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Golden Knights Not Afraid To Draft Injured Player

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Peyton Krebs is a skilled forward from the Kootenay Ice of the WHL. He’s described as a high-end playmaker and a constant difference maker and excelled despite playing for one of the worst teams in the WHL. Most consider him one of the best forwards eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft.

However, last week it was revealed that he tore his Achilles tendon in an offseason training session.

Now, a player previously considered a top 10 caliber pick could slip down the draft boards of many teams. What was once a player the Golden Knights had almost no chance of getting ay pick 17, suddenly might be available when Vegas is on the clock on June 21st.

The question is whether George McPhee, Kelly McCrimmon, and the Golden Knights front office would be willing to take the leap of faith that he’ll recover and end up being the player he was projected to become.

The Golden Knights have only participated in two entry drafts since becoming a franchise. In the first of them, in 2017, they selected Jake Leschyshyn with the final pick of the 2nd Round. Four months prior to the selection Leschyshyn was widely considered a 1st round talent, but his season was cut short when he tore his ACL. This didn’t stop the Golden Knights from selecting him as what could be viewed as a value pick late in the 2nd Round.

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McPhee Not Expecting To Be Active In Free Agency

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There are plenty of unanswered questions remaining for the Golden Knights, but after a recent comment by George McPhee we have the answer to at least one.

Well we’re in pretty good shape with our core group. We have basically everyone signed up and we are close on some other things. So I don’t imagine we’re going to be out looking at free agents this summer. We like the team the way it is and we like the young guys that we have coming along. –George McPhee to TSN

Not that most expected the Golden Knights to be major players in free agency, but this confirms the plan is to keep things in place and roll with what Vegas already has moving forward.

Of course, the main missing piece at the moment is the contract of William Karlsson. That’s probably who McPhee was talking about when he said “close on some things,” but he could have also been referencing Nikita Gusev, Jimmy Schuldt, Tomas Nosek, or Deryk Engelland.

As for the core group, the Golden Knights have 10 players locked up through 2021-22. Following the 2019-20 season, there are five players scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency. They are Cody Eakin, Ryan Reaves, Erik Haula, Jon Merrill, and Nick Holden. Slightly more significant than this year, slightly less than the year before.

No matter what happens with those five though, the Golden Knights are set up about as nicely as a team can be to make a run at the Stanley Cup each of the next three years.

Cody Eakin Sustainability Study

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Golden Knights center Cody Eakin had quite the year for Vegas. In his 8th season the 28-year-old Manitoban added career highs in Goals (22), Goals Created (17), Points (41), Points Per Game (.53), Plus/Minus (+19), Shooting % (18.3), and Point Shares (5.2). Vegas benefited greatly by Eakin’s substantial offensive upgrade from 2017–18.

Plain and simple, everyone is quietly asking the same question; Can Eakin do it again next season?

Eakin’s first standout season was in 2013-14 as a member of the Dallas Stars. He totaled 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) averaging 17:20 minutes of ice time per game. Eakin’s strong campaign carried over to the following season with Dallas.

In 2014-15, Eakin again performed up to his abilities, even sprinkling in a few more points. The center collected 40 points (19 goals, 21 assists) averaging 17:12 TOI. Eakin added another 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 2015-16, tallying a total of 110 points (51 goals, 59 assists) in three consecutive seasons. Consistent numbers for a middle six center. And by the way I never mentioned his reliability killing a penalty.

After a couple of dim seasons offensively in 2016-17 with Dallas, and 2017-18 with Vegas, Eakin cracked 40 points for the second time in his career. So, the answer is yes. Yes, Cody Eakin can repeat his success from last season, but will he?

One mindless and obvious element to my prediction is that Eakin is playing for his next contract. After the 2019-2020 season, the veteran will become an unrestricted free agent and his $3.85M cap hit will come off the books. Players tend to perform well in contract years (see pretty much ever VGK player in 2017-18), and I expect the same from #21.

Taking a look at next season’s roster, we’ll have to assume Eakin will be playing with two highly skilled offensive players. Nikita Gusev or Erik Haula could join Alex Tuch and form one of the deepest third lines in hockey centered by Eakin. No matter what the combination ends up being, it’ll be the most talent he’s anchored in Vegas. Which is why it’s hard to believe Eakin wouldn’t repeat his success from last season.

Then again he could get bumped to the fourth line, or even more drastic, get traded. In that case burn my prediction and this article altogether.

(See, we can write a whole article about Cody Eakin without referencing a certain penalty. I knew we could do it!)

Only So Many Minutes To Go Around

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The roster certainly may change between now and early October when the Golden Knights hit the ice for real, but at the moment, there’s an overload at the forward position.

William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty, Erik Haula, and Alex Tuch have all averaged at least 16:30 per game in their time with the Golden Knights. Mark Stone played just 17:39 per game in the regular season in Vegas while he averaged over 20 per game in Ottawa.

With the addition of Nikita Gusev and maybe Cody Glass, the question that has to spring to mind is, how are the Golden Knights going to manage all these minutes?

 18-1917-18VGK AverageCareer
Karlsson18:5118:4318:4716:07
Smith18:1617:5518:0516:40
Marchessault18:0917:3017:5016:35
Stastny18:0618:1818:0619:13
Stone17:3920:4017:3918:50
Pacioretty17:0019:0117:0017:34
Tuch16:4415:1516:0016:00
Haula16:3517:2216:5913:39
Eakin15:2314:3214:5815:45
 18-1917-18VGK AverageCareer
Total156:43159:16155:24150:23
Average17:2517:4217:1616:43

This is just nine of the 12 forwards. Stone’s time will almost certainly go up and Eakin’s will likely decrease, but it’s hard to imagine players like Tuch, Pacioretty, Haula or others to drop too much further below their VGK averages.

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McCrimmon, McPhee, Creator Weigh In On Expanded Video Review

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Time has passed since the #NotAMajor incident that helped lead to the Golden Knights season coming to a close far earlier than most had hoped. However, the topic of changing the rules to ensure something like that never happens again remains very much on the forefront.

The Golden Knights have three powerful voices that will be involved in the process of amending the rules this offseason and they each have a slightly different idea of what should take place in regards to video review.

First, here’s GM Kelly McCrimmon’s belief, speaking on the Sports and More podcast with Dean Millard.

My feelings are that we don’t need more video review in the regular season, in fact, I think a case can be made for less video review in the regular season. I do however, at playoff time, think the rules should be different with respect to video review. If it was as simple as reviewing any overtime goal for a puck that maybe hit the netting behind the glass or was hand passed or high sticked or whatever the different situations that might occur, I think with what’s at stake at that time of year it’s most important to get it right. That’s out of respect to the players and the game, ownership, fan bases, and everyone that’s fully vested at that time of year. I just think with what’s a stake at that time of year I do believe video could be used probably more to everyone’s advantage to make sure the right calls are made whenever possible. -Kelly McCrimmon

President of Hockey Operations George McPhee took a slightly softer approach speaking to TSN at the NHL Scouting Combine.

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Can You Win With $8+ Million Players?

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There are plenty of differences between the Golden Knights and the two Stanley Cup participants? However, there’s one you may not have thought about, and one TSN’s Pierre LeBrun thinks is significant.

Neither the Blues nor the Bruins have a player making more than $8 million per year.

The St. Louis Blues highest paid players, Vladimir Tarsenko and Ryan O’Reilly earn $7.5 million annually. Center David Krejci is the Boston Bruins wealthiest player making $7.2 million per season. Needless to say, the team that hoists the Stanley Cup will do so without one of the league’s highest-paid players.

LeBrun brought up a running conversation among hockey execs on Vancouver radio during the conference finals.

The four teams we have left in the playoffs do not have a single player making more than $8 million. Is there something there, or is just a one off? No one has a double digit player. The money is spread out… Is that they way to go? Is that the way you find depth? -Pierre LeBrun, TSN

An $8 million player makes up for roughly 11% of a team’s salary cap. Golden Knights winger Mark Stone will begin collecting his dough next season when his 8-year/$76 million deal kicks in. That will make Stone the 12th highest paid player in the NHL. His $9.5 million yearly payout will be the third most for a winger, which could move to fourth once Mitch Marner inks a deal. Stone’s cap hit next season will be 11.63% of the team’s available cap.

The theory was debunked by the last two Stanley Cup champions. Alex Ovechkin’s $9.53 million didn’t hurt the Washington Capitals Stanley Cup run. Nor did the salaries of Sidney Crosby ($8.7 million) and Evgeni Malkin ($9.5 million) affect the Pittsburgh Penguins from 2015-2017. In total, they are the only three players in NHL history to raise a Stanley Cup making an average of $8 million per season. While it’s a practical theory, it’s hard to argue against retaining and signing elite NHL players.

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Trades Are Coming, But When?

The Golden Knights acquired Dylan Ferguson on June 26th. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are in a bit of a roster pickle. They have too many wingers, too many defensemen, and too many prospects seemingly ready to make the leap to the NHL level. Plus, there’s not a ton of wiggle room in the salary cap department.

All of it adds up to a high probability of a trade coming in the near future. Who that may be? Let’s cast that to the side for this article. Instead, let’s try to figure out when it might happen.

According to NHLTradeTracker.com, since 2010, a total of 250 trades made between April 30th and July 6th*. 106 of the 250, or 42%, happened during the two days of NHL Draft. That’s an overwhelming number as no other pair of days registers even 15% of total trades.

Only 63, or 25%, happened in the months leading up to the Draft, and just 34, or 14% happened in the days between the Draft and free agency beginning on July 1.

Here’s a full breakdown of when all trades occurred over the past nine years.

*In 2013 the Draft was on June 30th, so there is no time in between the Draft and free agency. We have extended the post draft date to July 10th for that year only*

Total
April to Draft Day – 63
Draft Day – 106
Post Draft – 34
July 1 to 6th* – 47

2018 (June 22, 23) <—NHL Draft Date
April to Draft Day – 7
Draft Day – 2
Post Draft – 6
July 1 to 6th – 2

2017 (June 23, 24)
May to Draft Day – 9
Draft Day – 6
Post Draft – 4
July 1 to 6th – 7

2016 (June 24, 25)
May to Draft Day – 10
Draft Day – 13
Post Draft – 3
July 1 to 6th – 1

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Wolves Calder Cup Run As Improbable As Golden Knights Stanley Cup Run

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Last year the Golden Knights were the talk of the sports world, becoming the best expansion team of all time and coming just three wins short of winning the Stanley Cup. It’s widely considered one of the most improbable stories in sports, but what the Golden Knights AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, have done this year might just be even more impressive.

In the Golden Knights first season, they shared the Chicago Wolves with the St. Louis Blues because Vegas didn’t have enough players to stock a full roster. In the Wolves second season, and their first as a full blown affiliate of the Golden Knights, they are headed to the Calder Cup Final to take on the Charlotte Checkers.

Looking back, it would actually make sense for an expansion team’s AHL affiliate to have success. The plan of building through the draft, acquiring young players, and being patient in development bodes well for the minor league affiliate. However, that’s really not at all what the Golden Knights ended up doing.

The Golden Knights are firmly in “win-now” mode and have been all year. Rather than having Erik Brannstrom, Nick Suzuki, and a bunch of other younger not quite NHL ready players, the Wolves were left with just two VGK draft picks for their playoff run. Instead of allowing one of the AHL’s leading scorers to play in the playoffs, Brandon Pirri stayed with the Golden Knights. And every decision throughout the course of the season has been focused on winning the Cup, the Stanley Cup.

All the while, first-time AHL head coach Rocky Thompson has taken a group of players led by UFA’s Daniel Carr, Curtis McKenzie, and Brooks Macek all the way to the Final.

Carr turned into the league MVP after not receiving a qualifying offer from the Canadiens. McKenzie is one goal short of the AHL playoff lead after being let go from a team that lost Game 7 of the Calder Cup Final a year ago. Brooks Macek parlayed his Olympic success into a nearly point per game season in his first year in the AHL.

Plus, players like Jake Bischoff, Griffin Reinhart, Tomas Hyka, and Gage Quinney all had some of the best years of their professional careers.

The Wolves roster is a bigger bunch of misfits than last year’s Golden Knights.

It’s a testament to the scouting staff, the coaching staff, and the development staff of the Golden Knights organization. Not only can they find the William Karlsson’s, Erik Haula’s, and Nate Schmidt’s of the world, but they can also find underappreciated players to stock up a dominant AHL team. It’s quite astounding and it’s a great sign for the future of the Vegas franchise.

What I Learned About 11 Golden Knights Prospects While In San Diego

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Over the past weekend, I spent four days in San Diego watching the Chicago Wolves play three games in the Western Conference Final of the AHL’s Calder Cup. My focus was specifically on the Golden Knights draft picks and the players Vegas has under control for beyond this season.

To make this easiest to write, and hopefully to read, I’ve listed every player that either played or I was able to talk to while in San Diego, that has time left on their contract with VGK or are RFAs.

Cody Glass (1st Round, 6th overall in 2017, $863,333 AAV through 21-22)

Anyone who reads/follows me closely knows I haven’t been as high on Glass as the rest of the world seems to be. I’ve come to the realization that the reason for this isn’t because I necessarily view him as a player much differently than most, but that my expectations are substantially higher. As the 6th overall pick in a draft class that includes Elias Petterson, Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar, Nico Hischier, and many others that have already had major impacts in the NHL, my expectation for Glass is massive. Top-six forward, impact player, one of the faces of the franchise. That’s what I’m looking for, and still, even though the next paragraph is going to make it sound otherwise, I’m not sure he’s going to be that guy.

Glass literally does everything on the hockey rink that you want to see from a center. The skill that jumped out most to me over the three games was his backchecking and breakouts. Every time his line turned it over in the offensive zone, he was flying back to negate any transition chance. His skating speed really showed in that sense, but also showed once the Wolves recovered the puck and began their transition back into the offensive zone. He’s terrific carrying the puck out of the D-zone, through the neutral zone, and into the O-zone. I’ve seen him do it with ease at the CHL level, but to see it look exactly the same at the AHL level gives me a strong belief that it’ll continue in the NHL.

I liked how he played along the walls, I loved his vision, his positioning, his movement in the offensive zone. Pretty much everything he did, I thought, yep, this guy is pretty darn good. But still, over the course of three games, there wasn’t enough shown in his ability to create offense. It’s the only thing I can knock him for, but at the same time, it’s the thing I value most in a high draft pick forward. Aside from the occasional chance created directly off an entry (which I do believe will continue in the NHL), there wasn’t a ton created beyond rebound chances. Again, I’m aware that my expectations are gigantic, and I’m asking a lot out of him having played a month in the AHL, but I still didn’t see enough of what I needed to in order to completely change my mind and say he’s going to be a superstar in the NHL.

Cody Glass is going to be an NHL player, and I’m probably going to be on the bandwagon calling for him to make the roster out of camp, but I’m still on the fence of whether I think he’s closer to a Cody Eakin or a William Karlsson. When all is said and done I’m confident he’ll fall somewhere in between these two, however, my opinion still shades more towards 21 than 71.

Nic Hauge (2nd Round, 34th overall in 2017, $791,667 AAV through 21-22)

I came into the weekend expecting to come out saying Hague is the surefire #1 defensive prospect in the Golden Knights system. That’s not what I ended up seeing. That’s not to say Hague was bad, because he certainly wasn’t, it’s just that the fears I had, which I’ve been told by multiple high-ranking people that I shouldn’t have, didn’t go away.

The biggest among those is whether or not his skating is good enough to keep up with the elite skaters at the NHL level. The place it showed up most was in gap control. When a player would enter the zone, sometimes not even moving that quickly, far too often Hague would be more than a stick length away from him (which is a long way with his long arms and stick). Then, once he did enter, it took too long to close down that space which often led to an easy pass or on multiple occasions a dangerous shot. It’s important to note that I watched him play against the same team, on the road, three times, so there could be a gameplan piece here that I’m missing (and when speaking to Rocky Thompson about Hague he didn’t seem to have any issues with the way he was defending). However, that style won’t work in the NHL and his recovery plan (reaching out with that long stick and poking pucks away) won’t work as often against Nathan MacKinnon as it did Corey Tropp or Sam Carrick.

I still love Hague in the offensive zone and on the power play though. His instincts at the blue line are tremendous and he’s going to be a threat to do some damage when he does eventually make it to the NHL. Really looking forward to watching him play in the preseason against NHL level forwards, but at this moment, he no longer ranks as the “most likely defenseman to make the NHL roster in the Golden Knight system” on my list.

Zack Whitecloud (Undrafted, Signed as free agent, $925,000 AAV through 2019-20)

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League MVP, 30 Goal Scorer, Double OT Hero… And Frustrated – The Story Of Daniel Carr’s 2018-19 Season

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When Daniel Carr signed with the Vegas Golden Knights he probably dreamed of scoring a game-winning goal in double overtime of the Western Conference Final. The setting of that dream was T-Mobile Arena, not at Pechanga Arena in San Diego.

I got a lot of opportunity in Chicago, I played a lot of minutes and had the puck a lot, but at the same time, it was a little frustrating being back in the American League basically all year. -Daniel Carr

Carr has played 100 career NHL games. He’s scored 15 goals, tallied 35 points, and has been in the NHL for significant portions of each of the last three seasons.

On July 1st, 2018, he signed a one-way, one-year, deal at just over the league minimum in Vegas because he thought it was a roster he had a good chance to crack. Heck, we even published a story here on SinBin.vegas comparing him to many of the “misfits” of Golden Knights past.

However, it didn’t turn out that way.  Despite doing some good things in camp and preseason, Carr was beaten out by Tomas Nosek, Oscar Lindberg, Ryan Carpenter, and William Carrier, and an empty roster spot as the Golden Knights only carried 22 players until the fifth game of the season… when they called up Tomas Hyka.

But unlike me or probably you, Carr didn’t pull a Shipachyov and pout. Instead, he went down to the AHL and turned in an incredible season. He put up 71 points (30g, 41a) in 52 games, made the All-Star team, led the Wolves to the Central Division title, and was eventually named AHL MVP.

He’s one of the most competitive people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. In practice, in the gym, he’s a competitor. -Rocky Thompson

If you sit there and feel sorry for yourself, nobody else does, there’s no point to it. It’s just kind of the way it is. -Carr

To make matters worse, Carr was the second player from the AHL to get his shot on the Golden Knights. He came up to replace Hyka, played in six games and scored a goal. He was sent back to Chicago not because of poor play, but because Max Pacioretty returned from injury. When the next chance came for a player to be called up, it wasn’t Carr, instead, it was Brandon Pirri, and you know the rest of that story.

You know Pirri did a really good job when he got up there and got a really good opportunity playing with Stastny and Tuch, it’s a different hockey game when you are playing like that. Brandon is a finisher and he’s really really good at it, what else can you say. He played with those guys and he got opportunities to score and he finished them. -Carr

When you get called up you’ve got to produce or what happened to me happens. I got called up, we played well while I was there, for the 3rd line in Vegas it was one of the few times where they were consistently plus, but if you don’t produce you don’t stay and I’ve seen that and learned that. That was the frustrating thing for me when I was up there. We were playing well but we weren’t scoring. -Carr

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