Top Fantasy hockey picks: Rookies and sophomores

Owen Power, the first overall pick in 2021, is set for his first full season in Buffalo. Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

As is usual this time of year, the future is about to morph into the present for a host of talented, young stars in the NHL. In turn, many members of this gaggle of fresh pro faces are equally ready to make an impact within the fantasy fold. Here's our annual round-up of rookies and sophomores to maintain on radar, not only during your fantasy draft, but throughout the 2022-23 regular season.

Brand new(ish)

Mason McTavish, F, Anaheim Ducks: If this year's beau of the WJC ball can even come close to mimicking this summer's international play in taking his next big step - look out. Team Canada's captain racked up 17 points in seven games, essentially driving his national squad to the top of the Championship podium. While competition in the NHL is whole other bag of bananas, McTavish still prematurely presents as a prolific scorer on a young Ducks squad that's ready to take another leap forward. If he settles into a top-six role and carves out a spot on the No. 1 power play, as anticipated, the 19-year-old will make a significant scoring splash in his first full tour. Perhaps even to the tune of 60-plus points. Then onwards and upwards from there.

Jack Quinn, F, Buffalo Sabres: Last season's AHL Rookie of the Year is primed for a breakout season on a young Sabres team on the upswing. My guess is Quinn slides in on the wing within the top-six, priming himself for a breakout campaign, straight away. He didn't put up 61 points in 45 games with the Rochester Americans by accident. With such a proclivity for production, this young man has "Calder Candidate" written all over him. Betcha he hits the 60-point mark with ease.

Marco Rossi, F, Minnesota Wild: Two years removed from being diagnosed with COVID-related myocarditis, and months after wrapping up a successful 53-point/63-game season in the AHL, it's time for the soon-to-be 21-year-old to finally shine at hockey's top level. Pencilled in at center alongside Matt Boldy on the Wild's third line in the here and now, Rossi projects to hurdle both Ryan Hartman and Joel Eriksson Ek up the lineup down the road. For now though, a Minnesota club that lost Kevin Fiala in the offseason will need some extra scoring punch from the ninth overall draft pick (2020) regardless of where he lines up. Don't be surprised if Rossi puts up scoring numbers more akin to a second-line center straight off. Especially if paired with Boldy.

Juraj Slafkovsky, F, Montreal Canadiens: A bit bulkier (in the best way) than when he was drafted first overall in July, the Slovakian will be offered every opportunity to earn a spot on the Montreal's roster out of camp. Beyond that, it's up to him. While the 18-year-old is still likely a season or so away from a significant fantasy impact in the NHL, an immediate top-six position - perhaps displacing new Canadien Evgenii Dadonov - isn't entirely out of the question. Which renders Slafkovsky a late-draft consideration in deeper leagues. Deeper re-draft leagues. No question, the cream of this year's youth crop should be scooped up asap by any dynasty manager with a bit of foresight.

Matty Beniers, C, Seattle Kraken: Seattle fans and fantasy managers alike enjoyed a telling taste of what Beniers is capable during last year's audition, in which the 19-year-old potted three goals and six assists through only 10 games. Don't be surprised if this year's full-time top-line center ends up leading his club, one of the league's more, ahem, conservative scoring machines, in the points department by campaign's end. While fellow rookie Shane Wright - also worth monitoring in training camp - battles for his own permanent gig in the lineup, Beniers sports greater fantasy appeal this particular season. I like the University of Michigan standout for 65 points minimum in his first full push.

Cole Perfetti, F, Winnipeg Jets: Get ready with the figurative confetti; a Perfetti scoring party is about to break out in Winnipeg. A complete campaign on a dynamic line with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Kyle Connor will undoubtedly net the 20-year-old buckets of points between October ands April. A minimum of 60, as long as Connor continues to produce in Connor-like fashion. More, if the 10th overall draft selection (2020) earns significant minutes with the extra skater.

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Owen Power, D, Buffalo Sabres: The wait is finally over for Sabres fans, now that the top draft selection from 2021 is ultimately done with his collegiate career. But let's not get excessively excited about what Power offers from a fantasy perspective. A gifted skater, the six-foot-sixer does everything well, at both ends of the ice. So while he'll make Don Granato's bunch better all around, the flashiest offensive numbers likely won't be there. Rasmus Dahlin remains your top fantasy blueliner out of Buffalo in conventional scoring leagues, followed by the Mississauga, Ontario native. Asking for more than 45 points, along with a fair number of blocked shots, from Power in his rookie season may be a bit much. Draft him in deeper leagues, for sure, just don't reach for the talented D-man in carrying unrealistic expectations.

Logan Thompson, G, Vegas Golden Knights: In my view, the 25-year-old has the most upside of Vegas' trio of netminders, his inexperience notwithstanding. As outlined in ESPN.com's goalie preview, Thompson played well when called upon in relief of both Robin Lehner - who's out this whole season - and Laurent Brossoit in 2021-22, posting a 10-5-3 record, 2.68 GAA and .914 SV%. He was better altogether than Brossoit last year, who underwent offseason surgery, while fresh import Adin Hill was just okay in limited time in San Jose. It's also nice to hear new coach Bruce Cassidy commit to revitalizing Vegas as the stingy, defensive force we were familiar with in 2021. As such, Thompson has big, fantasy sleeper potential.

See also: Noah Cates, F, Philadlephia Flyers; William Eklund, F, San Jose Sharks; Andrei Kuzmenko, F, Vancouver Canucks; Alexander Holtz, F, New Jersey Devils; Simon Edvinsson, D, Detroit Red Wings; Jake Sanderson, D, Ottawa Senators

Seasoned Sophomores

Lucas Raymond, F, Detroit Red Wings: Slotted alongside top center Dylan Larkin and fellow winger Tyler Bertuzzi, the 20-year-old sophomore should pick up where he left off, in contributing at a regular pace with Detroit in round two of his young career. With the additions of David Perron and Andrew Copp taking some of the pressure off the Red Wings' top line, Raymond can be expected to bust through the 60-point mark after collecting 23 goals and 34 assists this past season. Perron's presence also renders Detroit's top power play, which includes Raymond, a bit more dangerous. The fourth-overall draft pick (2020) has a role to play in all but the shallowest of ESPN.com fantasy leagues.

Anton Lundell, F, Florida Panthers: While the 20-year-old will be challenged to repeat his impressive rookie performance with at least one new linemate, now that Mason Marchment is Dallas bound, there's no reason to believe he isn't up to the task. Before making his NHL debut last year, Lundell had little issue with contributing to the scoresheet in Finland's top pro league. The young center projects to reach the 60-points plateau in 2022-23. Draft him accordingly.

Seth Jarvis, F, Carolina Hurricanes: Drafted 13th overall in 2020, the diminutive forward appears poised for a banger of a second season in Carolina. Especially is he sticks on the Hurricanes' top line, as reviewed by ESPN's Greg Wyshynski, "Jarvis burst onto the scene with 40 points in 68 games for the Hurricanes, and then followed that with eight points in 14 playoff games. Yet that didn't really move the needle on league-wide acknowledgement for the Hurricanes forward, who received one fourth-place and two fifth-place votes for the Calder. He's a total package player with solid finishing ability that resulted in 17 goals. Give him a full season with Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho and watch him go."

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Cole Caufield, F, Montreal Canadiens: I don't know if there's another NHLer more excited for the start of 2022-23 than the Montreal sophomore. Not only is Caufield expected to slide back into his top-line role alongside new captain Nick Suzuki, but he also faces a full, uninterrupted season of playing under coach Martin St. Louis. Remember how much the young winger flourished once St. Louis replaced Dominique Ducharme? Caulfield amassed 22 goals and 13 assists in 37 contests once the first-half bench boss was shown the door. Target this fantasy-friendly winger in your draft's mid-rounds as a potential top-50 scoring skater.

Matt Boldy, F, Minnesota Wild: Whether he lines up with Joel Eriksson Ek or, as discussed above, rookie Marco Rossi, Boldy is in position to build on last year's 39 points in only 47 games. He's big, he's skilled, and he's totally capable of putting up 70 in a full NHL campaign. Perhaps as soon as now. After Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello, Boldy is my third-ranked fantasy forward in Minnesota. Easily.

Cole Sillinger, F, Columbus Blue Jackets: Perhaps not in 2022-23, but in the not-too-distant, Mike Sillinger's kid is going to center Columbus's top line alongside elite winger Johnny Gaudreau.

Mark it.

The Blue Jackets didn't draft Cole 12th overall in 2021 to only bury him permanently on the third line. For now though, the gifted forward - whose skating, a former weakness, has improved in recent months - appears slated to launch this campaign in the bottom-six adjacent rookie Kent Johnson (who's deserving of fantasy attention in his own right). A must-pick in dynasty competition, Sillinger presents as a marginal asset in most re-draft leagues for now. But, again, not for long.

Moritz Seider, D, Detroit Red Wings: As with his aforementioned teammate, Raymond, there's nothing holding Seider back from imitating, if not bettering, his rookie performance in 2021-22. This Calder-winning kid is the real deal. A productive, physical, shot-blocking gem in ESPN standard leagues, the towering 21-year-old is a top-five fantasy defender in my books.

Jeremy Swayman, G, Boston Bruins: After equitably sharing the crease with Linus Ullmark in 2021-22, the 23-year-old seems ready to seize a larger slice of the goaltending pie in his second full NHL campaign. In the final year of his entry-level deal, the RFA-to-be best battle hard for all the starts he can handle. Plus, the Bruins are in better shape, having second-line center David Krejci back in the fold - especially once Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy are healthy again and good to go. Swayman holds more fantasy appeal than most other tandem-team netminders, in that he stands a good chance of eventually running with the starting gig. I'd love to have him as my No. 3 goalie in shallower leagues.

Karel Vejmelka, G, Arizona Coyotes: He's going to play a ton, so there's that going for the skilled Czech netminder. However, what happens out front of Vejmelka is the larger issue. The Coyotes are going to, once more, lose more games than win this year, and probably next as well. But if your league rewards saves and doesn't punish goals-allowed too harshly, Arizona's No. 1 sports genuine fantasy appeal. Again, he's going to play a lot.

See also: Philip Tomasino, F, Nashville Predators; Vasily Podkolzin, F, Vancouver Canucks; Dawson Mercer, F, New Jersey Devils; Sean Durzi, D, Los Angeles Kings; Alex Nedeljkovic, G, Detroit Red Wings

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