Connor Bedard strengthening his case at No. 1, plus more draft buzz

We're five months away from the 2023 NHL draft in Nashville, Tennessee -- one of the most anticipated drafts for NHL teams in recent history.

"We've been told about how exciting the 2005s (their birth year) are for a while now," one NHL general manager told ESPN. "It's why a lot of clubs are looking to hold on to their first-round picks this year. Sounds like you can even get first-round talent in the second round, too, and those picks may be stronger than first-round picks [in 2024]."

The 2023 draft class is highlighted by 17-year-old Connor Bedard, who cemented his spot as the likely No. 1 pick with a dominant World Junior Championship performance in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for gold-medal-winning Canada. "I honestly don't know what else he would need to do at this point to convince any doubters," one scout told ESPN. "Every time he jumped over the boards [at WJC], he was on the verge of doing something spectacular."

After averaging 3.29 points per game at the tournament, Bedard took one day off. Then, in his first game back with the WHL's Regina Pats, he registered 13 shots on net, scoring four goals and two assists, contributing on all six of his team's goals.

Beyond Bedard, there's plenty of talent from the No. 2 pick through the second round, especially among forwards.