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Tag: Neal Pionk

Neal Pionk Going Pro; Golden Knights Appear In The Mix

NCAA runner-up Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Neal Pionk finally announced his intentions to forego his college eligibility and turn pro. After weeks of deliberation the sophomore decided to leave Duluth to pursue a career in the NHL.

We profiled Pionk last month after the Golden Knights had reportedly shown interest in the college free agent. He went undrafted in the Entry Draft ultimately because of his 5’11″/181 pound stature. Now, after dominating on the NCAA level, teams are looking past height and more on Pionk’s high level skill. As a two-way, puck moving defenseman with a hard shot, NHL teams are ready to make offers.

He’s good in his own zone. But when you watch him, what stands out is how good his shot is, and he can score with it. He’s got a Shea Weber quality to him with the shot. Just got a missile. – Dave Starman, ESPN College Hockey analyst and scout

Vegas has the opportunity to take a risk on a player that was passed over by all 30 clubs. Last week, I asked Kelly McKrimmon a few questions about Pionk and other college prospects. He wouldn’t comment directly, but confirmed they’re still on the scouting trail of college free agents.

I know that we’ve had real good coverage. We’ve targeted a very small number. To be honest with you, we haven’t cast a wide net. -Kelly McKrimmon, Assistant General Manager

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Second Golden Knight Could Be On The Ice At Thursday’s Frozen Four

It’s been about a month now since Vegas signed first ever player Reid Duke. Not much more was expected but I was hoping Vegas would be in the mix for some college free agents. Well, maybe they still are. Thursday the semi-finals of the Frozen Four take place and one name in particular will be closely watched by Vegas scouts. Defenseman Neal Pionk of the University Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs is quite highly sought after.

Pionk is a new hybrid style defenseman. At 5’10, 170lbs the Minnesota native was passed over a few times because of his small stature. His talent, however, is tough to overlook. Scouts rave about his experience, skating ability, offensive zone presence and physicality. Pionk scored 33 points in 40 games and is a legitimate two-way defenseman. Of course Pionk can turn the puck over but has smart recovery instincts. He’s developed into a major threat on special teams as well. The former Sioux City Musketeer might be small but his speed and skill make up for it. Plus, the UMD Bulldog shoots right-handed. Yep, a right-handed defenseman, one of Don Cherry’s most coveted prospect.

ESPN’s Craig Custance spoke with GM George McPhee earlier this month about the Golden Knights interest in Pionk. McPhee implied Vegas will be in the market for NHL caliber prospects not AHL depth players. We can assume the 21 year-old defenseman is projected for the T-Mobile Arena or McPhee wouldn’t be interested. Nor would 20 other clubs.

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