Rookie Watch: Beniers, Skinner among best in Pacific Division
The impact of multiple rookies on the NHL is one of the key storylines of the 2022-23 season. Each week, NHL.com explores topics related to this season’s class in Rookie Watch.
This week’s top five rookies in the Pacific Division (in alphabetical order):
Matty BeniersF, Seattle Kraken: The left-footed center continues to lead all NHL rookies in points (49) in 67 games. He is second in faceoffs won (814) and winning (344). Beniers, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NHL draft, leads the Pacific Division rookie forward with 44 blocked shots and is third with 71 hits while averaging 17:05 ice time on the left wing Jared McCann And Jordan Eberle. He scored his first NHL-winning goal, 6:34 in the third period of a 5-4 win at the Calgary Flames on November 1, putting him in second place KentJohnson (Columbus Blue Jackets) among all first-year players with three game winners this season.
“Playing center as a young man in this league is a little bit like pitching as a quarterback as a young man,” said Seattle coach Dave Hakstol. “I would probably end up comparing it to a young player in the NFL because there’s a lot coming your way. There is a lot of responsibility and therefore also leadership. Matty is capable of handling all of these things. He has these natural leadership qualities about him.”
Video: [email protected]: Beniers scores tip-in goal in 2nd
Paul CotterF, Vegas Golden Knights: The 23-year-old has performed well after a role outside of training camp, even featuring in the front row at times Jack Acorn And Jonathan Marchessault. Cotter, who is currently playing with Center Teddy Blueger and right wing Phil Kessel, is seventh among rookies with 13 goals, all of equal strength, and has 18 points in 51 games. He’s considered a solid two-way player who can use his height (6-foot-2, 212 pounds) for an advantage on offense. The fourth-round pick (No. 115) in the 2018 NHL Draft ranks third in hits (156) among freshmen and has an average ice time of 12:50.
“He brings a lot of energy and everyone in the room loves him, right?” Vegas goalie Logan Thompson called. “And every time he scores, it’s either a nice breakaway or a great shot. He has a lot of expression when he scores, doesn’t he? The lads are building on that and that’s how close this group is this year.”
Mason McTavishF, Anaheim ducks: As of December 1, McTavish leads rookies in points (30) and shots (100) in 46 games. The 20-year-old, selected No. 3 in the 2021 NHL draft, is second overall among rookies with 41 points (16 goals, 25 assists) in 69 games. He is first in power play points (13) and third in equal strength points (28) among rookie forwards and second among Pacific rookies in takeaways (23). McTavish is the center on Anaheim’s second line left wing Max Jones And Troy Terryan average of 15:31 during the Ice Age.
“His improvement this year has been outstanding,” said Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins. “The plan for this year was to only play him on the wing. But because of his improvement, because of his investment in his game, we were able to put him in the middle because he was ready for it. And He’s getting better and better there. It’s interesting with these kids. I often forget that he could still play junior now.
Video: [email protected]: McTavish scores 2nd goal of the evening in 3rd place
Stuart SkinnerG, Edmonton Oilers: Skinner is one of two rookie goalies to have 20 wins this season (22-14-4). He has a 2.90 goals-against average in 42 games (40 starts) and a .911 save in 42 games (40 starts) and is 7-1-0 with a 2.89 GAA and a .910 save in eight launches since March 1st. His presence was needed after Mike Smith was placed on long-term injured reserve on 21 September and Mikko Koskinen opted for a contract with Lugano in Switzerland in June. The 2017 NHL Draft No. 78 third-round pick won a 2017-18 Western Hockey League championship with Swift Current and worked his way up the Oilers pipeline before spending time in the American Hockey League, finishing 13th NHL games played season (6-6-0, 2.62 GAA, .913 savings percentage).
“He’s one of the stories of our young season when you look at guys who may be exceeding expectations,” Edmonton coach Jay Woodcroft said in November. “I think we still have a way to go as a team. But in terms of individuals, Stuart would be at the top of that list.”
Logan Thompson, G, Vegas Golden Knights: He is second to Skinner in most wins by a rookie goalie (20), but has not played in over a month after sustaining a lower body injury in the 5-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 2 .66 GAA, .914 save percentage and two shutouts in 36 games (35 starts). The 26-year-old, who catches with a right hand, was undrafted after four seasons with Brandon in the Western Hockey League and attended Brock University to play in a Canadian varsity league, U Sports, which has opportunities for the Canadian Hockey League and Canadian features junior hockey league graduates. He finished 24 games 18-6-0 with a 2.22 GAA and .934 save percentage and was named U Sports Rookie of the Year and Goalie of the Year in 2018-19. After two seasons in the ECHL, he signed a two-year entry-level contract with Vegas on July 13, 2020 and a three-year contract on January 30, 2022.
Thompson stays week-to-week and is expected to return this season.