Praise Be To Foley, Vegas Golden Knights Hockey Website

Author: Jason Pothier (Page 2 of 12)

A Look At The Best Available College Free Agents

It’s rare that a top prospect goes undrafted in the amateur draft. There are seven rounds, 30 players selected (31 now) which is plenty to restock all of the NHL rosters and their AHL and ECHL affiliates.  However, many college free agent players have become impactful NHL’ers over the past. Adam Oates, Ed Belfour, Dan Boyle, Tyler Bozak, Conor Sheary and Torey Krug were all NCAA free agents. You can call it great or poor scouting but either way there’s value with some NCAA’s nomads.

March 1st is the date teams can dive into the college free agent market and sign any player that has gone undrafted after three years of eligibility. Vegas will be able to join the party whenever that final payment clears, which appears now to be closer to the 6th than the 1st. It shouldn’t make a big difference in the case of college free agents because every one of the Original 30 have passed on these players at least once, probably two or three times.

The other way players can become free agents is if they fail to come to terms with a team that selected them. Jimmy Vesey and Kevin Hayes were both players that were drafted but couldn’t come to terms with their original teams. Both players signed with the Rangers and are a major part of their core. Can GM George McPhee sign a March prospect that others passed on? Here are this year’s top prospects who remain free agents.

Josh Healey

TSN’s Bob McKenzie wrote about the Ohio State Buckeye a few weeks back that contained one of the coolest scouting reports.

Hits too hard for college hockey. His game will be better suited to pro. -NHL Scout

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Golden Knights Causing Conservative Approach At Deadline

As we’ve realized throughout this entire process, expansion is confusing. This week TSN/ESPN’s Pierre Lebrun broke open a future scenario involving the Golden Knights and the Blue Jackets. On TSN Montreal, LeBrun reported Columbus is internally debating on how to protect themselves against expansion. He gives a theoretical sequence of events.

Take the Columbus Blue Jackets. Let’s just pretend they trade for Matt Duchene (again, this is purely to make a point, folks) in exchange for Prospect X, Player X and Draft Pick X. Then, obviously, they would want to protect Duchene as one of their seven forwards for the expansion draft. That means a guy such as William Karlsson or Josh Anderson gets exposed. So that means the cost of the Duchene trade becomes what was traded for him, plus Anderson or Karlsson (who would go to Vegas). For a young team such as the Blue Jackets, that’s what they are thinking about. Which is why a rental player makes more sense for a team like that; a pending unrestricted free agent doesn’t affect protection plans for the expansion draft. –Pierre LeBrun, TSN/ESPN

Just the threat of the Golden Knights have GMs second-guessing moves that could impact their postseason. Some teams cannot afford to take on a contracted player. There’s an excellent piece from friend of the site, James Mirtle, on this same topic, but it’s behind a paywall now, so we can’t grab quotes.

It’s unique, because it’s not an issue of money but limited space to protect players. Like LeBrun said, if teams are giving up three assets for a deadline player, it could end up being four. Teams are working tirelessly at player protection lists and some have no room as it is.

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Open And Honest, At Least That’s The Plan

When it comes to all sports, some organizations are known for hiding the facts. Okay fine, every team does it in some form like inflating attendance numbers or puff pieces following tough losses, but some are just flat out tone deaf. The most recent obvious example is the Boston Bruins firing Claude Julien during the Patriots Super Bowl parade. We talked to The Creator about the importance of being open with his fan base. We didn’t ask him about the Bruins situation specifically, but we asked about fan communication.

We’re going to be fan friendly. We’re going to be careful about it. We’re going to be a community oriented team, that’s what we have to be. -The Creator

Fans aren’t dumb, they see through all the poppycock. It’s up to the owner to make sure fans aren’t fed nonsense.

Thus far there have been a few missteps when it comes to being forthcoming, such as the reasoning behind the team name and the trademark situation to point out a couple. But overall, and especially in terms of The Creator himself, the team has been incredibly open and honest to this point… maybe even to a fault.

That’s what the fan base wants. Actually, that’s what a fan base like Las Vegas needs. Covering up negative information gets unearthed in the amount of time it takes someone to type 140 characters, or however many characters are in Ken’s mean fingers at any given moment. But more importantly, those moments are the ones fans take with them.

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Don’t Hate Too Much On Cappy

This week we got a surprisingly bad reaction from fans regarding the coaching direction of the Golden Knights. The Creator’s “unwillingness” to overpay for Claude Julien started a conversation about financial commitment. Some even went as far as to call him cheap. Let’s clear something up, the man is about to finish to paying off $500 million for an NHL team, he’s not cheap. But fans are getting nervous that The Creator won’t do everything he can do to win hockey games. When he said $4.5 million for Julien was too much for Vegas, fans took that as not being fully invested.

If Vegas chooses a coach like Jack Capuano or Gerard Gallant fans are going to voice themselves. The Creator is realistic, the organization is committed to the future. Passing on a big name coach isn’t a sign of cheapness, it’s a sign of a responsible approach eyeing that future rather than instant gratification.

I’ve written about Capuano’s fit in Las Vegas, but he’s not a popular among fans. Here’s a comment from on Capuano back in late November.

Take Capuano, please. Take his assistants, too. They make no adjustments. They have ruined more players (high draft picks) than they have developed. The GM might be part of that, too but playing time & in game is on the coach. They have stopped playing hard, and for the past two plus seasons, I have never seen so many late goals (both end of periods & games) given up in 45 years of watching hockey. I will drive him to the airport if you want. -pfh64


Many people think Capuano underachieved in New York. Complaints are he cannot develop talent and won’t use analytics to assist his decisions. All are very good reasons to be down on a potential Vegas coach. However, is that really Jack Capuano? Or is that what you say about a coach who was just fired?

I’m here to tell you, he isn’t anything like the comment above, and the countless others we’ve received on social media.  Let me try and quiet the storm in Las Vegas. Here’s how Jack Capuano compares to other available coaches.

 Jack CapuanoClaude JulienKen HitchcockLindy Ruff
Seasons as HC6142119
Win %.536.603.606.562
Playoff Appearances481410
Playoff Record10-1461-4786-8266-54
Playoff %.417.560.512.550
Stanley Cups0110
Key PlayersTavares, HalakBrodeur, Chara, ThomasModano, Nieuwendyk, Belfour, HullHasek, Satan, Peca
 Jack CapuanoDan BylsmaGerard GallantJon Cooper
Seasons as HC6865
Win %.536.624.518.591
Playoff Appearances4613
Playoff Record10-1443-352-425-25
Playoff %.417.551.333.500
Stanley Cups0100
Key PlayersTavares, HalakCrosby, MalkinJagr, Nash, Ekblad, LuongoStamkos, Bishop, St. Louis, Hedman


Here’s a breakdown of Capuano vs. the more experienced coaches in their first six seasons behind the bench.

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Cross Off Claude, Julien All But Out For Vegas

Last March, the Toronto Maple Leafs handsomely paid Mike Babcock $6.25 million per year to be their head coach; an offer Babcock couldn’t refuse. In the process of getting a monster raise, Babcock rewarded his fellow NHL coaches by inflating the market. Now coaches are waiting their turn to cash in. Say a guy like Claude Julien.

When you make these decisions, you better have a guy in line that’s better than that guy. There’s not many, I can tell you that. He’s a hell of a coach. –Mike Babcock on Boston firing Claude Julien

Many believe Julien will demand a salary as high as $4-5 million per year. Which made me wonder, would Vegas be willing to pay the going rate for Claude?

The answer is no.

Ken and I had a chance to catch up with The Creator during the Mandarin Oriental Rooster trade event, and after our conversation, I can officially cross Julien’s name off the list. It’s no longer speculation, Claude Julien will not be the Golden Knights first coach. It was clear immediately when I asked directly about the financial aspect of the hiring. I first asked if he would pay top dollar, to which he instantly said yes. I added, four to five million? And the answer speaks for itself.

That’s probably a lot for us.

I’ll tell you what we really want. George McPhee’s going to make the call. My call is going to be, is this a guy I can work with feel comfortable with. All the people we have in this organization keep their egos in check they are about winning hockey games or making a successful business. -The Creator

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Goalie Watch: Eddie Lack

We’ve seen so many expansion mock drafts over the past year that it’s almost sickening. Some mocks have one viable player along with a fairy tale roster. Others pick a team with a salary cap pushing the upper limit. Some don’t even follow the rules. Finally, The Hockey News broke the trend and came out with a mock draft that makes sense in their Expansion Issue. THN’s expansion roster had talent, youth, veteran leadership, cap-eaters and inexpensive risks. It’s close to the formula we expect George McPhee will use in June. To see the whole thing, you’ll have to pick up an issue, cause it’s no where to be found on the Internet.

THN’s formula seemed to put a surprisingly low on value goaltending. THN drafted Eddie Lack, Calvin Pickard and Malcolm Subban. One’s injured and the other two are unproven in the NHL. Altogether, the three goaltenders have started a total of 153 games and let in a combined 447 goals. Terrible. Luckily, Vegas wouldn’t be stuck with any of the three chosen. Lack and Pickard’s contracts come off the books after the Golden Knights inaugural season while Subban is an RFA after this season. All three are goaltenders with unappealing stats, inexpensive expiring contracts, proving THN had one thing in mind, mitigating risk between the pipes.

Lack started his first game this week after a two concussions. With Carolina in a fight for a wild card, Lack and the Canes lost 5-0 to the streaking Capitals. A tough assignment on Lack’s first day back.

I felt like I was chasing the game at first, I was all over the place. Maybe I wanted it too much, you know. I felt like I settled down in the second and made some good saves, and they got some good goals in the third. It’s never fun letting five goals in, for sure. One part of me feels like it’s fun being back and playing and everything, and one part of me is disappointed. -Eddie Lack, Carolina

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Drop The Gloves: Don’t Get Too High On Claude And Hitch

It’s been a while since we’ve had any disagreements worth a Drop The Gloves post, but that changed with the recent coaching news including Claude Julien, Ken Hitchcock, and Mike Modano. So here goes.

Yesterday we had our fourth NHL coach relieved of their duty. Not many were surprised when Boston axed Claude Julien or when St Louis canned Ken Hitchcock last week. Boston and St. Louis fans don’t accept underachievers and both organizations were forced to act. The result is now the Golden Knights have two Stanley Cup winning coaches to examine. Ken wrote about Julien’s dismissal yesterday and it’s potential impact to Las Vegas. He noted the former Bruins coach fitting George McPhee’s qualifications.

Experienced, a guy the hockey community knows, fits the culture, and someone who they do not have to evaluate. Julien also brings one more aspect that no one would ever admit is necessary, legitimacy.”  –Ken, (We’ve officially hit a new low quoting ourselves. Oh well.)

The one thing McPhee’s wishlist didn’t have was ‘Stanley Cup winning coach’ because they don’t grow on trees. Two are now available. But as established as Hitchcock and Julien are, neither are the right fit to coach on the Strip.

Trotz said Julien probably already has offers, which isn’t far-fetched for the previously longest-tenured coach in the league who has a Cup ring and one of the strongest resumes around. The expansion Vegas Golden Knights could have interest in Julien, Gallant, Hitchcock and Capuano since general manager George McPhee is believed to want experience behind the bench. –USA Today

Let’s start with Hitchcock. Anything but the perfect candidate. Hitch has coached since 1995, starting off in Dallas and leading them to a gift Stanley Cup in 1999. No Goal! In seven years with the Stars, Hitchcock led his team to five playoff appearances, three conference finals, and one Stanley Cup championship. From there Hitch had continuous success in the regular season but couldn’t get his teams deep. Only three times since 1999’s Cup victory, Hitchcock made the conference finals. Not a great track record in 16 seasons. Hitchcock’s .606 regular season winning percentage drops significantly to .512 in the postseason.

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First Two Picks In This Entry Draft A Clear Cut Above

Number One Nolan or Nico the Knight? It’s a question that some lucky NHL general managers and scouts will answer before June. TSN’s Craig Button consistently projects Nolan Patrick as his number one overall pick. Also, Button continues to be impressed by Swiss skater Nico Hischier. Button believes two teams will be happy to select one of the top prospects. After that though… not so much.

I’m not so sure there’s a difference between the 3rd and the 15th pick… The top two guys, Patrick and Hischier have separated themselves. They’re a cut above. –Craig Button, TSN’s Director of Scouting

Patrick has gone bananas in his return from injury. The Brandon Wheat King center has five goals and 13 points in seven games since his return. Including four helpers in last night’s Wheat King 6-3 victory. Wow, right? Most analysts say it’s easy scouting Patrick. He was on the outside cusp of last year’s draft, so they’re very aware of his talent.

It definitely is a two-player field for the top [North America] ranking and Nolan Patrick was the frontrunner going into the season for the 2017 draft and remains the top candidate for NHL Central Scouting. It’s unfortunate [Patrick] had to miss so much time but it was necessary for him to be able to return at 100 percent. He’s been well known to NHL scouts for the past three years; his game continues to show he’s a top prospect. –Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting

Patrick may not be deemed a “generational” talent like Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews but has the size and skill to be an NHL All-Star.

There’s no franchise-type player in this draft and even the No. 1 consensus pick, Nolan Patrick, had the injury factor so there are still questions. That said, Patrick is a big, strong center and can skate well. It’s just a matter of his development and getting more experience and strength. But he has all the pro attributes that you’re looking for. –Joe McDonnell, Dallas Stars Director of Amateur Scouting

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Vancouver’s Trevor Linden Can’t Stomach Losing A Player To Vegas

What team isn’t dreading expansion, right? Adding another team to the growing list of expansion concerned teams is the Vancouver Canucks. The Nucks are a team with seemingly no direction. Their once highly-skilled roster is aging and their youth hasn’t developed enough to compete yet, which is why the Canucks ownership and front office are fearing June 17th.

I was talking to Murray Craven, just from the Vegas group and theres so many variables in there. I think there’s two real spots where teams will look to fix that problem and that will be deadline and that will be leading into expansion draft. And then you get into said value of player based on what teams can acquire and protect can really change the way things look, we’re going to do what we can to avoid that situation. -Trevor Linden, Vancouver Canucks President of Hockey Ops

Linden joined TSN Vancouver to discuss the upcoming trade deadline and the looming expansion draft. He was asked how will it feel losing a player for nothing to Vegas.

We’ve certainly modeled a lot of different scenarios out. We’re going to do what we can to avoid that situation. Obviously, losing a young player, or any player, would be tough to stomach, so we’re still a ways from getting to where we want to be there. -Linden

Linden would rather make his roster more expansion-friendly but he’s not rushing to make a trade at the deadline. Although, losing a player like Luca Sbisa or Jannik Hansen would be a devastating blow. Linden will try and minimize the damage but won’t force a trade.

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Columbus Is In Serious Expansion Trouble With All-Star Cam Atkinson

Last week I was asked if I thought any of the 2017 NHL All-Stars would be left unprotected. At first glance, I thought no way, however, I thought there could be a few All Star snubs available to Vegas. It all worked out as my answer Cam Atkinson, was a late addition to the Metropolitan roster. The first time All-Star took that opportunity and went HAM. He scored twice in the 3-on-3 final and was narrowly edged out by Metro teammate Wayne Simmonds for tournament MVP.

The 27 year-old Blue Jacket is enjoying a career year to go along with the unimaginable Columbus run. Atkinson is finally breaking out in his fourth full season as a BJ. However, he struggled to get ice time early on which resulted in two seasons split in the AHL and NHL. The Connecticut forward was drafted very low, although he played at hockey factories Avon Old Farms and Boston College. In fact, he went on a torrid streak in 2010 leading the NCAA in goals (30) and scoring three hatties in ten games. Six years later he set his NHL career high in goals and points with 27 and 53, and he’s well ahead of that pace this season with 22 and 46, with 33 games to go. Every season, Atkinson has gotten better which is a good attribute to any team willing to invest. Like Vegas.

The Blue Jackets have a bunch of great young players they’ll want to protect. But they also have a lot of older players they’ll be forced to protect. It wouldn’t be surprising if GM Jarmo Kekalainen approached Hartnell, Clarkson or Tyutin with a Vince Vaughn-esque pitch to waive their no-movement clause for an expansion draft. If he can’t entice them into a possible move to Sin City, Columbus risks exposing Johnson and Atkinson – the top point-scorer on last year’s team – or up-and-comers such as Wennberg, Jenner or Murray. — Mike Hume, Washington Post

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