Since the signing of Reid Duke, the entire Golden Knights fan base have been playing make-believe GM. The dream transaction almost every armchair general manager (including myself) wants to make, is drafting top rated prospect Nolan Patrick. By now, we’re all aware Nolan and Duke play together in Brandon, Manitoba. Patrick is currently projected first or second in most analysts mock drafts. Duke, who becomes the Golden Knights first signed player could also become the team’s first player ambassador.
Of course, we can’t expect Kelly McCrimmon to exchange all of his Brandon currency for Vegas gold but his influence could help. If he believes Patrick is worth trading future assets for, I’m sure his boss will listen. George McPhee wouldn’t just trade up for a splash, but we have to imagine McCrimmon’s opinion is heavily valued by the GM. Conspiracy nuts like myself and Alex Jones expect lottery shenanigans leading to Vegas magically getting the first pick, but the possibility of drafting four to six is real if the odds are legit.
McPhee will be having very serious conversations with all 30 GMs in the near future so he’ll know (he might already) what the price of moving up will be. Analysts like Craig Button and Bob McKenzie are both down on this year’s draft but that doesn’t mean a team will make trade-swapping easy on Vegas.
Now that we know the situation, we have to ask the obvious question, is trading up for Nolan Patrick is even worth it? The projected number one pick’s numbers are silly over the past three plus seasons in Brandon. In 28 games this season, the right-handed center has 42 points. Last year he posted 102 points in 72 games with a rating of +51. Out of Patrick’s 18 goals this season only a few are assisted by Duke. While both centers play many shifts on separate lines, they continuously show up together on Brandon’s lethal power play unit. The Wheat Kings are in the top half of the WHL, scoring 64 PP goals this season. Teaming up on special teams in Vegas could be one reason to reunite Duke and Patrick.
Another reason to connect the two, is the Dark Knight himself. But please enough, I can’t get that freaky image of McCrimmon-BatMan out of my head. I’m digging PhiSig150’s suggestion that McCrimmon is the Golden Knight’s Tom Hagen. The former coach of Duke and Patrick has a proven history. His success winning games, developing players and assembling strong teams is the reason he was in demand. He built the current Wheat Kings roster over the past few seasons through draft picks and smart trades. Patrick and Duke were brought in to play together by McCrimmon for a reason. Does he see that working well in Las Vegas?
At this point, there is nothing to really go by but past relationships. Brayden Schenn, Mark Stone, Eric Fehr and Ryan Reaves are some connections that have been brought as potential Golden Knights. Each one of those players praise their former Brandon coach for his hand in their development. The number one trend is McCrimmon’s trust in the player and freedom to play their specific style. Patrick and Duke have also implied the same feelings. Reaves even credited his former Wheat Kings coach as being a reason for his success. The St Louis Blues forward mentioned the freedom he had up in Brandon.
McCrimmon believed in the style I play. He let me play the game and didn’t just bury me on the fourth line which is something that allowed me to blossom into a player capable of making it to the NHL. -Ryan Reaves, St Louis Blues
Many players and coaches have complimented McCrimmon’s style of playing loose and trusting players style. His player coaching style was never to force a certain style on his team. McCrimmon wanted his players to develop naturally into the skill set they naturally had. That could be another reason the Golden Knights move up for Patrick. He’s excelled as a Wheat King and is on track for the top overall draft selection. Patrick played up to his potential some would argue, because of McCrimmon’s style. Who knows if Patrick would’ve flourished if he played in Regina, Kamloops or Lethbridge. The argument also extends to Duke and his breakout season.
While this wasn’t supposed to be another article about the Dark Knight/Consigliere, it certainly ended up that way. Without McCrimmon in Brandon, Patrick might not be as appealing to Vegas. He’s clearly excelled under McCrimmon’s tutelage and it could continue at a higher level. If Vegas trades up to select Patrick fans should feel very optimistic. Patrick and Duke reuniting will only happen for one reason, McCrimmon. If the Golden Knights decide not reassemble the two, fans should be comfortable with the decision.