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Early Look At 2023 NHL Draft Should Get Canadiens Fans Excited



NHL Draft

The Montreal Canadiens aren’t projected to have a particularly strong season, but a stacked 2023 NHL Draft class is likely to instantly reward the hardship of a losing season.

With the Canadiens being projected by every major outlet to have a bottom-10 finish in the league this year, many turned to the legendary Bob McKenzie‘s pre-season 2023 Draft Rankings show. Throughout the show, McKenzie reiterated just how good the top of this draft class is expected to be, with names like Connor Bedard, Matvei Michkov and Adam Fantilli being known for a few years now. However, it’s not just the top-3 Canadiens fans should get excited about, as the entire top-10 seems loaded with talent.

According to the scouts Montreal Hockey Now has discussed with, the belief is that this upcoming class could be a game changer. One scout in particular, who will remain anonymous, went as far as saying that he sees the potential for more than just the top-3 of Bedard, Michkov and Fantilli with the potential of becoming franchise-type- players.

“Anybody who is going to be picking in the top-3 is going home with a potential franchise player next year,” said the scout on the draft floor at the 2022 event when asked about this upcoming class. “I could even see two of three other players from this class take the next step in their development and come close to rivalling the above three. It’s that stacked at the top. If Montreal were to finish low again next season, it could push their rebuild to the next level.”

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

The 2023 NHL Draft has been viewed as the Connor Bedard draft from the moment he was granted exceptional status to play in the WHL at 15 years old back in 2019. He burst onto the scene during the WHL bubble in 2021 and was already almost at two points per game in the 15 games he played in. He followed up his impressive rookie season with a 100-point season as a 16-year-old for the Regina Pats, leading his team in scoring by a margin of 31 points over 62 games.

However, Matvei Michkov isn’t going to just let Bedard come in a run away with the top spot. The Russian winger has been a force internationally for Russia, scoring goals where he decides to play. He looked the part playing against men in the KHL at age 16 and is set to play in the KHL yet again this season at age 17. It’s an extremely rare feat to play in the KHL at that age, let alone get meaningful usage and offensive production.

Adam Fantilli received a little less praise early on, but has since seen his stock rise considerably. The power forward centre is headed to Michigan University as a true freshman this season and will look to use that setting to ready himself for the next step in his career.  As a 17-year-old in the USH, he played a physical for the Chicago Steel of the USHL and scored an impressive 37 goals and 74 points in just 54 games. Had he stayed in the USHL for a third season, some believe he may have hit the 100-point mark, just like his former teammate, Sean Farrell.

But players like Brayden Yager should not be forgotten either. When interviewing members of the Moose Jaw Warriors in the WHL, even though the discussions were geared toward 2022 draft-eligible players like Jagger Firkus and Denton Mateychuk, the conversation always seemed to go back to Yager.  After putting up 34 goals last season in 63 games, Yager showed that his game had reached another level with five goals and four assists in five games for Team Canada en route to a gold medal at the Hlinka-Greztky tournament. He will be a player to watch this season, as he too projects to be a goal-scoring top-line centre.

Last, but certainly not least, Leo Carlsson has everything you want in a top forward. He’s mature beyond his years, playing a regular role in the Swedish Hockey League at age 16 and contributing in quite a respectable manner with 9 points in 35 games. He projects as that all-around centre with the ability to play in any situation and hurt you offensively with his devastating shot or his underrated playmaking ability. When you watch him on the ice, he stands out right away, for every good reason. His attention to detail and plethora of offensive tools make him an excellent candidate to round out an exceptional top-5.

And there are still more we haven’t named, like Slovakia’s Dalibor Dvorasky, Zach Benson of the WHL, Calum Ritchie of the OHL and even Charlie Stramel of the NCAA’s Wisconsin Badgers. Needless to say, the Canadiens will not have to worry about the quality at the top of the draft should they have a difficult season, in fact, they can actually look forward to it.

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No need to tank. They have plenty of draft choices to move up in the draft if need be.

John Stone

and plenty of pipe line stock

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