Top 10 Snipers in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft

By Isaiah Bouchard

The 2023 NHL entry draft is getting ever closer to hockey fans, and the excitement fans have for who their teams are going to draft this year is ever higher as the regular seasons across the globe are coming to an end, and playoff season is just around the corner. And there is a lot for fans to be excited for this year, as the draft is looking like one of the strongest in years.

Connor Bedard is looking increasingly like a franchise-level player, rivaling the likes of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Nathan Mackinnon, Austin Matthews, and Connor McDavid. Adam Fantilli would have been a first-overall pick in arguably the last six drafts, Leo Carlsson is the next big center to come out of Sweden, and he is a must-grab in the top 5. And, of course, there is the Russian sniper: Matvei Michkov, who, despite being signed to the KHL until 2026, is so good that any team picking in the top 5 will be more than willing to wait for the Russian star.

But after the big 4 in this year’s draft, who fills out the remaining slots is always an exciting mystery come draft day. Teams must allocate their scouting resources to best support the organization’s roster on draft day. Who needs the top defensemen? Say, over-the-top sniper or goaltender? That is why we at DraftPro are excited to present an in-depth look at every position and who best thrives in that position. Who is the best sniper? The best power forward? offensive defensemen? Hopefully, after this 8-part series, all these questions will be answered.

Seven DraftPro scouts were asked their top 5-7 players for the following positions: sniper, playmaker, two-way forward, power forward, offensive defenseman, defensive defenseman, two-way defenseman, and goaltender. Their lists were recorded separately, and then once all seven scouts handed in their lists, their results were compared to one another. The final lists you read here determined the average each player placed. This is not a ranking of the best players overall, simply a ranking of who is the best for each given position. Players may be placed on multiple lists, as many players are not one-dimensional, and can not be forced into one category.

Thank you to the following scouts for providing their lists: Jared Brown, Matt Hnatiuk, Tyler Karoway, Andrew LeBlanc, Murray Caldwell, Andy Miller, and Jody Horak.

The sniper is the main force of pure goal-scoring potential on the team. Snipers can score goals in a multitude of ways, but what sets them aside from other goal-scorers on the team is their ability to score long-distance goals via their powerful and accurate shots. Many players can score goals, but goal-scoring alone does not make them snipers. This critical ability to score from a distance is what makes snipers so feared, and loved.

Here are DraftPro’s honorable mentions, players who were given attention from certain scouts but overall lacked consensus from the rest of the team:

Gabriel Perreault, Noah Dower-Nilsson, Koehn Ziemmer, Nick Lardis, Oliver Moore, Carey Terrance, and Luca Pinelli.

And here are DraftPro’s TOP 10 Snipers in the 2023 NHL draft class:

Kasper Halttunen, HIFK, Liiga, #54-64 overall (2nd Round).

“Thrives on the powerplay where he’s given space to get shots off. He’s dangerous from the circles and can also clean up rebounds in front.” – Andrew LeBlanc.

This 6’3″ Fin has a lot to sell to scouts. He’s big, and he’s powerful. Being able to play the role of a Power Forward most nights, it’s Halttunen’s power that makes him such a dangerous sniper as well. Kasper Halttunen is suspected of going in the 2nd round this year, making him a safe pick to go for after your first pick is already taken. And for teams who gave up their first-round pick and are picking their first player in the second, the big skater with the wicked shot will not be a bad investment.

Zach Benson, Winnipeg Ice, WHL, #5-7 overall (1st Round).

Slippery, slick, intelligent, elite hockey IQ, a composed brilliant player maker, makes excellent passes like someone much older, pure goal scorer.” – Murray Caldwell.

Zach Benson is a high-utility player who can do many things. In other words, this will not be the last time you see Zach Benson on these lists. He can make offensive and defensive plays, and of course, he can score goals from anywhere. The spots between 5-10 are up in the air for most scout rankings, but one thing Benson has over, say, an Andrew Cristal or Will Smith is his ability to snipe as well. As of writing this review, Benson has 36 goals in 60 games. He is not quite a top 5 sniper, but he definitely needs to be mentioned.

Samuel Honzek, Vancouver Giants, WHL, #21-31 overall (1st round).

Goalies should be scared when he is on the ice. Honzek’s accuracy sets him apart from the other snipers in this draft class. The release he has on his shot gives his shots so much velocity it’s in the net before the goalie can even react.” – Tyler Karoway.

Like Kasper Halttunen, Honzek is a big boy. At 6’4″ tall, Honzek is a threatening offensive presence on the ice. His big body makes him hard to cover and knock off the puck, giving him more space to unleash his awesome shots. Honzek is an excellent pick for teams in the latter end of the 1st. As of writing this review, Honzek just broke over the 20-goal mark in his first season in the WHL. It will be exciting to see him grow as he likely will have another year to tear it up with the Giants.

Matthew Wood, University of Connecticut, NCAA, #28-38 overall (1st-2nd Round).

“Wood is a pure goal scorer who gets to the high danger areas and finishes with the best of them.” – Andrew LeBlanc.

Another late 1st round option, and get this, another BIG boy at 6’3″. This Alberta native had an incredible season in the BCHL last season, where he led the entire league in goals (45) and points (85). Now, in NCAA, Matthew Wood has put up a respectable season, where he is one of the top goal-scorers in his age group. Speaking to former Victoria Royals goaltender: Griffen Outhouse, he had a lot of praise for the young kid, who he stated had an “NHL level shot already,” Matthew Wood is also the first player on this list to be named twice by our scouts. Being ranked as high as 3rd by Andrew Leblanc.

Brayden Yager, Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL, #6-10 overall (1st Round).

“Excellent release on his shot and super accurate in picking his spots.” – Jody Horak.

Yager just missed out on the top five, but he was mentioned 3 times by our scouts. Being ranked 3rd, 5th, and 6th. Now we’re getting into (almost) our PURE snipers. As a player, Yager brings a lot to the table, but he is a debated name here at DraftPro. But one thing that is impossible to argue against is just how good of a shot he has. Yager has 26 goals and 74 points as of writing this review and continues to be a shining star for in Moose Jaw. After speaking with Yager, for a player feature written earlier this year, it’s clear Yager strives for efficiency and drive as the main influencers for his game. He wants to be a player coaches can count on and keep his performance at a consistently high level.

Adam Fantilli, University of Michigan, NCAA, #2 overall (1st Round).

Fantilli shoots the puck a lot, and he is incredibly accurate with his shot. If he maintains his shots per game and drops his shooting percentage in half, he will be around a 30-goal scorer, which would be very impressive as a rookie. He has a quick release and hits his spots which will give NHL goalies trouble” – Andy Miller.

Adam Fantilli, as mentioned earlier, would have been the 1st overall pick last year and arguably the first overall pick of every recent draft until Austin Matthews. Perhaps in time, he could rival even him. Fantilli has it all to be great in the NHL. He’s got a good size, he’s an explosive skater, a highly skilled stick handler, and of course, he has a great shot. It’s this shot that puts him at an advantage over Matvei Michkov. While Michkov’s shot is incredible and elite, if the 2nd overall picking team requires goal-scoring, Fantilli is not the downgrade from Michkov that we once expected him to be.

Ryan Leonard, USNTDP, USHL, #7-12 overall (1st Round).

“Uses his big frame to hold defenders off and gets the pick off his stick quickly to beat goaltenders.” – Andrew LeBlanc.

The first thing that jumps out with Leonard’s skill set and play style is his explosiveness. He’s a hard fighter, a pest to deal with, and capitalizes on all his opportunities. He is more than capable of racking up points when he’s hot, making him one of the best-looking options in the first half of the first round. Ryan Leonard was mentioned 5 times in our scout’s lists, being ranked around the 3rd-5th position. He is no doubt a top 5 sniper in this draft. These top 5 are all very close. Leonard being the 4th best sniper is not a blow to him, he’s an excellent player, and any team will be clamoring to have him with their franchise.

Colby Barlow, Owen Sound Attack, OHL, #6-12 overall (1st Round).

Barlow is a quick player who has a deceptive shot that he can get off quickly and under pressure. He moves laterally well and can change his shooting lane at the last second. Being a 17/18-year-old top 5 OHL scorer bodes well for his future.” – Andy Miller

Goals tend to win games, so players who can provide goals are a hot commodity in the NHL. This makes Barlow likely one of the top players to come out of the OHL this year. Because as of right now, he has 46 goals with the Attack, which is 4th overall and 1st overall for all draft-eligible players. Out of the seven scouts who provided lists, five of them mentioned Colby Barlow and four of those five had him at #3 or higher. Barlow’s skill is so good it’s hard to believe we got two more guys to mention.

Matvei Michkov, HK Sochi, KHL, #2-5 overall (1st Round).

“Michkov’s ability to score from all areas of the offensive zone makes him the most dangerous threat of this class.” – Andrew LeBlanc.

Michkov has come with a lot of questions, but his shot is not one of them. Michkov has arguably the best pure wrist shot in the draft, and while Bedard is a goal-scoring machine, Michkov plays the pure sniper role better than Bedard. He scores through traffic, he scores up close, he scores from afar, he can do it all. He’s good enough to join the HK Sochi in the KHL, so I suspect some growing interest in Michkov’s KHL career, as whoever picks him will be waiting for their own Krill Kaprisov story. Michkov is well worth the wait. Despite him being small, despite him having the looming question of his Russian contract, despite him being questionable in his playmaking and defensive abilities, Michkov is still considered a top 5, maybe even top 3 or 2 level prospect. And that’s all to do with his sniping. That’s how good he is.

Connor Bedard, Regina Pats, WHL.

“What makes Bedard’s goal-scoring potential so unique is his uncanny ability to change the release point of his shot to get around blocking defenders or fool goaltenders. He has the nastiest release I’ve ever seen and has the potential to be the game’s next-best goal scorer.” – Jared Brown.

What else is there to say about Connor Bedard? Connor Bedard was unanimously placed 1st overall by all of our scouts. Bedard, of course, is more than just a sniper, as he has an argument for best playmaker and two-way forward as well. But for now, Bedard is our clear number-one sniper. He finished his season with 71 goals, playing for the lackluster Regina Pats in one of the strongest WHL leagues in recent memory, so yeah, he can score goals. He also wow’d audiences at the World Juniors, taking every scout who called him ‘pretty good’ and smacked them across the face until they said ‘really good.’ And it shouldn’t be too controversial to say that Connor Bedard from the Regina Pats, is the best sniper in the 2023 NHL draft class.

For more information on the 2023 NHL Draft class be sure to pick up your copy of the comprehensive DraftPro 2023 NHL Draft Guide.