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Category: Personnel (Page 2 of 22)

Cody Eakin’s Return Has Sparked Third Line

Speed. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

I’ll be the first to admit it, I’ve been highly critical of Cody Eakin’s play while in a Golden Knights uniform. I’ve always lauded his defensive and penalty killing efforts, but offensively at times he’s felt like a Shop-Vac to the offensive games of players like Alex Tuch, Ryan Carpenter, Tomas Hyka, Brendan Leipsic, Tomas Tatar, and the many other linemates he played with a year ago.

Well, I’m here to tell you he’s been tremendous since his return from injury four games into the season, and he’s singlehandedly turned a line that was a problem into one that’s often looked dangerous and even netted the game-winning goal in Philadelphia.

Diving into stats and numbers to describe Eakin’s impact will always prove futile (unless talking about faceoffs), and if you know me, you know the word intangibles makes me want to slam my head into a wall. So, in an attempt to actually quantify what Eakin has been doing and to do that, I talked to his linemates.

He plays fast, he plays smart, he’s such a good player on the puck and with his speed and his skills, it’s a lot of fun to play with that guy. In Philly, we were getting a lot of rush chances because we were playing so fast. He always found me with these small passes. It’s easier for me to play with a guy like him who is so good defensively. -Tomas Hyka

He does everything right. With his speed and he’s just relentless with his work ethic. He’s just fast, he plays fast and he plays the way we want to. That’s the identity of our team, playing fast and with speed. Speed just creates turnovers and havoc and pressure. As the centerman of the line, he just carries the line to play that way. -Ryan Carpenter

To give a little more background, as part of my question I explained how the standard description of Eakin tends to always rely on intangibles. I then went into my question asking, “Can you give me a tangible hockey skill Eakin is good at?”

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Weird Moment For Paul Stastny Coming Before Tonight’s Game

He’ll always say the right things, but we know what will probably be going through his mind seeing the banner at T-Mobile. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

A few minutes before puck drop at T-Mobile Arena tonight the Golden Knights will unveil two banners celebrating winning the Pacific Division and the Western Conference. It’s sure to be a joyous occasion for all involved… except maybe Paul Stastny.

Stastny was a member of the Winnipeg Jets in last year’s Western Conference Final. His season ended three wins short of a Stanley Cup Final berth, which would have been the first of his career. His season ended at the hands (or gloves) of the Golden Knights. Now, a member of the Golden Knights he’ll be on the ice watching his new teammates and fans celebrate the same accomplishment that left him coming up just short of a lifelong dream.

I asked Stastny what he’s expecting to be feeling when he sees the banner and it was clearly something he had yet to think about as he was almost speechless at first trying to answer. After about 10 seconds of “um’s” and “I don’t know’s” he did find the words, and in typical Stastny fashion they were pretty much perfect.

Happy for the guys but it’s just added motivation for the guys that were here last year and for the new guys to see what they did last year and not be satisfied. Everyone had a good ride last year but they didn’t finish it off and that’s what they want to do. -Paul Stastny

He followed that by saying there will be no hard feelings or negative emotions when he does indeed physically see the banner for the first time.

We’re definitely going to have to follow up on that one though. It’s easy to say it won’t be tough, but I’m not sure about you, I almost vomited when I saw the clip of the Capitals raising their banner last night, and I’m just a guy who writes hockey. Can’t imagine what it must feel like for the guys playing.

“It’s The Results On The Ice That Matter” To Determine 2nd Line Winger

It appears to be Haula’s gig to lose, but it’s not necessarily up to him to keep it. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s been a question since the moment Paul Stastny signed and it only ramped up when Max Pacioretty was acquired via trade. Will be it Alex Tuch, Erik Haula, or someone else playing as the second line right winger?

We expected the preseason to help reveal the answer to the question, but to this point, it hasn’t. Heading into last night’s game, both Haula and Tuch played with Pacioretty and Stastny once. Haula got his second shot last night.

To be honest I couldn’t really tell. Like I said it was a messy game, I don’t think anybody played really well. The execution wasn’t good for our team. It’s probably a lot of what I expected after two days in Montana so I didn’t take a lot out of it to be honest with you. -Gerard Gallant

Tuch is expected to get the final chance Sunday in the last preseason game and certainly can grab hold of it heading into Opening Night.

It’s the results on the ice that matter. It’s not what I think or what they think, it’s the results on the ice that matter. The Karlsson line, we put it together and I didn’t have to touch it because they were good. That makes it easy for a coach and players enjoy that so they like to know, coming to the rink, who they’re playing with. They decide it when they play well. -Gallant

Gallant admitted he doesn’t see anyone other than Haula or Tuch starting the season on the second line in the preseason, which means it’s going to be one or the other on October 4th. 

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Shea Theodore Meets With The Media Following Signing Extension

Keegan Kolesar’s Role Includes Unshattered Glass

He’s a little different than both Reaves and Carrier, but he’s certainly in the next generation of those type of players. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Down the line, prized possessions like Cody Glass and Erik Brannstrom will be inserted into the lineup and eventually take over as the next generation of Golden Knights stars. But while they continue to develop, other Vegas prospects have other roles to grow into.

Every guy has a different role and a different attribute and physicality is one of mine. Whenever I can be physical and give myself some more room, it creates space for everyone else. Everyone else feels more comfortable out there. -Keegan Kolesar

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Kolesar’s game feels like a sort of a hybrid of William Carrier and Ryan Reaves. He has a better shot than both Vegas bruisers, and can land just as mean of a hit. In the ECHL, the 21-year-old averaged 0.88 points per game, totaling 16 points (9 Goals, 7 Assists) in 20 games with Quad City. Once Kolesar hit the AHL his PPG dropped significantly and totaled 46 penalty minutes in 44 games.

He has to play that way. He has to be physical and he’s made some nice plays. He has the ability to play with good players and produce offensively. I use him in a lot of different periods of the game, playing on the power-play. He also looks after guys too. -Rocky Thompson, Chicago Wolves Coach

Kolesar already has that protective older brother relationship going on with the 19-year-old Glass and other up and coming Golden Knights.

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Cryptic But Telling Quote From Gallant On Young Players Making The Roster

It still feels like Hague has a bit of ground to make up on Brannstrom, but there’s plenty of time to do it and the roster spot is open for someone to take. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

With just under two weeks left before Opening Night, the Golden Knights still have three young defensemen still in camp competing for a spot on the roster.

Erik Brannstrom, Nic Hague, and Jake Bischoff have distanced themselves from the pack and with Nate Schmidt suspended and Shea Theodore likely to miss the start of the season, it appears a roster spot or two is open for a rookie.

Brannstrom will play in his fourth consecutive preseason game paired with veteran Nick Holden tonight. Hague and Bishoff will each play in their third, paired with each other in all three.

Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant was asked in today’s press conference if he and the organization prefer to have a player playing in the AHL rather than a healthy scratch on the NHL roster. He essentially passed on that question saying it’s George McPhee’s decision but did offer something of note when pressed further.

It’s always been we’re taking our best players. It’s not like the situation we had last year, if that’s what your trying to get to, it’s not like that situation, we want to win it’s a completely different scenario than it was last year. -Gerard Gallant

Last year the Golden Knights were expected to be among the worst teams in the NHL, and they were managed that way as well. Rather than risk losing a player on waivers, they sent Alex Tuch and Shea Theodore to the AHL to start out the season. There was also the Vadim Shipachyov situation. It ended up resulting in Jason Garrison and Griffin Reinhart on the opening night roster.

This year, however, especially with Schmidt and Theodore missing, there’s a different feeling to how the initial roster will be constructed. At this point, it seems inevitable that at least one of Brannstrom, Hague or Bischoff will make the team.

The leader appears to be Brannstrom, but Hague has been electric on the power play, and Bischoff appears to be the most responsible of the bunch. There are still four preseason games and about a week of practices left for McPhee, Gallant, and company to make the call, but you can pretty much go to the bank with the idea that there will be a rookie defenseman on the roster come October 4th.

(Unless Shea Theodore signs and returns to camp between now and then.)

Why Do Fans Hate Nick Holden?

Poor guy. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

One of the Golden Knights’ major additions this offseason was bringing in defenseman Nick Holden as a free agent. The 6’4″ versatile defenseman has scored 10 goals twice and has tallied 20 or more points three times in his career. He’s responsible defensively and is consistently deployed to start shifts in his own zone (56% career D-Zone Starts).

However, the moment Holden’s signing to Vegas was announced, a barrage of hate was thrown towards the Golden Knights by fans of Holden’s previous teams, the Avalanche, Rangers, and Bruins. Look…

But why? Why is it pretty much universal when you ask fans what they think of Holden they react negatively? To find the answer, we went straight to the source and asked the man himself, why does everyone hate you?

I think cause I’m not a real flashy guy. I try to do the little things right all the time. I won’t make any real big plays where fans will notice me. They’ll notice when I get scored on and they won’t notice anything else. They won’t notice if I block a shot. Most fans like the offensive guys and the tough guys and I’m neither. -Nick Holden

What Holden does is play good defense. Holden has posted four consecutive seasons with a defensive point share of over 2.5 and registered a 3.9 in each of the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. For reference, only Brayden McNabb (5.0) and Nate Schmidt (4.8) scored over 3.9 for Vegas last year.

I learned a few years ago to not really watch that stuff, it just matters what happens in here (the locker room). -Holden

We’ll see what Vegas fans eventually think of Holden when he hits the ice for the Golden Knights for real. Odds are they’ll hate him too, even though he’s a really good player, just not the right kind of really good player.

Daniel Carr: “I’m Here To Prove I’m An NHL Player”

Carr is in a group with Lindberg, Carrier, Carpenter, Hyka, Pirri, McKenzkie, and others all competing for one or two roster spots. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Some in Montreal found it puzzling why the Canadiens let RFA Daniel Carr fall into the free agency market. It didn’t take long for Golden Knights GM George McPhee to sign the left-handed forward to a one-year, one-way contract worth $750,000.

I’m here to prove I’m an NHL player. I’m going to play my game and play it to the point where you don’t really give them the choice. -Daniel Carr

Carr is fully aware of the offensive logjam in Vegas. Realistically, he’s fighting for a bottom six spot with a group of about eight other forwards. Carr does have a few things working for him. He has 94 NHL games under his belt and he has the ability to boost some much-needed offense on the bottom two lines.

The way this team plays… it just makes hockey fun. It’s like ‘okay everybody, go out there, and make plays.’ It’s just fun. The system just lets you go play. It’s kinda like letting your hockey senses take over and just go out there. It makes the game easy, and it’s just fun. -Carr

Carr had early successful in Montreal, and when I say early, I mean it. In his first NHL career game, the 26-year-old scored his first goal on his first shift. However, over time Habs coach Claude Julien juggled his lines so often that Carr was a healthy scratch for many games last season.

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Golden Knights Defensemen Power Rankings

Brannstrom is on his way to forcing McPhee and Gallant into keeping him around. (Photo by Brandon Andreasen)

We are now over a week into training camp and have seen a pair of preseason games in which 32 different skaters have taken the ice for the Golden Knights. The impending suspension of Nate Schmidt and the possibility of Shea Theodore missing games with the contract negotiations has the blue line wide open heading into October 4th.

I like carrying eight defensemen and we’ve done it because some of the young guys weren’t really ready to be called up, so we wanted to carry eight. We’re carrying eight again next year. The good news is, we’ve got guys that can be called up this year. -George McPhee

Of course, there are still nearly three weeks of practice and six preseason games to sort it all out, but let’s take a look at how we think it shakes out as we speak.

This is a ranking of each defenseman in the Golden Knights system by the current level of play. This does not take into account things like suspension, holdout, waiver exempt status, contract, or likelihood to make the roster. These are my rankings, not necessarily how I believe the team would rank the players. (Nonetheless, admittedly, a lot of my beliefs come from decisions made by the front office and coaching staff on players.)

1) Nate Schmidt

Nate is in a class of his own on the Golden Knights blue line. He’s the only player currently even close to being considered a 1A defenseman, and even that can be debated either way. However, with the suspension, he’s unavailable for 20 games, so he won’t be an option for the Golden Knights come October 4th.

2) Brayden McNabb

Looking back on the contract, McNabb was an absolute steal for George McPhee. With Schmidt’s absence, McNabb will step into the role as the Golden Knights top defenseman. He’ll be relied upon to stop the opposing teams’ best players night in and night out for the first month and a half and will be the key penalty-killing defenseman as well. McNabb is much maligned at times, but the guy is a legit high-end shutdown defenseman and when paired with the right player, he and his partner can shine.

3) Colin Miller

Yes, Miller is rated above Theodore, and not because Theodore is not in camp, but because Miller is the more complete player at this moment. Give it a few years and Theodore will probably soar past him, but right now Miller has become acceptable (and probably even more than that) in his own end and he’s an absolute weapon in the offensive zone. He boasts the hardest shot on the team and he’s bound to have a mega offensive season playing a much more prominent role than a year ago.

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Erik Brannstrom’s Time To Really Shine

The road to winning a roster spot really starts tonight. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Top billing for the Golden Knights first preseason game of 2018 will likely go to Max Pacioretty. The newest Golden Knight will be making his T-Mobile debut wearing “the shield” as he put it. Many other eyes will be focused on William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault returning to the ice together for the first time since June. But the real headliner for this preseason game isn’t any of those three, we know where they’ll all end up. No, the real headliner is Erik Brannstrom who will be stepping onto the T-Mobile ice for his first officially sanctioned NHL game.

Brannstrom was the third of the Golden Knights three first round picks in 2017, but he’s risen, at least in my eyes, to become the clear favorite as the top prospect in Vegas’ somewhat stacked system. With the suspension of Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore still not in camp due to contract negotiations, the Golden Knights blueline is wide open with roster spots. Brannstrom, who just turned 19, dominated in the rookie games and he’s looked very good in the couple of scrimmages he’s played with the veterans.

He’s learning every day, I think he’s learning and play without the puck I’ve noticed a difference from our first game to tonight’s game. Not giving up as many opportunities without the puck, having better reads and this is only in a short period of time. This is a 72-hour period I’ve noticed a change. -Rocky Thompson, Chicago Wolves coach, following rookie game #3

However, doing it at City National Arena and doing it in T-Mobile Arena are different animals sometimes. Brannstrom is part of a defense group of Nic Hague, Nick Holden, Brad Hunt, Colin Miller, and Jake Bischoff. Brannstrom needs to stand out, every single game he’s on the ice if he wants to make the roster. Impressing GM of the Year George McPhee and Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant enough for them to forego a young player’s waiver exempt status is a tall task. We’ll see if Brannstrom can get it done, but one thing we do know is he’s already impressed his teammates.

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