Connor Bedard among elite prospects Capitals could land at top of NHL Draft
Bedard among elite prospects Caps could land atop NHL Draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
For just the fourth time in the last 20 years, the Capitals will pick in the top 10 of this summer’s NHL Draft. The odds favor them drafting in the Nos. 8-9 range, but the Capitals will go into Monday night’s lottery holding a 12.4% chance of landing somewhere in the top three.
That includes a 6% chance at the No. 1 overall pick, where Canadian phenom Connor Bedard is likely to be selected as the most highly regarded prospect since Connor McDavid landed with the Edmonton Oilers in 2015. Bedard has been on the radar of NHL scouts as a potential top pick for the better half of his teenage years, starring for Canada’s U18 and U20 teams while averaging over two points per game across three seasons in the WHL.
Here's a look at the projected star’s draft profile:
2023 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Connor Bedard
Team: Regina Pats (Western Hockey League)
Age: 17 (born July 17, 2005)
Birthplace: North Vancouver, British Columbia
Weight: 185 lbs
2022-23 stats (WHL): 57 GP, 71 goals, 72 assists, 143 points, +39 plus/minus, 62 penalty minutes
Player comps: Patrick Kane, David Pastrnak
Draft class rankings: NHL Central Scouting 1st (North America), The Athletic 1st, Sportsnet 1st, TSN/Bob McKenzie 1st, The Hockey News 1st, Elite Prospects 1st, Daily Faceoff 1st
Scouting report: The team that lands Bedard is going to be (gladly) forced to tear up whatever long-term plans it had for its roster. He’s the rare draft pick who could jump into meaningful minutes at the NHL right away, bursting with potential as a prolific scorer who does just about everything well. It’s hard not to be mesmerized by his skill with the stick, but his wrist shot is just as dangerous in open space and he skates well enough to keep up with NHL offenses.
Perhaps the only drawback for Bedard is his size. He may end up being pushed to the wing at some point, but it’s likely that whatever team drafts him will give him a chance to stick at his natural position of center. As captain of both the Pats this past season and Canada’s U18 junior team in 2021-22, he’s well-regarded for his leadership qualities and intangibles too.
Though there’s only one Bedard, the 2023 NHL Draft class has several other prospects with elite potential at the top. The Capitals own 6.2% and 0.2% chances at the second and third picks, respectively, giving them longshot odds of landing in a position to select another high-upside player such as Michigan standout Adam Fantilli or Russian winger Matvei Michkov.
Fantilli was spectacular for the Wolverines in his first taste of college hockey in 2022-23, becoming just the third freshman in NCAA history to win the Hobey Baker Award for the best player in the country along with Jack Eichel (2015) and Hall of Famer Paul Kariya (1993). His 65 points didn’t just lead the nation, they marked the highest total for any player in seven years.
Here’s what Fantilli brings to the table:
2023 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Adam Fantilli
Team: Michigan Wolverines (NCAA)
Age: 18 (born Oct. 12, 2004)
Birthplace: Toronto, Ontario
Weight: 187 lbs
2022-23 stats (NCAA): 36 GP, 30 goals, 35 assists, 65 points, +31 plus/minus, 67 penalty minutes
Player comps: Nathan MacKinnon, Patrice Bergeron
Draft class rankings: NHL Central Scouting 2nd (North America), The Athletic 2nd, Sportsnet 2nd, TSN/Bob McKenzie 2nd, The Hockey News 2nd, Elite Prospects 2nd, Daily Faceoff 2nd
Scouting report: Just like the last freshman to win the Hobey in Eichel, Fantilli finds himself in the unfortunate spot of being in the same draft class as a generational talent. In almost any other year, he would be the running favorite to go No. 1 and, as such, will be much more than a consolation prize for the team that misses out on Bedard and lands him instead.
Fantilli is a rare blend of size and speed, boasting a profile that projects a player who can outmuscle NHL competition on the boards and outmaneuver opponents in open ice. His puckhandling is second to only Bedard in the class. Scouts also rave about his talents on the defensive end, making him a true threat to develop into a complete two-way player. Like Bedard, he could make his NHL debut very quickly next season if not right away.
Perhaps the biggest wild card at the top of this year’s draft class is the aforementioned Michkov. Some draft analysts rank Swedish forward Leo Carlsson ahead of him after he turned in a strong performance at the World Junior Championship, but there’s no denying Michkov has a prolific blend of high hockey IQ and playmaking ability that elevates his ceiling to superstar potential.
The best Russian skater prospect since Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin went one-two in the 2004 draft, Michkov dominated the second-tier VHL with 14 points in per game before getting some extended playing time in the KHL at the end of the year. He’s signed to a KHL contract through 2025-26, which could keep him overseas at least until he’s ready for the NHL.
Here’s more on Michkov’s draft profile:
2023 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Matvei Michkov
Team: HK Sochi (KHL) – loan
Position: Right wing
Age: 18 (born Dec. 9, 2004)
Birthplace: Perm, Russia
Weight: 172 lbs
2022-23 stats (KHL): 30 GP, 9 goals, 11 assists, 20 points, +1 plus/minus, 16 penalty minutes
Player comps: Nikita Kucherov, Patrick Kane
Draft class rankings: NHL Central Scouting 2nd (International), The Athletic 3rd, Sportsnet 4th, TSN/Bob McKenzie 4th, The Hockey News 4th, Elite Prospects 4th, Daily Faceoff 3rd
Scouting report: Michkov first broke onto the international scene at the 2021 World Men's U18 tournament, where he went head-to-head with Bedard to spark speculation that he could challenge him for the No. 1 spot in the 2023 draft. However, his contract situation coupled with an injury he suffered at the Sochi Hockey Open last summer wiped out his chances of going first.
None of that takes anything away from his game on the ice, which by all accounts is much more advanced than what is expected from a player his age. Michkov has all the tools to be an elite goal scorer in the NHL, showing strong decision-making instincts and showcasing prolific puckhandling skills. He doesn’t provide a huge boost on the defensive end, but his offensive potential is enough to rival even that of Bedard.