The 2023 NHL draft might be the Bedard-Michkov Sweepstakes
Ek’s Note: I will be back in force tomorrow with NHL rumors after a few days off here….cheers…
NHL Teams hadn't even made the first pick in the 2022 draft when we started hearing about teams being in a favorable position for the Connor Bedard Sweepstakes in 2023.
The Chicago Blackhawks helped themselves by moving Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach. They now seem in full rebuild mode. The Arizona Coyotes are certainly in the mix. The Montreal Canadiens are definitely a strong candidate, although don't we need to know what's up with Carey Price before we make any declaration about the Habs?
The Philadelphia Flyers don't seem to believe this, but they also look like a team that could make a run at the league's worst record if everything goes right or wrong, depending upon your rooting interests.
Most scouts believe Regina Pats center Bedard is worth the hype. He was the first U-17 player to register 100 or more points in the Western Hockey League in 35 years.
And if that isn't enough, long-time draft analyst Kyle Woodlief, chief scout and publisher of Red Line Report, says Bedard is actually one of two players at the top of this draft class that are worth celebrating.
He believes Kontinental Hockey League rising young star Matvei Michkov of St. Petersburg is also worthy of consideration to go No. 1. This is the kid who broke Nikita Kucherov's scoring record as a U17 player.
"Bedard and Michkov are the clear top two, and both would be No. 1 overall material in almost any draft year," Woodlief said.
He says this is the most talented duo the NHL has seen since Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel were together in the 2015 draft.
"There’s not much separating Bedard and Michkov; both are quite small, but phenomenally skilled." Woodlief said. "(They are) so skilled that each could become 50-goal scorers, not 35 or 40 goal scorers, in the NHL. "
Bedard netted 51 goals and 100 points in 62 games for Regina, right wing Michkov registered five points in his 13 games in the KHL, but scouts say you could still see his potential playing against the pros.
The unknown about Michkov is how NHL teams will view his Russian heritage. It doesn't help that Michkov's KHL contract runs until 2025.
"Michkov is the best pure goal scorer to come out since Auston Matthews in ’16," Woodlief said. " But Bedard is only the slightest shade behind him in that category, and a better puckhandler with a bit more imaginative playmaking."
If you don't pick in the top two, there will be plenty of reasons to like the 2023 draft. Woodlief has Slovak center Dalibor Dvorsky currently at No. 3. If he had been eligible in 2022, Woodlief said he would have ranked him No. 1. At age 16, he was Slovakia's No. 2 center the World Junior Championships.
Woodlief likes plenty of players from this draft class: "The 2023 draft is quite deep compared to most recent drafts."
Apparently, this is a very good season to be a bad hockey team.