This will be the fourth season in which I will attempt to narrow down some of the top rookies for the upcoming season but this year I'm only going to focus on the Western Conference.
Dobber has his top 50 list and Ben Gehrels looks at his Calder candidates in the 2022-23 Guide.
Most years, I get some right, find a few gems off the radar and whiff on a player or two who came out of nowhere. I tend to focus on opportunity, ice time and where each player might slot in the lineup.
*Andrei Kuzmenko is not eligible as a rookie as he turned 26 in February of 2022 and the cutoff is September 2022 for 26-year-olds.
Scott Perunovich – St. Louis Blues – D –
Perunovich was on a few people's lists last season but only ended up with six points in 19 NHL games and an impressive 22 points in 17 AHL games as he battled injuries for over half the season. He is still blocked by Torey Krug and Nick Leddy on the left side in St. Louis, but the injury to Marco Scandella (six months) has opened up a possible slot as the 6th or 7th defender on opening night. Krug hasn't played more than 64 games in any of the past four seasons, so there could be an opportunity for Perunovich to run the first unit power play for 15-20 games at some point. I just don't think it is enough to get him past 25-30 points this season.
Martin Kaut – Colorado Avalanche – RW
Kaut is now 23 years of age after being a first-round draft pick of Colorado back in 2018. He will require waivers to be sent down to the AHL this year, so rather than lose him there is a good chance the Avalanche keep him up and give him a shot this season. He has played parts of the past three seasons in Colorado with six games last year, five the year before and nine the year before that. He had 19 goals and 12 assists in 46 AHL games last year, so there is some offense there. He could be capable of 14-18 goals and 14-18 assists.
Pavol Regenda – Anaheim Ducks – LW –
Every list needs a player where most people ask who the hell is this guy. Here is that player. Regenda is an undrafted 22-year-old Slovakian who had a breakout season in the Slovakian top league last year with 15 goals and 24 assists in 43 games. He's a big winger at 6-4, 212 lbs who skates very well and has a chance to win a top-six role with the Ducks this year. He could be a 12-15 goal and 30-35 point player.
Some of the above will or are capable of sliding into t