The 2023 NHL Entry Draft is just under two months away. At the end of June, the league will convene in Music City, where the Nashville Predators will have 13 picks to use, including seven in the first three rounds, starting at 15th overall. In my latest draft notebook, I broke down the game of three European forwards whose names will be called this summer.
Dalibor Dvorský | F | AIK (HockeyAllsvenskan)
A year after their most impressive draft class in NHL history, Dalibor Dvorský is hoping to become the latest top pick selected from Slovakia. The 6’1″ forward doesn’t turn 18 until right before the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, and he’s been turning heads for a number of years now. Playing in Sweden for the last several seasons, Dvorský notched ten goals and 21 points in ten games at the U20 level this season, and he added six goals and 14 points in the HockeyAllsvenskan—Sweden’s second-tier league.
In international play this season, Dvorský chipped in three points in five games at the 2023 U20 World Junior Championship (WJC) and dominated the U18 WJC with eight goals and 13 points in just seven games.
Labeled by many as a safe pick, Dvorský is anything but that to me. He’s a detail-oriented skater at both ends of the ice, who is frequently buzzing in all three zones covering as much ice as possible. He has a noticeable swagger with the puck on his stick, executing smooth passes and demonstrating good patience under pressure. His skating mechanics aren’t flawless but very good with speed to do just fine in the NHL.
His head is constantly on a swivel, scanning all his passing, shooting, and skating options before the puck comes close to his blade. Some may criticize his lack of creativity, but he’s got a good set of hands and frequently attacks high-danger areas with a give-and-go style of play. He’s constantly making small adjustments to his posture and positioning both on and off the puck; while his puck support game can get inconsistent in the offensive zone, he’s really quite solid in his defensive end and in transition. Not everyone buys the top-ten hype around Dvorský, but I think he reads the ice just too well not to be a high-impact NHLer for years to come.
Eduard Šalé | W | HC Kometa Brno (Czechia)
Eduard Šalé is a player who’s similar to Dalibor Dvorský in many ways. The Czech winger also stands at 6’1″ and comes with a pedigree that many thought might have made him a top-five pick once upon a time. Playing in the professional league in Czechia this season, Šalé posted seven goals and 14 points in 43 games for HC Kometa Brno. At the U20 WJC, he added one goal and six points for his country and another four goals and six points in five U18 WJC contests.
Also like Dvorský, Šalé can be a dynamic puck-support player, who is always moving his feet waiting to be sprung for an offensive chance. He has a quick set of hands and really good puck skills, but I do see some inconsistencies in his playmaking under pressure. Despite his stickhandling skills, Šalé does often carry the puck far out in front of his body, leading to some puck protection concerns as well.
His shooting arsenal is one of the best in this class (Connor Bedard aside). He can fire an accurate wrist shot off the rush, mid-stride, from a standstill… you name it, and he possesses a lethally deceptive snapshot that’s fooled plenty of goalies. His skating mechanics are fluid, and I’m impressed with how he can accelerate out of his lateral crossovers in transition. There’s a bit of physicality to his game, and I think his angles on the forecheck are quite solid. Šalé, a first-round pick, won’t have the same space to operate in the NHL, and I wonder how well his game will translate without a little more engagement in puck battles.
Timur Mukhanov | C | Omskie Krylia (VHL)
Unlike Šalé and Dvorský, Timur Mukhanov is a diminutive forward, who will be a day-two pick in June. Standing at just 5’8″, concerns about Mukhanov’s size may dominate a lot of evaluations, but I think there are a lot of interesting things about his game. In 2022-23, Mukhanov scored eight goals and 17 points in 15 games for Omskie Yastreby of the MHL then added four goals and eight points in 31 VHL games for Omskie Krylia. He also earned a one-game call-up to the KHL with Avangard Omsk.
Recently traded to Severstal Cherepovets, Mukhanov is a decent skater with pretty good mobility and average to slightly above-average speed. In a long-distance race for the puck, though, his stride extensions begin to break down. His vision with the puck is inconsistent; sometimes he maps out complex lanes through the offensive zone and others he’s a step behind the defense and committing frustrating turnovers.
I like his tenacity on the forecheck; he angles well and often forces opponents into less-than-ideal decisions. But he hasn’t shown an amazing ability to reverse those forechecks into scoring chances for his team, and his hands can go a bit cold under pressure. If he’s to make it to the NHL, he’ll need to rely on his positioning and defensive pressure, but luckily, he’s excellent at finding soft areas of the ice and opening up passing lanes for teammates with his consistently-moving feet.
All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com.