One of my favorite parts of the draft is looking at the available rookies who could make the jump this year. There is plenty of risk, so don’t reach too early on these rookies. We don’t know exactly what we’re going to get. That is part of the excitement though, as there is potential for a rookie to surpass everyone’s expectations and be a steal of the draft. With all the caveats out of the way, here’s a look at my top 10 NHL rookie rankings; the first-year players who will be impacting the fantasy hockey season ahead.
2023-24 Fantasy Hockey: Top 10 NHL Rookie Rankings
10) Matthew Coronato, LW/RW, Calgary Flames
The Flames are looking to bounce back after a tough season. One aspect that can help in that regard is to inject some of their prospects into the lineup. They have a couple of rookies worth watching, but I consider Coronato to have the most upside. He’s a goal scorer, one that could end up in a top-six slot and net 20 to 30 goals. There is additional risk in drafting him, as he’s not a lock to be a regular, so keep an eye on him throughout the preseason.
9) Luke Evangelista, RW, Nashville Predators
Evangelista is just barely eligible for this list, as he played 24 games last season. In those 24 games, he put up seven goals and eight assists. He was given a significant role, averaging 16:34 per game with 3:13 on the power play. Nashville has many players that can be moved up and down the lineup. So while a top-six role isn’t guaranteed for Evangelista, it’s his spot to lose.
8) Brandt Clarke, D, Los Angeles Kings
Clarke made nine appearances last year, scoring a pair of assists. This year, he’s expected to be a regular in the lineup. The Kings have a deep blue line, allowing Clarke to be insulated without needing to take on too much responsibility. Despite the deep defense, Drew Doughty is the only one guaranteed a role on the power play. That leaves Clarke to handle the point on the second unit.
7) Tyson Foerster, C/RW, Philadelphia Flyers
Foerster was given some NHL time last year, and he sure did make the most of it. In eight games he scored three goals, four assists, eight PIM, 15 shots, 12 hits, 10 blocks, and a plus-2 rating. He can provide quality category coverage if he gets the ice time. Where he slots into the lineup is the question. Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson’s health could be a factor. The rookie Flyer may not get the 16:34 of average ice time that he saw last season, but he can still be a noteworthy fantasy player.
6) Matthew Knies, LW, Toronto Maple Leafs
Knies dressed for three games last season, and played in seven playoff matchups, scoring four points. He had a top-six role, and the main concern will be if that’s his role again this season. If he’s in the top six, or the Leafs spread out their top forwards to create three scoring lines, that bodes well for Knies. However, it’s also possible that he plays third line with more defensive-minded players. It’ll likely be a bit of each, as Toronto experiments with its lines. Knies should be a decent secondary scorer regardless.
5) Devon Levi, G, Buffalo Sabres
Levi made seven appearances late last season and did quite well. He won five contests, with a 2.94 GAA and a .905 save percentage. In four of his outings, he posted a .929 save percentage or higher. There are question marks in the Sabres crease this coming season. Levi could take the starting role, or Buffalo could opt to have a rotating cast. There is a lot of unpredictability with most goaltenders, especially a rookie netminder. I wouldn’t recommend taking him ahead of established starters as there’s just too much risk involved. However, his ceiling is high with the possibility of being the starter for an up-and-coming team.
4) Adam Fantilli, C, Columbus Blue Jackets
Fantilli was the 3rd overall pick in the most recent 2023 draft, although some would consider him worth being a 1st overall pick if he was from another draft class. Fantilli should have no trouble earning an opening-day roster spot. There’s a good chance he slots in on the second line, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see him played on the first and third lines at various points of the season. If he plays with Johnny Gaudreau or Patrik Laine that will surely boost his fantasy value.
3) Logan Cooley, C, Arizona Coyotes
Cooley was chosen 3rd overall in the 2022 draft and looks like a lock to make the Coyotes roster. Not only that, but he has the inside track to be the club’s second-line center. Beyond the top line of Clayton Keller, Barrett Hayton, and Nick Schmaltz, the Coyotes don’t have a ton of firepower. He’ll be relied upon for offense already and will be one of the main building blocks for the team going forward. Expect him to be given every opportunity to excel.
2) Luke Hughes, D, New Jersey Devils
Hughes appeared in two regular-season games last year, posting two points. One of which was an overtime game-winning goal. He also appeared in three postseason contests, picking up two more points. Hughes is expected to be a regular for the Devils this year. We should see him receive second pair minutes as well as second power-play usage. The 2021 4th overall selection is the third Hughes brother to make the NHL. So far Quinn Hughes and Jack Hughes have turned into top-notch players — I expect Luke will follow suit.
1) Connor Bedard, C, Chicago Blackhawks
No surprises here. The 2023 1st overall pick is being touted as the best rookie player since Connor McDavid. Bedard is head and shoulders above the competition as most likely to win the Calder Trophy. The Blackhawks don’t have much talent on the roster, but Taylor Hall is there to be his main winger. Projections for Bedard’s point total vary across the board. He could be limited to 50 to 60 points as a result of his team, or he could score over a point-per-game. All things considered, I think he ends up in the 70- to 75-point range. It would make for the highest rookie point total since Mathew Barzal’s 85 points in 2017-18.
Other Rookies to consider:
Leo Carlsson, C, Anaheim Ducks
Joel Hofer, G, St. Louis Blues
David Jiricek, D, Columbus Blue Jackets
Tye Kartye, LW, Seattle Kraken
Lukas Reichel, C/LW, Chicago Blackhawks
Marco Rossi, C, Minnesota Wild
Logan Stankoven, C/RW, Dallas Stars
Joseph Woll, G, Toronto Maple Leafs
Did you enjoy Brandon’s NHL Rookie Rankings? For more fantasy hockey fun, make sure to check out all of the sleepers and breakouts of the 2023 fantasy hockey season!