Clemente’s Corner: Rookies You Should Collect Besides Connor Bedard

Say the word “rookie” and the name Connor Bedard instantly comes to mind. It’s a reflex. None of us can help.

While the Chicago Blackhawks center may very well be on his way to taking the Calder Trophy, there are other rookies – even sleeper ones – that may be worth gobbling up now given that the majority of people are so laser-focused on acquiring Bedard.

Players like Luke Hughes of the New Jersey Devils and Leo Carlsson of the Anaheim Ducks have lived up to the preseason hype, although both have been overshadowed by Bedard mania. Both Hughes and Carlsson remain in the mix – although they are longshots – to capture the Calder.

Instead, here are five NHL rookies from this season (not named Bedard) who remain under the radar and worth chasing:   

1. Marco Rossi (Minnesota Wild)

While Bedard gets plenty of praise, the Minnesota Wild center also possesses excellent puck-handling skills and vision on the ice. It allows Rossi to set up scoring chances for his teammates, while also creating some for himself.

If you’re surprised that Rossi is still a rookie, you’re not alone. Rossi was drafted ninth overall by the Wild in 2020, but the Austrian native didn’t make his NHL debut until 2022. He only played in two games during the 2021-22 season and an additional 19 last season. Therefore, he’s still considered a rookie, although his Young Guns card can be found in 2022-23 Upper Deck Series 1 sets.

2. Brock Faber (Minnesota Wild)

Considered among a group of elite prospects coming into this season, Faber has shown that he is an elite defenseman. A teammate of Rossi in Minnesota, Faber is playing well in his first full NHL season. A key man for the Wild on the power play, Faber often plays like a veteran.

Faber was drafted 20th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 2020. He went on to play college hockey with the University of Minnesota. The Kings traded Faber to the Wild last year in exchange for Kevin Fiala. Faber’s Young Guns card can be found in Upper Deck 2023-24 Series 1.  

3. Luke Evangelista (Nashville Predators)

The second cousin of former New Jersey Devil star Brendan Shanahan, Evangelista plays on the right wing and brings offensive firepower to the Nashville Predators.

Drafted 42nd overall by the Predators in 2020, Evangelista spent time in the OHL and AHL before Nashville put him on the roster during the 2022-23 season. He only played in 24 games (where he scored seven goals and added eight assists) and therefore remains a rookie coming into this season. His Young Guns card can be found in 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 1.    

4. Connor Zary (Calgary Flames)

Under the radar because he plays for the Calgary Flames, Zary could very well be the best center not named Bedard who made their debut this season. Following three strong seasons with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, Zary has widely be seen as a top prospect. He was drafted by the Flames in 2020. 

Zary made his NHL debut this past November. He’s already featured in over 50 games and has proven he can generate offensive for a team that’s largely struggled this season. Like Bedard, Zary’s getting plenty of ice time and that’s been good form his numbers. His Young Guns card can be found in 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2.

5. Matt Rempe (New York Rangers)

The New York Rangers have found in Rempe a player who gives them size given his ability to bang bodies on the board. At 6-foot-7, Rempe is a towering figure, and his physicality can even intimidate veterans. Plucked seemingly out of obscurity, Rempe was chosen 165th overall in the 2020 draft. He’s the type of player you never expect to make it out of the minors. 

While the Rangers embark on a playoff run, Rempe mania is in full swing. Rempe made his NHL debut game against the New York Islanders this winter as part of the NHL Stadium Series, making him the first player to start his pro career with an outdoor game. Although he does not have a Young Guns card yet (he could appear either in Extended or in next season’s Series 1), you can get his first sticker that was recently issued as a part of the 2023-24 Topps Now sticker set.  

Clemente Lisi is a lifelong Rangers fan who first started collecting cards in 1986. He collects both vintage and modern with a focus on rookie cards. Follow him on X/Twitter @ClementeLisi.

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Author: Clemente Lisi

Clemente Lisi is a lifelong Rangers fan who first started collecting cards in 1986. He collects both vintage and modern with a focus on rookie cards. Follow him on Twitter @ClementeLisi.

2 thoughts on “Clemente’s Corner: Rookies You Should Collect Besides Connor Bedard”

  1. Add in Luke Hughes, Logan Cooley, Leo Carlson, Adan Fantilli, Pyotr Kotchetkov. Personally I would skip Rempe unless you are a Rangers fan or get his stuff cheap as he’s the proverbial flash in the pan. He fights and thats pretty much it. Outside of NYC nobody really cares.

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