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NCAA Free Agents VGK Might Have Interest In

Schuldt has been to multiple NHL development camps, but he was most recently in Vegas. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For the past two years (2017, 2018), we’ve taken a stab at possible NCAA free agents that might be on the Golden Knights radar. To pat myself on the back, I predicted last year Vegas would have interest in Zach Whitecloud. Whitecloud signed a contract with Vegas the next day. How’s that for puck luck?

Since some college programs are finishing up their seasons let’s try and predict right again in 2019.

Jimmy Schuldt
Defenseman (6’1″, 205)
St. Cloud State

You’ve probably heard us hyping Jimmy Schuldt for some time. Well, he lived up to his senior season earning a candidacy for the Hobey Baker and is leading the #1 ranked team in the country to the NCAA tournament. The 23-year-old left-handed defenseman was a participant at Golden Knights camp last summer so we already know Vegas is interested. The St. Cloud Huskies are expected to make a deep run, so we’ll have to wait and see if McPhee pursues the highly-scouted free agent again.

Josh Wilkins
Forward (5’11”, 181)
Providence College

The 21-year-old is currently playing his junior season for the #8th ranked team in the country. Some overlooked the 5’11” winger due to injuries after being a highly-touted teenager. Last summer, Wilkins was injured and was forced to turn down multiple NHL camp invites, including one from the Golden Knights. Maybe, Vegas will circle around again after his strong campaign in Providence. Another factor to keep in mind is Wilkin is a teammate with Vegas prospect Jack Dugan. Both are having successful seasons and are the most productive players on the team.

Wilkins: 34 Games, 36 Points (14G, 22A)
Dugan: 34 Games, 32 Points (10G, 22A)

Maybe McPhee will take a look at their strong chemistry and develop both Friars together.

Nico Sturm
Forward (6’3″, 207)
Clarkson University

The 23-year-old German is finishing off a fantastic career at Clarkson. He’s considered the best defensive forwards in the NCAA and has that high hockey IQ all organizations are after. Sturm’s mature enough to fit in on the Chicago Wolves lineup right now. Most important, the center would feel right at home with Vegas’ because Clarkson’s mascot is also the Golden Knights. So, Sturm comes prepared with armor.

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Former Reaves Foe: A Lot Of Players Were Pushed Out, Reaves Was Not One Of Them

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Growing up watching hockey in Boston you understood early on what an NHL enforcer was. It wasn’t ‘when will the Bruins enforcer step up?’ It was, ‘which Bruins enforcer will step up?’

If you can play, the fact that you can fight shouldn’t take away from the fact that you can play. -Shawn Thornton, Former NHL Enforcer

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Times have changed and “goon” hockey has tailed off. These days holding a roster spot for a one-dimensional enforcer doesn’t make sense for a competing club. In reality, the “Mike Tyson-on-skates” type players I watched as a kid would have a hard time finding full-time NHL jobs today.

Which is why today’s enforcer has to be more like Ryan Reaves, a hybrid of equal parts power forward and sheriff. Being tough isn’t good enough anymore. Teams expect “heavies” to forecheck, create traffic, add points, and knock opponents on their ass.

None of us really love it. We do it because we’re good at it. You work on the other part of the game, because that’s what will keep you around. You work twice, three times as hard on being a better hockey player every single day so you can contribute. -Thornton

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Mark Stone’s Impact Goes Beyond The Scoresheet

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It’s no secret the acquisition of Mark Stone has made a positive impact on the Golden Knights. They are a perfect 4-0-0 since the trade, have utterly dominated consecutive division opponents, and quite simply they look a lot closer to a Cup contending team than they have all year.

All of it is with Stone barely finding the scoresheet. He has just a single point in four games and it came on a power play assist to William Karlsson.

Stone’s impact goes much deeper than how much he’s scoring and it even goes deeper than even how often his linemates get on the board. What Stone’s acquisition has done has stabilized the Golden Knights top six, while in the process taking some major match-up responsibility off the hands of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith. It’s also put Alex Tuch in a role that allows him to focus more on creating scoring chances for a line that desperately needed help doing so.

It reminds me a lot of Schmidty’s situation when we missed him. I think it put people in places that they weren’t comfortable in. It’s important to have a role on your team and feel comfortable and confident in that role. I think Stoner coming in and kind of giving us that balance through our lineup. It’s not one player that makes a huge difference but it’s one player that kind of puts everyone in a position to succeed and in a role they are comfortable in. -Max Pacioretty

Stone has played a total of 64:39 at even strength for the Golden Knights. Territorially he’s been terrific posting a Corsi For of 58.9%. He’s been on the ice for 40 shots on goal for while just 22 against. The Golden Knights have created 31 goal scoring chances including 16 high danger, which is good for about a chance every other shift, and most importantly he’s been on the ice for three goals while still has not seen one in the Golden Knights net.

But more importantly than all of those great numbers is the competition he has faced. In the four games he’s played, the forwards he’s shared the ice with most have been Elias Pettersson, Rickard Rakell, Alexander Radulov (and Tyler Seguin), and Riley Sheahan. Aside from Florida, he’s faced the best forward on the opposing team every night.

I’d say he’s playing pretty much where we are going to play him. He may play a few more minutes later on, or a few less, I don’t know, but everything’s gone good so far. -Gallant

The Florida game, the one he didn’t match-up most with the opposition’s top forwards, might be the most telling too. Aleksander Barkov was on the ice for all five goals the Panthers scored. When Barkov was on the ice with Stone, not only did Florida not score, but they attempted just one shot, and it was blocked.

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Brayden McNabb Is Getting Back On Track

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

I’m not a huge analytics guy. But when it comes to discussing how good Brayden McNabb has been for the Golden Knights, perhaps I need to Corsi-fy and Fenwick-ish my analysis of the 6-foot-4, 28-year-old defenseman.

Nah. I’ll just trust my own lying eyes.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

And what I see is a smart, honest hockey player who works well with his partner, helps out his goalie, makes wise decisions when to join the rush and isn’t afraid to sacrifice his body.

In other words, I like Brayden McNabb.

So do his coach and his teammates. He’s exactly what the Golden Knights need at this point of the season and moving forward into the postseason.

He has played in all 66 games. He leads the team in blocked shots (121). He is third on the Knights in hits (168) after Ryan Reaves and Will Carrier. He averages just under 20 minutes a game in time on ice. He is an excellent penalty killer pairing with Deryk Engelland.

He also has three goals and 14 points heading into Sunday’s game against Vancouver at T-Mobile Arena a the Knights continue to try and put some distance between themselves and Arizona for the third spot in the Pacific Division.

I think the longer you’re in this league, you get comfortable with everything. You know the system. You know your teammates. You learn when to join the rush and when to hang back. I’ve become smarter and I don’t take as many chances as I used to when I first got to the league. -McNabb

Gerard Gallant loves honest hockey players, guys he can just send over the boards and not be surprised at what they do. In McNabb, he’s got a player who’s as honest as the day is long.

I don’t know there’s much improvement from last year to be honest with you. He’s done the same job as last year and I loved him last year.

He’s a great penalty killer. He shuts down the other team’s top players and I like what he brings to our group. -Gallant

McNabb admits he’s not perfect. He had a tough stretch in mid-February where he was taking penalties, getting beat in his own end and simply not playing well. But he has turned it around. His last three games have seen a return to making good decisions, staying out of the box and doing his job. Not coincidentally, the Knights have won all three and are solidifying their third spot in the Pacific.

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Hoffman On Stone: “One Of The Best Sticks In The League”

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It was impossible to miss Florida’s forward Mike Hoffman last night. The top-line winger bombed two power play goals past Malcolm Subban and laid a nasty open-ice hit on defenseman Nate Schmidt.

Something else that stood out after the game was Hoffman’s affection for newly acquired Golden Knights forward Mark Stone.

You know they got a good player over there and he is going to be good for a long time, one of the best sticks in the league and very good in front of the net, he is a great addition for them. -Mike Hoffman

Stone and Hoffman shared a line in Ottawa for multiple seasons and played as teammates starting in 2012. The two also played several seasons together with the AHL’s Binghamton Senators.

Yeah, I played with Stone for a long time and he is a really good guy and obviously a really smart and talented hockey player. -Hoffman

The Panthers 30-goal scorer was drafted a year earlier but grew up through Ottawa’s system with Stone. They undoubtedly had chemistry together. Just take a look at this beautiful PP setup from last season.

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Which Players Do The Golden Knights Miss Most (And Least) When They Are Out

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On December 13th, 2017 the Golden Knights claimed Ryan Carpenter on waivers from the San Jose Sharks. It took him almost a month, until January 5th to finally get in his first game. Since, he’s become a staple in Gerard Gallant’s lineup… much to the chagrin of many in the fan base.

Carpenter has just 13 points in 50 games this season and is a -8 in the plus/minus category. He’s among the worst on the team in just about every statistical category, yet when asked Gallant never has anything but good things to say about #40.

Carpenter is the same for me every night, pretty much. He is a solid player, he doesn’t make many mistakes. He does the right thing with the puck all the time, so we had very few turnovers tonight and he is a part of that. He did a good job on our penalty kill, so really liked his game -Gallant

He is one of the best in giveaways, just coughing the puck up 15 times in 630 minutes on the ice, and there’s no question he’s a strong penalty killer.

But let me throw another group of numbers into the mix. Whether it’s related to Carpenter or not, the Golden Knights are miserable without him. They are a pathetic 2-11-1 without Carpenter in the lineup and score just 2.21 goals while allowing 3.57 when he’s in the press box.

Here is a breakdown of all 19 players who are currently on the roster that have missed games. The numbers shown are how the Golden Knights perform without the designated player.

 RecordPts%GF/GGAGF%
Bellemare1-0-01.002.001.0066.7
Carpenter2-11-1.1792.213.5738.3
Carrier7-8-1.4692.693.0646.7
Eakin1-3-0.2502.003.2538.1
Haula27-18-4.5923.162.8652.5
Lindberg15-12-2.5522.862.5952.5
Nosek6-3-0.6673.782.8956.7
Pacioretty8-2-3.7313.312.5456.6
Reaves1-0-01.004.003.0057.1
Smith3-4-0.4293.003.0050.0
Stastny17-12-1.5833.102.7752.8
Tuch4-4-0.5002.252.6346.2
Pirri2-1-0.6673.672.6757.9
Zykov7-7-1.5002.933.1348.4
Engelland4-2-1.6433.432.7155.8
Holden4-7-0.3642.553.1844.4
Merrill14-6-2.6823.552.6856.9
Schmidt8-11-1.4252.502.9046.3
Theodore1-0-01.003.002.0060.0

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The Golden Knights Have Found Their Captain

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

When the Golden Knights launched their inaugural season in 2017, the team decided it would not have a captain.

The mantra from general manager George McPhee and coach Gerard Gallant was, “We have 23 captains.”

They pointed to the veterans in the locker room as the team’s “leadership group.” If anything needed to be said, if anyone stepped out of line, Marc-Andre Fleury, James Neal, David Perron or Deryk Engelland would take care of it.

Sure enough, the room stayed together, the Knights had a historic first year and made it to the Stanley Cup Final.

But Neal and Perron left in July. Replacing them were Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty. Both have been in leadership roles with Pacioretty having served as the captain of the Montreal Canadiens, a prestigious honor given the history of that iconic franchise. Stastny was an assistant captain in Colorado.

Yet, you can’t help but wonder if something has been missing in the Vegas locker room this year. Yes, Fleury still commands everyone’s respect. Engelland is still with a voice among his teammates. I don’t know that either Stastny or Pacioretty are active in being leaders in Vegas since I’m not in the room on a daily basis. I would like to think they are.

But maybe the time has come to narrow the voices from 23 to one.

Mark Stone arrived Monday from Ottawa in the biggest trade on NHL deadline day and the 26-year-old who wore the “A” with the Senators would be the perfect person to be the Golden Knights’ first captain. Obviously not this season. But by September, the team should seriously consider giving Stone the “C.”

Here’s why.

He has seen what dysfunction can do to a team, how it can tear it apart and lead to frustration. He tried to hold the room together in Ottawa and while you can argue he wasn’t successful given the Senators’ record, the fact he came to the rink every night, played hard, and set an example of doing things the right way as the team’s best player speaks volumes to his character.

His performance in Vegas will earn his teammates’ respect. They’ve all played against him and he’s a pain to go up against. Now he’s one of them and the Knights will benefit from Stone’s work ethic, his skill, his experience, and his competitiveness and daily commitment. As GMGM said Monday after acquiring him, it’s not every day a special player joins your organization.

I don’t know that he changes it because we have a terrific room, great leadership, real quality people. He certainly adds to it. He’s as fine of a person as you can find in this game. You like him off the ice, you like him on the ice. Kelly McCrimmon knows him very well, he had him as a young player. I worked with him at the World Championships a few years ago, we won the gold medal in Russia. So, he is the type of player that you will always look for and hope to be able to land. -McPhee

Ultimately, it’s the players who have to believe in the guy they decide to follow. He’ll do his talking on the ice for the time being.

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Ryan Reaves Knows How Mark Stone Felt Yesterday At Noon

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In the summer of 2017, the Pittsburgh Penguins reached out to St. Louis Blues and offered a first-round pick for Ryan Reaves, which the Blues couldn’t pass up. Although disappointed to leave St. Louis, Reaves was excited to play for the perennial Cup contending Penguins and be a protective force for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, etc.

Leading up to it, it wasn’t really on my mind. In my head, Pittsburgh traded for me because they were getting beat up in the playoffs all of the time. Playoffs were coming up, and that’s why I was there or so I thought. Wasn’t even thinking about it. -Ryan Reaves

There was chatter around the league that Pittsburgh was concern about being pushed around in the playoffs despite winning two consecutive Stanley Cups.

Only had 6 fights you say? Yes but nobody wanted to fight him. I guarantee the guy that crosschecked Crosby in the face wouldn’t have done so had Reaves been cruising around. Tarasenko, Blues leading scorer and point guy with 39 goals and 36 assists, just loved Reaves around. He’s not a happy camper today with that trade. -Don Cherry, June 2017

So with no inclination that he was being shopped, Reaves continued his normal life in Pittsburgh. However, slowly the signs started to appear and of course the rumors were turning up on social media.

I got scratched. I might’ve been able to read into that because I hadn’t been scratched for a while. I got scratched a couple of days before the deadline and basically I was reading tweets that there was a deal between Ottawa and Pittsburgh. -Reaves

It still hadn’t fully grabbed Reaves attention because his name wasn’t being mentioned in the rumors. But there was something about those tweets.

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How George McPhee Used The Expansion Draft To Yield Mark Stone And Max Pacioretty (And Still Has Assets To Burn)

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When the Expansion Draft was over and the dust had settled a bit, the Golden Knights walked away with much more than just the 30 players made up of one from each team.

By July 5th, George McPhee had “harvested” (his word, not mine) a bushel of assets that were expected to help reach the stated goal of reaching the playoffs by year three and lifting the Cup by year six. Here’s the full list of what the Golden Knights were sitting on a little over two weeks after the Expansion Draft.

Acquired
2017 1st round pick (Nick Suzuki)
2017 1st round pick (Erik Brannstrom)
2017 2nd round pick (Jake Leschyshyn)
2017 5th round pick (Jack Dugan)
2017 6th round pick (Jiri Patera)
2018 4th round pick (Paul Cotter)
2018 5th round pick (Brandon Kruse)
2019 2nd round pick
2019 2nd round pick
2019 3rd round pick
2019 3rd round pick
2019 5th round pick
2020 2nd round pick
2020 2nd round pick
Shea Theodore
Reilly Smith
Alex Tuch
Jake Bischoff
Keegan Kolesar
Dylan Ferguson
Nikita Gusev

Gave Up
2017 2nd round pick (Alexandre Texier)
2018 3rd round pick (Connor Dewar)
2018 4th round pick (Jack Gorniak)
2018 7th round pick (Riley Hughes)

Since then, things have changed a bit. The Golden Knights started out on fire and it’s never really slowed down. They won the Pacific Division, the Western Conference, and are in line to make the playoffs again in year two. Since July 5th, 2017, the Golden Knights have made nine more trades.

Acquired
Mark Stone
Max Pacioretty
Ryan Reaves
2018 4th round pick (Slava Demin)
2018 6th round pick (Peter Diliberatore)
2019 5th round pick
Tobias Lindberg
Zachary Leslie
Tye McGinn
Philip Holm

Gave Up
Brendan Leipsic
Calvin Pickard
Oscar Lindberg
Brad Hunt
Nick Suzuki (2017 1st round pick)
Erik Brannstrom (2017 1st round pick)
2018 1st round pick (Joe Veleno)
2019 2nd round pick
2019 2nd round pick
2019 6th round pick
2020 2nd round pick
2021 3rd round pick
Jimmy Oligny
(Tomas Tatar was acquired and then traded so he does not appear on either side of this list.)

Here’s the craziest part, look what happens if you add up all the picks.

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Salary Cap Implications For The Golden Knights In The Aftermath Of The Mark Stone Trade

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As the dust settles on the Mark Stone trade, it’s time to start looking at the future of the Vegas Golden Knights as it relates to the salary cap.

The salary cap was set at $79,500,000 this season. The normal increase in salary cap from year to year is about 2-5%. Last season the cap increased by $4.5M. It should be expected that the cap increase from this season to next will be in the neighborhood of $4M to $7M.

Thus, we can expect the salary cap to be somewhere around $85,000,000.

According to CapFriendly.com, the best salary cap site on the Internet, the Golden Knights projected cap hit for 2019-20 is $72,875,000 without Stone’s imminent $9.5M AAV extension. So, just with Stone, the Golden Knights are looking at a projected cap hit of just under $82,375,000.

The Golden Knights still have David Clarkson on the roster. His contract can be placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) next season. There are some oddities to that rule, but for simplification sake, Vegas can get around $5.25M in salary cap relief by making this move.

Therefore, if nothing changes, Vegas should have around $7,875,000 left to work with.

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