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Phase 3 Training Camp Roster Observations

Note: This picture is NOT from today’s camp. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights unveiled their roster of 18 forwards, 12 defensemen, and three goalies Saturday night.

Here’s the full roster.

Forwards:  Patrick Brown, William Carrier, Nick Cousins, Reid Duke, William Karlsson, Keegan Kolesar, Peyton Krebs, Jonathan Marchessault, Tomas Nosek, Gage Quinney, Max Pacioretty, Ryan Reaves, Nicolas Roy, Reilly Smith, Paul Stastny, Chandler Stephenson, Mark Stone, and Alex Tuch

Defensemen: Jake Bischoff, Dylan Coghlan, Deryk Engelland, Nicolas Hague, Nick Holden, Alec Martinez, Brayden McNabb, Jon Merrill, Nate Schmidt, Jimmy Schuldt, Shea Theodore, and Zach Whitecloud

Goaltenders: Oscar Dansk, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Robin Lehner

Vegas’ Phase 3 Training Camp roster didn’t come without a few surprises.

  • Krebs makes the initial cut

We explained a few weeks ago why we thought Peyton Krebs deserved a spot not only on the Phase 3 roster but also on the Phase 4 roster when the Golden Knights head into the bubble. Golden Knights management obviously agreed as he’s one of the 18 forwards set to take part in Training Camp this week at City National Arena.

He was around the organization for an extended period of time in the fall as he rehabbed his injury and we were all very impressed by his professionalism. He’s an elite young player that at worst is going to get great experience. It’s a chance for Peter DeBoer to see Peyton Krebs, which he hasn’t had that opportunity. To get through the playoffs there are going to be situations where you are going to rely on your depth and we wanted to see Peyton in this setting to evaluate him further. -Kelly McCrimmon

Krebs missed Development Camp, Rookie Camp, Training Camp, and exhibition games so it would make sense to give him a chance at recovering some lost time, but according to McCrimmon the decision was made because they believe he can help this team win playoff games now. That’s definitely an exciting statement for the 17th overall pick in the 2019 Draft.

Which brings us to our next topic…

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OSCAR DANSK (G) SIGNS 1 YEAR 2-WAY DEAL WITH GOLDEN KNIGHTS

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

What I Learned About 11 Golden Knights Prospects While In San Diego

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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)

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Goalie Of The Future A Question That May Be Answered Soon

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

There’s a spot that’s been a real point of contention with the fan base that at some point is going to stop hiding in the shadows and actually make its way to the forefront. As much as we don’t want to admit it, Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t going to be the goalie of the Golden Knights forever. Whether age catches up to him in the next few years while under contract or whenever he decides to hang it up for good, the goalie of the future still seems to be somewhat up in the air.

The clear frontrunner is Malcolm Subban. After being claimed off waivers three days before the Golden Knights first ever game, Subban has been on the NHL club ever since firmly entrenched as the backup. However, as a restricted free agent and coming off another year filled with injuries, Subban’s long-term future is not exactly a certainty.

You don’t want to look too far ahead, I like to live in the moment. Right now I just take care of what I can control and that’s having a good offseason and coming into camp next season ready to go. -Malcolm Subban

Subban will be extended a qualifying offer worth $715,000. As a 25-year-old with a few years of NHL experience, he’s eligible for arbitration, which he will likely file for. Backup goalie salaries range widely, but Subban likely won’t be in line for much more than $1 million, if he even reaches that high.

That being said, the Golden Knights will have to make a decision on where they stand with him. At this very moment, Oscar Dansk, who under contract in 19-20 for $675,000 is leading the Chicago Wolves in a Western Conference Final series in the AHL. Dansk has taken over the starting spot and has played every playoff game for Rocky Thompson’s Wolves. He hasn’t been amazing, but he’s been good enough to be considered for a job behind Fleury moving forward.

Then there’s Max Lagace, who the Golden Knights have turned to every time they’ve needed an extra goalie at the NHL level. He’s an unrestricted free agent, but will almost certainly not command more than the league minimum.

The group of prospects, Dylan Ferguson, Maxim Zhukov, Jiri Patera, and Jordan Kooy are all still a ways from making their ascent to the NHL level. (According to CapFriendly.com, VGK must sign Zhukov to an entry-level contract by June 1, 2019 or they will forfeit his rights.)

The question of “who will be Vegas’ backup goalie in 2019-20” and “who is the goalie of the future” are two separate questions, but at some point they need to overlap and this offseason may be the beginning of that process.

When Subban was asked about being “the guy” on a team, his answer was non-committal, consistently saying he likes to live in the present, but when asked if he wants to remain in Vegas, he instantly answered, “Yes, of course.”

The options are wide open for the Golden Knights front office, and the cost shouldn’t be prohibitive on any front to retain each of the Golden Knights three options. However, what they decide to do will tell a strong story about what they believe they have in their future.

Subban’s contract isn’t going to be the most noteworthy one this offseason, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important for the organization. A one-year qualifying offer tells a much different story than a multi-year $1.5 million AAV deal.

The franchise has displayed nothing but faith in Subban with its words, but actions always speak louder, and that action is coming fairly soon.

Offseason Outlook: Goaltenders

Never could anyone have imagined the Golden Knights goalie depth would be tested the way it was. Five goalies used in the first 17 games gave George McPhee a pretty solid look at the present and the future of the most important position on the ice.

It would seem not much needs to happen between the pipes for the Golden Knights with Marc-Andre Fleury the clear starter, Malcolm Subban a solid backup and Oscar Dansk plus Maxime Lagace manning the crease in the AHL. However, it’s not that simple, and in fact, McPhee has plenty of decisions in the net not only this offseason but moving forward.

Marc-Andre Fleury

It’s a bit of a shame Fleury will not win any awards after that incredible season. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After posting Vezina quality numbers in the regular season and then racing out to become the Conn Smythe favorite before the final series of the playoffs, it appears Fleury’s days as a full-time starter aren’t as numbered as they appeared during the last days in Pittsburgh.

He’s mentioned playing for many more years and recently said he wants to finish his career in Vegas. Fleury has one more season left on his contract scheduled to pay him $5.75 million. Then he would become an unrestricted free agent, something the Golden Knights probably aren’t interested in letting happen.

Things do get a bit tricky though when dealing with the long-term future of a 33-year-old goalie. While it certainly appears his age isn’t getting in the way at this point, that could change at any moment. Signing Fleury to a four or five year deal is risky as his production could slip at any moment, but letting him constantly play on expiring deals keeps the control in the hands of the player rather than the organization.

If Fleury is being completely honest that he wants to finish his career with the Golden Knights, they should play the short-term contract game with him on a gentleman’s agreement that he’ll get a new deal every time he wants one and the price will be fair. There aren’t many players who any GM would be willing to go down that road with, but if there’s one, it’s probably Fleury.

There’s one concern there though, and that’s Pittsburgh. What if they come calling at some point? It’s easy to say he wants to finish his career in Vegas while sitting on stage in the same building as the Campbell Bowl, but if the idea of going back to the Penguins ever became a realistic possibility, he’d likely want to hear it out.

The best course of action for the Golden Knights is likely to keep him one year away from free agency at all times. Extend his contract each offseason so he feels comfortable, while also protecting the organization against the inevitable father time induced decline.

Malcolm Subban, Oscar Dansk, Max Lagace

Only one of these three players currently has a contract with the Golden Knights and that’s Subban. Dansk remains under Golden Knights control as he’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Lagace is an unrestricted free agent set to hit the open market on July 1st if he doesn’t reach a deal with Vegas before then.

Subban still seems to be the clear #2 behind Fleury, but his injury-riddled season has to bring pause to the organization’s desire to commit to him as the heir-apparent. Subban was hurt once during a game early in the year and then found himself unavailable two more times due to injuries that occurred during practice. Subban missed a majority of the postseason and the team opted to use Lagace as the backup over Dansk.

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Malcolm Subban Headed To IR; Maxime Lagace To Be Recalled

Max’s back. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For the second time this year, the Golden Knights will be without their backup goalie, luckily this time the starter isn’t hurt as well.

Malcolm Subban sustained an upper-body injury during morning skate prior to the Golden Knights game in San Jose. Subban was dressed and was seen sitting under the bench during the game, but was apparently not available to enter that game.

All Star coach Gerard Gallant confirmed the team will recall Maxime Lagace. Lagace started 13 games during the Golden Knights goalie fiasco at the beginning of the year in which they lost three goalies in the team’s first 10 games. Vegas went 6-6-1 in those 13 games while Lagace allowed 3.79 goals per game and posted .872 save percentage. Lagace returned to the AHL with the Chicago Wolves where he has played in 14 games posting a .910 save percentage.

Oscar Dansk, who was sent back to the Wolves on January 24th has yet to start a game.

Both Dansk and Lagace are waiver-exempt this season, so the Golden Knights can freely rotate between the two assuming Dansk is healthy enough to play.

Marc-Andre Fleury Injury Update

UPDATE (12/3/17 10:49 AM):

With Marc-Andre Fleury, he has passed his formal neuropsychology test. He is currently in the return to play protocol. He’ll be in that this week, and if there are no setbacks, he’ll be cleared for full contact later in the week.

If there are no setbacks at all he’ll be cleared, hopefully by Wednesday to return to practice, full contact. Which means in our minds his brain is 100% healed and as we’ve said often enough, that’s important now and it’s important 15 years from now. -George McPhee

UPDATE (12/2/17 11:50 AM):

Not sure what it means, but Fleury has concussion just one symptom left. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

ORIGINAL STORY (11/29/17): The Marc-Andre Fleury injury saga is a long and annoying one, and quite frankly, it’s no one’s fault that it’s gone on as long as it has. In 2017, due to the incredible advance in research on the human brain, concussions are taken as seriously, if not more, than any other injury an athlete faces.

On October 13th, Fleury took a knee to the head by Detroit Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha. Fleury remained in the game, but was placed on IR shortly after and has remained there ever since with a concussion.

The moment of impact. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The updates from the organization have been consistent, but vague. Essentially every time either Gerard Gallant or George McPhee have been asked the answer has been the same, he’s progressing but he remains day-to-day.

Today, appearing on SportsNet’s Prime Time Sports on 590 The Fan, George McPhee went as in depth on the injury as we’ve heard since October 13th.

His brain is important now, it’s important 15 years from now. He’ll be ready when he’s ready, and there’s no bright line test, we don’t know when that’s going to be but hoping that’s getting closer.

He did skate lightly two weeks ago and took some shots on a Thursday. Is he now back off the ice? -Prime Time Sports

A medical team was trying to get him out there to see how he felt, but Dave Prior who runs out goaltending department basically said “I don’t want him on the ice until he’s 100% healed because when I deal with him I’m going to go real hard with him. I’m going to push him hard and he’s going to face a lot of shots at 100% velocity and speed and everything else as hard as we can do things. That’s how he likes to train the goaltenders. He doesn’t like to take baby steps, he wants them on the ice when they are 100% healed so we are going to wait until we get to that point. -George McPhee

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3 Moments = 1 Win For The Golden Knights vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Hockey games are 60 minutes long, we all know this because coaches, players, and management tell us in every answer no matter the question. However, sometimes there are tiny moments inside of games that stand out amongst the rest of the game, and the winners of those moments, win the game.

Hey everyone, look how good we are! (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

That was the case last night at T-Mobile Arena when the Golden Knights upset one of the NHL’s best, the Chicago Blackhawks.

Moment #1 (17:27 left in the 1st Period – VGK 0 CHI 1): The Blackhawks took a 2-minute tripping penalty 3:01 into the first period. 32 seconds later, a spill at the blue line by Nate Schmidt sent the Blackhawks a break and they scored a shorthanded goal. 3:33 into the game, the best team the Golden Knights have faced all season had just flipped the script on a power play and were in position to take control of the hockey game, much to the delight of about 70% of the crowd. Heck, I even tweeted this…

But the Golden Knights still had nearly 90 seconds on that power play, one that instantly became “Moment #1” of the game. They didn’t necessarily need to score, but they had to rescue the game over the next five minutes to keep the belief (especially of the goalie making his first career start) that they could still win. 21 seconds later, a shot from the point by Colin Miller gets tipped by William Karlsson, and the game was tied. There was a collective deep breath from the entire team. The game was back even, and the inevitable spiral appeared to be put back on delay.

Moment #2 (2:00 left in the 2nd Period – VGK 2 CHI 1): Brayden McNabb had just laid a monster hit on Nick Schmaltz. (Here’s the hit.) Weenie Ryan Hartman got mad and violently slashed McNabb and then grabbed him by the neck because he touched a Blackhawk too hard. That earned Weenie Hartman four minutes in the box, and the Golden Knights had a great opportunity to take a 3-1 lead late in the 2nd.

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Abnormal Team With Abnormal Goalie Situation

Remember when goalie depth was widely considered to be the best asset the Golden Knights got from the Expansion Draft? When Marc-Andre Fleury was the starter and Calvin Pickard was set to back up him. That’s changed a bit, huh?

But before we get into what’s going to happen moving forward, and a bit of what’s happened already, let’s dispell a rumor that has already popped up to this point.

This team isn’t normal. That’s kind of why theyir 6-1. Embrace it. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are not likely to make a trade to acquire a “starting” goalie. For proof of this, think back to the timeline of the backup goalie thus far. Three days before the season began George McPhee claimed Malcolm Subban. The next day he waived Calvin Pickard in somewhat a surprising move, but just another in a long line of focusing on the future rather than the present for the Vegas front office.

That move left the Golden Knights one moment away from having to put in a 23-year-old goalie, who was waived by the Bruins, into the net for good, and they were comfortable with that because this season’s not about winning. Four games later, that moment came, as Fleury took a knee to the face and suffered his third (maybe fourth) career concussion.

They didn’t run out and make a trade. Not because they believed so much in Subban, because they still, despite the record, aren’t focused on winning this season. They simply put Subban in the net, and called up another backup (Maxime Lagace at the time). Now, Subban is hurt, and Oscar Dansk appears to be the temporary starter, and just like before, they probably aren’t going to panic and make a move.

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Quick Thoughts – Vegas Golden Knights vs. Colorado Avalanche 9/19/17

  • Even more impressive than the three goals in the first eight minutes was the play of Oscar Dansk after coming in to begin the 3rd period. Dansk made 18 saves without allowing a goal and made a few special ones in a row during a power play.  -Ken
    • Note: After reviewing the game Dansk actually entered with 8:59 left in the second while VGK were on a power play. Official stats from the game are incorrect. He allowed the one goal the Golden Knights gave up. Nonetheless, one 5 on 3 goal doesn’t change the fact that he was still excellent between the pipes.
  • The VGK Alternate Captains on Tuesday night were; Deryk Engelland, Jason Garrison, and Reilly Smith. Each logged heavy minutes and made significant contributions in both zones. Garrison was very active offensively, collecting two assists in the first period. Smith added an assist and led the offense with 17:23 TOI. Early in the third period, Captain Concierge Engelland broke up an aggressive Avs attack. With under ten minutes to go, Engelland made a crucial neutral zone stop, allowing for a much-needed shift change. -Jason
  • Vadim Shipachyov really struggled on face-offs. He was thrown out of many draws (which is a much bigger deal now with the new stupid delay of game penalty) and the ones he did take were not pretty. Shipachyov lost six face-offs, mostly against Nathan MacKinnon before he finally got one. He finished 2-7 in the circle. -Ken
  • The Golden Knights have committed 19 penalties in two preseason games. That’s almost two full periods with a man in the box. On Tuesday, the officials called six slashing penalties. The Golden Knights committed four slashing minors in Colorado, and one in Vancouver. We’ve been warned about a crackdown after a few dangerous incidents last season, looks like they are going a bit overboard with it to make a point in the preseason. -Jason
  • Alex Tuch stood out passing the puck. He assisted on the first goal with an excellent pass to Brad Hunt from below the goal line. There were multiple other examples of Tuch’s passing throughout the game as well. Couple that with his willingness to shoot and his physicality and he absolutely looked like he belonged on the NHL roster. -Ken
  • During the second intermission report, an Avalanche TV analyst suggested the NHL needs more personality. He thinks, the league should allow players the chance to customize their equipment. Of course, it would look cool, but wouldn’t it distract the players on the ice? It’s much easier to separate goaltenders. Plus, it’s better to add flair to an otherwise boring mask. Adding more personal art will confuse players, coaches, refs, and fans. Watch, instead the league will add sponsor patches and call it personality. -Jason
  • There were a total of 14 power plays during the game which led to every Golden Knight except Tomas Hyka to get time on both the power play and the penalty kill. While it’s great to get chances a man up, a man down, and in this game multiple times two men up or down, Gallant would probably prefer more 5v5 time to evaluate his players. -Ken

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