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2023 NHL Draft: Winners and Losers

The 2023 NHL Draft is now in the books, so it’s time to see who seemed to make the biggest improvements and who left fans scratching their heads.

Winner: Chicago Blackhawks

The first of our 2023 NHL Draft winners and losers is no surprise. 

The argument could be made that the Chicago Blackhawks were winners as soon as they won the draft lottery and received the #1 overall pick. 

Connor Bedard truly is the type of generational talent only comparable to Connor McDavid.

Obviously, only time will tell if that assessment is true, but Bedard alone makes Chicago winners of the 2023 NHL Draft. 

However, the ‘Hawks seemed to hit with their following picks as well. 

The two most notable were Adam Gajan in the second round and Nick Lardis in the third. Gajan is a skater that some had projected as a first round selection, and Lardis is another 17 year-old alongside Bedard.

Lardis seems like one of the bigger steals of the draft given his ceiling, overall skating ability and competitiveness. 

The argument could be made that he’s another smaller player like Bedard, but he truly came into his own with 46 points in 33 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs in the OHL this past season.  

Winner: Columbus Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets landed arguably the biggest free agent signing last offseason, acquiring Johnny Gaudreau, formerly of the Calgary Flames. 

Despite that, they had a horrific 2022-23 season. They then had high hopes for landing the #1 pick for Bedard, but of course, had to pivot.

What they likely weren’t expecting was Adam Fantilli being available at pick #3. 

It was anticipated that the Anaheim Ducks would take the Michigan Wolverine product at #2, but they went with Swede Leo Carlsson instead. 

Fantilli had stated the Jackets were his dream spot months ago, and he got his wish.

At 6-foot-2 and nearly 200 pounds, he brings size alongside the smaller Gaudreau to help him shine. 

Fantilli is an all-around skater at the center position, which Columbus desperately needs. 

Like the Blackhawks, they also grabbed a first-round talent with their second pick - Gavin Brindley - to help solidify a strong 2023 Draft. 

Loser: Boston Bruins

Another Original Six team lands in our list of 2023 NHL Draft winners and losers, but not for the right reasons. 

Following a record-setting regular season (65 wins and 135 points), the Boston Bruins fizzled out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and now have some work to do.

The future of captain Patrice Bergeron is always in question and Boston already traded away former #1 overall pick Taylor Hall a few days ahead of the 2023 NHL Draft. 

Not only that, but they also traded their first round pick to the Washington Capitals and didn’t have a second round pick due to a trade in 2022.

That means that the Bruins didn’t make a pick until the tail end of the third round at #92 overall. 

They selected Christopher Pelosi, who will be playing for collegiate powerhouse Quinnipiac come NHL season. 

This is a veteran group, but they’re going to need to bring in some youth to help them after such a disappointing end to last season.

Loser: Toronto Maple Leafs

Picking on the Toronto Maple Leafs simply feels cliche at this point, but the front office just continues to give reasons to do so. 

There’s no denying that Auston Matthews in the 2016 NHL Draft was a slam dunk, but they have yet to build a championship team around him. 

For another Original Six team, fans are getting restless.

General manager Kyle Dubas resigned following their Stanley Cup Playoff exit this season, even though they finally made it out of the first round for the first time since 2004. 

To try and build around one of the highest payrolls in the NHL, the Leafs selected Easton Cowan with their first round selection.

While Gajan for the Blackhawks and Brindley for the Jackets were first-round talents that were selected in the second, Cowan was graded as a second or third-round talent that Toronto reached for in the first. 

Time will tell, but it seems as though they would have been better off moving that pick for a piece to help them win now while Matthews still wants to be there.

As with any NHL Draft, winners and losers will prove themselves down the line, but as for immediately following the selections, these are the teams we felt hit big and disappointed.

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