Since the NHLPA came out with their player polls from around the league I figured I’d add another category. One that I may add is vital. After polling only myself, here is this season’s Golden Knights All-Hair team.
There’s not much to explain. Of course Karlsson has the nicest hair on the Golden Knights. He’s a Swedish blonde, do I need to say more. My wife already says enough. Karlsson has the true definition of a hockey flow. His hair graciously flows while he glides up the ice on the way to embarrassing another goaltender. Karlsson obviously goes to a premier salon and uses high-end conditioners but like his talent, he was born with a beautiful head of hair. Bottom line is chicks dig it.
Forward: Ryan Reaves
It’s as tight as a low fade can get. Reaves must get his hair touched up daily or every other day. Short on top, lined up in front, and sometimes a carved side part. A sleek tapered cut for the NHL. Reaves has that charming badass look that the Vegas Strip has been waiting for since Mike Tyson.
I used to play them in the AHL not too long ago. Saturday, Sunday, you know. It’s something that you try not to think about. The mentality is just to be ready to play and ignore the outcome of the night before. -Subban
The former first round draft pick has recorded solid numbers as a Golden Knight in limited play: 19-11 with a 2.85 Goals Allowed Average. Subban may be the backup to Marc-Andre Fleury, but he practices for an 82 game season like a starting goaltender. He’s in great shape, so 120 minutes played in two days was not much of an isssue for Subban.
Beyond being a younger goaltender he has low mileage in the NHL so naturally his body is fresher than most.
In late June of 2020, Seattle, the 32nd franchise, will have the opportunity to pluck other teams talent at the Expansion Draft like the Golden Knights did on June 21st, 2017. George McPhee and his group masterfully duped 30 other NHL general managers, and whoever is at the helm in Seattle (maybe Kelly McCrimmon) will try to do the same. Okay maybe not all 30, but a good percentage of the league felt slighted, enough that those same general managers may just reach out to McPhee this time so it won’t happen again.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun was on Montreal radio this week and brought up how teams are very concerned with next year’s expansion draft. Teams aren’t in the business of giving away good players… again.
It’s also created I think a bit of a unique situation… because Vegas doesn’t have to worry about a protection list and all of that jazz. I think they’re going to be a team that some clubs are going to look to as a safety valve in trying to navigate the waters around the Seattle expansion process. -Pierre LeBrun, TSN Radio Montreal
LeBrun explained that the way McPhee and his staff maneuvered the expansion rules has teams running to protect themselves this time around. LeBrun used Nashville as a team that could find themselves in a protection problem and may be forced to expose one really talented defenseman. In the scenario, this is where McPhee gets a call.
It would behoove them to try and send them to Vegas for a first round pick or a top prospect. As opposed to losing them for nothing to Seattle. I don’t know at this juncture how the league feels about that kind of trade. -LeBrun
Another twist to the expansion process is the side drama from other clubs. LeBrun noted several general managers are upset Vegas is protected from the expansion draft and won’t be losing a player.
There are GM’s I think who felt that once Seattle’s start was delayed by a year, that Vegas should be subject to lose a player like everyone else. There are definitely GM’s grumbling behind the scenes. But as Bill Daly said because Vegas is not getting a piece of the pie from Seattle, they’re the only one not getting a check, then they’re not losing a player… so that’s created some tension for obvious reasons. -LeBrun
What makes GM’s mostly worried, with good reason, is that McPhee could take advantage of franchises with protection issues, or get a jump on adding players.
Because Vegas doesn’t have to worry about a protection list they’re more willing too add players during that particular time then any other team. -LeBrun
Bill Daly told league officials not too fret about Vegas abusing their exemption. Other teams want to be reassured that the Golden Knights wont be making unfair trades during that small window before the 2020 Expansion Draft. The league will be keeping an eye on Quick Draw McPhee.
Daly hears that Vegas can’t interfere with the Seattle expansion process. The league will pay close attention to the type of trades the involve Vegas around that… Bill Daly says he’ll know when he sees it as far as something that doesn’t pass the smell test. -LeBrun
One scenario that clearly makes sense for Seattle is hiring Vegas Assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon. Obviously, as McPhee’s right-hand man he’s fully capable of handling the pressure and creativity of an expansion draft. However, if McPhee is whispering to 30 other compadres it’ll make McCrimmon’s job much tougher the second time around. Any other Seattle general manager would be at even more of a disadvantage.
All along we’re always under the assumption that Seattle will have a bit of a tougher time this time around. Teams are more familiar with the rules and the process, saw what happened with a couple of teams overreacting and overpaying on side deals with Vegas. -LeBrun
Teams like Anaheim, Columbus, Dallas, Florida, Minnesota, and Washington gifted Vegas a core to win with immediately. I’m sure most teams would like a redo. Well, they’ll have their chance in the summer of 2020. With McPhee watching on with a bowl full of Crunch ‘n Munch.
Schuldt has been to multiple NHL development camps, but he was most recently in Vegas. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
For the past two years (2017, 2018), we’ve taken a stab at possible NCAA free agents that might be on the Golden Knights radar. To pat myself on the back, I predicted last year Vegas would have interest in Zach Whitecloud. Whitecloud signed a contract with Vegas the next day. How’s that for puck luck?
Since some college programs are finishing up their seasons let’s try and predict right again in 2019.
Jimmy Schuldt Defenseman (6’1″, 205) St. Cloud State
You’ve probably heard us hyping Jimmy Schuldt for some time. Well, he lived up to his senior season earning a candidacy for the Hobey Baker and is leading the #1 ranked team in the country to the NCAA tournament. The 23-year-old left-handed defenseman was a participant at Golden Knights camp last summer so we already know Vegas is interested. The St. Cloud Huskies are expected to make a deep run, so we’ll have to wait and see if McPhee pursues the highly-scouted free agent again.
Josh Wilkins Forward (5’11”, 181) Providence College
The 21-year-old is currently playing his junior season for the #8th ranked team in the country. Some overlooked the 5’11” winger due to injuries after being a highly-touted teenager. Last summer, Wilkins was injured and was forced to turn down multiple NHL camp invites, including one from the Golden Knights. Maybe, Vegas will circle around again after his strong campaign in Providence. Another factor to keep in mind is Wilkin is a teammate with Vegas prospect Jack Dugan. Both are having successful seasons and are the most productive players on the team.
Maybe McPhee will take a look at their strong chemistry and develop both Friars together.
Nico Sturm Forward (6’3″, 207) Clarkson University
The 23-year-old German is finishing off a fantastic career at Clarkson. He’s considered the best defensive forwards in the NCAA and has that high hockey IQ all organizations are after. Sturm’s mature enough to fit in on the Chicago Wolves lineup right now. Most important, the center would feel right at home with Vegas’ because Clarkson’s mascot is also the Golden Knights. So, Sturm comes prepared with armor.
Last year there wasn’t a question who the hunted was. The Golden Knights sat comfortably in first place for most of the season. Technically, Vegas was the hunted… but not really. Up until the postseason, there weren’t many times that another Pacific Division team threatened Vegas’ throne. This season the roles have reversed and the hunter resides in Nevada.
Yeah I guess it is a little bit different. We were surprised. I think we had a lot of games where teams maybe took us lightly and didn’t know what to expect. This year we’ve earned their respect and teams know how we play. -Brayden McNabb
This season Vegas is chasing Calgary and San Jose, and find themselves fighting their way to get back in the race. Which was why Wednesday’s victory in a playoff preview against the Flames was a big mental victory. The Golden Knights know every night they’re going to face a team’s best effort, so it was a motivating win against a top team like Calgary.
I think we’re noticing it from pretty much every team. A lot of teams came in last year and didn’t expect much playing against us. This year teams are coming in with a little more urgency. They’re ready for us. -Reilly Smith
Pacific Division Standings this date last year: 03/09/18 Vegas (43-19-5) 91 Points San Jose (36-22-9) 81 Points Anaheim (34-23-12) 80 Points LA (37-25-5) 79 Points Calgary (34-25-10) 78 Points Edmonton (29-34-4) 62 Points Vancouver (25-34-9) 59 Points Arizona (21-34-11) 53 Points
Pacific Division Standings today: 03/09/19 Calgary (41-20-7) 89 Points San Jose (40-19-8) 88 Points Vegas (37-26-5) 79 Points Arizona (33-29-5) 71 Points Edmonton (30-30-7) 67Points Vancouver (28-31-9) 65 Points Anaheim (27-33-9) 63 Points LA (24-35-8) 56 Points
Calgary is close to Vegas’ point total pace from a season ago, but their lead is nowhere near the cushion the Golden Knights had back on March 9th, 2018. Thus making it much more difficult for the Flames to win the Pacific Division this season.
Times have changed and “goon” hockey has tailed off. These days holding a roster spot for a one-dimensional enforcer doesn’t make sense for a competing club. In reality, the “Mike Tyson-on-skates” type players I watched as a kid would have a hard time finding full-time NHL jobs today.
Which is why today’s enforcer has to be more like Ryan Reaves, a hybrid of equal parts power forward and sheriff. Being tough isn’t good enough anymore. Teams expect “heavies” to forecheck, create traffic, add points, and knock opponents on their ass.
None of us really love it. We do it because we’re good at it. You work on the other part of the game, because that’s what will keep you around. You work twice, three times as hard on being a better hockey player every single day so you can contribute. -Thornton
It was impossible to miss Florida’s forward Mike Hoffman last night. The top-line winger bombed two power play goals past Malcolm Subban and laid a nasty open-ice hit on defenseman Nate Schmidt.
Something else that stood out after the game was Hoffman’s affection for newly acquired Golden Knights forward Mark Stone.
You know they got a good player over there and he is going to be good for a long time, one of the best sticks in the league and very good in front of the net, he is a great addition for them. -Mike Hoffman
Stone and Hoffman shared a line in Ottawa for multiple seasons and played as teammates starting in 2012. The two also played several seasons together with the AHL’s Binghamton Senators.
Yeah, I played with Stone for a long time and he is a really good guy and obviously a really smart and talented hockey player. -Hoffman
The Panthers 30-goal scorer was drafted a year earlier but grew up through Ottawa’s system with Stone. They undoubtedly had chemistry together. Just take a look at this beautiful PP setup from last season.
In the summer of 2017, the Pittsburgh Penguins reached out to St. Louis Blues and offered a first-round pick for Ryan Reaves, which the Blues couldn’t pass up. Although disappointed to leave St. Louis, Reaves was excited to play for the perennial Cup contending Penguins and be a protective force for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, etc.
Leading up to it, it wasn’t really on my mind. In my head, Pittsburgh traded for me because they were getting beat up in the playoffs all of the time. Playoffs were coming up, and that’s why I was there or so I thought. Wasn’t even thinking about it. -Ryan Reaves
There was chatter around the league that Pittsburgh was concern about being pushed around in the playoffs despite winning two consecutive Stanley Cups.
Only had 6 fights you say? Yes but nobody wanted to fight him. I guarantee the guy that crosschecked Crosby in the face wouldn’t have done so had Reaves been cruising around. Tarasenko, Blues leading scorer and point guy with 39 goals and 36 assists, just loved Reaves around. He’s not a happy camper today with that trade. -Don Cherry, June 2017
So with no inclination that he was being shopped, Reaves continued his normal life in Pittsburgh. However, slowly the signs started to appear and of course the rumors were turning up on social media.
I got scratched. I might’ve been able to read into that because I hadn’t been scratched for a while. I got scratched a couple of days before the deadline and basically I was reading tweets that there was a deal between Ottawa and Pittsburgh. -Reaves
It still hadn’t fully grabbed Reaves attention because his name wasn’t being mentioned in the rumors. But there was something about those tweets.
You would have thought the Olympics were on, or at least a World Juniors tournament. It was neither. Yesterday, the Vegas Golden Knights players were glued to an internet feed of the Vegas Junior Golden Knights playing their third game in the Quebec International Pee Wee Tournament.
Yeah it’s awesome. We got it online watching the game. Ryan Craig, our assistant coach’s son plays on the team. It’s good seeing those kids out there representing the Golden Knights. It’s a great tournament. It’s awesome. -Gerard Gallant
The score was 3-2 in favor of the Junior Golden Knights, with a handful of big Golden Knights players watching the game on a giant flatscreen in their locker room. Colin Miller, Nate Schmidt, Jon Merrill, and Malcolm Subban all watched from one end of the locker room. On the other side were Ryan Reaves, Brandon Pirri and Jonathan Marchessault reacting to every shot.
I played two years. That’s my hometown. Probably my best memories of minor hockey. -Marchessault
Literally standing smack dab in front of the TV was Vegas alternate captain Pierre-Edouard Bellemare giving us the play by play.
Oh what a save… I played in tournaments for Europe but never play a Pee Wee tournaments. It’s fun. A bunch of kids that didn’t know about hockey, or didn’t fully underst… Oh C’mon ref. That should’ve been two. -Bellemare
Like the other pros in the locker room, Bellemare was squarely focused on the strong WiFi broadcast of a Pee Wee hockey game. It really was surreal. Normally, the Pee Wee players watch their hockey heroes on TV. Yesterday, their hockey heroes were watching the Pee Wee’s on TV.
Max Pacioretty has been through it all. In 626 NHL games played, the 30-year-old veteran has seen winning streaks, losing streaks, and overall bad stretches of play. Just last season, his former team, the Montreal Canadiens, started the year losing eight of their first ten games. On top of that, the Habs had six losing streaks of four-games or more.
So a four-game home losing streak when his team is comfortably in the playoffs isn’t going to rattle a player like Pacioretty, nor should it rattle the fans.
Every great team has to face adversity at some point or another… hopefully we can build off this experience here and rally around it. Eventually we use that to our advantage. We haven’t been playing the right way, and a little bit of a wake up call needs to jump start us here. -Pacioretty
Now deep into his first campaign with the Golden Knights, Pacioretty understands and appreciates the passionate fanbase. Which is why he’s reaching out to the Vegas faithful, and telling them to take a deep breath. The players are confident that they’ll break out of this current skid, and go on to play strong hockey at home.
We have a tremendous advantage playing at home in front of our fans. We want to make sure we maintain that by playing good hockey in front of them. -Pacioretty
Cliche or not, every NHL team has its share of ups and downs over an 82 game regular schedule. Which is why the average point total for a team that wins the Presidents Trophy is 115.5 regular season points. Even the best of the best go on losing streaks.