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Category: Personnel (Page 1 of 5)

Second Golden Knight Could Be On The Ice At Thursday’s Frozen Four

It’s been about a month now since Vegas signed first ever player Reid Duke. Not much more was expected but I was hoping Vegas would be in the mix for some college free agents. Well, maybe they still are. Thursday the semi-finals of the Frozen Four take place and one name in particular will be closely watched by Vegas scouts. Defenseman Neal Pionk of the University Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs is quite highly sought after.

Pionk is a new hybrid style defenseman. At 5’10, 170lbs the Minnesota native was passed over a few times because of his small stature. His talent, however, is tough to overlook. Scouts rave about his experience, skating ability, offensive zone presence and physicality. Pionk scored 33 points in 40 games and is a legitimate two-way defenseman. Of course Pionk can turn the puck over but has smart recovery instincts. He’s developed into a major threat on special teams as well. The former Sioux City Musketeer might be small but his speed and skill make up for it. Plus, the UMD Bulldog shoots right-handed. Yep, a right-handed defenseman, one of Don Cherry’s most coveted prospect.

ESPN’s Craig Custance spoke with GM George McPhee earlier this month about the Golden Knights interest in Pionk. McPhee implied Vegas will be in the market for NHL caliber prospects not AHL depth players. We can assume the 21 year-old defenseman is projected for the T-Mobile Arena or McPhee wouldn’t be interested. Nor would 20 other clubs.

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First Golden Knight Ever! Reid Duke Signs With Vegas

Told you we wouldn’t have to wait until the Expansion Draft to learn the identity of the first player in Golden Knights history. The organization announced via press release they have signed 21-year-old Reid Duke to a three year entry level contract.

Reid Duke with AGM Kelly McCrimmon (Courtesy of Vegas Golden Knights)

Duke is currently playing on the Brandon Wheat Kings, the team still owned and formerly managed and coached by Vegas Assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon.

Duke is a goal scorer racking up 35 goals this season in the WHL to lead the Wheaties. He’s also tallied 32 assists to lead the team as well. Last year he scored 33 goals which was good enough for third on the Wheat Kings behind Nolan Patrick (likely the first pick in this year’s draft) and Jace Hawryluk (drafted #32 by Florida in 2014).

He’s a highly skilled kid, and he always has been. He just has to play the game the right way in order to earn some of those opportunities. -Brad Bombardir, Minnesota Wild Director of Player Development

He’s 6’0″ 190 pounds and has been described as sound in all areas.

Duke is quickly developing into an ‘all-round’, responsible player in all three zones. The forward is responsible in the defensive end while still showing some creativity in the opponent’s end. He continues to show flashes of an elite skill set but hasn’t been able to display them consistently. –

Duke spends quite a bit of time in the box. 71 PIM in 54 games this season with the Wheat Kings, with a career high of 91 in 62 games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes in 2013-14.

He’ll finish out the season up in Brandon before heading to Vegas to take part in the team’s first Development Camp this Summer.

A joint press phone call with Duke and McPhee is scheduled for this afternoon, we’ll have more after the call. But for now, I’ll leave you with this…

Oh, and this.

Here’s a pretty nice highlight package courtesy of the Brandon Wheat Kings.

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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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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Golden Knights Likely To Sign First Player Well Before Expansion Draft

It’s been long considered that the first players to ever become Golden Knights will do so during the Expansion Draft in late June. The team will then participate in the Entry Draft on June 24th and 25th and in free agency on July 1st. However, the organization doesn’t appear is if they want to wait all the way until June to begin crafting their roster.

College free agents, 20 year old Canadian Junior Hockey (CHL) players, and even unsigned players from professional leagues in Russia (KHL), Sweden (SEL), Finland (Liiga), and many other leagues around the world, will be available to the Vegas Golden Knights months before the NHL allows them to raid the Original 30 rosters.

For the Golden Knights we can’t sign free agents yet, we are hopeful that we’ll be able to that March 1st when the final payments are made. We’re hoping that we can begin to sign players at that time. -Kelly McCrimmon, Assistant GM

And once that pesky “final payment” is made, McCrimmon doesn’t expect his staff to be hesitant.

It’s going to be a real high priority for our franchise and I think in turn it’s going to provide great opportunity for those players that we are able to sign. We’ve got two people dedicated entirely to scouting free agent players. We are not the only team in that market, but for us with an obvious need for young players and for prospects it’s going to be a real important time for us in terms of that process. -McCrimmon

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Marc-Andre Fleury’s Attitude Could Influence Expansion Plans

It’s fairly obvious the Pittsburgh Penguins have a goaltending dilemma. On ice it’s not really a problem, as the pair of Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray have a combined .913 save percentage. It’s the pending Expansion Draft that’s the real problem for the Pens. Murray is highly regarded by the organization but Fleury’s NMC could become an issue, especially after hearing Fleury isn’t handling trade/expansion rumors very well.

I don’t think he’s handling it great to be honest with you. I think he’s doing his best to be a great teammate and to be a great pro. But, here’s a guy for a long time was the automatic number one guy. And so I think going into each game now, he’s kind of, you know, jeez am I gonna get the tap to be in? Or am I gonna get the tap to stay with the extras after morning skate because I’m not it? And I think that’s an uneasy feeling for him. I think it’s taken a chip of his confidence. -Phil Bourque

Bourque is a two-time Cup winner with the Penguins, and is in his 11th year as the color analyst on radio. He’s very close to the situation. Fleury had an incredible run in Pittsburgh, as a team leader on the ice and off it, in the community. He was the perfect franchise player. Now that he isn’t, Fleury must be filled with anxiety.

If you ever met Marc-Andre Fleury, you know he is the salt of the earth. He is just a quality, quality human. Wears his heart on his sleeve. And so there’s times you can look in his eye, and you know what I’m talking about, and you can see wow he’s not sure about his future here in Pittsburgh. -Bourque

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is handling the situation very sensitively because they want to make the right deal for both sides. Bourque stresses Fleury’s impact both in the locker room and the city of Pittsburgh with the local Ronald McDonald house. 

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Picking A Goalie High In The Draft Is A Gamble Not Worth Taking

It’s been the week of the goaltender here on SinBin.goalie, so let’s keep it going by trying to answer the age-old question of “when should a team draft a goalie in the Entry Draft?”

Top five, late first round, 150th pick? There’s an example of just about every option for Vegas to examine. Marc-Andre Fleury was chosen first overall, Roberto Loungo fourth, and Carey Price was picked fifth. Cup winner Jonathan Quick made the Kings happy at pick #72. New York famously did well with Henrik Lundqvist at 200th overall. Some Hall of Famers were chosen late first/early second round like the 20th pick Martin Brodeur, or the 51st pick in the 1984 draft, Patrick Roy. Then of course there’s the first #1 overall goalie in NHL history… Rick DiPietro.

There’s not much of an explanation for this uncertainty. Which means most teams are willing to pass early. It’s not worth “wasting” a high pick on a risky position like goaltending. Scouts describe targeting goalies early in the draft as a massive gamble.

Netminders are a volatile commodity at such a young age, so it’s almost impossible to predict who will mature into the best one, five or six years down the road. That’s pretty much the normal incubation time for goalies drafted at age 18 to begin making a mark at the NHL level. Look across the 30-team NHL landscape and count how many netminders age 22-and-under there are in the league; it’s a very short list. -Kyle Woodlief, NHL Scout

Even the best scouts have a hard time predicting how the player will translate to the NHL. So many young stoppers stand out in the NCAA, Juniors and European leagues, but stumble under the bright lights of the NHL. Over a 17-year period only 40% of goaltenders drafted wound up making an NHL experience. Even more evidence, during that same 17-year period most highly selected goaltenders were a disappointment. Just take a look, I broke down each NHL draft with the highest drafted goaltender and best goaltender in the draft. Notice the stunning lack of overlap.

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13 NHL Teams Don’t Meet Goalie Expansion Requirements Right Now

Expansion preparations are something just about every team will have to do in some form or fashion. Whether it’s making a move at the deadline, signing a free agent, or shuffling players up from the AHL to hit the experience requirements, each of the current 30 teams have some work to do.

We’ve long known goaltenders were going to be a hot button issue. Teams are only allowed to protect one, and seven clubs have a goalie with a No Movement Clause forcing them to either protect that player or ask him to waive it. But it’s the second part of the goalie rule that a surprising number of teams will have to make moves to fulfill.

(Teams must expose) One goaltender who is under contract in 2017-18 or will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his current contract immediately prior to 2017-18. If the club elects to make a restricted free agent goaltender available in order to meet this requirement, that goaltender must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the club’s protected list. -NHL Official Expansion Rules

Right now, 13 teams cannot currently meet the requirement, and therefore must sign, re-sign, extend a qualifying offer, or trade for a goalie to avoid a penalty (likely forfeiting draft picks).

Montreal recently re-signed Al Montoya, giving them an extra goaltender under contract to expose, and Anaheim re-upped Dustin Tokarski to do the same.

Here’s a look at all 30 teams’ goalie situation as it pertains to the draft. Teams in red must make a move by June to ensure they meet the NHL’s requirement. (There are examples of what these teams must do after the list.)

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Al Montoya’s Deal In Montreal Was Expansion Inspired

We’ve been talking about the expansion draft since 2015 and how we know teams aren’t going to make it easy for the Golden Knights. The current 30 other teams will make trades, juggle prospects, or even expose good players; all with the expansion draft in mind. However, some moves get ignored because they seem small and insignificant, when in reality, teams are quietly preparing for June’s expansion draft. Al Montoya‘s two-year extension in Montreal is a perfect example.

In 2007 Montoya was the sixth overall selection. New York took the goaltender after Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler were off the board. Sidebar, the Rangers had a terrible period of first round selections. Here’s a sample from 1999-2004; Pavel Brendl #4, Manny Malhotra #7, Jamie Lundmark#9, Dan Blackburn #10, Hugh Jessiman #12. I guess all is forgiven when you hit a home run like Henrik Lundqvist in the seventh round (2000). Some scouts will always argue against drafting first round goaltenders, which brings us back to Carey Price‘s backup. Montoya may have been scouted as a top pick, but now he’s an average NHL backup. He’s obviously doing something right if Montreal is willing to pay him for two more years. Or is the backup just a chess piece?

Montreal signed Montoya for two-years at $2.1 million. Not a bad payday for a guy who averages 25 games a season. Since Price has an NMC, the signing means we know Montoya will be available for Vegas. Making it a risk for Montreal… or so it would seem. George McPhee will obviously scout and consider Montoya, but there are likely to be a few better options to take from Montreal. Alexei Emelin, Tomas Plekanec, and Andrei Markov, to name a few. These are older players, with expensive contracts, who bring experience and leadership. Making them more attractive to Vegas than Montoya.

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Wild’s Dilemma Could Make Vegas Rich

One of our favorite Canadians, Pierre Lebrun, had a Christmas bundle of expansion notes for us this week. LeBrun focused on Minnesota’s expansion dilemma this week. The Wild’s defensive squad are one the leagues best and could create a problem for management. Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Christian Folin, Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba are a good problem to have. After breaking it down, Lebrun believes the Wild will use the likely popular 7-3-1 protection format. Suter and Spurgeon are locks and Dumba made the most sense to LeBrun. That means Scandella, Folin and Brodin would be available to Vegas. Here’s a quick profile on all three.

Marco Scandella: 26 years-old/Defenseman/Left-handed

325 Games/79 Points
Career Stats: +/- -9/TOI 19:55/Blks 467/Hits 315/GWG 6
2016 Stats: +/- -1/TOI 16:40/Blks 28/Hits 15/Pts 3
Contract: 5 years $20M/$4.75M per year/UFA 2020
Positives: Solid defender/Potential/134 total shots 5-v-5 close
Negatives: 161 giveaways to 115 takeaways/Contract/Injuries

Christian Folin: 25 years-old/Defenseman/Right-handed

91 Games/17 Points
Career Stats: +/- +15/TOI 15:58/Blks 103/Hits 119
2016 Stats: +/- 10/TOI 16:05/Blks 31/Hits 34
Contract: 2 years $1.5M/RFA 2017
Positives: Right-handed/6’4/Speed/Puck movement/Great athlete
Negatives: Healthy scratches/Been demoted to AHL

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