We’ve waited patiently before making a final judgment on North America’s defensive class for the 2023 NHL Draft, hoping that one among them would make a late push to be the first blueliner to go in this year’s draft.
That day never came, and with just a few weeks left in the scouting season for a lot of these players, it’s hard to imagine it ever will. Not only will this group fail to produce a challenger for the top spot though; it’s not even going to yield a single A-grade prospect.
Suffice it to say, those preseason predictions about this part of the draft have all held true. This could be one of the weakest North American defensive classes in some time if not league history.
Going by the Elite Prospects Consolidated Draft Ranking, it seems likely that not a single blueliner from this chunk of the hockey world will go in the first 15 picks. That would be a first in the history of the NHL Draft.
Of course, just because a class appears to be weak going into the draft doesn’t mean it will play out that way. Many high-end NHL defencemen went in the second and third rounds of the draft, and this year’s draft features a lot of breakout candidates in that range. What it lacks in high-end talent, it makes up for with depth.
At Elite Prospects, we identified nine B-graded defencemen – all ranked between 29 and 46 on our pre-U18 ranking – who could progress significantly over the next years and make the pride of the scouting team that will select them.
They are: Caden Price (No. 29), Beau Akey (33), Luca Cagnoni (35), Lukas Dragicevic (36), Matthew Mania (39), Tanner Molendyk (40), Cameron Allen (43), Hunter Brzustewicz (44), Aram Minnetian (46).
We can also add Oliver Bonk (65) to this list, a prospect often ranked in the first round elsewhere.
Similarly talented and inconsistent, these defencemen have sparked intense debates inside our scouting team, the kind that extends over weeks, into late nights, and never really ends with satisfying conclusions. No matter how many games we watch and arguments we have.
Ordering this North American defensive class is, above all, a matter of preference. Right now, the way we see it, we can split those ten prospects into four primary categories, based on the elements that give them the most upside.