NHL Notebook: Top rookie pre-season performances and Winnipeg Jets Vinne Heinola out with fractured ankle

Photo credit:David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
6 months ago
Every year there’s a crop of young talent looking to make their mark on the NHL.
Some are able to do so, but many often struggle when they take the next step in their hockey careers. And this year is no different.
But what we’ve maybe seen more this year than in recent memory are some of these young players really lightning up the pre-season.
Over at Daily Faceoff, Steven Ellis listed 10 players who truly stood out. Among them, Calgary Flames forward Matt Coronato, Buffalo Sabres forward Zach Benson, Chicago Blackhawks forward and last year’s first overall pick, and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Fraser Minten, among others.
Coronato stepped into this pre-season looking like a top-six scoring threat, Ellis wrote, and that makes sense given the four goals and seven points he put up in five games this pre-season. He could be a thorn in the side of the Edmonton Oilers for years to come.
“His shot release has been given some incredible praise early on, something he put on full display against NCAA and IIHF competition in 2022-23,” Ellis wrote. “With a handful of pro games under his belt, he’s looking comfortable and ready to play a big role in Calgary’s hopeful resurgence this year.”
Benson’s a name some around these parts will know from his time in the WHL, and much like Coronato, he’s performed well this pre-season with three goals and five points.
“He still likely will end up back in the WHL at some point,” Ellis opined, “but he’s making the idea of sending him back in the near future that much harder with how well-adjusted he’s looked throughout the preseason, where he leads all Sabres players in points.”
As if we should be surprised that Bedard is showing well this pre-season. He was, after all, the first overall pick in last years draft for a reason. His goal scoring hasn’t quite been there with one goal in four games, but he has notched five points. Some good stuff there, and as Ellis wrote, it’s hard not to notice him.
“Who else? It’s hard to watch a Blackhawks broadcast and not hear Bedard’s name every 30 seconds, and for good reason,” he said. “Sometimes, it feels like he’s still beating up on WHL blueliners. It’ll be interesting to see Bedard once the games start to mean something and he’s up against more difficult competition every night.”
The last player we’ll look at here is Maple Leafs forward Fraser Minten, whose scored one goal and four points in five games. Drafted by the Leafs 38th overall in 2022, the WHL centre has shown well.
“It’s hard not to love what we’ve seen from Minten. And coach Sheldon Keefe seems to agree, keeping him around and keeping him engaged on Toronto’s third line,” Ellis wrote. “While I still think he’ll ultimately get sent back to Kamloops, I’m a believer in NHL teams keeping top prospects around for a bit over ripping apart the WHL a few extra times early in the season.
“And I believe Minten’s extended stay will have huge benefits as he looks to make his mark as a potential middle-six forward down the line.”


Heinola out months

The Winnipeg Jets will be without defenceman Vinne Heinola for eight-to-12 weeks after he fractured his ankle in a Thursday pre-season game.
It happened when he and Ottawa Senators defenceman Erik Brannstrom awkwardly collided in the boards, and Heinola was in visible discomfort.
Jets head coach Rick Bowness said Friday afternoon surgery is an option, but that the rearguard is heading back to Finland to be around family. Bowness added the 22-year-old will return to Winnipeg as he gets closer to a potential return date.


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Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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