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Exploring the top five draft prospects: NHL compositions, strengths, areas to grow – UnlistedNews

The 2023 NHL draft begins Wednesday in Nashville (Round 1, 7 pm ET on ESPN and ESPN+) and stories about Connor Bedard have dominated coverage.

Justly! The 17-year-old’s 143 points with the Regina Pats is the highest individual total in 27 years. This from a player who was granted exceptional status to enter the Canadian Hockey League at age 15, making him the first designated player in WHL history and the seventh player overall to be granted such status. . It’s worth noting that three of the six skaters above have been selected first overall in the NHL Draft.

However, there are other big prospects that teams will be happy to take in the first round. Here are the top five players on the Stathletes’ roster through the lens of data and analysis.

No. 1: Connor Bedard, C, Regina (WHL)

Key skills (strengths): Goalscorer; Get to the groove; disc possession
Continuous growth (improvements): Defensive zone activity

When you look at Bedard, his high-quality shot is the main focus. He has a fast, deceptive shot that can beat goalies, and he has the ability to make plays with speed. He attacks in the middle of the ice and pressures defenders with his game carrying the puck and passing. Bedard regularly attracts the attention of defending players, allowing him to create space for his teammates.

Bedard’s heat map and shot map from this year’s Junior World Championship show just how dangerous he can be offensively.

The shot map shows expected goals by point size, with larger points being higher quality shots. The red dots are the targets that cluster heavily around the inside slot for Bedard.

bedard shotchart

Comparable Player: David Pastrnak

No. 2: Adam Fantilli, C, Michigan (NCAA)

Key skills (strengths): game creation; disc transport; hockey IQ
Continuous growth (improvements): Go to high traffic areas

Fantilli is the third freshman to win the Hobey Baker Award, joining Jack Eichel and Paul Kariya. He won two gold medals for Canada this year at both the World Junior Championships and the Worlds.

Fantilli moves pucks to dangerous areas of the ice. He excels at carrying the puck in the zone entries and reads the plays well to create offense. Fantilli uses his skating skills to evade the pressure and creates space to make plays.

Not just an offensively dominant player, Fantilli has good positioning in the defensive zone that allows him to recover pucks at a high rate.

Fantilli’s shot map shows the expected goals, with the biggest points being the highest quality scoring chances and the yellow one being a goal in the Junior World Cup. It’s a good indication of his ability, as he can shoot from many areas in the offensive zone and still have a quality shot.

fantill shots

We can also compare him to No. 4 on this list, Leo Carlsson, another great center.

fantilli carlsson

Comparable NHL Player: Jack Eichel

No.3: Matvei Michkov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)

Key skills (strengths): Goalscorer; Offensively creative; transition offense
Continuous growth (improvements): Defensive zone activity

It’s hard to predict where exactly Michkov will be recruited. A three-year KHL contract clouds Michkov’s profile.

But looking strictly at performance on the ice, Michkov would be one of the best options in any draft. He is creative offensively and moves the puck into high danger areas. Michkov is a shooter first and is extremely powerful on the run. He has good anticipation and instinct both offensively and defensively.

Michkov is the youngest player to dress for the Russian national team. His 20 points in 27 games from him have him scoring at a higher rate per game than Alexander Ovechkin in his KHL draft year.

This player is the wild card to watch out for in terms of which team will draft him.

Comparable NHL Player: Nikita Kucherov

No. 4: Leo Carlsson, C, Orebro (SHL)

Key skills (strengths): disk protection; Get to the scoring areas; decision making
Continuous growth (improvements): disk recovery

There’s a good chance Carlsson will go before the No. 4. He’s a puck possession player who likes to have the puck on his stick, especially in transition. On zone tackles, Carlsson has a high tackle rate with speed and attacks down the middle of the ice.

His puck handling is ideal, limiting turnovers and focusing on simple plays. Carlsson can absorb contact and keep the puck on his stick.

In the offensive zone, Carlsson can reach high-traffic areas and shoot from the slot. The shot attempt image of him at the Junior World Cup is a good example of high quality shots near the net. The larger the points, the higher the quality of the shot with red being a Carlsson goal.


Comparable NHL Player: Pierre-Luc Dubois

No. 5: Will Smith, C, USA U-18 (NTDP)

Key skills (strengths): Game creation/vision; offensive instincts; playing with rhythm
Continuous growth (improvements): limit turnovers

Rounding out the five prospects is Will Smith, who played for the US Under-18 NDTP last year and is headed to Boston College, where he will be the 14th member of his family to attend.

Smith has great vision that helps his play. He not only sees passing lines, but he is capable of completing difficult passes. Smith is creative offensively and passes pucks to teammates to create scoring opportunities. He is willing to take the drive online and get involved in high-traffic areas. The Smith U18 pass image shows his ability to complete difficult passes on ice. The ones in red indicate feeds that resulted in goals.

smith passing

Comparable NHL Player: Sebastian Aho

Meghan Chayka co-founded Stathletes, a data and analytics company that works with ESPN and the NHL to provide deeper insights into hockey performance.


Sara Marcus
Sara Marcus
Meet Sara Marcus, our newest addition to the Unlisted News team! Sara is a talented author and cultural critic, whose work has appeared in a variety of publications. Sara's writing style is characterized by its incisiveness and thought-provoking nature, and her insightful commentary on music, politics, and social justice is sure to captivate our readers. We are thrilled to have her join our team and look forward to sharing her work with our readers.


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