The NHL season isn’t yet three months old and 131 players are classified as rookies with at least one game played. That’s the rough equivalent of six full rosters. Put another way: Prospects of all positions and notoriety – the well-known, partially known, and unknown – are breaking through in some way.

We’re focusing on that last group in order to form the 2022-23 All-Nobody Team. We’ve identified three forwards, two defensemen, and one goalie who’ve so far updated their NHL status from “nobody” to “somebody.”

To create structure, the player pool was limited to those drafted after the second round or not at all and who entered the season with fewer than 500 regular-season minutes played (we expanded the threshold to 1,500 minutes for goalies). This is the same criteria used in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

Here’s this season’s squad:


Andrei Kuzmenko, Canucks, RW

For NHL teams, there’s a hefty dose of uncertainty baked into every single European free-agent signing. No matter how dominant the player has been in leagues overseas, a smooth transition to North America is never guaranteed.

A select few manage to exceed expectations (Artemi Panarin comes to mind), while the rest either live up to them (Pius Suter, everyday NHLer) or fall short (Vadim Shipachyov, woof).

Kuzmenko belongs in the “exceed” camp, recording 15 goals and 17 assists for 32 points in his first 36 games with Vancouver. The 26-year-old right winger is third in points on the team, trailing only established stars Elias Pettersson (44 points) and Bo Horvat (42). Quietly, he leads all Canucks skaters as well as all first-year NHLers in even-strength assists (15).

Kuzmenko, who isn’t eligible for the Calder Trophy because he’s older than 25, has been glued to Pettersson all season, with Ilya Mikheyev and Lane Pederson splitting time as the line’s third member. Kuzmenko’s ability to find soft spots in the offensive zone, and Pettersson’s ability to feed the sniper crisp passes, have allowed the duo to flourish. With both players on the ice, the Canucks have outscored the opposition 25-14 in 305 minutes of five-on-five action.

Clearly, Kuzmenko is benefiting from Pettersson’s brilliance. Yet, the 5-foot-11, 194-pounder also deserves loads of credit. Highly sought following a statement 2021-22 season in which he finished second in KHL scoring (53 points in 45 games with SKA St. Petersburg), he’s adjusted very well on and off the ice. The smiley Russian has bagged seven power-play goals as the net-front guy on the first unit and already has a hat trick to his name (Nov. 3 against Anaheim). He hasn’t been whistled for an infraction, ranking second on the team with a plus-seven penalty differential.

There’s more uncertainty on the horizon, though. For starters, Kuzmenko’s scoring rate (24.2% of his own shots) and the Canucks’ rate when he’s on the ice (14.9%) are unsustainably high, so expect a dip in production in the second half. Also, he’s an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. Even with a potential dip in points, he’ll command a huge raise from his current $950,000 salary.

Do the Canucks view Kuzmenko as a long-term fit on Pettersson’s wing? Do they flip him to a contending team midseason? Let him walk as a UFA?