The dust has settled, and we’re moving on with the known fact that we’ll hold the third overall selection at the 2023 NHL Draft. While it may be disappointing that we missed out on the two most elite players, there is still really good value with this pick, and we will likely see the team come away with a franchise cornerstone type of player.
This pick feels like an unexpected bonus in the grand scheme of things. The Jackets were expected to be much better this year than they were, and probably figured they would have a pick somewhere in the 10-20 range of this draft. Injuries, poor defense, awful goaltending, and some questionable coaching decisions, thrust this team into what has become a desirable spot in the draft.
Teams like Anaheim, Chicago, and San Jose are actively in their rebuilds, and all were vying to pick in this range all season. There were others too, such as Montreal, Arizona, and Philadelphia – all of whom would probably be ecstatic to be in our situation come draft day. We should consider ourselves lucky.
Now, there has been talk amongst the masses of the team trading this pick, possibly in part due to the fact that this team does need immediate help and wants to turn the corner quickly. But I do not see that happening. Even with the disappointment of falling to third in the draft order, this pick’s value is still ridiculously high. Unless Edmonton wants to come along and offer up Leon Draisaitl or Connor McDavid, this pick isn’t going anywhere. You’re drafting a player who could reach huge production levels, while being team controlled for 7 years.
The immediate help would more likely come from moving that LA Kings first rounder (acquired in the Vladislav Gavrikov / Joonas Korpisalo deal). That pick could still net a team a future top-six forward, a top-four defenseman, or even another quality prospect at the draft. Teams without first round picks will be jockeying to get them this year; it’s a strong, deep first round.
I would argue that Jarmo Kekalainen has orchestrated this rebuild to near perfection so far, and he has set this team up for huge success at the draft again this summer. He’s stockpiled ammo (draft picks) and is now in a prime position to land a legitimate top prospect third overall – and take advantage of a cap-strapped team, if a trade opportunity does come along.
While the third overall pick can mostly be chalked up to “luck” (take that as you may), he does deserve credit for making the tough decisions that have added other picks this year. If ever there was a year to be terrible and have a lot of picks at our disposal, it’s this one. So, which player should he take third overall?