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Tag: Zach Whitecloud

The Golden Knights Age Gap

It would be nice if more of these guys were between 20-22 years old. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Historically, building a roster through expansion isn’t the ideal way to create a winner. Teams are often left devoid of talent, specifically high-end talent and have to wait years before they can build via trade and/or through the draft.

Luckily, for the Golden Knights, that wasn’t the case. The new expansion rules, coupled with George McPhee’s dominance in exploiting them left the league’s 31st team with a Cup-contending roster.

However, due to the nature of the Expansion Draft, the Golden Knights roster has been left with a major hole. It’s not the lack of talent hole most previous expansion teams were put in, but it’s a hole in the age distribution of the roster.

Age Range# of Players
<2020
20-224
22-249
24-2614
26-2816
>288

The Golden Knights have 20 prospects under the age of 20 years old, but just four between the ages of 20 and 22. The reason for this is that Vegas did not participate in the Entry Draft prior to 2017.

The four players are Zach Whitecloud (undrafted college free agent), Keegan Kolesar (acquired via trade at Expansion Draft), Dylan Coghlan (undrafted free agent), and Jack Dugan (2017 Draft, 5th round).

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The Player At Development Camp With The Best Shot Of Playing In The NHL In 2018-19

This guy is the answer to the title of this article. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When it comes to young defenseman, organizations like to take their time.

Every defenseman wants to play right now. But he’s got to go through the process of taking step one before taking step two. They have to defend well, they have to read what’s coming at them. -Ryan McGill, Golden Knights defense coach

Last year fans watched forward Alex Tuch skate amongst boys in Development Camp. His maturity and professional experience were on full display up against the younger prospects. Zach Whitecloud wants to be that guy in 2018.

As far as maturity wise, I pride myself in doing the right things at the right times. I’d like to think I’m ready for every situation that was handed to me. Being with the Knights, it’s key that I come in here and help the guys that are new to the experience. -Zach Whitecloud

Whitecloud’s age, body development, and NHL experience made him stand out in Thursday’s prospect scrimmage and even more so in Friday’s. The 21-year-old is attending his second NHL development camp (last season with LA) and has picked up a lifetime’s worth of knowledge over the past four months.

I signed on March 8th, and met the team in Buffalo and ever since that day I’ve been taking everything in. I don’t think words could explain how much it meant. Just learning how to be a professional hockey player all the time, on and off the ice. -Whitecloud

Since arriving from Bemidji State, the right-handed defenseman soaked up the experience like a sponge.

To have that experience and learn from guys like Deryk Engelland, Nate Schmidt, Marc-Andre Fleury, Coach Gallant… everyone has helped me try to become the best player and person I can be. -Whitecloud

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Jimmy Schuldt’s On Somewhat Of A Recruiting Trip At Development Camp In Vegas

If there’s ever a Jimmy Schuldt sweepstakes, the Golden Knights should be in a good place to win it. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Development Camp has many different purposes. For some, it’s to do as the name suggests, develop. For others, it’s a chance to begin staking a claim to a roster spot. Then there’s the select few for which it can be used as a recruiting trip. That’s the case for Jimmy Schuldt.

A lot of (where to go to camp) goes through my coaching staff in St. Cloud and my advisor. I had been in touch with Mike Levine here, and I knew Wil Nichol from a camp in the past. Those two guys I’ve been in contact with seemed really genuine. Seemed like it was going to be more of a development thing instead of them trying to watch and evaluate guys. -Jimmy Schuldt

When the summer is over Schuldt will head back to St. Cloud State University for his senior year. He’s the captain of a team that went 25-9-6 and were the #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. When the season ends, he’ll become one of the most coveted college free agents available to NHL teams.

Schuldt could have signed with any team following his junior season, but said his heart is in St. Cloud and he doesn’t want to ever regret giving up his final chance at winning a National Championship.

Coming to Golden Knights Development Camp marks the fourth such appearance Schuldt has made. He’s appeared at camps over the last few years in Montreal, Chicago, and New York (Islanders).

Seemed like a really cool opportunity, really excited to be out here. Pretty incredible inaugural season for them and I was excited to come down and test it out. I’d never been out west, so that was a cool thing for me. -Schudlt

He’s hoping to be the next Zach Whitecloud, who is also participating in Golden Knights Development Camp. Whitecloud went to Kings Development Camp a year ago, but decided to sign with Vegas after his sophomore season at Bemidji State when he officially hit the open market.

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Who We’re Watching At Development Camp

Four of a Kind (Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, Erik Brannstrom, Nic Hague)

href=”http://sinbin.vegas/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/VGKCamp172.jpg”> It’s going to take a lot, but this year McPhee may actually consider giving a roster spot to a rookie. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)[/

The question for these four is if any of them are ready to take the next step to play in the NHL next season. George McPhee called it a long shot that any of the four make the roster, but if they are going to, the path starts now. They’d have to clearly rise above everyone else to even have a chance. Last year, Brannstrom was the most impressive, but the junior seasons of Glass, Suzuki, and Hague give hope they’ll come in and shine this week.

Zach Whitecloud

Whitecloud has a chance to be this year’s Alex Tuch. Last year the 21-year-old Tuch looked like a man amongst boys at Development Camp and it began his path to earning a spot on the Golden Knights roster full time. As it currently stands, there does look to be a spot open for Whitecloud to slide into, but he has to be great starting this week to get it. Whitecloud won’t be the oldest player in camp, but it needs to look like he is. He should be without question the most pro-ready player at Development Camp. By the time the week is out, making sure that is clear would go a long way to McPhee penciling him into the plans to start out next season.

Jimmy Schuldt

Many of the players at Development Camp for the Golden Knights are not under Vegas’ control, Schuldt is the most intriguing of them all. Like Whitecloud was a year ago, Schuldt is one of the most coveted undrafted NCAA free agents and will be free to sign with any team when his next season at St. Cloud University is over. A Hobey Baker finalist, he’s an offensive-minded defenseman who was the captain of his team as a junior.

Last year at this time he was in the Montreal Canadiens Development Camp and the Habs have reportedly been keeping their eyes on Schuldt ever since.  McPhee proved a year ago that he’s willing to sign a player like Schuldt and hand him an immediate roster spot right out of college. Being invited to Vegas’ camp is a good sign the Golden Knights like the player and may consider signing him when he’s eligible. However, coming to camp doesn’t always mean you have a leg up on signing the player. Zach Whitecloud was in Kings camp last year, and we all know how that worked out.

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Offseason Outlook: Defensemen

Through the course of the playoffs, the surprise unit for the Golden Knights were the defensemen. They completely shut down the Kings, they stifled the Sharks, and they bent but didn’t break against the Jets. Then, in the Stanley Cup Final, it kind of fell apart for the Vegas blueliners.

So, as we head into the offseason the burning question for George McPhee and the Golden Knights front office is whether or not they need to add to bolster their defense or of the missing piece is already on the roster.

Here’s a look at who the Golden Knights currently have under their control.

Nate looks like he’s become a star in the NHL. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Established and Signed
Brayden McNabb, Nate Schmidt, Deryk Engelland, Jon Merrill, Brad Hunt

While this list contains 310 games played and three players who played all 20 playoff games, there are really only two fully reliable options as full-time starters moving into 2018-19. McNabb and Schmidt are expected to be stalwarts on the Golden Knights blue line this season and moving forward. They may not be paired together again next season, but they’ll certainly be in the top four.

Engelland is a bit of a mystery as he probably had the best season of his career at the age of 35. The question is can he continue playing at that consistent level as he heads into the final few seasons of his career.

Then there are Merrill and Hunt. Hunt is a player that’s bounced around the NHL and AHL and has never really gotten a full-time shot to prove himself. The reason for that is because he’s a bit of a liability defensively due to his size. He’ll have to play well in camp once again to make the roster, but even if he doesn’t, Hunt will be a good option in the event that a puck-moving defenseman becomes unavailable during the season. Merrill is a bit of a different story as he’s more of a defensive-minded player but has the ability to pinch in and help out offensively. The Golden Knights signed Merrill to an extension last season which indicates they believe in him, but it’s still not probable that he’s a 60+ game defenseman next season.

Established and under VGK control
Colin Miller, Shea Theodore

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6th Defenseman

Expect Sbisa to get back in the lineup, but who he’ll be paired with remains a question. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Just as is the case with the 12th forward, with the return to health along the Golden Knights blueline, All Star head coach Gerard Gallant has some tough decisions to make heading into Wednesday’s playoff opener.

Nate Schmidt, Brayden McNabb, Colin Miller, and Shea Theodore are certainties to be in the lineup. Deryk Engelland is likely to be crack the lineup but there’s at least a bit of decision making needed with him as his play has seemed to slip as the season has worn on.

That leaves four defensemen with just once spot available in the Vegas D-core. As we did with the forwards, here’s a pros and cons list of each player and then both Ken and I made selections as to who we believe will get the call.

Luca Sbisa
20 Playoff games
1 goal, 4 points, -10 rating, 17:15 ATOI

Pros: Sbisa was one of the most reliable Golden Knights defenseman to start the season, was once considered VGK’s superstar shadown, and he has played several playoff games. Before being injured in mid-November Vegas was 10-5-1 with him in the lineup. Usually, Sbisa was paired up with Nate Schmidt and split duties covering the best forwards in the NHL. Like Englland, Sbisa is best staying home and protecting the net. Although he has done his share offensively. When Sbisa records a point the Golden Knights are 10-1-1 this season.

Cons: Sbisa has been hampered with injuries most of his career, and this year has been no different. Vegas was expecting a healthy defenseman after playing a full 82 games in Vancouver last season. It’s uncertain how injured he is, or if he’s even healthy enough to play against the Kings. Sbisa has suited up for 20 postseason games, going 8-12 with three different franchises. Sbisa could be the better overall option but Gallant may decide to go with Engelland because of similar style and trust.

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GOLDEN KNIGHTS SIGN ZACH WHITECLOUD (D) TO ENTRY-LEVEL CONTRACT

Reinforcements are on the way for the Golden Knights who have recently become a bit thin on the blue line. Zach Whitecloud, an undrafted free agent defenseman from Bemidji State University, has signed an entry-level contract with the Golden Knights.

He’s a very well-rounded player. A highly sought-after defenseman by a lot of clubs and we are delighted to acquire him as our first college signing. It should be a very good fit for the Vegas Golden Knights. -George McPhee

As mentioned in our previous article, Whitecloud is a well-rounded defenseman that’s been described as having “no deficiencies.”

He’s got a good, balanced skillset, has good depth to his game, good size, good puck skills, shoots the puck extremely well, and he’s a good defender. Zach Whitecloud’s biggest strength is probably that he has no deficiencies. If you want to sit there and analyze every shift, he’s doing something different every shift. That, to me, is a sign of a pretty good defenseman. -Tom Serratore, Bemidji State coach

He’s a mobile defenseman. He moves the puck real well and he’s a safe player right now. We think he plays conservatively and we believe he can give us a lot more offensively. He has lots of room for growth. He’s good and safe and conservative. He’ll build the offensive in his game. -McPhee

Whitecloud is expected to join the Golden Knights in Buffalo on Saturday. Nate Schmidt is also supposed to join the team and play in that game, so we are unsure of when (or if) Whitecloud will make his NHL debut.

Three Undrafted College Free Agents That Should Be On VGK’s Radar

Many college hockey programs finished their seasons this week, which means it’s entry-level contract time and all NCAA players are free to sign pro-level contracts. In most cases the player would sign with the team that drafted him and team get assigned to an AHL affiliate. When it comes to undrafted players, they have the option to sign with any team that makes an offer. Just take a look at what Pittsburgh does every March.

Hey you two, don’t forget about the NCAA guys! (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Penguins never back away from NCAA players in the draft and on the free agent market. Last season, Pittsburgh signed coveted Northeastern University forward Zach Aston-Reese. He was immediately sent to the AHL but was given the opportunity to play this season, totaling 6 points (4G, 2A) in 10 games before he got hurt last month. They did the same with Connor Sheary after his senior season at UMass-Amhert wrapped up in 2014. See Thomas Di Pauli and Ethan Prow for a couple more examples.

We suggested this last year, and it didn’t happen, but that’s not going to stop us from suggesting it once again this season.

Here are a few defenseman that could help the Golden Knights organizational depth. Remember, Vegas splits an AHL team and they need more bodies in the system.

Mattias Goransson: UMass-Lowell
22-years-old/6’3/Left Defenseman

If Vegas is concerned about the lack of depth on the blue line, they could target the highly skilled Goransson. The Swede is effective shutting down forwards, moving the puck and starting rushes. Mostly he’s a stay at home defenseman, and scouts rave about Goransson’s gap control. Opposing players mention how aware they were of his presence on the ice. At 6’3, Goransson has NHL blueline size combined with NHL skill. If I were ever a GM, I’d take a risk on any Swedish defenseman.

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