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Organizational Trust Made Nikita Gusev Signing Possible

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are currently in the midst of a hard-fought playoff series with the budding rival San Jose Sharks. The series shifts to Vegas tonight for a pivotal Game 3, yet the story of the day isn’t about penalties, forechecking, goaltending, or anything else on the ice. Instead, it’s about a brand new player being added to a team that won the Western Conference Championship a year ago and are on the path to potentially doing so again.

Nikita Gusev’s season ended in the KHL a few days ago, he quickly terminated the final few days of his contract with SKA St. Petersburg so he could board a plane to the United States and join his new team, the Golden Knights. The 26-year-old forward is the reigning MVP of the KHL and racked up 82 points in 62 games before tacking on another 19 in 18 playoff games.

There’s no question, eventually, Gusev could be a high-end NHL player and a true difference maker for the Golden Knights, but from the outside looking in, the timing of his arrival can be viewed as a major distraction.

Whether it’s simply having another face in the room, a new body on the practice rink, or the locker-room dynamic of him pushing a player who has worked all season long to get to this point out of the lineup, there’s no shortage of reasons why this could blow up in the face of the Golden Knights.

However, Vegas is confident they are able to pull something like this off for one main reason.


I believe in my organization fully, they’ve done great things since the beginning, so let’s see how it goes. -Jonathan Marchessault

The Golden Knights have only been a team since June of 2016. They’ve only had players since June of the following year, and they haven’t yet completed their second season as an NHL franchise. Yet, from a player’s perspective, there’s no reason not to have complete confidence that whatever the management of this team does, it will help them achieve the ultimate goal.

I’ve yet to find out that I wasn’t happy with anything they’ve done so far. Obviously, we are a young organization but every decision that they’ve made (has been good). There’s a lot of brainpower up there. With the way we’ve been doing so far in the short life that we have as an organization, I think they’ve done an unbelievable job so I’m not going to start questioning anything. -Pierre-Edoard Bellemare

From Expansion Draft laughingstock to #1 in the league by January, to winning the Pacific Division, to raising a Western Conference Champions banner, to backing it up by cruising to a playoff berth a year later, it’s literally been about as perfect a franchise as one could be.

We always make the right decisions. -Gerard Gallant

This belief means everything.

The trust in the organization runs from the man at the top, The Creator, down through the GM, the front office, the coaching staff, and all the way to the players.

That trust is why Nikita Gusev can be plopped down into a locker room of a team two games into a playoff series. Everyone truly believes that anything and everything this team does will work. Rather than question it, they accept it, believe it, and in many cases embrace it.

Gusev may not play, but if he does, it’ll be because the organizational dynamic allows it. Not every franchise could pull something like this off, because not every franchise can point to a fairy tale and call it the reality.

We trust in our organization and in each other. Everyone from top to bottom will handle it the right way, and know how to be professional about it. -Jon Merrill

This should be risky, but for this team, it’s not, and who knows, it’ll probably end up working out perfectly.

Just like everything else.

Nate Schmidt Earns An Assist On The Jimmy Schuldt Signing

Newly signed Golden Knight, Jimmy Schuldt, played his college hockey in St. Cloud, Minnesota as the three-year captain of the St. Cloud State University Huskies. St. Cloud is a small town in the center of the “State of Hockey” with a population of around 70,000. There are only three NHL players to ever claim St. Cloud as their hometown, Kurt Sauer, Mike Sauer, and Nate Schmidt.

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

So, it’s no coincidence that when it came time for Jimmy Schult to make his decision on where to sign following his college career, he looked to Schmidt for advice.

But being from, or playing in, St. Cloud is not the only connection Schmidt and Schudlt had. Schmidt was familiar with the position Schuldt was in as a college free agent with multiple suitors, as Schmidt went through it himself in 2013.

That was the biggest part of the process was having someone who had been through it already. It was tough for me and I didn’t have nearly as many teams as he did. I had more than a handful, but not 30, 25 or whatever the heck number he had. -Nate Schmidt

Schuldt’s agent, Tom Lynn, said it started with 29 of the 31 teams showing interest before he and Jimmy narrowed the list to 20, then 12, then five and eventually picking Vegas. All the while, Schuldt was leaning on Schmidt to help him make the decision.

I just try to be as subjective as possible and just let him know what it’s like to play here, what it’s like in our room. I never told him what he should or shouldn’t do, I just tried to lay it out to him the way I went through it. To help him understand it’s more than just this year, it’s more important than just getting a game. It’s more important the future with the organization, wherever it is that he would go. -Schmidt

Because of the way the CBA is worded, Schuldt’s first contract was going to be the same monetarily from any team he signed with. So, it came down to other factors regarding the organization, teammates, and the city Schuldt would eventually choose. Schmidt says he ranked the four things Schuldt should be looking for in this order: Fit, the character of the room, winning, the livability of the city

However, Schuldt consistently went back to a much different factor, one that would be a huge determinant of his future.

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Rest Matters At This Time Of Year, Regardless Of How You Get It

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

Nobody wants to see a player get injured. Whether he is on your team or an opponent.

Every NHL team deals with injuries over the course of the season. How each organization handles it can mean the difference between winning and losing.

The Golden Knights, as you no doubt know by now, do not discuss injuries publicly. That comes straight from general manager George McPhee, who does not want to give the opposition any kind of edge. I’ve broached the subject before so I won’t belabor the point.

This is more about getting ready for the postseason.

When Max Pacioretty landed awkwardly after making contact with Winnipeg’s Jacob Trumba Thursday night, many feared we were witnessing an encore of Erik Haula’s knee injury in Toronto back in early November.

Word came Friday that Pacioretty’s lower-body injury was not as serious as first feared and the veteran winger was listed as day-to-day.

If you’ve followed the Knights, day-to-day sometimes morphs into week-to-week. If Pacioretty is going to miss any games, now’s the time to keep him on the shelf and let whatever he has heal up.

Same goes for Marc-Andre Fleury. I’m guessing if he had to play now, he could. The team never put him on injured reserve. He has been day-to-day for nearly two weeks. And he has stayed out of his crease during that duration.

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

William Carrier has been injured. He is no longer on IR and was back in the lineup Saturday in the 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit at T-Mobile Arena.

Even Haula’s skating more regularly and he could very well be practicing with the team when the playoffs begin in three weeks.

That’s the target — for everyone — three weeks from now.

Resting players, whether they’re hurt or not, is the prudent thing to do. Everyone was freaking out back in January when Fleury was playing every game and people were worried that he was being worked to death. There were fears he was going to play 70 games and would be worn out come playoff time.

As of today, Fleury has played 59 games this season. He’s not going to play 70 games. The time off for his supposed lower-body injury has been a blessing for he and the team. Fleury has been able to stay off the ice, rest his legs, keep his mind fresh as he and his wife Veronique were welcoming their third child Friday.

When the bell sounds the second week in April, No. 29 will be there to answer the call.

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Golden Knights Interested In Swedish Scoring Forward

According to a Swedish report, the Vegas Golden Knights are in the running to sign 24-year-old forward Mathias Brome when his season ends in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL).

Brome is a left-handed winger (6’0″, 183) who has scored 15 goals and tallied 38 points in 52 games with Mora IK. Those 52 points rank him 18th in the league in scoring.

He’s been described as a strong two-way player that has good skating ability and great instincts. Brome is a late bloomer who did not garner much interest from the NHL as a teenager or even in his early 20s. However, his game improved since his team in Sweden was promoted to the SHL two seasons ago.

That team may end up finding itself relegated, so Brome will likely be on the move either to North America or to another team in the SHL.

His contract in Sweden ends at the conclusion of the SHL season in early May which means if George McPhee is indeed interested he would be an early summer signing.

Brome would probably not project to make the Golden Knights roster next season, but as a late-blooming 25-year-old who has yet to try his hand in North America, he’s certainly worth the flier.

NCAA Free Agents VGK Might Have Interest In

Schuldt has been to multiple NHL development camps, but he was most recently in Vegas. (Photo Credit: 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.

Wilkins: 34 Games, 36 Points (14G, 22A)
Dugan: 34 Games, 32 Points (10G, 22A)

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.

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Former Reaves Foe: A Lot Of Players Were Pushed Out, Reaves Was Not One Of Them

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Growing up watching hockey in Boston you understood early on what an NHL enforcer was. It wasn’t ‘when will the Bruins enforcer step up?’ It was, ‘which Bruins enforcer will step up?’

If you can play, the fact that you can fight shouldn’t take away from the fact that you can play. -Shawn Thornton, Former NHL Enforcer

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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

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Mark Stone’s Impact Goes Beyond The Scoresheet

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s no secret the acquisition of Mark Stone has made a positive impact on the Golden Knights. They are a perfect 4-0-0 since the trade, have utterly dominated consecutive division opponents, and quite simply they look a lot closer to a Cup contending team than they have all year.

All of it is with Stone barely finding the scoresheet. He has just a single point in four games and it came on a power play assist to William Karlsson.

Stone’s impact goes much deeper than how much he’s scoring and it even goes deeper than even how often his linemates get on the board. What Stone’s acquisition has done has stabilized the Golden Knights top six, while in the process taking some major match-up responsibility off the hands of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith. It’s also put Alex Tuch in a role that allows him to focus more on creating scoring chances for a line that desperately needed help doing so.

It reminds me a lot of Schmidty’s situation when we missed him. I think it put people in places that they weren’t comfortable in. It’s important to have a role on your team and feel comfortable and confident in that role. I think Stoner coming in and kind of giving us that balance through our lineup. It’s not one player that makes a huge difference but it’s one player that kind of puts everyone in a position to succeed and in a role they are comfortable in. -Max Pacioretty

Stone has played a total of 64:39 at even strength for the Golden Knights. Territorially he’s been terrific posting a Corsi For of 58.9%. He’s been on the ice for 40 shots on goal for while just 22 against. The Golden Knights have created 31 goal scoring chances including 16 high danger, which is good for about a chance every other shift, and most importantly he’s been on the ice for three goals while still has not seen one in the Golden Knights net.

But more importantly than all of those great numbers is the competition he has faced. In the four games he’s played, the forwards he’s shared the ice with most have been Elias Pettersson, Rickard Rakell, Alexander Radulov (and Tyler Seguin), and Riley Sheahan. Aside from Florida, he’s faced the best forward on the opposing team every night.

I’d say he’s playing pretty much where we are going to play him. He may play a few more minutes later on, or a few less, I don’t know, but everything’s gone good so far. -Gallant

The Florida game, the one he didn’t match-up most with the opposition’s top forwards, might be the most telling too. Aleksander Barkov was on the ice for all five goals the Panthers scored. When Barkov was on the ice with Stone, not only did Florida not score, but they attempted just one shot, and it was blocked.

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Brayden McNabb Is Getting Back On Track

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

I’m not a huge analytics guy. But when it comes to discussing how good Brayden McNabb has been for the Golden Knights, perhaps I need to Corsi-fy and Fenwick-ish my analysis of the 6-foot-4, 28-year-old defenseman.

Nah. I’ll just trust my own lying eyes.

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

And what I see is a smart, honest hockey player who works well with his partner, helps out his goalie, makes wise decisions when to join the rush and isn’t afraid to sacrifice his body.

In other words, I like Brayden McNabb.

So do his coach and his teammates. He’s exactly what the Golden Knights need at this point of the season and moving forward into the postseason.

He has played in all 66 games. He leads the team in blocked shots (121). He is third on the Knights in hits (168) after Ryan Reaves and Will Carrier. He averages just under 20 minutes a game in time on ice. He is an excellent penalty killer pairing with Deryk Engelland.

He also has three goals and 14 points heading into Sunday’s game against Vancouver at T-Mobile Arena a the Knights continue to try and put some distance between themselves and Arizona for the third spot in the Pacific Division.

I think the longer you’re in this league, you get comfortable with everything. You know the system. You know your teammates. You learn when to join the rush and when to hang back. I’ve become smarter and I don’t take as many chances as I used to when I first got to the league. -McNabb

Gerard Gallant loves honest hockey players, guys he can just send over the boards and not be surprised at what they do. In McNabb, he’s got a player who’s as honest as the day is long.

I don’t know there’s much improvement from last year to be honest with you. He’s done the same job as last year and I loved him last year.

He’s a great penalty killer. He shuts down the other team’s top players and I like what he brings to our group. -Gallant

McNabb admits he’s not perfect. He had a tough stretch in mid-February where he was taking penalties, getting beat in his own end and simply not playing well. But he has turned it around. His last three games have seen a return to making good decisions, staying out of the box and doing his job. Not coincidentally, the Knights have won all three and are solidifying their third spot in the Pacific.

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Hoffman On Stone: “One Of The Best Sticks In The League”

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.

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Which Players Do The Golden Knights Miss Most (And Least) When They Are Out

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

On December 13th, 2017 the Golden Knights claimed Ryan Carpenter on waivers from the San Jose Sharks. It took him almost a month, until January 5th to finally get in his first game. Since, he’s become a staple in Gerard Gallant’s lineup… much to the chagrin of many in the fan base.

Carpenter has just 13 points in 50 games this season and is a -8 in the plus/minus category. He’s among the worst on the team in just about every statistical category, yet when asked Gallant never has anything but good things to say about #40.

Carpenter is the same for me every night, pretty much. He is a solid player, he doesn’t make many mistakes. He does the right thing with the puck all the time, so we had very few turnovers tonight and he is a part of that. He did a good job on our penalty kill, so really liked his game -Gallant

He is one of the best in giveaways, just coughing the puck up 15 times in 630 minutes on the ice, and there’s no question he’s a strong penalty killer.

But let me throw another group of numbers into the mix. Whether it’s related to Carpenter or not, the Golden Knights are miserable without him. They are a pathetic 2-11-1 without Carpenter in the lineup and score just 2.21 goals while allowing 3.57 when he’s in the press box.

Here is a breakdown of all 19 players who are currently on the roster that have missed games. The numbers shown are how the Golden Knights perform without the designated player.


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