This list won’t include Chicago, even with the addition of a possible generational talent in Connor Bedard and a prospective quality 2nd line center in Oliver Moore, it’s too easy to name them a winner.
Winner: Columbus Blue Jackets
The talk leading up to the draft was that Columbus had a choice of centers between Will Smith and Leo Carlsson, and when Anaheim chose the Swedish center, it provided the Blue Jackets with a center that many see as a franchise cornerstone. Adam Fantilli who likely would have been a No. 1 pick in any other draft that didn’t have Connor Bedard, fell into their lap at 3rd overall. There was no hesitation with Columbus announcing the pick to add the 2023 Hobey Baker Award winner.
He gives the Blue Jackets the top-line center the club desperately needs. He can slide in between two elite wingers, Johnny Gaudreau, and Patrik Laine. Then they also added another University of Michigan star in Gavin Brindley, who plays a similar style to Gaudreau. Then they add in another under-sized winger, but a sneaky good pick at 66 overall in William Whitelaw. Who has excellent speed, thinks the game at a high pace, and is a triple-threat scoring profile to generate offense at will.
Winner: Philadelphia Flyers
Michkov was seen as the second-best offensive talent at the draft, but the issues in his contract status, defensive issues, and other question marks meant he would slide, and someone was going to benefit from that. The Flyers were that someone.
For those saying Matvei Michkov didn't look very happy to be chosen by Philly – he was.
Look at him in this interview with a fellow Russian.
He can't stop smiling.
He's VERY happy to be a member of the #Flyers.
The guy that touched him was Vlad Spektor of Gold Star Hockey. pic.twitter.com/FwoV8rzztE
— Hockey News Hub (@HockeyNewsHub) June 29, 2023
Rookie GM Daniel Briere took the highly skilled Russian with the 7th pick, and he was still not even the first Russian selected, Arizona chose big defenseman Dmitri Simachev. Add in defenseman Oliver Bonk, goaltender Carson Bjarnason and winger Cole Knuble give them potentially four NHL players who can be solid contributors to a contending team. To be blunt, the Flyers are going to be a horrible team for a few seasons and can use that to give these players a long runway to develop before making the jump into the NHL.
Losers: Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators, missed the playoffs last season, yet somehow did not own a draft pick until round four. That’s a problem, but that’s not part of this assessment. Their first pick was Hoyt Stanley at 108th. Ottawa went after size in this draft. The other picks in rounds six and seven were investments in big players with low upside, but at least they chose players that have an opportunity to become depth fillers, so it might salvage this draft.
Losers: Toronto Maple Leafs
They only had 3 draft picks, three. After selling picks for depth at the deadline and all they got was a second-round loss, but at least it was the second round this time. After 20 years of losing in the first round or missing the playoffs, it may have been worth it to the fan base. Easton Cowan is a good player. He’s a strong skater and a hard worker with skill. He will get a larger role with London next season. Providence commit Hudson Malinoski, was a leader for Brooks in the AJHL this season. He has pro-size and athletic. So there’s a chance he becomes a bottom-sixer in the NHL. If he’s signs cheap contracts, it could be in cap-strapped Toronto.
Most Controversial: Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price flubbed the name of the Canadiens’ fifth-overall pick, David Reinbacher. Which can happen to anyone, and it was clear he got nervous, playing in front of 20 000 people is one thing, but public speaking in that setting is another altogether.
— Blain (@BlainPotvin_THW) June 28, 2023
Reinbacher is a very good defenseman who played well in the Swiss NL, a high-quality professional league. He’s big, very mobile, skates well, and he’s excellent at transitioning the puck. Reinbacher is going to be a very good defenseman. He projects as a top pair minute muncher that could provide some offense once he matures, perhaps a high end of 50 points per season. He’s not the “sexy pick” but that’s the type of defender-contending teams need.
The controversy is because many felt the Habs passed on a potential star in Matvei Michkov order to draft a player that wasn’t spoken of by independent scouting services as a star. Much of the fanbase had a favorite pick, an offensive player who might become an NHL player, and if he does could become the first 100-point player to finish as a minus player as he is a one-way player.