The NHL rink is 200 feet long by 85 feet wide. An international rink is nearly identical at 197 feet long but it’s significantly wider at 98.4 feet. Those 13 feet make a major difference in how the game is played and it makes transitioning from one ice size to the other a challenge.
Over the summer I had a chance to speak to two different wingers who were used to one size and then had to suddenly swap to the other. The first was Lucas Elvenes, a Golden Knights draft pick who has played in Sweden throughout his entire career before finishing up this season with the Chicago Wolves. The second was Mark Stone, who went with Team Canada to play in the IIHF World Championship in Slovakia.
Both agreed that the difference is significant and it absolutely takes some time to get used to.
It took some time to get used to for sure. I think the first game was difficult especially for us playing a good team. Being good hockey players the 20 of us figured it out pretty quick. -Mark Stone
Oh yeah, it’s a huge difference. Every time you come into the offensive zone you are close to the goal. Back home you have to work more to get a shot. -Lucas Elvenes
Where both noticed it the most was when their team had the man-advantage. Both Elvenes and Stone, while at massively different levels, play the same position on the power play. Each are set up to the goalie’s left on the half wall playing as both a shooting option as well as a pivot to move the puck out to the point or through the seem.
Power play is a lot different. You feel like you have all this time and space. If you are at the top of the circle, taking a shot from there it’s not going in. It’s just such a far shot and a bad angle. From the circles to the boards it just adds in a lot more room. -Stone
The D-Zone is always close to you, so you can’t make mistakes. The gap is tough for me because the forwards are always close to me. Plus the guys are big and like to hit.
Nikita Gusev plays the same role, but on the other side. But that’s New Jersey’s problem now.
The question is how will other Europeans in the Vegas pipeline translate on the smaller ice? Both Stone and Elvenes agreed that eventually the size difference fades and it just becomes hockey.
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)
Glass and Suzuki should shine at the Summer Showcase. Hopefully on the same line. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Every year, in advance of the IIHF World Junior tournament that takes place in December, four teams get together for the World Junior Summer Showcase. Last year it took place in Plymouth, Michigan where Erik Brannstrom starred for Team Sweden. This year the Summer Showcase is headed to Kamloops, British Columbia and the Golden Knights are well represented.
Golden Knights prospects selected for World Junior Summer Showcase
Team USA Paul Cotter (2018, 4th Rd) Brandon Kruse (2018, 5th Rd)
Team Canada Cody Glass (2017, 1st Rd) Nick Suzuki (2017, 1st Rd)
The Golden Knights had a total of 10 picks coming into the day. They traded one away for a prospect. Here’s a quick rundown of each player selected. See the three first round picks here.
Round 2 (#34) – Nic Hague – An incredibly tall defenseman from the OHL in Canada. He’s got one of the best shots of all prospects in the draft. His skating needs some work due to the fact that he grew a lot quickly. 6’6″ will put him among the tallest defensemen in the NHL. He says he models his game after Vitor Hedman and Colton Paryako.
Round 2 (#45) – TRADE – VGK trades #45 for Keegan Kolesar – The 69th pick in the 2015 draft from the Columbus Blue Jackets. He’s a tough winger who spends a lot of his team beating people up. This being said, the guy can score as well, having put up 56 goals in 118 games over the past two seasons in the WHL.
Round 2 (#62) – Jake Leschyshyn – The son of former NHLer with the Nordiques, Huuricanes, Senators, among others, Leschyshyn is a solid center. He tore his ACL in February, but he said in March that he expects to be back on the ice for training camp. Another WHL product continuing the trend of players Kelly McCrimmon knows very well.