov - W, Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk, MHL

#42 Koehn Ziemmer - W, Prince George, WHL

#43 Lenni Hämeenaho - W, Ässät, Liiga

#44 Ethan Gauthier - W, Sherbrooke, QMJHL

#45 William Whitelaw - C, Youngstown, USHL

#46 Nick Lardis - W, Hamilton, OHL

#47 Etienne Morin - D, Moncton, QMJHL

#48 Mathieu Cataford - W, Halifax, QMJHL

#49 Oliver Bonk - D, London, OHL

#50 Jakub Dvořák - D, Bílí Tygři Liberec, Czechia

#51 Caden Price - D, Kelowna, WHL


TIER 7 - "Smart, Productive, or Excellent Bottom Sixers" (52-77)

#52 Noah Dower Nilsson - C/W, Frölunda HC, J20

NDN has been a bit of a difficult projection for me. It has been difficult to reconcile his outrageous production with his play on the ice. He has great handling skills, and he battles well down low to retrieve pucks. He makes some questionable shooting decisions, often passing up passing options (hehe) for shots into shins or from far out. He's quick and agile on his skates. There are lots to like about him and his production but I just haven't been impressed when I've watched him. I have multiple games where I go in trying to key on him and end up watching Edstrom, Stenberg instead, despite their lower productions. This happens sometimes, and when it does I have to find a way to merge my eyes with others, as I know many are very high on him. This feels like the right slot for that merging of the minds.


Speaking of merging of the minds, that is kind of what this tier is. There are many players here that I think are good, but not as good as some rank them. There are also just highly productive players like NDN that despite some meh viewings of, need to be taken in this range if available based on the possibility that the eye test simply got it wrong. It also has just a multitude of players that are super smart, but for lack of elite talent or size, are held down a bit.

#53 Hunter Brzustewicz - D, Kitchener, OHL

#54 Oscar Fisker Mølgaard - C, HV71, J20

#55 Carson Bjarnason - G, Brandon, WHL

#56 Felix Unger Sörum - W, Leksands IF, J20

#57 Denver Barkey - C, London, OHL

#58 Matthew Mania - D, Sudbury, OHL

#59 Trey Augustine - G, USA U18, NTDP

#60 Charlie Stramel - C, Wisconsin, NCAA

#61 Nico Myatovic - W, Seattle, WHL

#62 Danny Nelson - C/W, USA U18, NTDP

#63 Alexander Rykov - W, Chelmet Chelyabinsk, VHL

#64 Theo Lindstein - D, Brynäs IF, J20

#65 Timur Mukhanov - W, Omskie Yastreby, MHL

#66 Carson Rehkopf - C, Kitchener, OHL

#67 Luca Pinelli - C, Ottawa, OHL

#68 Kalan Lind - W, Red Deer, WHL

#69 Coulson Pitre - C, Flint, OHL

#70 Easton Cowan - W, London, OHL

#71 Jesse Kiiskinen - W, Pelicans, U20 SM-sarja

#72 Anton Wahlberg - C/W, Malmö Redhawks, J20

#73 Jaden Lipinski - C, Vancouver, WHL

#74 Andrei Loshko - C/W, Chicoutimi, QMJHL

#75 Rasmus Kumpulainen - C, Pelicans, U20 SM-sarja

#76 Andrew Gibson - D, Soo Greyhounds, OHL

#77 Aidar Suniev - W, Penticton, BCHL


TIER 8 - "Open Up This Pit" (78-100)

#78 Aram Minnetian - D, USA U18, NTDP

The theme of this tier is that we are opening this pit up. This tier is about 40ish prospects long, but we're only going to cover the names until 100. This tier has goalies, it's got one-dimensional wingers, it's got energy guys, it's got a few swings, it's got defenders with lots of flaws but good individual elements. It's got everything you want, and you might pull some NHLers out from this pile. They get moved into this tier because they either aren't well-rounded enough to be in Tier 7, or just don't seemingly have the highest upside to be in the other tiers. The goalies are in here because these are guys I would draft in the top 3-4 rounds, but where they go and where a team values them really is so variable that it made sense for them to be in The Pit™.


Just want to say that The Pit™ is not a derogatory term. It just is a mess down here that is hard to make sense of. Bodies flying, sticks broken, metal music blasting overhead. You get the picture. The strongest will eventually make me look silly for putting them here.


Minnetian is our first defender in this tier. He proved to be the one draft-eligible defender for the USA squad that seemed worthy of a high-ish pick. He's just so fun. He's aggressive in how he takes the puck off the wall in the offensive zone, cuts to the inside lane and tries to create. Most often that is with his shot, which is explosive, both wrist and slapshot. He's the type of defender that has the right ideas, but may not actually have the handling talent or the footspeed to create in the way his brain wants to. He's aggressive in defending the rush, actively using his stick to swat pucks. He can be a bit aggressive and get walked though defensively, and his balance isn't great to make a speedy recovery. The question remains of what will he be at the next level. Not large enough or overly stout defensively to be a shutdown guy, and not supremely skilled enough to be a true activating defenseman. It's tough, but I'd pick him here and give it time. Maybe he continues to surprise.

#79 Tristan Bertucci - D, Flint, OHL

#80 Maxim Strbak - D, Sioux Falls, USHL

#81 Matthew Soto - W, Kingston, OHL

#82 Jacob Fowler - G, Youngstown, USHL

#83 Carter Sotheran - D, Portland, WHL

#84 Cameron Allen - D, Guelph, OHL

#85 Connor Levis - W/C, Kamloops, WHL

#86 Damian Clara - G, Färjestad BK, J20

#87 Juraj Pekarcik - W, HK Nitra, Slovakia

#88 Quinton Burns - D, Kingston, OHL

#89 Yegor Sidorov (OA1) - W, Saskatoon, WHL

#90 Jesse Nurmi - W, KooKoo, U20 SM-sarja

#91 Joseph Willis - C, Saginaw, OHL

#92 Rodwin Dionicio (OA1) - D/F, Windsor, OHL

#93 Daniil Karpovich - D, Avto Yekaterinberg, MHL

#94 Andrew Strathmann - D, Youngstown, USHL

#95 Emil Järventie - W, Ilves, U20 SM-sarja

#96 Martin Misiak - C, Youngstown, USHL

#97 Ethan Miedema - W, Kingston/Windsor, OHL

#98 Adam Gajan (OA1) - G, Chippewa, NAHL

#99 Carey Terrance - C, Erie, OHL

#100 Tomas Suchanek (OA2) - G, Tri-City, WHL

Other players in this tier, some that I didn't write-up - Kalem Parker, Noel Nordh, Gavin McCarthy, Tanner Ludtke, Jeremy Hanzel (OA2), Gabriel Szturc (OA1), Arttu Karki , Aiden Fink, Scott Ratzlaff, Jordan Tourigny, Alex Pharand, Mazden Leslie, Aaron Pionk, Beckett Hendrickson, Albert Wikman, Isac Hedqvist, Yegor Rimashevksy, Tuomas Uronen, Hoyt Stanley, Hannes Hellberg, Ondrej Molnar


Honorable Mentions

HM Jeremy Hanzel (OA2) - D, Seattle, WHL

The honorable mentions here may or may not be drafted, and they may or may not even be drafted by me when I do the HWH Sharks this year. They're just guys that I found really interesting while scouting this season. Hanzel is first. He's a double overager defender who has a stuttering first few steps, and speed that isn't the greatest. This is his main weakness as a defender right now. Besides this though, he's very smart, active at all ends of the ice, and a good playmaker. He played a key role for Seattle throughout the year, all the way up to the Memorial Cup Final. I really like how effective he is at transitioning the puck and keeping the play in front of him. I see a draft pick here, even if he only tops out as a replacement level NHLer.

HM Gabriel Szturc (OA1) - C, Kelowna, WHL

HM Beckett Hendrickson - W, USA U18, NTDP

HM Kalem Parker - D, Victoria, WHL

HM Albert Wikman - D, Färjestad BK, J20

HM Hannes Hellberg (OA1) - W, Leksands IF, J20

HM Hugo Fransson (OA1) - D, HV71, J20

HM Matteo Mann - D, Chicoutimi, QMJHL

HM Emil Kuusla - W, Jokerit, U20 SM-sarja

HM Thomas Milic (OA2) - G, Seattle, WHL

HM Oskar Asplund (OA1) - D, Almtuna, HockeyAllsvenskan

HM Ivan Anoshko - C, Dinamo-Shinnik Bobruysk, MHL

HM Deagen McMillan - W, Tri-City, WHL

HM Anthony Romani - C/W, North Bay, OHL

HM Brady Cleveland - D, USA U18, NTDP

HM Alex Assadourian - C/W, Niagara, OHL

HM Tommaso De Luca - C, Spokane, WHL

HM Matteo Koci - D, HC Karlovy Vary, Czechia U20

HM Radel Zamaltdinov - W, Irbis Kazan, MHL

HM Jiri Felcman - C, Langnau, Swiss U20

HM Peteris Bulans - D, Chicoutimi, QMJHL



You all made it! Here's the ranking in photo form. As always there's an indicator of watch time, which is a shading of green on the player's name. Darker green = many, many games watched. Light green = some games watched. All the players above I've watched full games of, as well as highlight packages, read scout reports and rankings, and incorporated their stats into the mix. Tiers are in shades on the left of the chart.







Looking forward to next time. Also if you're interested in signing up for the site (it's free), I'm making a forum where people can request scouting evaluations of players, post their own reports, or ask any other questions about specific draft classes. Should be fun to engage people after this draft and compare picks, etc. Also also, if you sign up (it's free), I'm going to be putting out a download link, to members who want it, with about 100 game reports from games I watched throughout this season, many of which influenced the evals above. A lot of it is nonsense, but some may find it fun to look at.


Thanks again for reading, the growth has been awesome, both in this site and (hopefully) in my ability to evaluate players, and that is from you all!


-HWH









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Well done! This resonates with me because this all appears to be a labor of love. I like that the players can be connected to elite prospects.

Your work is appreciated and I’ll be certain to come back.

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HWH
HWH
Jun 15, 2023
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Thank you so much! Poke around! I'm making a forum.

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