Montreal Canadiens Potential 2023 NHL Draft Targets

2023 NHL Mock Draft: Canadiens picks twice in Midseason Edition
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With the Montreal Canadiens now firmly entrenched at the bottom of the NHL standings, here are some intriguing targets they could be looking at for the 2023 NHL Draft.

Yes, everyone reading this now will have Connor Bedard playing on repeat in their heads. Bedard is an absolute generational talent, but only one team gets him, and we all know what he can do.

To fasten 2023 NHL Drafts value simply on him or Adam Fantilli or Leo Carlsson does a disservice to the top-heavy nature of this draft class. In the event that the Canadiens don’t win the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery, they could realistically still land a star outside of the top 5 this year.

Montreal Hockey Now it took some time TSNpp Craig Button to go through the prospects for the 2023 NHL Draft after the notable first four prospects to see how things are shaping up.

“There’s real depth in this draft,” Button said of the quality of the 2023 NHL draft. “Vancouver Canucks, I just go to them. They talk about tanking, fifth overall in the (2017) draft they got Elias Pettersson; a superstar. Seventh they got Quinn Hughes; a No. 1 defenseman in the NHL. Yeah, we know Connor Bedard, Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby; they’re no-brainers. But to think you’re not going to get a quality player after that is ridiculous.”

And Button isn’t the only one enamored of this 2023 draft class, as many have a hard time giving a consensus top 10 list of players for this year; largely due to the large amount of advanced talent at the top of the board.

Here’s a look at that top talent, in no particular order.

Top heavy pull

First is the smooth defender Axel Sandin-Pellikka, who is already playing meaningful minutes in the Swedish Hockey League as a 17-year-old.

Despite not scoring many points at the World Juniors, Sandin-Pellikka had some of the best underlying numbers in the tournament and was a monster in transition for Sweden.

“Axel Sandin-Pellikka; he is a really good defender. All you have to do is how the coach used him in the World Juniors; he had the most ice time per game (for Sweden) as a 17-year-old,” Button said of the advanced potential of Sandin-Pellikka. “You’ve got a right-shooting defenseman who’s settled the puck, balanced and makes good plays.”

Dalibor Dvorsky, another talented center in this draft who is tied for a top-six player in the NHL, is a serious option for the Montreal Canadiens. First and foremost, Dvorsky is a very good friend and former linemate of Canadiens prospects Juraj Slafkovsky and Filip Mesar.

But above all, he is a reliable, robust, left-handed center who can be a perfect complement to Nick Suzuki along the line. He has a very high floor in terms of potential, but Button believes he has the potential to be a high-end 2nd line center.

“Dalibor Dvorsky is just a really good two-way center man. I think he’s going to have a really good NHL career. Will he become a Mikael Backlund? Well, that might be the downside of (his potential),” Button said of the Slovakian centre-back. “This is a good player. Maybe he’s more in line with Bo Horvat. We’re talking about a really good player.”

Looking south of the border, center Will Smith is turning heads right now with the United States Development Team, as his combination of elite hockey IQ and exceptional skating make him a surefire top-10 pick for June’s draft.

“Will Smith; a good center. We’re talking hockey mind, another great hockey mind player. He can play, score,” Button said of the skilled center from the United States National Development Program. “Sometimes it almost looks too easy for him, because he’s so smart.”

And then there is the other phenom in the WHL, Zach Benson. Trailing only Connor Bedard in the WHL scoring race, Benson has fared significantly better than Matthew Savoir (9th overall) and Conor Geekie (11th overall) this season, despite being a year younger.

The 5’10 winger draws comparisons to Patrick Kane or Clayton Keller due to his exceptional combination of skill, vision and shooting ability. What else? He is also a playoff player and will likely save his best for last in the WHL spring dance.

“Zach Benson; I think he has a Patrick Kane-type game,” Button said of the huge potential of the WHL’s diminutive dynamo. “You can’t eliminate Zach Benson based on height because of the way he plays.”

Montreal Canadiens sandwich board

Even if the Canadiens don’t pick 1st or 2nd overall, there are some very interesting consolation prizes this year. Not only will there be potential top-line talent well into the top-10, and possibly leaking out of it, but the Canadiens will even be able to be more selective based on their needs, given how deep the 5-15 range is right now.

“The Montreal Canadiens are going to have a smorgasbord of talent to choose from. They’re going to be able to say, ‘I might have that player ranked higher, but we want this player at this position.’ Right? And that’s what the draft offers you “, Button said of the embarrassment of riches in this draft. “I think this is a great opportunity for them to build out their prospect pool.”

Needless to say, the quality of players available with two first picks, and possibly a third if the general manager Kent Hughes has his way, could be a franchise-changing draft for the Canadiens if done right.


Read more: MHN 2023 NHL Draft Rankings

To listen to the full interview, watch the video below:

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