2023 NHL Draft: Notable Changes Since Ferrari's Mid-Season Ranking
By Tony Ferrari,2023-03-14
Tony Ferrari ranked the top 50 NHL draft prospects in December, but some players have stepped up or underwhelmed since then. Where do they slot in now?
It’s been a few months since I released an NHL draft ranking for the 2023 class. The mid-season top-50 NHL draft ranking can be found here , so I encourage you to check that out. With three months having passed, there have been a few changes to the rankings and opinions on players.
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This isn’t a full draft ranking. Rather, it supplements the mid-season board. I will provide a full update with a detailed analysis for my final draft board closer to the NHL draft.
I’m confident with the players in my top 75 at the moment, so that is what I will be basing this on. For argument’s sake, players in the mid-season honorable mention list would have been top 65 roughly at the time of publishing.
I’ll provide some updates and insight into some of my board’s more significant and notable movers and why it happened. You can think of this as a bigger scale and more specific version of the stock watch articles published throughout this season. Who moved up? Who moved down? Let’s find out.
Matvei Michkov, RW, Sochi (KHL)
Mid-season: 5 Now: 3
This one is simple. Sochi Michkov is the player we had all hoped to see coming into the year.
To start the year, Michkov played in the SKA system, primarily at the VHL level. He was going out every game and trying to be the hero in every play.
Despite being incredibly skilled and possessing a wicked shot, he consistently ignored passing options and skated himself into pressure, developing concerning habits. If he did manage to evade that pressure, it was only to find himself in a low-danger area where he would throw a shot on net from above the faceoff circles or below the goal line.
Despite the obvious talent, his game was chaotic in the worst way.
Since his move to Sochi, many of the issues with his functionality and processing have vanished. It was almost like someone, possibly the coaching staff with Sochi, sat him down and said, “Just play within the system and allow your talent and skill to flourish within the structure of our team.” There is no evidence of that happening, but the change is night and day.
Michkov is using his teammates more effectively to help create space for himself, passing off to find pockets of space in the offensive zone. The young Russian has begun taking shots from better locations, increasing his effectiveness as a shooter. Michkov is an entirely different player and has re-established himself as the premier winger in the draft class and a top-three talent.
Oliver Moore, C, NTDP (USHL)
Mid-season: 21 Now: 7
The second-line center for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program has begun to push the top-line center, Will Smith, for the top player on the team from an NHL upside standpoint.
Smith has played with Ryan Leonard and Gabe Perreault – two players often ranked in the top 25 of the draft class – for most of the season. On the other hand, Moore has had to do a bit more heavy lifting, playing with a rotating cast of Ryan Fine, Will Vote and Charlie Cerrato, who are all good players in their own right, but a notable step down.
Moore is a more efficient 200-foot player than Smith and brings electric speed and skating, a trait that isn’t as prominent in Smith’s game. Moore is one of the fastest players in the draft and has routinely put NCAA defenders on their heels when playing against college competition.
Moore is an excellent shooter who uses his pinpoint accuracy to beat netminders and an impressive playmaker thanks to a deceptive passing game. Moore carries the load for his line in a big way and displays all the tools that translate to playing center in the NHL.
Nick Lardis, RW, Hamilton (OHL)
Mid-season: Unranked Now: 34
Aside from Michkov, no player benefitted from a change of scenery more than Nick Lardis.
Starting the year with Peterborough, Lardis was an effective yet underwhelming player. There were flashes of a high-level shooter, but the consistency and opportunity never came.
Traded just after the new year as Peterborough looked to load up for a playoff run, Lardis has been the most effective player in the deal despite initially being considered a future asset.
Avery Hayes was the primary piece going to Peterborough, and Lardis has almost as many goals (24) as Hayes has points (26).
As a result, Lardis has quickly risen on draft boards. Just on the outside of my mid-season rankings, Lardis is beginning to push first-round status as whispers from scouts have arisen about him being the best shooter from the OHL among NHL draft eligibles.
Lardis is an intelligent player off the puck as well, understanding how to fade in and out of traffic. His 1.57 points per game with Hamilton is higher than any other OHL draft eligible and fourth among all CHL draft eligibles behind only Connor Bedard, Zach Benson and Andrew Cristall of the WHL. Lardis could be one of the sneakiest first-round picks come June.
Otto Stenberg, C/W, Frolunda (SHL)
Mid-season: 15 Now: 27
There have been times over the last couple of years when Stenberg looks like a borderline top-10 prospect. Then there are times when he seems like a player worth taking a flyer on in the second or third round. He is consistently inconsistent, which is frustrating.
Stenberg is a shifty, evasive skater who plays with creativity, and he possesses a very good shot.
Sometimes, he looks like the best player on the ice, especially against his age group. Playing internationally, Stenberg has been a fixture as one of Sweden’s most dangerous and skilled forwards. He pressures opposing defenders and uses his puck skill to evade and find open ice.
He has played at the SHL level quite a bit this season and has found some moderate success as a bottom-six player. He hunts pucks at a high level, using his skill and tenacity to be an effective and efficient forechecker without possessing a big frame. The upside remains high, but frustration has begun to creep in.
Oscar Fisker Molgaard, C/W, HV71 (SHL)
Mid-season: HM Now: 30
Denmark hasn’t produced an NHL draft pick since 2019, but they could find themselves with a player taken in the first round this June.
Fisker Molgaard has played at the SHL level for most of the year, relying on his intelligence and penchant for getting to the net. His shot map is concentrated in the hashmarks between the faceoff circles, with a shot seldom coming from low-danger areas.
Fisker Molgaard could use a bit of skating development. Improving his quickness and maneuverability in small spaces will be vital to finding success.
His playmaking has also improved this season, showing the awareness and pace as a passer that should allow him to be a middle-six presence at the NHL level eventually.
Fisker Molgaard isn’t a prospect with an incredibly high ceiling, but his floor is solid, and with some development, he could become a nice middle-of-the-lineup piece down the line.
Bradley Nadeau, LW, Penticton (BCHL)
Mid-season: 23 Now: 35
While he leads the BCHL in goals, assists and points, he plays at a level that hasn’t led to an incredible amount of NHL success. The bad habits that tend to pop up in a Junior A player’s game have become evident.
His defensive habits are often lackluster, and while he can often do what he wants against the lower-level competition, he skates and dangles himself into situations that likely won’t work at the next level.
The skill and shooting talent are obvious. Nadeau is an incredibly talented player, and the University of Maine will be a good spot for him to develop beginning next season. Still, he could be a longer wait than many other prospects drafted in the range Nadeau could go.
It won’t be too shocking if Nadeau does hear his name called on Day 1 of the draft, but it will be because a team fell in love with the upside and understands the patience needed to see him reach his full potential.
Michael Hrabel, G, Omaha (USHL)
Mid-season: 27 Now: 40
Trey Augustine, G, NTDP (USHL)
Mid-season: 34 Now: 28
From my vantage point, the two top netminders in the draft class have swapped spots.
Hrabel has had a rough second half of the season. He has been pulled a number of times because of spotty play. While his size and stature are intriguing traits that NHL teams seek in a netminder, he has shown some mobility limitations, especially in his lower half when down in the butterfly.
He can cover a large chunk of the net, but he doesn’t have the athleticism to hold a seal to the ice and maintain an upright body position as he reaches for saves laterally. His technique has been exposed a bit as of late, but there is still plenty of upside that warrants a fairly high investment.
Trey Augustine, on the other hand, has been outstanding. He has posted excellent numbers and been a wall behind the NTDP defense in all competitions, from the USHL to NCAA to international.
Augustine shows composure and calmness in the crease, flashing impressive technique and fluidity.
He could stand to get more powerful laterally, which should come as he physically matures, but the growth in his game over the last year has been impressive.
Tom Willander, RHD, Rogle (J20 Nationell)
Mid-season: Unranked Now: 32
Willander is one of the more interesting defenders in the NHL draft class. He is a right-shot defender with decent size, impressive mobility and flashes of skill that leave you wanting more.
The young Swede has produced at a moderately good rate at the J20 level. He diffuses oncoming rushes by closing the gap and dislodging the puck with his stick before quickly moving the puck to his forwards up ice. Willander shows intelligence in generating zone exits, whether with his feet or passing ability.
I’ve always believed that defenders at this stage of development must at least show they can do some of the flashy offensive things that captivate fans and scouts. Showing the capacity to do so is an excellent sign that at the next level, when they are settling into a middle-pair role as a defensive or two-way defender, they will be able to be effective in the modern game.
Gone are the days of the bruting, beat-you-down defender. The name of the game now is quick transitions. Thwart the chance and move up ice. Willander will use his body when needed but has shown the mold of the modern defensive-leaning blueliner.
Cam Allen, RHD, Guelph (OHL)
Mid-season: HM Now: Unranked
Every year, there seems to be a highly touted player who falls down the draft board in the worst way. This year, unfortunately, it’s Cam Allen.
The Guelph blueliner plays an offensive-minded game with a penchant for taking shots from the top of the zone.
Coming into the year, Allen was coming off the kind of year that led many to believe he would be challenging a point per game as an NHL draft-eligible defenseman. The defensive issues were noted, but in everything he had shown, some physical and mental progression was expected.
Unfortunately, the season’s gone poorly for the once highly regarded prospect.
His point totals likely won’t come close to matching last season, and his defensive flaws have been accentuated. His pivots and 1-on-1 defending have been spotty, to put it kindly.
If Allen can rediscover the form he had coming into the year, there is a salvageable prospect here, and some NHL team is bound to take the chance. It’s just likely to be with a mid-round pick rather than a top-15 selection.
Arvid Bergstrom, LHD, Djurgarden (J20 Nationell)
Mid-season: Unranked Now: 56
Bergstrom has been one of the more steadily improving players in the class. He’s an excellent skater who could be one of the class’ better transition defenders.
Bergstrom understands how to read defensive structure in the neutral zone, exploiting lanes with his passing and skating ability. The point totals haven’t impressed, but he’s been a steady producer with the tools to continue developing offensively.
Much like Wallinder shows flashes of puck skill, Bergstrom shows that he could find a niche as an excellent transition blueliner who takes care of the puck despite not being a lethal offensive presence.
The NHL needs those players, and many built their careers on it (i.e. Washington Capitals defender Nick Jensen).
From a defensive point of view, the intelligent and mobile blueliner that makes quick decisions and evades a forecheck is a valuable part of the modern game. Bergstrom looks like he fits that style.
Emil Jarventie, LW, SaiPa (Liiga)
Mid-season: 35 Now: 71
Jarventie creates more question marks with his play virtually every time I watch him.
His best viewings have been with the Finnish U-18 team, where he has been one of the squad’s better creators and play generators. The issue is that regardless of the level he’s played at with his club team – or the multiple teams at those levels – he cannot find the scoresheet with the same consistency.
The young Finn has shown flashes of having good finishing ability and being a quality straight-line attacker. His north-south skating is good, but he lacks the lateral mobility to attack with a dynamic nature despite his hands showing quality flashes of handling ability.
The reality is that Jarventie may be a player with tools and talent, but he just may need help to put it together and figure out how to be effective.