Rookie Watch: Beniers, Thompson among Pacific Division best

Rookie Watch: Beniers, Thompson among Pacific Division best

The impact of several rookies in the NHL is one of the main stories of the 2022-23 season. Each week, NHL.com will examine topics related to this season’s class in the Rookie Watch.

This week’s top five Pacific Division rookies (in alphabetical order):

Matty BeniersF, Seattle Kraken: The left center, who turned 20 on Nov. 5, leads all NHL rookies with nine points (five goals, four assists) and 25 shots on goal in 13 games. Beniers changed his training routine and added 10 pounds in the offseason, spending a month and a half training in Massachusetts. “To allow my body to build muscle and not exercise and just burn it right away,” Beniers told The Seattle Times in September. Building muscle has allowed him to work the hard areas of the ice in the early stages of this season. He leads Pacific Division rookie forwards with 12 blocked shots and is second in hits (13) while averaging 17:55 of ice time centering the left wing. Jaden Schwartz i Jordan Eberle. He scored his first NHL game-winning goal with 6:34 remaining in the third period of a 5-4 win at the Calgary Flames on November 1.

“Matty plays the game the right way,” Kraken director of amateur scouting Robert Kron told Seattle’s website. “It comes naturally to him. He’s a very honest kid and he loves playing hockey. There’s a right way and a less right way to go in. [to an NHL locker room]. A sense of entitlement is something that some young players bring. Matty doesn’t have that. He knows that being part of the team is something that has to be earned, not given. Respect the game.”

Brandt ClarkeD, Los Angeles Kings: The No. 8 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft leads all Pacific defensemen with two points (two assists) and 14 blocked shots while averaging 13:39 of ice time in nine games. The 19-year-old right shot has been in the third pair Alexandre Edel when in alignment. He was a pleasant surprise at development camp in July and has continued to earn the trust of coach Todd McLellan. Clarke is also a strong candidate to play a key role for Canada at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship.

“[There were] He had high expectations coming into camp and he delivered,” Kings general manager Rob Blake said on the ‘Kings Of The Podcast’ show in October. “I think one of the big things going forward was his way of playing, very creative. , very misleading. But what we wanted to make sure of: “Will he compete hard enough? Would he be coachable? Was he going to hear what? [assistant coach] Trent Yawney and [head coach] Was Todd McLellan preaching? Would you buy the system? And I think that has been far above the expectations that any of us had of him. So he’s earned his chance.”

Mason McTavishF, Anaheim Ducks: The 19-year-old, the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, is second among Pacific Division players with seven points (one goal, six assists) in 12 games. McTavish had a pretty impressive 2021-22, being named the Most Valuable Player of the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship after leading all skaters with eight goals and 17 points in seven games for medal-winning Canada gold He also represented his country at the 2022 Beijing Olympics and scored 40 points (14 goals, 26 assists) in 24 regular season games and 29 points (16 goals, 13 assists) in 19 playoff games for the champion of the Ontario Hockey League, Hamilton.

“He’s not afraid to be the first on a puck in the corner,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. “Most of the game today is played along the walls about three feet from the boards, and it’s great on the walls and it just keeps getting better.”

Stuart SkinnerG, Edmonton Oilers: Skinner, who turned 24 on Nov. 1, is 2-2-0 with a 2.10 goals-against average and .944 save percentage in five games (four starts) in relief of Jack Campbell. His presence was needed after Mike Smith was placed on long-term injured reserve on Sept. 21, and Mikko Koskinen opted out in June to sign with Lugano in Switzerland. The third-round pick (No. 78) in the 2017 NHL Draft is 2-1-0 in his last three starts with a 2.36 GAA and a .943 save percentage.

Skinner won a Western Hockey League championship with Swift Current in 2017-18 and worked his way up the Oilers’ pipeline before spending time in the American Hockey League and playing 13 NHL games last season (6-6 -0, 2.62 GAA, .913 save). percentage).

“It’s been a fun start; the wins are the biggest thing,” Skinner said. “Having a winning record (6-3-0), that’s the most important thing. We’re winning games. The guys have played really well and since the start of the preseason, the coaches, the players, everyone has great job. The preparation and bringing it into the season is huge.”

Logan ThompsonG, Vegas Golden Knights: He earned his chance this season after injuries to Robin Lehner and Laurent Brossoit, and is 6-2-0 with a 2.01 GAA, .934 save percentage and two shutouts in eight games. Thompson has helped Las Vegas to first place in the Pacific to an 11-2-0 start under first-year coach Bruce Cassidy. He is 4-0-0 with a 1.74 GAA and .941 save percentage in his last four starts, with a career-high 42 NHL saves in a 5-0 win -4 to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday.

After going undrafted after four seasons with Brandon of the Western Hockey League, Thompson attended Brock University to play in a Canadian college league, U Sports, which offers opportunities to graduates of the Canadian Hockey League and Canadian Junior Hockey League . He finished 18-6-0 with a 2.22 GAA and .934 save percentage in 24 games and was named the U Sports Rookie of the Year and Goaltender of the Year in 2018-19. After two seasons in the ECHL, the 25-year-old signed a two-year entry-level contract with Vegas on July 13, 2020, followed by a three-year extension on January 30, 2022.

“I didn’t see him play last year other than on film in the summer, but what impressed me is his confidence,” Cassidy said. “He’s got a little bit of drag at the net. He’s a good athlete, but he’s still composed and, for a guy, he’s got some good technical merit to his game.”

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