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Why Do Fans Hate Nick Holden?

Poor guy. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

One of the Golden Knights’ major additions this offseason was bringing in defenseman Nick Holden as a free agent. The 6’4″ versatile defenseman has scored 10 goals twice and has tallied 20 or more points three times in his career. He’s responsible defensively and is consistently deployed to start shifts in his own zone (56% career D-Zone Starts).

However, the moment Holden’s signing to Vegas was announced, a barrage of hate was thrown towards the Golden Knights by fans of Holden’s previous teams, the Avalanche, Rangers, and Bruins. Look…

But why? Why is it pretty much universal when you ask fans what they think of Holden they react negatively? To find the answer, we went straight to the source and asked the man himself, why does everyone hate you?

I think cause I’m not a real flashy guy. I try to do the little things right all the time. I won’t make any real big plays where fans will notice me. They’ll notice when I get scored on and they won’t notice anything else. They won’t notice if I block a shot. Most fans like the offensive guys and the tough guys and I’m neither. -Nick Holden

What Holden does is play good defense. Holden has posted four consecutive seasons with a defensive point share of over 2.5 and registered a 3.9 in each of the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. For reference, only Brayden McNabb (5.0) and Nate Schmidt (4.8) scored over 3.9 for Vegas last year.

I learned a few years ago to not really watch that stuff, it just matters what happens in here (the locker room). -Holden

We’ll see what Vegas fans eventually think of Holden when he hits the ice for the Golden Knights for real. Odds are they’ll hate him too, even though he’s a really good player, just not the right kind of really good player.

Daniel Carr: “I’m Here To Prove I’m An NHL Player”

Carr is in a group with Lindberg, Carrier, Carpenter, Hyka, Pirri, McKenzkie, and others all competing for one or two roster spots. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Some in Montreal found it puzzling why the Canadiens let RFA Daniel Carr fall into the free agency market. It didn’t take long for Golden Knights GM George McPhee to sign the left-handed forward to a one-year, one-way contract worth $750,000.

I’m here to prove I’m an NHL player. I’m going to play my game and play it to the point where you don’t really give them the choice. -Daniel Carr

Carr is fully aware of the offensive logjam in Vegas. Realistically, he’s fighting for a bottom six spot with a group of about eight other forwards. Carr does have a few things working for him. He has 94 NHL games under his belt and he has the ability to boost some much-needed offense on the bottom two lines.

The way this team plays… it just makes hockey fun. It’s like ‘okay everybody, go out there, and make plays.’ It’s just fun. The system just lets you go play. It’s kinda like letting your hockey senses take over and just go out there. It makes the game easy, and it’s just fun. -Carr

Carr had early successful in Montreal, and when I say early, I mean it. In his first NHL career game, the 26-year-old scored his first goal on his first shift. However, over time Habs coach Claude Julien juggled his lines so often that Carr was a healthy scratch for many games last season.

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Golden Knights Defensemen Power Rankings

Brannstrom is on his way to forcing McPhee and Gallant into keeping him around. (Photo by Brandon Andreasen)

We are now over a week into training camp and have seen a pair of preseason games in which 32 different skaters have taken the ice for the Golden Knights. The impending suspension of Nate Schmidt and the possibility of Shea Theodore missing games with the contract negotiations has the blue line wide open heading into October 4th.

I like carrying eight defensemen and we’ve done it because some of the young guys weren’t really ready to be called up, so we wanted to carry eight. We’re carrying eight again next year. The good news is, we’ve got guys that can be called up this year. -George McPhee

Of course, there are still nearly three weeks of practice and six preseason games to sort it all out, but let’s take a look at how we think it shakes out as we speak.

This is a ranking of each defenseman in the Golden Knights system by the current level of play. This does not take into account things like suspension, holdout, waiver exempt status, contract, or likelihood to make the roster. These are my rankings, not necessarily how I believe the team would rank the players. (Nonetheless, admittedly, a lot of my beliefs come from decisions made by the front office and coaching staff on players.)

1) Nate Schmidt

Nate is in a class of his own on the Golden Knights blue line. He’s the only player currently even close to being considered a 1A defenseman, and even that can be debated either way. However, with the suspension, he’s unavailable for 20 games, so he won’t be an option for the Golden Knights come October 4th.

2) Brayden McNabb

Looking back on the contract, McNabb was an absolute steal for George McPhee. With Schmidt’s absence, McNabb will step into the role as the Golden Knights top defenseman. He’ll be relied upon to stop the opposing teams’ best players night in and night out for the first month and a half and will be the key penalty-killing defenseman as well. McNabb is much maligned at times, but the guy is a legit high-end shutdown defenseman and when paired with the right player, he and his partner can shine.

3) Colin Miller

Yes, Miller is rated above Theodore, and not because Theodore is not in camp, but because Miller is the more complete player at this moment. Give it a few years and Theodore will probably soar past him, but right now Miller has become acceptable (and probably even more than that) in his own end and he’s an absolute weapon in the offensive zone. He boasts the hardest shot on the team and he’s bound to have a mega offensive season playing a much more prominent role than a year ago.

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Erik Brannstrom’s Time To Really Shine

The road to winning a roster spot really starts tonight. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Top billing for the Golden Knights first preseason game of 2018 will likely go to Max Pacioretty. The newest Golden Knight will be making his T-Mobile debut wearing “the shield” as he put it. Many other eyes will be focused on William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault returning to the ice together for the first time since June. But the real headliner for this preseason game isn’t any of those three, we know where they’ll all end up. No, the real headliner is Erik Brannstrom who will be stepping onto the T-Mobile ice for his first officially sanctioned NHL game.

Brannstrom was the third of the Golden Knights three first round picks in 2017, but he’s risen, at least in my eyes, to become the clear favorite as the top prospect in Vegas’ somewhat stacked system. With the suspension of Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore still not in camp due to contract negotiations, the Golden Knights blueline is wide open with roster spots. Brannstrom, who just turned 19, dominated in the rookie games and he’s looked very good in the couple of scrimmages he’s played with the veterans.

He’s learning every day, I think he’s learning and play without the puck I’ve noticed a difference from our first game to tonight’s game. Not giving up as many opportunities without the puck, having better reads and this is only in a short period of time. This is a 72-hour period I’ve noticed a change. -Rocky Thompson, Chicago Wolves coach, following rookie game #3

However, doing it at City National Arena and doing it in T-Mobile Arena are different animals sometimes. Brannstrom is part of a defense group of Nic Hague, Nick Holden, Brad Hunt, Colin Miller, and Jake Bischoff. Brannstrom needs to stand out, every single game he’s on the ice if he wants to make the roster. Impressing GM of the Year George McPhee and Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant enough for them to forego a young player’s waiver exempt status is a tall task. We’ll see if Brannstrom can get it done, but one thing we do know is he’s already impressed his teammates.

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Training Camp Day 1 Quotes

New guys are fitting in quickly. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

A team that plays a high paced game like we do I think it’s important to do a lot of skating and to do a lot of up-tempo drills so that when it comes to games you are kind of used to that. -Paul Stastny

It’s hard to see any positive in losing the Final, but after a few weeks or months you start to understand what you did right and what you did wrong and make sure you don’t do it again, so there is always something you can take from any negative situation. -Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

(Having a child) is still the best accomplishment we’ve ever done. He’s so cute, it’s impossible to be that cute. He has a hockey stick, he doesn’t know what it is, but he has one. -Bellemare

We had the meeting to go over our systems and it was very very similar to what we did in Montreal. I was able to sit in that meeting and kind of know what to expect. Then I went out on the ice and was able to not think on the first day because I’m so used to our breakouts and our system when we go back for pucks. It’s a system I’ve had a lot of success with and I look to pick up where I left off with it. -Max Pacioretty

It’s important to make sure everyone knows that just because there’s a lot of hype around here it doesn’t mean anything. It starts with what we did in the summer, it starts with what we do today and constantly building as a team on and off the ice to repeat that success from last year and take that next step. -Stastny

First and foremost their unbelievable guys (Stastny and Pacioretty). I’ve been talking to them and I sat next to them at the team dinner and we were cracking jokes and they are just great guys. They’ve been around the block for a while and they’re really experienced and it’ll be fun to be on the same team as them this year and I’m going to try to learn as much as I can from them too. -Alex Tuch

I still think we have some doubters that we won’t do it again, that it was almost like a lucky Cup run. That’s the mentality that we have going in that we still have a lot to prove and we still want to be that elite team that’s making a Cup run and we are all in, all of us are. -Tuch

We have some new guys, we have some different situations than last year in a way but I think every individual, just make sure you stay healthy, make sure you put the work in. Hopefully everyone did put the work in during the Summer, that’s the expectation when we left here. -Erik Haula

Just individually try to get better, and having a little internal competition is good. Just keep pushing each other and that ultimately makes all of us better. -Haula

It’s a little bit different (than last year), we’re so comfortable with each other, we’re a really tight group, but I don’t think the prove it mentality is gone and I think that’s really good. We’re still building towards something and we want to be a really good team for a long time. -Haula

February 17th, The Day Max Pacioretty Decided He Wanted To Be A Golden Knight

The final score didn’t get in the way of a night Pacioretty has since called “one of the most memorable” of his career. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The French-Canadian media had packed up and shuffled out of the visiting team’s locker room after a 6-3 Golden Knights victory. There were only a few of us (local media) leftover when Montreal captain Max Pacioretty stood by his stall looking to chat. A few questions and three and a half minutes later, I knew I had a few gems.

That quote ended up creating a bit of a storm back east as some Habs fans took offense to Pacioretty’s comments. The next day, sports talk radio hosts in Montreal were trying to calm down unreasonable fans. Realistically, the veteran NHL’er was being a good team ambassador praising the newest franchise.

Everyone around the league that I’ve talked to that has already played here said the same thing and I just said, ‘oh yeah that’s great,’ but when you experience it for yourself, that was a treat to play and I wish we played them more than once a year. They do such a good job with the entertainment in this building. It was really a lot of fun except for the result.-Pacioretty 2/17/18

After another lopsided Montreal loss, I was shocked how open Pacioretty was, and I believed every word. It wasn’t lip-service. He really did enjoy playing at the T-Mobile Arena. The music, the in-arena entertainment, the Las Vegas pageantry, Pacioretty loved it all. For one February night in Las Vegas, in the midst of a tumultuous season, the 29-year-old had fun just playing hockey.

Until I saw it with my own eyes, I didn’t really believe it. I’m not sure exactly what I said something along the lines of it was one of the most amazing hockey experiences of my life.  -Pacioretty

After that postgame exchange, I got the feeling Pacioretty would consider playing for the 31st franchise. On Wednesday, he essentially confirmed that.

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Prospect Rankings Update

Following Rookie Camp at City National Arena and the trade of Nick Suzuki, we’ve updated our prospect rankings. As always, the full rankings can be found using our navigation bar under the “Prospects” tab. Or, click this.

(Last updated: September 12, 2018)

Criteria to qualify for rankings:

  • Must be younger than 23 years old
  • Cannot have played more than 10 NHL games
  • Must be either under contract or drafted by the Golden Knights

Recently Removed: Nick Suzuki (Traded to MTL)

SKATERS

1) Erik Brannstrom (D)
Acquired: 2017 Entry Draft, 1st Round, #15 overall
Age: 18 (September 2nd, 1999)
Most Recent Team: HV 71 (SHL)
Previous Ranking: #1

Brannstrom attended his first rookie camp and did not disappoint. He was easily the best player on the ice in all three rookie games and showed the much more responsible defensive game needed to have a shot to play in the NHL this year. AHL Coach Rocky Thompson (who was coaching the rookie games) specifically called him “a future top two defenseman.” In the immediate future, he’ll be heading to full training camp to try and earn a spot on the Golden Knights roster this season. With Nate Schmidt out for 20 games, he’s got a real shot.

More on Brannstrom
7/28/18 – The diminutive Swedish defenseman almost has an aura around him when he steps on the ice. Much like a home-run hitter in baseball, there’s a feeling that every time he touches the puck something special is about to happen. He has great vision and an incredibly high confidence level that leads to breathtaking stretch passes. He’s also a very good skater which helps him overcome his small stature. Moving forward he has to work on controlling mistakes. Due to his unwavering belief that he can make something happen with the puck, he tends to turn it over or get caught out of position quite frequently, much more than a reliable NHL defenseman should. Brannstrom has a legitimate shot of making the Golden Knights roster out of camp, but with his waiver exempt status and a bit of a logjam of NHL-level defenseman, he’ll more than likely end up in the AHL to start the year.

 

T2) Nic Hague (D)
Acquired: 2017 Entry Draft, 2nd Round, #34 overall
Age: 19 (December 5, 1998)
Most Recent Team: Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Previous Ranking: #4

Hague had a great trio of games at City National Arena. Not only did he score a number of power-play goals, but he also proved he’s a heck of a leader. Coaches and players couldn’t stop raving about how much impact he had on others during camp. He still looks like he’s not quite ready for the NHL, but it’s starting to feel safer and safer that he’ll be an NHLer. When it happens, he’s going to give Colin Miller a run for his money for heaviest shot on the team.

More on Hague
7/28/18 – Since slipping out of the 1st round, Hague has seemed to play with a chip on his shoulder, going out and winning the Max Kaminsky Trophy for the OHL’s Most Outstanding Defenseman. Hague is a giant on the ice standing 6’6″ tall and weighing over 215 pounds. He also has a laser beam of a shot that he unleashes when he’s able to join the attack or on the power play. His greatest defensive skill is his reach, but his skating still holds him back a bit from being a completely reliable defenseman. Hague will almost certainly head to the AHL this season where he may get a chance to make his NHL debut at some point during the year.

 

T2) Cody Glass (F)
Acquired: 2017 Entry Draft, 1st Round, #6 overall
Age: 19 (April 1, 1999)
Most Recent Team: Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Previous Ranking #2

As the #6 overall pick in the 2017 Draft, Glass was expected to be a top-six type forward. He still may eventually become that, but his performances in the rookie games made him look like he’s more likely headed for a role as third center. He makes a lot of little plays on both ends that impress, but he doesn’t quite show the flair that a top-end guy should playing against other 19-year-olds.

More on Glass
7/28/18 – The first draft pick in Vegas Golden Knights history has done nothing but dominate since being selected by George McPhee. He scored 102 points in 64 regular season games in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks including 37 goals. What makes Glass such a promising prospect is his ability (and willingness) to defend. He’s been relied upon in Portland as a top penalty killer and is consistently given a large minute load when his team is ahead. He’s also widely regarded as a tenacious forechecker, a skill that will fit in well with the current Golden Knights roster. Glass projects in the NHL as a two-way player with good speed, solid vision, and the ability to score. He’s still likely a year out from making the NHL roster and will probably head back to Portland this year

 

Read the rest of the prospect rankings here.

Gallant Weighs In On The Haula Playing Center Or Wing

Hard to believe it makes sense to switch positions on a player who scored 29 goals a year ago. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The moment Paul Stastny signed with the Golden Knights, a center controversy sparked. Stastny will almost certainly play center on the second line and with the addition of Max Pacioretty, he’ll be on his left wing. That leaves Erik Haula or Alex Tuch as the other wing. Haula had a career year playing center with David Perron and James Neal last season. He’s also made multiple comments during this offseason that he sees himself as a center.

Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant gave his thoughts on the situation today.

Hauls can play both wing and center so I don’t see any issue with that. I’ve been reading a little about Hauls being pushed down to the third line, that’s not fair. Hauls scored 29 goals last year. When you look at the makeup of our team, I mean obviously you would say the Karlsson line will stay together, and there’s a good chance that’s going to stay together, and after that guys are going to figure things out. We’ll go to camp and figure out who’s the best fit with each line and what’s gonna work. Erik Haula is a hell of a player and had a hell of year for us last year. We’ll see where he’s going to fit. I’m not worried about it one bit at all. If Hauls is playing 2nd line center or 2nd line right wing or playing 3rd line it’s not an issue. Tuchy is a good player, he’s a young player, he played great on the right side last year on the 2nd line and played great on the left wing on the 3rd line. So there’s no issue there. Guys come to camp, work hard, and see what happens and hopefully nobody is injured and we’ll put our lines together and get ready for the game. It doesn’t concern me, good players can play with everybody. I’m mean I’m sure Hauls is looking at it saying, where do I fit, but it’s not an issue for me, he’ll be fine, he’ll get plenty of ice time. -Gallant

The one portion that sticks out most is “that’s not fair.” That could mean a lot of different things but the most likely is that Gallant believes it’s only fair to give Haula the first shot to play with Stastny and Pacioretty.

Camp opens tomorrow with the first preseason game being Sunday. It’s unlikely many of the established players play in that game, but every time Haula hits the ice, our eyes will be peeled on what position he’s in.

Recap Of George McPhee’s Presser On Max Pacioretty And The Impact Of What He Said

#67 is here to stay (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

George McPhee met with the media to talk about the trade for Max Pacioretty. Here’s absolutely everything you need to know about what he said and why it all matters.

  • Trade negotiations for Pacioretty began after the draft and it took a couple months to get done. It picked up considerably the last few days and then GM Marc Bergevin gave McPhee about seven hours to negotiate a contract with Pacioretty. The trade would not have happened at all if Vegas did not have a contract extension in place for Pacioretty. Trade with the team was contingent upon the deal with the player. The contracr extension was $28 million for 4 years or $7 million AAV against the salary cap.
    • Why it matters: This proves the Golden Knights would not have taken the risk to give up as much as they did if they did not have the guarntee that they would have Pacioretty for longer than just the one year. It also shows a bit of a template for what McPhee may be thinking in the Erik Karlsson deal. Not looking for a rental at this time, at least not at as steep of a price as he paid for Pacioretty.
  • McPhee confirmed a previous deal that Montreal had (reported as being the LA Kings) that did not work out because a contract extension could not be reached. Thus, Montreal was reluctant to allow Vegas to negotiate with Pacioretty before a deal was completed.
  • McPhee says he thinks Pacioretty fits well with the Golden Knights. Called him a scorer and a great two-way player that can play in all situations.
    • Why it matters: McPhee did not like the defense of the second line (Neal, Perron, Haula) last year. So he went out and acquired two strong defensive players that also have a lot of offensive potential. Pacioretty and Stastny will both help on power play and penalty kill. In McPhee’s mind the team is even better now than it was a year ago. (I agree.)
  • McPhee also specifically mentioned that Pacioretty has played for Gerard Gallant in the past (while Gallant was an assistant in Montreal).

We’ve added a couple of players in Stastny and Pacioretty that are very good two-way players, very good character people. So I hope that we are a better team than we were last year. Time will tell. -McPhee

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Rookie Game 1 Takeaways – Golden Knights 7 Avalanche 6

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

There’s a lot to talk about after the first of three Golden Knights rookie games. When that happens, we tend to take the easy route and just chuck them all in one article using bullet points. So, here are 13 bullet points, one for every goal scored in the Golden Knights 7-6 win.

  • Erik Brannstrom is incredible. This isn’t new, but every time this guy steps on the ice he’s excellent. Tonight he tamed back a bit of his aggressiveness yet still found ways to make a bunch of offensive plays including a dandy of a goal.
  • The Golden Knights opted to put Brannstrom on the PK (something we wouldn’t project him to do much at the NHL level due to his size). Coach Rocky Thompson (Chicago Wolves) explained why they did it…
    • “Ultimately, it’s going to take time for him on the penalty kill, but we wanted to see some situations. We dialed it back a little bit later in the game, but we definitely wanted to see. It’s definitely a place where we see him in the future is being a top two defenseman. When you are a top two defenseman you have to be well-rounded, so you can beat those minutes.” -Thompson
  • Nic Hague had an interesting night proving something we haven’t gotten to see a ton of because we haven’t seen them play actual games against other teams, and that’s his PP prowess. Playing on the Golden Knights lesser talented PP unit, he scored twice from the exact same spot. (Also, I highly enjoyed the celly on the first one.)
  • The first period was a perfect example of a team playing “Golden Knights” style hockey. Incredibly fast in transition, pushing the puck out of the defensive zone quickly, and capitalizing on mistakes. It did in the rookie game what the Golden Knights did to many teams last year, overwhelm the opponent. Hence the five-goal lead after 20 minutes. Coach Thompson says they started to cheat out of the system a bit and that’s why the lead evaporated.

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