Last Monday evening, during action between the Oilers and Golden Knights, the NHL’s draft lottery quietly took place. This draft has one clear-cut #1 prospect in Connor Bedard, who leads the rest of the pack here by a bit. With the order now officially set, it’s time for the first NHL mock draft of the season.
#1 Chicago Blackhawks: Connor Bedard, C, Regina
We kick off our NHL mock draft with an easy one. This is the easiest pick in maybe the last five years. Bedard is one of the most exciting prospects in recent memory, and any other selection here should be considered a mistake.
#2 Anaheim Ducks: Adam Fantilli, C, Michigan
Next up in our NHL mock draft is a pick our founder and CEO, Ronnie Harter, is sure to love. In any other season, Adam Fantilli has a pretty solid shot at going first overall in any draft without Bedard. Fantilli won the Hobey Baker Award last year, and has the potential to be a franchise player. Even though Anaheim missed out on the first pick, they can land a great prospect in Fantilli.
#3 Columbus Blue Jackets: Will Smith, C, USNTDP
Continuing the theme of centers going in the top part of this NHL mock draft, next is Will Smith going to Columbus. Smith had 51 goals and 127 points during his time at the development program, and should be an instant difference-maker at the next level.
#4: San Jose Sharks: Leo Carlsson, C, Orebo
Leo Carlsson has a knack for making highlight-reel plays, and should have no problem doing that at the next level. He’s big and physical in front of the net, yet his speed makes him a threat in transition.
#5: Montreal Canadiens: Ryan Leonard, LW, USNTDP
Finally, we’ve got someone who isn’t a center. Ryan Leonard is another developmental program player in the top five here, and is one of the most well-rounded players in the entire class. Leonard does everything well, and will bring a ton of versatility to Montréal if they select him.
#6: Arizona Coyotes: Zach Benson, C, Winnepeg
If the Coyotes landed Zach Benson, they’d be getting their potential franchise player. Benson was one of the better players in the entire WHL last year. Even though he stands just under six feet tall, Benson’s speed and skill makes him an instant scoring threat at the next level.
#7: Philadelphia Flyers: David Reinbacher, D, Kloten
At number seven, we have the first defenseman coming off the board in our NHL mock draft — to one of the teams that needs defense the most. Before last season, David Reinbacher wasn’t considered to go in the top half of the first round. Some scouts didn’t value him as a first round talent at all. He had an excellent year in Switzerland, and now figures to be the first defensemen off the board.
#8: Washington Capitals: Matvei Mitchkov, C, Sochi
Matvei Mitchkov is one of the most interesting, yet volatile, players in this draft. He’s one of the most talented players, maybe even the second behind Bedard. However, he is on a deal in Russia until 2026. Will a GM be brave enough to select him this year and wait out the rest of his deal?
#9: Detroit Red Wings: Oliver Moore, C, USNTDP
With the third development program player going in the top 10, here we have Oliver Moore, yet another center. Moore had to compete for the spotlight with a vast majority of elite players at the program. However, he has to potential to come out of this draft as one of the best in his class with his elite skating ability.
#10: St. Louis Blues: Dalibor Dvorsky, C, AIK
Dalibor Dvorsky is a high-value and high-potential pick for the Blues here with the 10th pick. He’s coming off a sensation U-18 World Championship performance, where he almost knocked off Canada as a member of the Slovakian team. Dvorsky is still 17, so it would take a while for him to develop. Still, his potential cannot be measured, and he should only progress at the NHL level.
#11: Vancouver Canucks: Axel Sandin Pellikka, D, Skelleftea
Nearing the middle half of the first round, the talent pool begins to get a lot more diverse in terms of positions. Especially at defensemen, where the Canucks are badly lacking a high-potential player. Axel Pellikka fills that need at the 11th pick.
#12: Arizona Coyotes: Eduard Sale, RW, BRNE
The Coyotes will be receiving this pick from Ottawa, and will be making their second pick in the top 12. Here, they select one of the best U-18 players in the world, Eduard Sale. Sale was a standout on the Czech team, especially in the medal round. He responded well to being benched, and played electric afterward, which is a very good sign to see from such a young player.
#13: Buffalo Sabres: Gabe Perreault, RW, USNTDP
Here, yet another player from the United States Developmental Program comes off the board. Gabe Perreault had some doubters coming into last season, but quickly shut them up after breaking the team’s single-season points record, with an incredible 118. His biggest thing to work on will be skating, but his floor figures to still be a top-six forward.
#14: Pittsburgh Penguins: Colby Barlow, LW, Owen Sound
For the first time in what feels like forever, the Penguins find themselves back in the lottery. Barlow is one of the best shooters in the entire draft, and had 46 goals last year in the OHL, with 76 in the past two years combined. He shouldn’t have too much of an issue continuing that track record in the NHL.
#15: Nashville Predators: Andrew Cristall, LW, Kewlona
Continuing the string of wingers going off the board here, we have Andrew Cristall heading to Nashville. His skating needs some work, but when it comes to skill, there might not be a more skillful player in the entire draft. If he can master his skating, he’ll be a force in the NHL.
#16: Calgary Flames: Riley Hiedt, C, Prince George
Riley Hiedt is the final lottery pick in this NHL mock draft. He had a rather slow U-18 tournament, but he’s still very young with potential that is through the roof. He needs to get better off the puck, but his skill with it can’t be minimized, and should translate well to the NHL.