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Tag: Jon Merrill

Projecting The Opening Day 23-Man Golden Knights Roster

I remember it like yesterday, writing articles about meetings The Creator was having with the league making presentations in conjunction with Quebecor trying to sell the idea of expanding the league. Now, I’m about to take a shot at picking the 23 players who are going to make the roster when the Vegas Golden Knights play the first regular season game in franchise history. Crazy.

Enough about me, let’s cut some guys!

Forwards (13)

Vadim Shipachyov, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, David Perron, Cody Eakin, Erik Haula, Oscar Lindberg, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, William Karlsson, Teemu Pulkkinen, Alex Tuch, William Carrier, Tomas Hyka

Due to the fact that the Golden Knights are expected to keep eight defensemen, there are some tough decisions on the back end of this list. The first nine are pretty well set in stone, the final four will be selected from a pool of seven.

The first who makes the list is Pulkkinen, and that has a lot to do with this skill set. His shooting ability is borderline elite in the NHL and he’s never really had a lot of time to prove himself in the league. However, the reasoning for his inclusion is more in the fact that he sticks out as a different style of player than the rest of the group. There are fast guys, there are big guys, but there’s no one else quite like him.

Next is Tuch. This one has a lot to do with the way he’s been playing on the ice, but it has even more to do with the fact that he’s one of the very few Golden Knights George McPhee paid to bring in. McPhee gave up a 3rd round pick to get Tuch from the Wild and he’s done everything in his power (including attending Development Camp) to make the roster. Wouldn’t be completely stunning if he’s sent to Chicago, but it would be a bit of a surprise.

Congrats Will Carrier, you made the team! Well, SinBin’s idea of the team. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

That brings us to the final two spots. I selected Hyka and Carrier out of the group including Brendan Leipsic, Tomas Nosek, and Tyler Wong. Hyka has been playing great hockey both in game action as well as in practice. It seems like every time the puck is near him he’s making things happen. That was also the case for Wong in the preseason game, and in rookie camp, but hasn’t been quite as apparent since the veterans showed up. Leipsic is an incredibly similar player to both Hyka and Wong, but simply hasn’t flashed throughout camp or in the one preseason game in which he played. For smaller speedy players, they should stick out like a sore thumb on the ice, skating by people and scoring goals. One of these three did that better than the other two. Hyka has also never played an NHL game, which represents massive upside for a guy who’s had this much success in camp and was singled out by the Golden Knights prior to the Expansion Draft. It’s a risky move considering McPhee would have to hope Leipsic can sneak through waivers without losing him, but Hyka deserves the spot more than Leipsic at this point, so it’s worth the risk.

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Who Exactly Is Jon Merrill?

There’s been no shortage of coverage of the Golden Knights surplus of defensemen. We’ve gushed over blueliners like Shea Theodore, Nate Schmidt, and Erik Brannstrom. We spewed our opinions on Jason Garrison’s salary, Deryk Engelland’s value, Luca Sbisa’s language diversity, and Clayton Stoner’s headless grizzly bear. However, one VGK defenseman remains a man of mystery, and he just so happened to be the first one to show up in Vegas for Training Camp.

The future looked bright for Jon Merrill when he made his debut in 2013. The young, physical, puck-moving defenseman was a hit after his first 52 games. Following a promising rookie season, Merrill gradually got worse. He’s had this knack for being on the ice for opponent goals, whether it’s his fault or not. Merrill’s +/- totals got uglier by the season.

2013-14 /-3
2014-15 /-14
2015-16 /-15
2016-17 /-9

In 2015-16, the 25-year-old defenseman had career lows in games, goals, points, +/-rating, shots, and time on ice. Pretty brutal for a third-year, second-round draft pick. A season plagued with injuries also hurt Merrill’s maturity. He lost his coaches trust and was thought of as a lost cause.

Offensive Expectations

Right away, you’d think Merrill sees an incredible opportunity in Las Vegas. This could be the change needed to get his career back on track. Just don’t expect much, if any, offensive production this season. Merrill won’t generate offense from the point like Colin Miller or Nate Schmidt. In fact, his career-high in shots (47) is the third lowest for a Golden Knights defensemen.

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Forgotten Knights: A Rundown Of The Least Talked About Golden Knights

It’s been a little over a month since the Golden Knights went from having three players to more than 50. Because of the massive influx, certain players have risen to the top of mind when discussing the team. Guys like Marc-Andre Fleury, James Neal, Shea Theodore, and Alex Tuch. There’s a reason for it, but as we examined the roster, we realized there are a bunch of players on the Golden Knights roster who will make a significant impact on the ice that we’ve barely even talked about, and we post an article every single day. So,

There’s a reason for it, but as we examined the roster, we realized there are a bunch of players on the Golden Knights roster who will make a significant impact on the ice that we’ve barely even talked about, and we post an article every single day. So, here’s a quick look at some of the under talked about, and kind of underappreciated, inaugural Golden Knights.

David Perron: Forward
Career: 652 Games, 159 Goals, 378 Points

Perron is getting overshadowed by his future teammates James Neal, Vadim Shipachyov and Jonathan Marchessault. A potential deadline trade victim, the 12-year veteran has the ability to generate offense. Another Golden Knight with a high career shooting percentage, Perron’s 11.9% will help Vegas put pressure on opposing goaltenders. The former first-round pick in 2007 (26th overall) has scored 15+ goals six times in his career. In the forward’s second go-around in St.Louis, he thankfully improved defensively. Perron had a career highs in blocked shots and came close to a career high in takeaways. Defensive responsibility will be an important aspect for all Vegas forwards.

Erik Haula: Forward
Career: 266 Games, 42 Games, 89 Points

The other guy the Golden Knights got from Minnesota, and the one fans will see much more of in the short term. Haula should excite Vegas fans with his speed and strong two-way play. That’s evident by his career 55.5% defensive Zone Starts. (Read more about Zone Starts) The former Golden Gopher is also not afraid to let the puck go. Haula’s 11.2% shooting percentage is above the league average. His three-year $8.25M deal coupled with the Expansion Draft hole the Golden Knights had the Wild in is a strong sign he’s in the organization’s future plans. Hopefully, Haula’s Gopher roommate Nate Schmidt will sign his new deal this week.

At least I’ll have one really familiar face. I’m sure everything is going to fall into place. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be fun for all of us. I don’t really know what to expect. I’m just going to go to camp and see what happens. It’s all going to be new for me. -Haula

Jon Merrill: Defenseman
Career: 216 Games, 30 Assists, 36 Points

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No Tradebacks! Wait, No, Tradebacks Are Fine

Must select one player from every team, must select at least 17 forwards, must reach at least 60% of the salary cap, must select at least 20 players under contract, cannot buy players out until the end of 2017-18 season, and no trade backs until January 1st, 2018.

Those were just a few of the regulations the Golden Knights had to follow during the Expansion Draft. They were widely reported by hockey media before the draft (here and here are two of the best sources) and then the NHL put out a rules list the day Vegas was awarded a team. Reported by many was the rule prohibiting the Golden Knights from trading a player back to their original team. However, when the NHL released their rules, it was nowhere to be found.

Now, it appears that rule was on the books, but it had an important caveat.

LeBrun tweeted this prior to the Marc Methot trade, and then later confirmed McPhee did indeed have discussions with the Senators on trading the blueliner back to Ottawa. Of course, it did not happen.

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Expansion Draft Created Supply Outweighing Demand For Defenseman

Since the moment the Expansion Draft rules were released George McPhee found himself on a thin balance beam. One one side there’s the allure of picking the best 30 players available and stockpiling NHL ready talent that can not only win on the ice but also bring in high-level assets via trade. On the other side, there were ransoms being thrown out to lay off certain players, take on bad contracts, or completely give a team a pass in the Expansion Draft.

McPhee knew this was a difficult dance the whole way. They ran mock drafts and they saw what type of team they could put on the ice in year one. They had conversations with opposing GMs to see exactly how rich those ransoms were to turn a blind eye towards certain teams. And every chance he had, McPhee talked about the importance of staying upright on that balance beam.

Well now the Expansion Draft is over, the Entry Draft has come and gone, and free agency begins in less than a week, and at the moment McPhee and the Golden Knights are trying to maintain their balance, but there’s a clear wobble in the direction of taking on too many NHL contracts, specifically defenseman.

On June 21st the Golden Knights selected 14 defensemen. They ranged in talent from clear Top-4 to borderline NHLer, but all 14 were on NHL contracts. Vegas had created a surplus and it was time to start cashing in via trade.

A day after the draft a pair of defensemen were sent away. Trevor van Riemsdyk brought in a 2nd round pick from the Hurricanes and David Schlemko netted a 5th from Montreal. On its face, fine returns to begin trimming off the surplus of blueliners. But like in any form of commerce, demand must meet supply. Initially, it appeared that demand was high and the Golden Knights held the supply to make the most out of their 15 picks. But then Friday came and went, Saturday, Sunday, and it wasn’t until late Monday that the next defenseman was shipped away.

Marc Methot, the undisputed best talent of all the defensemen selected in the draft was sent to Dallas. The return, a 2nd round pick in 2020 and a goalie prospect the Golden Knights chose not to select 12 times while on the clock in Chicago.

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