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Category: Personnel (Page 2 of 18)

Erik Brannstrom Selected In CHL Import Draft By Brandon Wheat Kings

Vegas Golden Knights, Chicago Wolves, HV71, and now the Brandon Wheat Kings. Brannstrom has options. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Erik Brannstrom was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights with the 15th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Unlike many of the other top picks, Brannstrom has been playing in the Swedish Hockey League, a professional hockey league without any age requirements. In other words, he’s been playing against grown men while Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, Nic Hague, and most of the other picks have been playing against kids.

The expectation for Brannstrom, if he doesn’t make the NHL team, was for him to play this season in North America, likely in the AHL. That may have changed early this morning morning when a new option opened up.

The CHL Import Draft is a yearly draft in which Canadian junior teams can select eligible non-North American born players to potentially add to their rosters for the upcoming season. Brannstrom was the 44th pick to the Wheat Kings.

His mind is not on the CHL though.

No, I wouldn’t say that (it was on my mind). Obviously, my goal is to play for the Vegas Golden Knights next season so we’ll see after that what happens. -Erik Brannstrom

He seemed a bit surprised he had even been selected.

The likelihood of Brannstrom making the NHL roster out of camp still remains fairly low. With the selection of Brannstrom in the CHL, there are now three options of where he could play in the likely event he’s not on the 23-man Golden Knights roster.

Option A: Return to Sweden and play with HV71

  • Pros: Continue to play in a professional league against men
  • Cons: Continue to play on a larger sheet of ice than NHL regulation size, unavailable to Golden Knights until season is completed

Option B: Go to the AHL and play for the Chicago Wolves

  • Pros: Play professionally against men, be available (waiver exempt) to the Golden Knights all season long
  • Cons: Playing time may be limited, paid for by VGK

Option C: Go to the CHL and play for the Brandon Wheat Kings

  • Pros: Play on NHL regulation-size rink, play against many top NHL draft picks
  • Cons: Playing against all players under the age of 22, possibly too talented to continue developing as a defenseman, unavailable to Golden Knights until season is completed

Option C doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, and if it were any team other than the Wheat Kings it would (and probably should) be laughed off as the CHL team taking a shot in the dark hoping he’d have a change of heart. However, because it’s Brandon, which is owned by Golden Knights assistant general manager Kelly McCrimmon, the option has to be taken seriously. Clearly, the Wheat Kings took Brannstrom for a reason and odds are a conversation with McCrimmon occurred before the selection.

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Jimmy Schuldt’s On Somewhat Of A Recruiting Trip At Development Camp In Vegas

If there’s ever a Jimmy Schuldt sweepstakes, the Golden Knights should be in a good place to win it. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Development Camp has many different purposes. For some, it’s to do as the name suggests, develop. For others, it’s a chance to begin staking a claim to a roster spot. Then there’s the select few for which it can be used as a recruiting trip. That’s the case for Jimmy Schuldt.

A lot of (where to go to camp) goes through my coaching staff in St. Cloud and my advisor. I had been in touch with Mike Levine here, and I knew Wil Nichol from a camp in the past. Those two guys I’ve been in contact with seemed really genuine. Seemed like it was going to be more of a development thing instead of them trying to watch and evaluate guys. -Jimmy Schuldt

When the summer is over Schuldt will head back to St. Cloud State University for his senior year. He’s the captain of a team that went 25-9-6 and were the #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. When the season ends, he’ll become one of the most coveted college free agents available to NHL teams.

Schuldt could have signed with any team following his junior season, but said his heart is in St. Cloud and he doesn’t want to ever regret giving up his final chance at winning a National Championship.

Coming to Golden Knights Development Camp marks the fourth such appearance Schuldt has made. He’s appeared at camps over the last few years in Montreal, Chicago, and New York (Islanders).

Seemed like a really cool opportunity, really excited to be out here. Pretty incredible inaugural season for them and I was excited to come down and test it out. I’d never been out west, so that was a cool thing for me. -Schudlt

He’s hoping to be the next Zach Whitecloud, who is also participating in Golden Knights Development Camp. Whitecloud went to Kings Development Camp a year ago, but decided to sign with Vegas after his sophomore season at Bemidji State when he officially hit the open market.

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McPhee, Golden Knights At Fork In Road; Which Path Should They Take?

On the night of the NHL Awards, George McPhee answered a question of mine in a way he’d never done before. He listened to my poorly phrased but pointed question and said, “that’s a good question.” That’s the moment I knew I was on to something.

Before we get to my question though we need to go back a little bit to a discussion pretty much everyone close to the Golden Knights has had at some point over the course the past year. The “why were the Golden Knights good” discussion.

Apparently you don’t need to be talented to be good… or maybe you do and that was all just a mirage? (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

You’ve been there, debated it with someone, maybe even me. I’m sure you touched on things like “chips on shoulders,” “increase in opportunity,” “character,” or some other way to explain the fact that the Golden Knights did not have the best collection of hockey players in the NHL, yet still managed to come within three wins of lifting the Stanley Cup.

That’s where McPhee comes back in. Earlier in the same press conference in which I asked my “good question,” McPhee said this…

We did go by some people that may have been more talented but we wanted the right personalities, the right people here, and we put a lot into that and it’s an intangible that’s hard to describe but you know it when you see it. It was those intangibles that really carried this team a long way because all the other teams were more talented than we were. -George McPhee

I’m going to make you read that last part one more time. 

…All the other teams were more talented than we were. -McPhee

According to their own GM, the Western Conference Champions were the least talented team in the NHL. Take it literally like that or not, the sentiment is still the same, the Golden Knights were not as talented as most, if not all, of their opponents. Yet, they won and won and won and nearly won the whole kit and caboodle.

You made it to the Stanley Cup Final with the least talented team built mostly around “character,” is that a sustainable strategy moving forward, or do you need to go out and add more talent to remain among the best teams in the league?

That was what I was trying to ask, instead, I said this…

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Golden Knights Draft Picks: Who Are These Guys?

The Golden Knights draft got underway one day later than most teams due to the trade that sent Vegas’ first pick to the Red Wings for Tomas Tatar. On Day 2 of the Draft they have seven picks starting with #61, the penultimate pick of the 2nd round.

Here’s a quick rundown of what we know about each player selected by the Golden Knights in the 2018 NHL Draft.

2nd Round – #61 overall
Selection: Ivan Morozov, C

Ivan Morozov has been very noticeable both in the MHL and for Russia U18 NT with his skillset and 200ft game. -@RUSProspects

Photo courtesy of Vegas Golden Knights (Twitter @GoldenKnights)

4th Round – #99 overall (from Vancouver, acquired with Ryan Reaves)
Selection: Stanislav Demin, D

A California-born defenseman who last year was one of the best (and youngest) 2018 first-year eligibles to play in the BCHL. Demin, a Denver commit whose CHL rights are owned by the WHL’s Everett Silvertips, will play for Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka. He’s got good size, a hard shot and skates extremely well. Demin is a three-zone defender who plays more mature than you’d think, and he didn’t crack under the pressure of consistently playing against opposing top lines. If the Americans want to repeat the success they had at last year’s Hlinka, they’ll need Demin’s puck-carrying skills and well-timed pinches to set the tone for what is sure to be a swarming attack. -Steve Kournianos, TheDraftAnalyst.com

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The Potential Impact To The Golden Knights Lines If They Sign John Tavares

Adding depth is the goal of every NHL team in the offseason, adding a superstar would be a bonus for any team, but especially conference champion.

I think you can add depth anywhere in our group, that’s going to be real good. What we want to add character people to our group… we had good leadership, we had great character and we had a good work ethic. -Gallant

Erik Haula: Winger? (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The nice part about the Golden Knights roster is they have depth within the system. Instead of repurchasing separate parts like James Neal and or David Perron, Vegas could invest roughly the same amount on a top line center like John Tavares. This would allow Erik Haula to move over to wing alongside Tomas Tatar or Alex Tuch. Tavares would give the Golden Knights two legitimate top NHL lines and Haula could easily repeat 25+ goals mostly focusing on getting the puck in the net.

Understandably, it might be a longshot but look at the Golden Knights forward depth chart with the addition of #91.

Karlsson/Marchessault/Smith= 92 Goals
Tavares/Haula/Tatar= 86 Goals
Eakin/Tuch/Nosek= 33 Goals
Bellemare/Reaves/Carpenter= 19 Goals

The previous line of Haula/Neal/Perron scored 70 goals, and that may have been in a year of overachievement. In the regular season, Haula, Neal, and Perron scored 16 fewer goals than the projected combination of Tavares, Haula, and Tatar.

With Tavares, Gallant would probably try to use the top six evenly. Having two top centers, minute and point distribution could benefit Haula’s statistics. Playing with a center who averages .93 points and .53 assists per game over his career can’t hurt.

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Rookies Considered “Long Shots” To Make The Roster Next Season

As Development Camp approaches, “when will these guys play in the NHL” is bound to become the prevailing topic du jour. However, the general manager of the team has been preaching a message of patience.

Those are probably long shots (to make the roster next year). We did a real good job drafting them and that’s the first thing you have to do and the second thing you have to do is develop them properly. – George McPhee

Cody Glass (2017, #6 overall) and Nick Suzuki (2017, #13 overall) both recorded over 100 points in juniors a year ago. Both are likely to make the jump to the AHL in 2018.

UPDATE: CHL/AHL/NHL rules do not allow Glass or Suzuki to play in the AHL next season. Both are too young. So, like this season, if either do not make the NHL roster out of camp, they will be returned to their junior team and cannot join the NHL roster until their junior season is complete.

Brannstrom might have the most experience against men, but Glass could easily turn out to be the closest to ready. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Erik Brannstrom (2017, #15 overall) played his entire season in the professional league in Sweden and was one of the final cuts on the Swedish World Championship team at the age of 19. He may be the most “pro-ready” but defenseman usually take a bit longer to make it to the NHL.

Finally, Nic Hague (2017, #34 overall) was named the best defenseman in the entire CHL. This award has been previously won by Ryan Ellis, Karl Alzner, Dougie Hamilton, and Ivan Provorov. The problem for Hague is that due to his size he projects as a much more “stay-at-home” style player and his defensive skating skill is likely not ready to go against the stars of the NHL.

It’s a steep climb for all four of these Golden Knights prospects to make the team and while McPhee isn’t expecting it, he’s at least open-minded to the idea.

They’re going to have to be really really good to make this club… They are young guys and you are stepping into a league with guys with families and everything else. Sometimes it’s like taking a kid from 8th grade and putting him in 12th grade. It doesn’t always work. -McPhee

Development Camp begins June 26th at City National Arena. (For the full scheudule click through)

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Potential Replacements For James Neal, David Perron, And Ryan Reaves

Since George McPhee’s “not everyone will be back” quote there’s been a growing fear that the Golden Knights roster won’t be as strong in Year 2 as it was in the magical Year 1. McPhee noted there are always three or four changes which has the speculation on James Neal, David Perron, Luca Sbisa, and Ryan Reaves running wild.

Sportsnet reported earlier this season that James Neal was looking for a long-term deal commanding upwards of $7M per season.

It’s mildly surprising that he hasn’t re-signed in Las Vegas because he would like to stay there. He’s one of the team leaders. It still could get done. –USA Today

Remember when this happened? (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s hard to believe the organization would give a massive contract to a player over the age of 30, but would they on a player who’s 29?

Potential Replacement:

James Van Riemsdyk
29 Years-old
2017-18 Stats: 36 Goals (11 PPG), 18 Assists, 14:54 ATOI
Career Stats: 201 Goals, 393 Points, 0.33 Goals Per Game, 0.65 Points Per Game
Contract Speculation: 7 Years, $6M+ AAV

Neal has 62 more career goals and is one year and 243 days older than van Riemsdyk. Both wingers have comparable career statistics, and the age difference isn’t wide. The Golden Knights know what they’re getting with Neal; 20+ goals, second-line minutes, plays with edge. It’s an unknown if van Riemsdyk can repeat his success in Vegas.

I could see Neal being offered a high-cost, short-term contract, but the question remains if we would be willing to sign it. It’s likely his last chance at a long-term deal. One thing is for sure, if the Golden Knights offer JVR a contract, it’s a sign they’re content moving on from Neal.

Van Riemsdyk was integral to the Leafs’ potent first power-play unit but was otherwise seeing third-line minutes. On another squad — Carolina? Vegas? New York? New Jersey? San Jose? — he’d be a top-six fixture again. -Sportsnet

He’s said all the right things about coming back, but it’s going to take a discount to make it actually happen. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

David Perron is a player many fans fell in love with. His silky hands, his beautiful passing, his pestering ways, how can you not love him? With Perron, the feeling is mutual. He loves it in Vegas, he loves his teammates, and he’d love to stay here. Or at least so he says to Vegas media.

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When (If Ever) Will Nikita Gusev Become A Golden Knight?

Just because Shippy didn’t work doesn’t mean the Golden Knights should stop trying. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

One of the many assets the Golden Knights acquired during the Expansion Draft was 25-year-old Russian prospect Nikita Gusev. Gusev was drafted in the 7th round of the 2012 Entry Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning. His rights were traded to Vegas with a 2nd and a 4th round pick in exchange for selecting Jason Garrison (and his contract) instead of players like Slater Koekkoek, Jake Dotchin, Cedric Paquette, or J.T. Brown.

Since then he was named to the Olympic All-Star team, scored two goals in the Olympic Gold medal game, won the Olympic Gold medal, led the KHL in assists, was named a KHL All-Star, won the KHL’s Gentleman’s Award, and was named the KHL MVP.

We like him a lot. We’d like to have him over here as soon as we can get him over here. He’s a talented guy and we’ll do what we can to get him here. -George McPhee

The rules are always a bit fuzzy when it comes to Russian players, but the common belief is that the Golden Knights own Gusev’s rights until he decides to come to the NHL.

He’s got another year on his deal, so we’ll see what we can do. We’ve talked to him and we’ll continue to talk to him. -McPhee

There is not a transfer agreement between the NHL and KHL like there are in other European leagues, but there is a common understanding the leagues will not tamper with each others contracts. Gusev signed a two year extension in July 2017 with SKA St. Petersburg so he isn’t eligibile to come to the NHL until next offseason. However, there are no official rules to prohibit him coming sooner if he has a sudden change of heart.

The Golden Knights did acquire two draft picks in the Expansion Draft from Tampa Bay, but the Lightning were in a tough spot much like Anaheim, Minnesota, and Columbus. Having seen what McPhee was able to harvest from those teams, it’s probable that Gusev was the key piece in that deal. Thus, McPhee expects Gusev to come to the U.S. at some point, and he should be a major offensive contributor.

So while it doesn’t look like Gusev will be wearing steel grey and gold next year, hopes should remain high he’s playing at T-Mobile Arena at some point.

The Differing In-Season Contract Negotiations Of Perron And Marchessault

Perron confirmed there were contract talks, but nothing ever materialized during the season. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Coming into this season, David Perron and Jonathan Marchessault were both unaware of their futures. The two friends, both with expiring contracts had been sick of the NHL nomad life. While both were hoping to sign extensions with Vegas, only one was able to agree to terms.

It’s nothing you really think of. In the season you’re just trying to think about hockey. When you start talking that doesn’t mean it necessarily will happen. I was happy to get it over with this season. -Jonathan Marchessault

As the new year approached, many wondered if the Golden Knights would trade Marchessault if they couldn’t sign him to a contract in season. The 27-year-old admitted that he was a little concerned as well.

Yeah it’s always on your head a little bit. I told my agent at some point, if there’s nothing we should think of then I don’t necessarily want to talk about it. I just wanted to focus on my game and see what that brings us. -Marchessault

On January 3rd, the Golden Knights announced they had extended #81 on a six-year, $30M contract. The midseason agreement boosted Marchessault’s confidence.

I think so. You never know what happens, injuries, slumps. I think it definitely helped me. -Marchessault

On the flip side, Perron’s agent and the Vegas brass couldn’t come to an agreement during the regular season. If that remains the case on July 1st, Perron will be free to sign with any team. 

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Marchessault Talks Lamborghini, Fleury vs. Hellebuyck, And Bulletin Boards

There’s just something about this guy… (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The man who was recently described by his coach as a “cocky little guy” who “jumps around in the locker room and he has lots to say” has elevated his game to a Conn Smythe level over the past two rounds of the playoffs. Jonathan Marchessault now has eight goals and nine assists to lead the Golden Knights with 17 points in the playoffs.

But as impressive as he’s been off the ice, the “little guy” has been making quite the statement showing up to games at T-Mobile Arena recently.

Marchessault went on to score 35 seconds into Game 3 and then capped off the victory with an empty-net goal becoming the first player in NHL history to score in the first and last minutes of the same playoff game.

Today, we had a chance to catch up with Marchessault prior to Game 4 and he had a lot to say about the Lambo, his old Hyundai Elantra, and much more.

First time was like when you are 12 years old and you are going on a go-kart, it was pretty much the same thing. -Jonathan Marchessault

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