Seven unsung NHL rookies make noise at end of 2022-23 season
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It’s essentially a done deal that Matty Beniers will win the Calder Trophy this year.
He was consistently the best rookie all season, being the first to break the 50-point mark and giving Seattle some serious firepower up front. Arizona’s Matias Maccelli was also excellent, and our Mike Gould made his case for him to win Calder’s votes later this year. Other than that, there have been a handful of young guns that have come and gone throughout the year.
But this is the time of year when injuries are piling up and teams are ready to try anything to get through the end of the season. Whether it’s Connor Bedard racing teams looking to give their future stars a chance, or others needing help out of necessity, we still see a handful of rookies having end runs. warm seasons that we cannot ignore.
And that’s what we’re going to focus on today. Here’s a look at seven NHL rookies who have been making noise over the past few weeks:
Pavel Dorofeyev, RW (Vegas Golden Knights)
Injuries to Mark Stone and Reilly Smith helped open up space on the right side, and Dorofeyev took advantage. Dorofeyev had three points in his first two games after a mid-March call-up and now has seven points in his last seven games in the Vegas midfield. It was nice to see after he failed to score in a more low-key role around Christmas, where he appeared bitten by a snake in a three-game stretch. The 22-year-old has had a slow rise through the Vegas system and he hasn’t blown the world up in the AHL this year. But right now, with the team still under pressure, Dorofeyev’s emergence as a scoring winger comes as the team looks to solidify its roster ahead of the playoffs.
Luke Evangelista, AD (Nashville Predators)
It was only a matter of time before Evangelista – a dominant scorer at the U-16 and junior levels – made his mark in the NHL. After posting some of the best numbers of any U-22 player in the AHL, Evangelista was recalled in late February and now has five goals and nine points in 14 games. He’s been a great addition to the team’s top six, one who needed a few extra points following injuries to Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene. And while scoring at lower levels is one thing, it’s remarkable when it happens at different levels and then continues to the next step. Evangelista looks confident, and that’s all you can ask for now.
Tyson Foerster, RW (Philadelphia Flyers)
For now, Foerster is back in the AHL, but the 6-foot-2 winger has a bright future in Philadelphia. He has seven points in his last five games as he quickly got used to the rhythm and his new teammates. Much of Philly’s recent success can be traced to his tremendous stint which lasted around 11 days. He’s a high-yield threat in the AHL, with his 40 points in 59 games making him one of the best 21-year-olds in the league. Drafted 23rd overall in 2020, very few players shoot with his level of confidence in his draft year, and that skill hasn’t slowed down in the pro ranks. Philly may be in the dumps this year, but Foerster’s emergence is exciting. He is expected to finish the year with Lehigh Valley, but he won’t be fired next year.
Lukas Reichel, LW (Chicago Blackhawks)
Reichel was easily the best U-21 player in the AHL, and one of the best in recent memory. He was buzzing at just under a points-per-game pace and even had a three-point performance in early January during a short stint in the NHL. In March, he was called up for good, and after immediately entering the team’s top six, he racked up nine points in 17 games. Obviously, scoring on a team like the Blackhawks can be quite a challenge, as Patrick Kane learned, but Reichel showed serious front-line potential early in his NHL career. Hawks fans are thrilled and could still end up with a top pick like Bedard, Adam Fantilli or Leo Carlsson in the NHL Draft. The future is bright in the Windy City.
Rafael Harvey-Pinard, LW (Montreal Canadiens)
It was still a good night when the Canadiens escaped a season-ending injury-free game. It was an even better night when RHP found the back of the net, which they have already managed to do 12 times in 30 games. Taken in the seventh round in 2019, Pinard showed some offense as a junior, but undersized wingers and goal scorers are a dime in the QMJHL. But after a stellar 2021-22 season with Laval, Harvey-Pinard quickly established himself as a prospect to watch, and he’s now become one of Montreal’s top players in recent months. Is he a young player playing well above his true long-term potential, or could Harvey-Pinard be a diamond in the rough? The verdict is not yet in, but the results are quite impressive.
Joel Hofer, G (St. Louis Blues)
When Jordan Binnington received a three-game suspension earlier this month, Hofer came over from the AHL and saved the day. One of the AHL’s best goaltenders, Hofer arrived and posted a 3-0-1 record, including a 33-save shutout against Winnipeg in his second NHL start. That got a lot of people wondering if he’d be the starter on opening night next year, and there’s a real case for that. The 22-year-old has a big frame of 6-foot-5, an excellent record of stealing games on weaker teams and is generally considered one of the best goaltenders outside of the NHL. The short stint has given some Blues fans hope for the future, and there’s no doubt he’ll be with the big club full-time next year – but how long before he does? overtakes Binnington as No. 1?
Ivan Prosvetov, G (Arizona Coyotes)
Prosvetov’s workload – three games in total – is quite small, but he has been exceptional when needed. He has a .952 save percentage and a 3-0-0 record, including a 39-save start to the season against Nashville earlier this month. Sure, he had a few starts against other shoddy teams, but those weren’t easy starts by any stretch of the imagination. The 6-foot-5 goaltender has always shown promise to be an NHL-caliber goaltender, and the Coyotes wanted him to have opportunities. He seized the opportunity by the horns and could fight for full-time substitute duties next season.