Special to Yahoo Sports
The unpredictability of young players always makes projecting the top 10 fantasy rookies each year an adventure. Some No. 1 overall picks like Auston Matthews have shown their outstanding skills immediately, while others like Alexis Lafreniere have taken time to develop as NHLers.
Never mind the top overall picks. So many rookies in the first round begin their careers in stunning fashion, making fantasy players wonder why they weren't selected higher, while others struggle and never find their way in the NHL.
With all that in mind, here are my top 10 picks for the best fantasy rookies in 2022-23.
1. Matty Beniers, C, Seattle
Beniers was taken second overall in 2021 by the expansion Kraken and returned to the University of Michigan for his sophomore season. The talented center had 20 goals and 43 points in 37 games in NCAA action and then turned pro, signing with Seattle in April. He had an outstanding start to his NHL career, potting three goals while adding six assists in only 10 games. Beniers heads into the 2022-23 campaign as the Kraken's top offensive threat and should see plenty of time on the top line as well as the first power-play unit.
2. Mason McTavish, C, Anaheim
McTavish was selected third overall in 2021 by the Ducks and made the team out of training camp, scoring and adding an assist in his first NHL game against the Jets. He struggled after that, picking up just one helper in his next eight games before Anaheim returned him to the OHL, avoiding burning a year off his entry-level contract in the process. McTavish excelled in the junior ranks, racking up 20 goals and 47 points in 29 regular-season games for Peterborough and Hamilton before going on a tear in the playoffs, scoring 16 times and adding 13 assists in 19 games as Hamilton lost in the Memorial Cup Final. McTavish continued his outstanding play at the World Juniors where he was named the tournament MVP, leading the tourney with 17 points. He's ready to take on a top role with the Ducks — don't be surprised if McTavish sees top-six minutes (and possibly top-line time) while serving as a vital member of the first power-play unit this year.
3. Juraj Slafkovsky, LW, Montreal
Slafkovsky was the first overall pick in the 2022 Entry Draft after an outstanding Olympic Games where he led all scorers with seven goals. Montreal selected him first despite the wide-held belief at the time that the team needed a center – the Canadiens addressed that problem later in the evening by trading for Kirby Dach. That trade enabled the Canadiens to take Slafkovsky, and thus far in training camp, he hasn't disappointed. He could start the season on the top line with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, and if he does, he should immediately produce enough offense to warrant consideration in most fantasy leagues. If he's able to secure an everyday role out of camp, look for a 50-point season from Slafkovsky.
4. Logan Thompson, G, Vegas
The Golden Knights were hoping to enter the season with Robin Lehner as their top netminder with Thompson as the backup, but Lehner is set to miss the entire campaign after undergoing hip surgery, leaving the crease to Thompson. Thompson was the Golden Knights' starter down the stretch last year and ended the campaign with a 10-5-3 record to go with a 2.68 GAA and a .914 save percentage. Vegas should have a more stable lineup this season, so look for 30-plus wins and a good GAA and save percentage from Thompson in 2022-23.
5. Owen Power, D, Buffalo
Power was picked first overall in 2021 and the defenseman spent most of the season with the University of Michigan where he had three goals and 32 points in 33 games as a sophomore. He also played for Canada at the Olympics, garnering one assist in five games. Power then inked an entry-level deal with Buffalo and got into eight games with the Sabres, scoring twice and adding an assist. Power will be a huge factor on the Sabres' blue line in 2022-23, but his offensive production could be limited since Rasmus Dahlin is still ahead of him on the depth chart as far as the power play is concerned. Still, Power should be a lock for 40-plus points this season.
6. Shane Wright, C, Seattle
Wright was considered by many to be the top prospect in the 2022 Entry Draft, but he ended up sliding to the Kraken at fourth overall. He should have a chip on his shoulder to prove the Canadiens, Devils and Coyotes were wrong for passing on him. Wright entered the OHL as a 15-year-old in 2019-20 and had 39 goals and 66 points in just 58 games, but losing the 2020-21 season to COVID-19 hurt his game. His 2021-22 performance of 32 goals and 94 points in 63 OHL appearances gave some scouts an opportunity to pick apart his game. Nonetheless, look for a 50-point season from Wright as a rookie in 2022-23.
7. Marco Rossi, C, Minnesota
Rossi made his NHL debut last year, going scoreless through two appearances with the Wild. He's had a tough go of things since he was drafted ninth overall in 2020, as long-term complications related to COVID-19 completely derailed his 2020-21 campaign. However, he came back strong last season, racking up 18 goals and 53 points in 63 games at the AHL level. There's a spot open for Rossi as a top-six forward for Minnesota following the trade of Kevin Fiala to Los Angeles this summer, and if he can claim that spot, a 60-plus point season should be within his grasp.
8. Cole Perfetti, C, Winnipeg
Perfetti was selected 10th overall in 2020 and many pundits thought the Jets "stole" him at that spot. He's played well enough over the last two seasons with the AHL's Manitoba Moose, scoring 15 goals and recording 26 assists in 49 games over that stretch, and he got a taste of the NHL last season with two goals and five assists in 18 appearances with Winnipeg. This is the year Perfetti should establish himself as a regular in the NHL (and as a top-six forward) after missing the final 34 games of the 2021-22 campaign with an upper-body injury. He should get 40-50 points as a top-six regular who sees time with the second power-play unit in 2022-23.
9. Jake Sanderson, D, Ottawa
Sanderson is set to make his professional debut in 2022-23 after going fifth overall to the Senators in 2020. The defenseman has spent the last two seasons at the University of North Dakota, scoring eight times while adding 18 helpers in 23 games last campaign. It wouldn't surprise me to see Sanderson emerge as the point man on the first power-play unit before long in Ottawa, taking over for Thomas Chabot. Sanderson could start off slowly as the Senators ease him into the NHL, but he could be a 40-point defenseman by the end of the season.
10. Shane Pinto, C, Ottawa
While I also considered William Eklund of the Sharks and the Blue Jackets' Kent Johnson for the final spot on this list, I'm going with Pinto. He got a taste of the NHL in 2020-21 and didn't look out of place with a goal and seven points in 12 games, but last season was a write-off due to a shoulder injury he suffered that required surgery. He only managed one assist through five games last campaign, but he's poised to slot in as the Senators' second- or third-line center while seeing time with the second power-play unit in 2022-23, so a breakout could be on the horizon.