Winners and losers from Round 1 of the 2023 NHL Draft, including the Coyotes’ inexplicable selections.
The Chicago Blackhawks were the winners of the NHL Draft. There. Done. The Hawks have a generational talent in Connor Bedard, who should be able to rapidly change their on-ice culture and turn them back into a winning team.
Yes, he is that talented, and if the front office can surround him with more help, we will witness something truly extraordinary.
The problem is that the pick is still so unpleasant. There is no other way to express it. Even though the best player in years is going to one of hockey’s biggest markets to play for an Original Six team with a fanbase that deserves a change in fortune, it is absurd that this was permitted to occur.
We cannot celebrate Bedard’s move to Chicago without repeatedly mentioning that the Blackhawks organization orchestrated the largest sexual abuse cover-up in the annals of professional sports and escaped with a $2 million fine.
We cannot allow Bedard’s NHL success to detract from the fact that lives are in shambles, families are shattered, and careers are destroyed as a result of the former Chicago brain trust’s decision to ignore sexual assault as long as the team was winning.
There are nuances involved, and it is extremely difficult to evaluate them all. Fans of the Chicago Blackhawks deserve a terrific player.
The city is worthy of Bedard. Rocky Wirtz’s deplorable response to questions about Kyle Beach’s sexual assault at a town hall meeting in 2022 designed to enable members of the public to question senior leadership of the organization renders the entire process inconsequential.
“If someone in the company poses that question, we’ll respond, but I believe you should move on to the next topic. There will be no discussion of Kyle Beach. We are not going to discuss anything that occurred. We are now moving on. What else is there to say?”
Later, Wirtz issued an apology through his PR team, but the damage was already done. The men directly responsible for the cover-up were no longer present, but the man in charge lacked compassion for what had transpired.
Chicago ought to have faced unprecedented punishment for allowing a former coach to repeatedly take advantage of a player in their system. Therefore, it felt vile to see Chicago rewarded with the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery.
The Blackhawks should be ushering in a new era of success with a marquee player, but the same owner is allowed to remain in control due to the NHL’s inept response to the abuse of Kyle Beach.
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Winner: the Flyers, who (after Bedard) made the biggest home run in the draft with Matvei Michkov.
Philadelphia is in the midst of a significant rebuilding effort and had the PERFECT player fall to them at No. 7. Teams at the top of the draft were hesitant to select Michkov due to his contract with the KHL through 2026–27 and the instability in Russia caused by the invasion of Ukraine. Nevertheless, Michkov is a legitimate top-three player in this class.
The 18-year-old player recorded 20 points in 27 KHL contests this season. It’s bizarre that teams would be so shortsighted as to pass on him because of the three-year delay.
Philadelphia now has one of the most talented young players in its prospect system and a player who will be ready to leap to the NHL as soon as the remainder of its rebuild is completed. What an incredible choice.
Loser: The inexplicable Arizona Coyotes draft
Wednesday night, the Coyotes wrote the book on how teams remain poor with their selections. Nobody in the NHL squandered draft capital more than the Arizona Coyotes, who used the sixth and twelfth overall selections to make two enormous reaches.
There are no functional issues with Dmitri Simashev or Daniil But. They are both legitimate first-round talents who could surprise us, but based on what we’ve seen, they were not the finest players available at either of the Coyotes’ selections. It’s almost as if the team was dead-set on selecting a defenseman at No.
6, but was taken for a loop when the Canadiens selected David Reinbacher, so instead of adjusting their board, they panicked and selected their second-best defenseman.
Even if they desired players who could contribute immediately, neither Simashev nor But could join the team immediately. Why in the world don’t you take Michkov and acquire a single elite talent? This draft will be examined for years as an example of how not to draft in the NHL.
Winner: Dmitri Simachev, who was shocked to learn that the Coyotes had chosen him.
You should never be ecstatic if the athlete you drafted is shocked that you selected him so highly.
Loser: What the Canadiens did at No. 5 and at No. 31
I don’t want to transform this into a “who didn’t take Michkov” debate, but WHY DIDN’T THE CANADIANS TAKE MICHKOV? When your team lacks scoring talent to the extent that you’re selecting in the top five, you must do everything possible to locate a home run hitter. One was seated directly there.
David Reinbacher is excellent, don’t get me wrong, but he could not have been a franchise-defining star like Michkov.
The team then overpaid in a trade for Alex Newhook at No. 31, when there were a number of very excellent players available. There is no clear indication that he will become a Top 6 player, and he was struggling with the Avalanche prior to this.
There is a possibility that he will develop, but the 31st and 37th picks are a very expensive price for a player who did not merit them. In essence, the Canadiens bailed out the Avalanche and allowed them to locate future pieces.