2023 NHL ENTRY DRAFT PRIMER – PENGUINS TO PICK 14TH
, WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The Pittsburgh Penguins missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 17 years was a gut punch. The 2023 NHL Entry Draft allows the Penguins to lift themselves off the mat and land their first punch back.
The first round of this year’s draft will take place on Wednesday, June 28 from Nashville, Tennessee. Then, the following rounds two through seven will all happen the following day, Thursday, June 29. Because Pittsburgh failed to make the playoffs, it will be picking 14th overall in the first round, then making later picks in the third (90th overall), fifth (142nd overall), sixth (174th) and seventh rounds (217th and 223rd overall).
Fourteenth overall is the Penguins’ highest draft position since the team traded up to No. 8 in 2012. Needless to say, this is a big chance for the organization to snag an important piece of its future.
If you’re invested in the draft or wondering what to expect should you tune in on Wednesday and Thursday, here’s a rundown of the top storylines happening in Music City.
THE NEXT BIG THING?
Undoubtedly the hottest prospect since Connor McDavid in 2015, Connor Bedard is a lock to go No. 1 overall.
The shifty forward brings everything to the table: jaw-dropping skill, genius on-ice intellect, zero hesitation, strong skating and the innate desire to be great.
You don’t have to be a professional scout to know this young man is a gamebreaker. He’s been tearing up the junior ranks ever since he was granted exceptional status to play in the Western Hockey League as a 15-year-old, the first WHL player to achieve that honor.
This year, he had a 143-point season in 57 games while captaining the Regina Pats. He also established a new all-time record for points at the World Juniors, producing 23 points (9G-14A) in Canada’s seven games… as a 17-year-old.
Whether or not Bedard has a McDavid or Crosby-like impact on the NHL is yet to be seen. Those are massive shoes to fill, and make no mistake, there will be massive pressure heaped upon him to lead a second hockey renaissance in Chicago. However, Bedard has done everything to meet (or in some cases, exceed) the hype at every step of his young career so far.
THE NEXT TIER OF THE DRAFT
Bedard is the unquestioned leader of the 2023 draft class, but the consolation prizes aren’t too shabby. In fact, any one of the players that go next has the ability to be franchise-altering stars.
In the conversation for No. 2 overall are Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson and Matvei Michkov. Fantilli played at the University of Michigan, led the nation in goals (30) as well as points (65), and won the Hobey Baker Award for his efforts.
Carlsson is a study and smart centerman who already has experience playing against grown men in Sweden, and he improved his impressive production during the playoffs.
Once upon a time, Michkov was seen as a peer to Bedard, and 2022-23 would serve as a battleground for first overall. Instead, a year marred by injury, illness, and the current geopolitical climate in Russia has pushed Michkov down most draft boards. But don’t be fooled. Michkov is still an elite scorer and brilliant playmaker who oozes confidence every time he touches the puck.
Will Smith, who has the second-most career points in U.S. National Team Development Program history, second only to Jack Hughes, and diminutive, playmaking puck hound Zach Benson have a chance to round out the top five.
WHAT ABOUT PITTSBURGH?
And that brings us back to the Penguins and their 14th overall pick. New President of Hockey Operations Kyle Dubas will have his hands full monitoring the draft board as his selection approaches, because it’s impossible to pin down the landscape beyond the top four.
Based on different draft rankings from various online sources, there are some players ranked as high as sixth overall that aren’t even valued as first-rounders by other services. There is no consensus top defenseman. There scouting community believes that this draft is rife with goalie talent, but no individual netminder is receiving Top 20 buzz.
This creates a fascinating dynamic for fans, but likely a stressful one for team management. A player you thought for certain would be available might go five picks early, or a glut of prospects at one position could fall to you, and you have to make sure you snag the best of the crop.
And those are just the forwards.
Any way you slice it, the Penguins will have talented options available to them at 14. But we’ll have to wait until the team is on the clock Wednesday night to see how Dubas makes his first mark on shaping the franchise.
DON’T MISS THE GAMES AFTER THE DRAFT
Season-ticket packages for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ 25th season of hockey are on sale now. Full-Season, 22-game, 12-game, Flexbook and Premium Seating plans are available by reaching out to the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.