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Would Dominating Even Be Enough For Rookies

Training camp starts this week (!!!) with a few “informal” practices today, tomorrow, and Wednesday before the 23-man rookie roster formally begin training camp on Thursday.

But as the rookies get set to hit the ice, the burning question remains for a team in a unique situation being the first expansion team in the salary cap era?

Could a Cody Glass or Nicolas Hague or any other draft pick make this team? Absolutely. But they’d have to come into camp and dominate. To be the best at their position and to prove they can continue to excel once the regular season begins. And to stay at that level when the pace increases at Christmas and then again down the stretch as it does in the NHL every season. –Gary Lawless, VGK Insider

Absolutely a rookie from the 2017 Draft can make the roster out of camp says Lawless.

I’m here to say, the correct answer is absolutely not.

The reasoning is quite simple. In the NHL when players are drafted they are signed to entry level contracts. These contracts are three years in length (assuming the player is 21 or younger), but they do not begin until the player plays more than nine NHL games in a season.

So, if a player makes the team out of camp, the clock immediately starts ticking towards restricted free agency and his next, much larger, contract. In a normal situation, especially for teams ready to compete, that’s just fine because the player can help the team win. But for a team like the Golden Knights, who realistically aren’t winning much this year, the benefit of having a rookie on the roster is heavily outweighed by the option of “sliding” his contract to next year.

Each of the Golden Knights first three picks are 18 years old. Under NHL rules, that means their entry level contracts can slide not once, but twice, meaning the Golden Knights could have Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, and Eric Brannstrom all on contracts at less than $1M per year in the 2021-22 season.

Or…

Brannstrom, Suzuki, or Glass could make the team in 2017-18, and they would hit restricted free agency in 2020-21.

This has nothing to do with talent. If Glass or Suzuki is the best player at camp, even by far, he still won’t make the team.

It’s already been proven with the Brannstrom situation. He dominated Development Camp and was spectacular at the World Junior Summer Showcase, and he’s not even coming to Las Vegas for Training Camp. Why? Because he couldn’t have made the team anyway.

I get where Lawless is coming from, and if you read the article carefully, he almost says exactly what I’m saying here, but with a much more positive spin. However, the point of the article was to answer the question “can a rookie make the team” and the answer is anything but absolutely.

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4 Comments

  1. James

    @Ken Boehlke
    So… NHL-ready prospects Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick would have had no chance at making the Vegas Golden Knights team because of contract status?

    • Correct. This team is in a unique situation in which even if a prospect is ready, the situation doesn’t allow for him to play in the NHL right away. Cost vs Benefit.

  2. James

    @Ken Boehlke
    For the sake of burning the first year of a prospect’s entry level contract on a bad team, you would be willing to stunt a prospect’s growth. How about NHL-ready prospects Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews – it’s in their best interest to play in the NHL right away. Another year of AHL/Juniors/Europe, it does them no good.

    Could a Cody Glass or Nicolas Hague or any other draft pick make this team? It’s highly unlikely. From what I’ve read, they’re not NHL-ready. Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick are perhaps a different story

  3. Bent Hermit

    I agree starting them in the nhl doesn’t help the team much for the future. They still could end up with over 9 games in the NHL due to injuries and VGK not having a lot of depth. If the goal is playoffs in 3 then they will have to make the jump, if they are ready, next year.

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