Being at the half-season mark in the NHL, it’s time for the first NHL Mock Draft of the season, where the Montreal Canadiens are slated to pick twice in the top 16.
In this exercise, Montreal Hockey Now used Tankathon‘s Lottery Simulation to project who would win the first two picks, and then utilize current NHL Standings to determine the rest of the order. To follow along with the selection, you can check out Montreal Hockey Now’s early 2023 NHL Draft Rankings.
Alright, let’s get started.
The Columbus Blue Jackets were the lucky team to jump to the 1st overall selection, while the Chicago Blackhawks grabbed the 2nd overall selection and the Anaheim Ducks slid down to third overall.
Connor Bedard going 1st overall to the Columbus Blue Jackets was an absolute no-brainer, as the young phenom has been the best prospect in major junior since Sidney Crosby; outpacing Connor McDavid and John Tavares quite easily at the same age.
With Chicago picking second, they simply do not pass up on the franchise centreman that will become Adam Fantilli, who has one of the best season in NCAA history for a true freshman. His combination of size, speed and skill make him a rare breed that could help jumpstart the rebuild for the Blackhawks.
Anaheim coming to the table has a gut-wrenching choice to make at third overall, as both power-forward Leo Carlsson and elite snipe Matvei Michkov are on the board. However, given Anaheim’s lack of size on the wings, and their likely desire to get better faster, they may very well opt for the hulking Swede to complement star centre Trevor Zegras for years to come.
The Arizona Coyotes, who are in no rush to compete in the immediate future, take advantage of Anaheim’s impatience and jump on Matvei Michkov, who projects to be a top-league goal-scorer that could quickly form a devastating line with Logan Cooley and Dylan Guenther when he comes over to North America in 2026.
The San Jose Sharks are then left with a gut-wrenching decision, they could go for the plethora of forwards available, or they could fill a crying organizational need on defence. Having drafted only one defenceman in the top-two rounds in the last three years, they may be tempted to jump on the hype train of Axel-Sandin Pellika, who projects as a bonafide power play quarterback capable of playing top-pair minutes.
It may be the shocker of the draft, and there is potential for David Reinbacher to find himself in that spot as well, but the Sharks go for pure potential here.
With the Montreal Canadiens owning the 6th overall pick, they have uber-talented forwards like Zach Benson and Will Smith available to them, and GM Kent Hughes goes for the top-end, bonafide centre in Smith. A silky, smooth forward, Smith would provide the perfect complement to Nick Suzuki down the line for the Canadiens and would allow them the luxury of playing Kirby Dach on the wing long-term.
The Vancouver Canucks are screaming for a top-end right-shot defenceman and have demanded such a return in any Bo Horvat trade, but they can also secure one for themselves here by selecting the big, Austrian defenceman, David Reinbacher, at 7th overall.
With the Senators selecting skilled forward Zach Benson and the Flyers jumping on Czechia forward Eduard Sale, the Detroit Red Wings snap up explosive winger Andrew Cristall, the Canadiens are on the clock again a the 11th overall selection, thanks to the Florida Panthers.
It’s an intriguing situation, as they have centres Dalibor Dvorsky, Oliver Moore, Calum Ritchie and Brayden Yager, or power forward types like Colby Barlow or Mathew Wood available.
Ultimately, the feeling is the Canadiens would jump on power forward Colby Barlow, as he leads the OHL in goal-scoring at 17 years of age as of today, and plays a power game that could make him an effective straight-line player in the NHL. He’s quite good at protecting the puck and is also quite the playmaker, setting up Canadiens prospect Cedrick Guindon on multiple goals this season.
EDIT* Initially, we were leaning toward Matthew Wood at this selection, but upon further review of available tape this morning, the decision was overturned to Colby Barlow, who edges out the likes of Dvorsky, Yager Moore and Ritchie for the pick at 11th overall.
Here is the full Top-16 Mock Draft below:
|1||Columbus Blue Jackets||Connor Bedard||C|
|2||Chicago Blackhawks||Adam Fantilli||C|
|3||Anaheim Ducks||Leo Carlsson||LW/C|
|4||Arizona Coyotes||Matvei Michkov||RW|
|5||San Jose Sharks||Axel Sandin-Pellikka||RD|
|6||Montreal Canadiens||Will Smith||C|
|7||Vancouver Canucks||David Reinbacher||RD|
|8||Ottawa Senators||Zach Benson||LW/C|
|9||Philadelphia Flyers||Eduard Sale||RW|
|10||Detroit Red Wings||Andrew Cristall||LW|
|11||Montreal Canadiens||Colby Barlow||LW|
|12||Nashville Predators||Brayden Yager||C|
|13||Buffalo Sabres||Oliver Moore||C|
|14||St. Louis Blues||Dalibor Dvorsky||C|
|15||Colorado Avalanche||Mikhail Gulyayev||LD|
|16||Pittsburgh Penguins||Matthew Wood||RW|