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Nick Robertson, Dylan Holloway and more: Top 10 standout prospects from the NHL pre-season

Daily Faceoff logo Daily Faceoff 2022-10-07 Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Toronto Maple Leafs forwards Nick Robertson (89) is tied for the overall preseason scoring lead with seven points. © Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports Toronto Maple Leafs forwards Nick Robertson (89) is tied for the overall preseason scoring lead with seven points.

The NHL’s preseason is all just one big tease.

For starters, it is way too long. The NHL (and, by extension, the AHL) starts way later than it needs to be. Some SHL teams are seven games in. Some teams in Switzerland will hit the 10-game mark in the coming days. Heck, the KHL is nearly a quarter of the way in.

We do not need eight preseason games, especially with some teams giving too much ice time to players who clearly won’t make the final roster. Let's get on with it.

But one nice feature is watching prospects play against seasoned veterans, often for the first time. Few players are as motivated as a youngster trying to make an NHL roster for the first time, especially if they were not a shoo-in to crack the roster in the first place.

Oh, and the jersey numbers. More 57s and 64s, please.

A handful of top prospects have made their presences known with the preseason winding down. Here’s a look at 10 notable standouts with the regular season just days away:

Shane Pinto, C, Ottawa Senators

Tied for the preseason lead in goals (four) and points (seven), Pinto has looked incredible early on. His 2021-22 season was limited to just five games due to a shoulder injury, but everything he has done since the start of rookie camp has thrust Pinto into the spotlight. Pinto projects to be the No. 3 center in Ottawa this season, and that is one heck of a guy to have in your bottom six.

Nicholas Robertson, LW, Toronto Maple Leafs

Robertson looks like a man on a mission. He is tied for the overall preseason scoring lead with seven points, beating his 16-game NHL career total of two points by quite a bit. Robertson missed more than half the season with an injury last year, but he is forcing Sheldon Keefe to make him a permanent lineup fixture. If not, a bit more AHL seasoning will not hurt.

Brad Lambert, RW (Winnipeg)

After going from a projected top three pick in 2022 to falling to 30th, Lambert has done everything in his power to earn a spot on the Winnipeg Jets. He has played all throughout the lineup and has looked like a man on a mission. The biggest issue? He is currently unsigned. If he can get an ELC cleared up, the team might have a tough time keeping him away.

Marco Rossi, C, Minnesota Wild

The lost season to COVID-19 is ancient history now. Rossi bounced back with a huge AHL rookie campaign last year and has emerged as one of Minnesota’s top performers with six points in four games. His one goal was shorthanded, and he has even seen some time on the man advantage, too. Rossi deserves to be on the opening night roster, simple as that.

Matty Beniers, C, Seattle Kraken

Perhaps the favorite to win the Calder Trophy, Beniers has already lived up to the billing as Seattle’s No. 1 center. Beniers has potted a goal per game, showing his mix of confidence, speed and skill with and without the puck. Beniers is Seattle’s first player with true star potential, and after an impressive end to 2021-22, he is ready for the big time.

Andrei Kuzmenko, LW, Vancouver Canucks

The top European free agent signing of the summer, Kuzmenko has lived up to expectations early on. Kuzmenko brings a potent blend of speed, creativity, and a high-level shot that made him a dangerous KHLer last year. Kuzmenko is up to two goals and five points and gives the Canucks an extra scoring machine in the middle six.

Dylan Holloway, LW, Edmonton Oilers

‘Hollywood’ Holloway had one of the best performances of the preseason, a hat trick in a 7-2 win over Vancouver earlier this week. Holloway took the opportunity and showed he is serious about making the team. He has six points in five games and is third in shots among all players this pre-season with 17.

Daniil Gushchin, RW, San Jose Sharks

Speaking of hat tricks, Gushchin grabbed one of his own against Vegas early on. A pure goal-scorer, Guschchin was re-assigned to the AHL Wednesday, where he skated in three games with the Barracuda to close out 2021-22. The Sharks can afford to be patient with Guschchin before getting an extended look with the big club.

Jake Neighbours, LW, St. Louis Blues

After making the team out of training camp last year, Neighbours hopes to do the same again. He scored three goals and four points in his first three pre-season outings and has had no issue handling his own against high-level competition. The tough-as-nails forward has tremendous playmaking ability and moves well for the NHL.

Nick Blankenburg, D, Columbus Blue Jackets

Blankenburg does not have much offense to show for, but he has been averaging just under 22:30 a game. He showed potential in his seven-game stint with the Blue Jackets last year after closing out a successful four-year run at the University of Michigan. Although there is some significant competition, Blankenburg has made a case to earn a full-time role.

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Related slideshow: Which players have scored the most points in NHL postseason history? (Provided by Yardbarker)

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