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“Have To Be Able To Skate, First And Foremost”

All eyes tend to be focused on the Expansion Draft, and for good reason, but there’s another draft two days later that will probably be more influential on the long term success of the Golden Knights.

The NHL Entry Draft on June 23rd and 24th in Chicago will be crucial for George McPhee and his staff if they want to stay on track of The Creator’s “playoffs in three, Cup in six” mantra.

Vegas slipped to 6th overall in the first round, but still maintain the 3rd selection in all subsequent rounds. Plus, with the Expansion Draft before the Entry Draft, it’s almost a guarantee the Golden Knights will be on the clock more than just the seven times they are slated for today.

With the benefit of being able to watch players throughout the entire season and the  knowledge of knowing the Golden Knights will pick among the top six, Vegas scouts should have a pretty good idea what type of player they are looking to make the first draft selection in franchise history.

You have to be able to skate, first and foremost, because you have to play at a pace that seems to get higher and higher every season. These young players are making plays at such great speed, so you have to be able to skate. You need to have the sense and feel for the game. It’s that combination of speed, skill and sense, in addition to having a willingness to compete on a nightly basis, that are important. –Scott Luce, Director of Amateur Scouting

Seems obvious, until you take a look at some of the flaws of a few of the top prospects in this year’s Entry Draft.

Gabe Vilardi (C), the Memorial Cup starlet from the Windsor Spitfires, who The Hockey News has ranked as the 3rd overall, admittedly needs to improve his skating.

John Tavares has really developed his skating and I’m doing that through the years. –Gabe Vilardi to The Hockey News

Casey Mittelstadt (C), the top American born prospect in the draft, same issue.

His skating is OK, not very fluid, but he’s faster with the puck than without it. -Unnamed Scout

Michael Rasmussen (C), the player linked to Vegas in the latest NHL.com mock draft, has some questions about his skating. (Of the five trusted sources we use, three say it needs improvement, two call it “excellent.”)

Even Cody Glass (C), a WHL product from Portland’s skating is described as “funky.”

Then there’s another set of players. Cale Makar (D), Miro Heiskanen (D), Owen Tippett (RW), Eeli Tolvanen (LW), and Matin Necas (C) who are all standouts when it comes to skating.

If that’s “first and foremost” for the guy in charge of all amateur scouting for the Golden Knights, it’s a good bet Vegas’ first pick will be an excellent skater like the latter group, not one who needs work.

***

It’s also important when looking at the draft to remember the other guy in a top position for the Golden Knights, Kelly McCrimmon. We’ve made a huge deal out of his connection to the Brandon Wheat Kings as the former GM and coach, and current owner, but it doesn’t end in Brandon with McCrimmon. He’s been described as the man with the most knowledge of the WHL of any person on the planet. Aside from Nolan Patrick (Brandon), keep your eyes on Michael Rasmussen (Tri City), Cody Glass (Portland), Callan Foote (Kelowna), and Juuso Valimaki (Tri Ciy), all top 20 players from the WHL.

Final Note: The Chicago Wolves new head coach, Rocky Thompson, was previously the head coach of the Windsor Spitfires. Gabriel Vilardi, a top 10 prospect and Michael DiPietro, a top three goalie prospect both played for Thompson in Windsor.

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