Connor Bedard, the draft No. 1 in the 2023 NHL draft, received an A rating on NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary Players to Watch list, released Tuesday by BioSteel.
The roster is a compilation of draft eligible prospects from every major developmental league in North America and Europe. It is updated during the season as the scouts rate the players.
Bedard (5-foot-10, 183 pounds), a 17-year-old right-footed center, has 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists), seven power play points (two goals), four game-winning goals and a 56.7 win percentage Faceoffs (131 to 231) in 12 games for Regina of the Western Hockey League this season.
“It looks like once he’s in a rush, even if it starts on his own end, but once he gets the blue line in offense, he’s certainly a scoring threat,” said NHL senior manager David Gregory Central Scouting. “He has absolute elite puck handling and shooting ability, but you combine that with his hockey IQ and how he thinks about it, he’s just so hard to stop and contain.”
[PDF: NHL Central Scouting 2022-23 preliminary players to watch list]
Bedard could become Regina’s second player to be picked No. 1 in the NHL draft (Doug Wickenheiser, Montreal Canadiens, 1980). The last WHL player ranked #1 was a forward Ryan Nugent Hopkins of Red Deer by the Edmonton Oilers in 2011.
The players on the provisional A-rated list are considered potential first-round picks. B-rated players are considered possible second or third round candidates, and C-rated players are potential fourth, fifth, or sixth round candidates.
Bedard had 51 goals and 100 points in 62 games in 2021/22 as a 16-year-old with Regina. He also had eight points (four goals, four assists) in seven games to help Canada win a gold medal at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championships.
“He reminds me so much of Steve Yzerman because he has what I call the four corners of excellence,” said Craig Button, TSN scouting director and NHL analyst. “He has great hockey flair. He sees what’s coming his way and can adjust and adapt. He’s an excellent skater. He’s got great hands and the ability to work in tight spaces, and he’s got NHL scoring skills. He also reminds me of Steve Yzerman in this respect: he has a killer instinct. Steve had a steely determination to find a path to success and do whatever it took to win. Connor has the same type of personality to me.”
Among the A-rated skaters likely to be selected in the top half of the first round are University of Michigan forward Adam Fantilli; Matvei Michkov of SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League, Russia’s top professional men’s league; Brayden Yager of Moose Jaw (WHL); and Dalibor Dvorsky of AIK in Sweden’s second division.
Fantilli (6-2, 195) plays in the middle on the top line with the left wing Dylan Duke (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Mackie Samoskevich (Florida Panthers) and leads the Wolverines with 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in six games. in the his first draft of the diary For NHL.com, Fantilli said he views himself as a two-way forward, aiming to emphasize his offensive zone skills but not forgetting the importance of the defensive zone.
“His coach (Brandon Naurato) already puts him in every situation like he’s their best player and he quite is,” Gregory said. “He’s adapted well to the pace of the college game because he’s a good skater and is already making an impact. He’s deadly on the power play because he has great vision.”
Michkov (5-10, 172), a 17-year-old left-footed center, suffered a lower-body injury in an exhibition game in August but has since returned to training. He is under contract with SKA St. Petersburg until 2025/26 and has no points in one game. He had 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in five games to help Russia win a gold medal at the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
Yager (5-10, 166) leads Moose Jaw with 12 points (four goals, eight assists) and seven power play points (one goal, six assists) in 10 games. In his First draft of the diary For NHL.com, Yager said his strengths are “a quick, smart, 200-foot player who can score goals and can be brought into any situation, whether it’s defending a lead or a big faceoff or goal need to”.
Dvorsky (6-1, 201), a native of Zvolen, Slovakia, plays for AIK in the Allsvenskan. He has five points (three goals, two assists), two power play goals and 13 shots on target while averaging 13:34 ice time in six games. The 17-year-old recorded two points (one goal, one assist) in four games for Slovakia at World Juniors 2022.
William Smith (6-0, 178) is one of four players from USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program under-18 team to earn an A rating on the PTW list. The right-footed center leads the NTDP with 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 11 games. He has committed to Boston College in 2023-24.
There are two A goalies on the list: Carson Bjarnason of Brandon (WHL) and Michael Hrabal of Omaha of the United States Hockey League.
Bjarnason (6-3, 186) is 6-2-1 with a 1.99 clean sheet average, .945 save percentage and one shutout in nine games. He leads WHL goaltenders with 310 saves.
“He’s very focused and determined with very good pace, especially in reaction, recovery and lateral play,” said Central Scouting’s Al Jensen. “He has good network coverage overall and good professional potential.”
Hrabal, a native of Prague, Czech Republic, is 2-0-3 with a 2.16 GAA, .940 save percentage and one shutout in five games as a USHL rookie. He is committed to 2025-26 at the University of Massachusetts.
Photo: Keith Hershmiller/Regina
Listen: New Episode of NHL Draft Class
#Draft #Bedard #Central #Scoutings #list #players #watch