The NHL season recently wrapped up after the Vegas Golden Knights were crowned Stanley Cup champions. This leads us to the first portion of the offseason, the draft. This year’s draft is highlighted by Canadian phenom forward Connor Bedard. The Regina Pats center has been the focal point of all draft discussions and is the consensus number-one overall pick. His combination of elite goalscoring, playmaking, and hockey sense has made him one of the best prospects since Connor McDavid. After winning the NHL Draft Lottery back in May, the Chicago Blackhawks will undoubtedly select Bedard first.
NHL Draft Best Bets
1st Overall Pick
It is Connor Bedard and no one else. There are currently no odds listed for him to go first. He is a future superstar and the guaranteed first pick.
1 week from tonight Connor Bedard goes #1 in the NHL draft live on ESPN and ESPN+.
— Nick McCardell (@UKhoops1_BBN) June 22, 2023
2nd Overall Pick
The following pick belongs to the Anaheim Ducks. And while it’s not the 100 percent certainty like Bedard to the Blackhawks, most experts and fans alike expect the pick to be the University of Michigan forward Adam Fantilli. Fantilli is currently the sizable favorite to go second, with -380 odds. The Canadian-born forward led the NCAA in scoring in his freshman year and was awarded the Hobey Baker award for the best player in college hockey. Swedish center Leo Carlsson is next at +300, but Fantilli is a standout prospect who would have had the chance to be the first overall pick in a different draft.
3rd Overall Pick
The third pick is when the draft becomes slightly less predictable. The Columbus Blue Jackets own the pick, and there haven’t been many rumors as to who they might choose. The only thing people are sure of is that it most likely comes down to Carlsson and American-born center Will Smith. Columbus can’t go wrong with either player, but it will come down to personal preference for GM Jarmo Kekäläinen. Smith is skilled, puck-savvy, and can produce high-octane offense. While Carlsson is bigger and plays a pro-style two-way game at a young age. Given their dire need for a top-line center at the NHL level, I slightly lean toward Carlsson over Smith.
Leo Carlsson is our 2nd ranked prospect for the 2023 #NHLDraft at @ScoutingService. He's one of the smartest players in this draft class & we project him as a great two-way center. Here's a 2-minute video of Carlsson beating players one on one and creating plays for his teammates pic.twitter.com/Uvb9vyZ7Pe
— Jérôme Bérubé (@Jerome_Berube) June 22, 2023
Smith sits at +210 odds which is great value given how close they are in talent, but it’s the Swede who will be heading to Columbus.
The Pick: Leo Carlsson -165
4th Overall Pick
The fourth pick belongs to the San Jose Sharks who just watched Columbus take the player they would love to have. San Jose and Carlsson seemed like a perfect fit given their recent selection of first-round Swedes William Eklund in 2021 and Filip Bystedt in 2022. Fortunately for them, Will Smith is a fantastic consolation prize. Smith plays for the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) and put up an astounding 127 points in just 60 games. He’s playing for Boston College next season, but it shouldn’t be too long before he makes his way over to the NHL. Given his offensive abilities, Smith is projected to be a top-six center with 80-point potential.
The Pick: Will Smith -150
5th Overall Pick
This is the point in the draft where things begin to get interesting and storylines begin to unfold. The Montreal Canadians hold the fifth pick a year after selecting Juraj Slafkovsky first overall. Montreal is considered the first potential landing spot for Russian forward Matvei Michkov. Michkov, based on talent alone, would be the second pick behind Bedard, but he has a three-year contract to continue playing in Russia. NHL teams are typically squeamishly picking Russians because of situations like this, and it has only been heightened in today’s political climate. However, Montreal has a great young core of players that can afford to wait a few years for Michkov. He would provide another elite winger next to Cole Caufield. Michkov currently sits at +240 to go fifth.
However, reports out of Montreal suggest they have other players in mind. It’s been suggested that they are trying to move up to draft a top center. The player they reportedly like is Will Smith. The other reports out of Montreal are saying if they stay a five they are targeting Smith’s NTDP teammate, forward Ryan Leonard. Leonard is a hard-nosed and powerful skating goalscorer who scored 51 goals this past season. He is currently tied with Austrian defenseman David Reinbacher to go to Montreal at +190 odds.
This play by Will Smith (#2) is just bonkers.
He picks up the primary assist on this strong finish by Ryan Leonard (#9). pic.twitter.com/F3GkU9UvW4
— 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 Faber 🔥🎙 (@ChrisFaber39) June 22, 2023
Many hockey fans would love to see Montreal shake up the draft and take Michkov, but too much steam is picking up that Leonard may be the pick here.
The Pick: Ryan Leonard +190
The Best of the Rest of the 2023 NHL Draft
The best-pre-set parlay that can be found on FanDuel has Fantilli, Carlsson, and Smith to go 2,3,4 in that order at +120. However, a Carlsson and Smith flip brings the odds up to +550. Given the lack of news out of Columbus, those are extraordinary odds considering how close it is between the two.
Next up, the two players that I like to be drafted in the top ten are Brandon Wheat Kings center Nate Danielson and Swedish defenseman Tom Willander. Washington (8), Detroit (9), and St. Louis (10) are all in need of centers, and Danielson has been a consistent riser during the pre-draft process. He is currently listed at +140.
— Mitchell Brown (@MitchLBrown) June 22, 2023
As for Willander, he’s another prospect who has continued to rise. He is one of the best skating defensemen in the draft, plays a sound two-way game, and shoots right-handed. Reinbacher will be the first d-man off the board, but Willander has slightly closed the gap. St. Louis at 10 looks like a great fit, especially if any of the centers are off the board. It’s risky with his odds sitting at just +125, but there’s a good chance he’s the second defenseman taken.
Finally, the last prop bet pits the top-rated goalie, Michael Hrabel, against the field. There’s no slam-dunk first-round goalie this year like we’ve seen in the past, so there’s not a ton of certainty as to what every team is thinking. Hrabel is a massive goalie with a ton of upside. He is also slated to play at the University of Massachusetts next year.
As for the field, Trey Augustine, Adam Gajan, and Carson Bjarnason are other names to watch out for. Augustine may be Hrabel’s biggest challenge given his strong play for Team USA during International play. Goalies can be tricky to predict, and Hrabel is the highest ranked, but it wouldn’t be overly surprising if one team had another goalie higher than Hrabel. I’ll take the field at +130 because why not.