NHL Trade Tracker: Take a look at the league’s latest moves. We’ve been talking about the 2023 NHL Draft for some time. That’s what happens when you’ve got a golden boy like Connor Bedard headlining the event, plus a handful of other high-end talents with the potential to make a major mark on a team’s future. For as long as we’ve been anticipating this particular draft class, it will, of course, take even longer before we really know who did and did not choose wisely on Wednesday in Nashville. But that won’t stop us from drawing some immediate conclusions. From an early gasp at second overall to finally finding out where the Russian wild card was going to be dealt, the first round of the 2023 draft had some breathtaking moments. With that in mind, let’s sing the praises of some picks while also getting a little skeptical about others. Winners Chicago Blackhawks From the moment they won the NHL Draft Lottery in May, you knew this was going to be the Blackhawks’ night. In a draft season where we kept hearing about how there were three or four kids at this event who might be first-overall picks in other years, Chicago got the one guy who actually was in 2023. Taking Connor Bedard is a this-changes-everything moment and the Hawks can move forward knowing they have the kind of centre piece you dream of when you undertake a ground-zero rebuild. Chicago also did well to land U.S. National Team Development Program centre Oliver Moore at No. 19. Columbus Blue Jackets For all the projecting we do on draft night, even the most astute scout or prospect guru has to acknowledge uncertainty goes with the territory when you’re projecting what kind of pros 18-year-olds will become. Who knows, maybe the Anaheim Ducks’ decision to take Leo Carlsson second overall will look smart five years down the road. All we know for now is Adam Fantilli — the guy almost universally seen as the second-best option behind Bedard in this draft — fell into the Columbus Blue Jackets’ lap at third overall. Long in search of a top-line centre, Columbus just drafted a big, fast and smart player who was a menace as a freshman in the NCAA. Historically, Ohio sports fans don’t have much love for the Michigan Wolverines, but Blue Jackets supporters can set aside college football hate and dream of a future where Fantilli and Kent Johnson — two University of Michigan products — provide an incredible 1-2 punch down the middle. Let’s just, for the sake of argument, assume Fantilli will leave school and join the Jackets next fall. That would mean next year’s squad is adding Ivan Provorov, Damon Severson and, in all likelihood, 2022 sixth-overall selection David Jiricek to the blue line, and a stud centre prospect in Fantilli to the mix. It’s an exciting time to be a Columbus fan. Philadelphia Flyers For many people, the pure talent rankings in this draft went Bedard No. 1, Matvei Michkov No. 2. We all know the story; at least three years until he comes to North America from Russia and little-to-no access to the player in the interim. Still, Michkov projects to be the kind of goal-scorer you only ever expect to land with a first or second pick. For Philly to get him at seventh overall — regardless of the circumstance — has to be seen as a win. And with the Flyers in the infant stages of a complete tear-down, they are as well positioned as any club to wait the three-to-five years it might take to get Michkov in your colours. Washington Capitals If you said the Caps were going to land in the ‘winners’ section before the draft, you’d expect it was because Michkov fell to them at No. 8 and was already on the phone with fellow Russian Alex Ovechkin talking about how he can get to America as fast as possible. Well, Washington may have been scooped by Philly for Michkov, but Ryan Leonard is one heck of a consolation prize. The U.S. NTDP product fits the precise profile of a guy who can help win you playoff games. Power and compete are the headlines, but Leonard is also a very skilled player with a wicked shot. This guy and Tom Wilson on the same team should be illegal. Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers We’re grouping these two together because they both snagged incredibly skilled players who slipped a little down the board. Few guys are easier to root for in this draft then Zach Benson, who had his name called at No. 13 by the Sabres. Small but ferocious, Benson is a battler whose approach to the game should be adored in a lunch-pail town like Buffalo. Gabriel Perreault, meanwhile, set a U.S. NTDP record this year with 132 points in 63 games. Knock his skating all you want, his feel for the game and offensive vision are off the charts. The Rangers got him 23rd overall. You could probably also throw Detroit getting D-man Axel Sandin Pellikka at No. 17 and Colorado snagging blue-liner Mikhail Gulyayev 31st overall into the conversation for Day 1 steals, too. Losers Montreal Canadiens The Canadiens took David Reinbacher with the fifth-overall pick and there’s every chance in the world that decision will work out great. Six-foot-two, right-shot defencemen are a valuable commodity and it feels like Reinbacher’s floor is playing great hockey on your second pair for 15 years. Still… We all figured this was where the cork came out of the bottle at the 2023 draft because it seemed unlikely Michkov would go in the top four picks. Even if Montreal didn’t want to take Michkov, the Habs had to hope they could at least make a nervous team like Philly or Washington trade up for him, then get their guy a couple picks down. It just didn’t happen. And, good lord, poor Carey Price forgetting the kid’s name at the mic…the only person happy about that is Bobby Clarke, who can now stop being the go-to reference for blanking on stage. Price did poke fun at himself afterward. Arizona Coyotes Everything you could say about Montreal at No. 5 you could basically repeat about Arizona at No. 6 in terms of trying to drum up a market for the Michkov-hungry teams. The Coyotes obviously weren’t afraid of the “Russian factor,” opting for defenceman Dmitri Simashev at No. 6 and left winger Daniil But at No. 12. On one hand, tip your hat to a team that has the courage to eschew conventional wisdom and pick kids way ahead of where they were slated to go. Still, taking But one pick ahead of Benson may be tough to swallow one day. More from Sportsnet 2023 NHL Draft Blog: Why the Oilers sent Yamamoto, Kostin to Detroit Draft wild-card Matvei Michkov vows to make good on late father’s Cup dream

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