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Ben Hutton Has Played A Huge Role In VGK’s Defensive Turnaround

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Veteran defenseman Ben Hutton played 31 of the Golden Knights’ first 38 games this season. The game before the Winter Classic he went down with an injury that not only cost him a few months of game-action, but it also ended up costing him his spot in the lineup. Hutton returned to health about six weeks after his injury yet he was forced to watch from the press box for another month while Vegas’ “preferred six defensemen” played together.

Like every 7th defenseman in the NHL though, his time eventually came. After the Trade Deadline, the Golden Knights were experiencing a bit of a swoon and Bruce Cassidy decided it was time to shake things up. On an afternoon home game at T-Mobile Arena, Cassidy healthy scratched both Nic Hague and Zach Whitecloud which opened the door for Hutton to re-enter the line. Seven games, five of which were VGK wins, later, and Hutton has made it impossible for his coach to take him out.

In 104 minutes of action at 5-on-5, Hutton has racked up a +4 rating being on the ice for five VGK goals while conceding just one, he’s amassed a 67.4% expected goals share which is good for 6th on the team in that span, and has been on the ice for 18 high-danger chances with just four against.

Of course, it’s not a completely direct correlation as Hutton is just one of six defensemen. Still, the Golden Knights have put together one of their best defensive stretches starting with the game Hutton came back into the lineup. They’ve allowed two or fewer goals in five of the last seven games and have held the opposition under 25 shots four times.

Hutton’s partnership with Zach Whitecloud has worked great as both players’ metrics are up across the board playing with each other as opposed to without.

At the deadline, it became clear the Golden Knights needed help on the blue line. Alec Martinez, Nic Hague, and Zach Whitecloud were all struggling. The big change was bringing in Noah Hanifin and he’s been excellent since the first moment he donned a gold jersey. But the work of the other defenseman who came into the lineup at the same time cannot be ignored either.

Whenever Alex Pietrangelo gets over his illness and can rejoin the team, the decision on who he’ll replace is going to be a tough one. Hutton has already unseated Martinez, don’t be surprised if he stays ahead of Hague or Whitecloud next.

Mark Stone “Had An Apparatus Attached To His Spine” In January 2023 Back Surgery

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While the world patiently awaits more information on the status of Mark Stone’s lacerated spleen which has him scheduled to miss the rest of the regular season and potentially a portion of the playoffs, some more details have surfaced about the previous injury suffered by Stone.

During one of his many post-deadline interviews, general manager Kelly McCrimmon dropped a new nugget of information on the captain’s ailments.

Mark’s back surgery wasn’t routine if there is such a thing as routine back surgery. He had an apparatus attached to his spine and everything else, and it was a little bit unsure what his future might be. –Kelly McCrimmon to The Athletic

The surgery McCrimmon is referring to is the second of Stone’s two back procedures in eight months from May 2022 to January 2023. The first was described by the Golden Knights as a lumbar discectomy performed by Dr. Robert Watkins in Los Angeles. The second, in which Stone “had an apparatus attached to his spine” occurred in January 2023 in Denver by Dr. Chad Prusmack.

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A Look Back At The 11 Players To Score In Their First VGK Game

When Mason Morelli stepped on the ice last night he became the 81st skater to don a Golden Knights jersey in a regular season game. He was the 23rd to do so while making his NHL debut. When he scored a goal in the 1st period, he became the 11th player to do so in their first VGK game and the 3rd in their NHL debut as a Golden Knight.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane to remember each of the 11 players to score a goal in their first VGK game. We’ll start with the three in their NHL debuts as well.

Mason Morelli – February 19th, 2024 at San Jose

Cody Glass – October 2nd, 2019 vs San Jose

Vadim Shipachyov – October 16th, 2017 vs Boston

Next the other eight who did it in the first game with the Golden Knights.

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NHL Network Sweet On Two VGK Forwards

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On Wednesday, the NHL Network affectionally announced their appreciation for under-the-radar players across the league. While they’re well-loved in Las Vegas, the league’s television outlet highlighted two beloved Golden Knights forwards on Valentine’s Day.

Likely a favorite Valentine for most Golden Knights fans, Jonathan Marchessault is proving yet again how valuable he is to his team. The 2023 Conn Smythe winner leads Vegas in goals, offensive point shares, and total point shares and is third in shooting percentage. Through 53 games, Marchessault continues to be the Golden Knights’ most lethal shot and has found success on multiple juggled lines. At the age of 33, the unrestricted free agent is on pace for a career-high in goals, even strength goals, and points. His numbers indicate a bump in pay contract extension should be in the works.

Former NHL’er Dave Reid gushed on Wednesday over Marchessault’s team-leading statistics and his infectious emotions on and off the ice. There’s no doubt, the television analyst is an admirer of Mark Stone and his passion as well. Between the two, Vegas has no shortage of motivators in their lineup. It’s no surprise both are on pace for career years.

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Cassidy Weighs In On The State Of VGK’s Blue Line, Including The Zach Whitecloud Healthy Scratch

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Thursday in Arizona there was a bit of a shocker in the Golden Knights’ lineup. With Daniil Miromanov returning from injury, Bruce Cassidy opted to healthy scratch Zach Whitecloud while leaving the younger Kaedan Korczak in the lineup. It was made clear that this was a coach’s decision and today the coach backed up why he chose to make it.

First off, we’re trying to get a look at Miromanov. So that’s first and foremost. We just felt Korczak was playing really consistent hockey so we put him ahead of Zach (Whitecloud) for that game. It’s not a long-term thing but sometimes it’s good for a player to know that this young guy is pushing from underneath. -Bruce Cassidy

It was the first time Whitecloud had been left out of the lineup when healthy since February 13th, 2020, Pete DeBoer’s 10th game in charge of the Golden Knights and a game started by Malcolm Subban.

However, just a few days later, Korczak was sent to the AHL and Whitecloud appears set to jump right back into the VGK lineup tonight.

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Jonas Rondbjerg Is Proving His Worth

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Jonas Rondbjerg has not posted a point in any of the last six games he’s played with the Vegas Golden Knights. He has just one goal and three points in his 11 games this season and has managed career totals of only three goals and seven assists in 54 NHL games.

However, when the Golden Knights are in need of a replacement forward, he’s always been the first to get the call. And, beyond that, Vegas even utilized a loophole in the waiver system in order to allow him to stick around a bit longer before having to clear waivers once again.

Hockey fans are often enamored with goals and points, and for good reason, so there’s understandably a bit of confusion when a player like Rondbjerg remains ahead of many others who are much more proficient offensively. For a coach though, a player like Jonas offers so much more and Bruce Cassidy has shown it by his usage.

Rondbjerg has done a good job down where he is. He played the other night against Crosby’s line. We have no issues with having him out there against top people. He’s an excellent checking forward, and we’re trying to build his offensive game. Maybe that will come with more reps at this level. Right now we want him to check well and kill. -Cassidy

This season in the NHL, Rondbjerg has been on the ice for 104:27 at 5-on-5. The opposing team has not scored a single goal while he’s been out there and they’ve only generated 11 high-danger chances per NaturalStatTrick.com. This is all while Rondbjerg’s line has started 65% of their shifts in the defensive zone.

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Golden Knights Prospect Rankings – October 4th, 2023

Most of the rookies have been sent to where they will play for this season and we were able to get a good look at many of them. So, it’s time for an update to the SinBin Prospect Rankings.

Six players dropped out of the rankings, the most ever, leaving just 22 skaters and five goalies in the system. A familiar face has risen back to #1 while a newcomer checks in at #2.

**To view the full SinBin Prospect Rankings including the criteria used to rank the players, click here.**

Criteria to qualify for rankings:

  • Must be younger than 23 years old for skaters, 25 years old for goalies
  • Cannot have played more than 10 NHL games
  • Must be either under contract or drafted by the Golden Knights

Players are ranked based on value to the organization. The most important factor is the player’s ceiling, or how good they can eventually become, but also taken into consideration is how close they are to playing in the NHL and how likely they are to play in the NHL. This is NOT a ranking of which players are the best if a game were to be held today.

Recently Removed: Zach Dean (Trade), Ivan Morozov (Loan), Pavel Dorofeyev (NHL Experience), Peter Diliberatore (Trade), Connor Corcoran (Age), Ryder Donovan (Age)

SKATERS

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1) Brendan Brisson (F)
Acquired: 2020 Entry Draft, 1st Round, #29 overall
Age: 21 (October 22, 2001)
Most Recent Team: Henderson Silver Knights (AHL)
Previous Ranking: 2

The VGK coaching staff has gotten a good hard look at Brisson this offseason and it definitely seems as if they like what they are seeing. He’ll probably still need some seasoning in the NHL, especially when it comes to stick and physical battles, but he will play NHL games this season.

More on Brisson
2/11/23 – Ranking: 2 – Brisson’s first full year as a professional has not gone the way he and the Golden Knights wished. He’s not scoring at the pace expected for a 1st round pick sniper, and his physical game hasn’t matched the level of the AHL level to this point. 19 points including seven goals simply isn’t good enough in 37 AHL games. He still has the elite shot, and he still has some high-end vision with the puck, but there still needs to be quite a bit of improvement if he wants to become the player the Golden Knights expected when they picked him 29th overall.

8/16/22 – Ranking: 2 – It would have been great to have seen more out of Brisson at Development Camp. He didn’t score a goal in the scrimmages and aside from his well-known elite one-timer, he didn’t pop as the only 1st round pick on the ice. Often times players aren’t quite themselves in the summer, especially after a long season. So it’s possible he comes into Rookie Camp, lights it up, and claims a spot. But as of right now, he still appears to need some professional seasoning in the AHL.

2/23/22 – Ranking: 1 – Brisson has shot up this chart in large part due to his stellar sophomore season at Michigan but also his inclusion and impact on Team USA at the Olympics. Brisson continues to be dangerous on the power play, and his hockey sense has started to shine through. He’s not afraid to stick his nose into traffic to grab a loose puck and he has a good knack for where loose pucks are going to end up. When chaos happens, Brisson is usually there to clean it up. He continues to look like a bonafide NHL prospect with a ceiling in the top six.

8/7/21 – Ranking: 4 – Brisson had a solid freshman season at Michigan scoring 10 goals and adding 21 points in 24 games. He’s a power play weapon and will continue to be a point producer at the NCAA level this season. However, with Michigan’s stacked lineup, his playing time will be interesting to monitor. Michigan had four of the top five picks in the 2021 Draft and all are expected to be on the roster this year. As a late 1st round pick from the year prior, Brisson should be able to hold down a permanent spot, but we’re definitely going to learn a lot about him as to where coach Mel Pearson has him in that stacked lineup.

2/3/21 – Ranking: 3 – Brisson’s selection to the eventual gold medal-winning Team USA at the World Juniors was incredibly impressive considering how stacked that team was. He offers something unlike anything we’ve seen from a VGK prospect to this point and that’s an unbelievable shot. He loves to sit in the circle on the power play and rip shots past goalies who know it’s coming and still can’t stop it. He definitely has a ways to go in regards to strength and experience and the offensive play can improve in other areas aside from the shot, but there’s no doubt Brisson has an exciting future.

 

2) David Edstrom (F)
Acquired: 2023 Entry Draft, 1st Round, #32 overall
Age: 18 (February 18, 2005)
Most Recent Team: Frolunda (SHL)
Previous Ranking: N/A

As an 18-year-old Edstrom has slotted right into professional hockey and he’s already producing. He has 6 points in 7 games and is a mainstay in the Frolunda lineup. He’s a big strong kid who is a good skater for his size. He’s aggressive on the ice and willing to push people around (or out of the way) to get to where he needs to go. As one of two remaining 1st round picks in the VGK system, the upside on Edstrom is definitely as exciting as any prospect in the pool.

 

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

3) Layton Ahac (D)
Acquired: 2019 Entry Draft, 3rd Round, #86 overall
Age: 22 (February 22, 2001)
Most Recent Team: Henderson Silver Knights (AHL)
Previous Ranking: #6

Ahac showed up yet again this summer and training camp and has put himself in the hat as a potential NHL call up this year. He looked every bit the part of an NHL defenseman in the preseason and was calm and collected in all of the rookie games. He’ll need to take some steps offensively if he’s ever going to be a majorly impactful player, but there appear to be NHL games in his future.

More on Ahac
2/1/23 – Ranking: 6 – The biggest riser of any prospect on this update is Ahac. The main reason for this rise was his play at Training Camp when he went up against his NHL teammates. Ahac impressed much more than he ever has both with his composure in the defensive zone and his puck-moving skills. He’d always been thought of as a defense-first d-man but there is definitely more to his game when he’s around more skilled players. The numbers haven’t been there in the AHL (4 points in 34 games) which is concerning, but he didn’t look discernably different than Korczak and Kaedan is knocking at the door of being an NHL regular.

8/16/22 – Ranking: 22 – Coming into camp as one of the older players it was expected that we’d finally start to see what made Ahac a 3rd round pick. There wasn’t much to show for it aside from sound positioning and proper decision-making in the defensive zone. He’s probably not physically imposing enough to make it to the NHL on defense alone, so that offensive touch is going to have to come at some point.

2/23/22 – Ranking: 16 – Ahac has been battling through an injury that kept him out for the majority of the first half of the season. He’s finally gotten himself into the lineup but hasn’t made a huge impact at the AHL level. His skating looks good, especially in going back to get pucks, but there will likely need to be a little more willingness to jump into the play if he’s going to become an NHL player.

8/7/21 – Ranking: 15 – Scouting stay-at-home defensemen is always going to be tough, and that’s the case with Ahac. He actually flashed a lot more of an offensive game on different viewings I had, but he’s certainly not going to be labeled as an offensive-minded defenseman any time soon. Like Pachal, there’s probably a bit more of a role of him this season. Can he climb the depth chart?

2/3/21 – Ranking: 15 – Unlike the player ahead of him at this point (Diliberatore), he needed to go back to college to continue developing on both ends of the ice. Scoring as a defenseman at the NCAA level is tricky, and Ahac still likely projects as more of a defense-first option. He has one goal and six assists in 17 games, numbers that would need to improve if he’s going to stake his claim as a high-end prospect he was hoped to be as a 3rd round selection.

4/16/20 – Ahac disappointed a bit at the Fortress Invitational in Vegas and didn’t make much noise as a freshman at Ohio St. However, there’s no way that should mean it’s time to write him off. His skating ability alone is worth keeping him on the radar and he should get better and better as he progresses through his college career. It might be a while until we see him in Vegas, even in the AHL, but if he can develop the way the Golden Knights envisioned, he has the tools to be a solid player.

11/16/19 – Ahac has cemented himself as a staple in the Ohio State defense, which is impressive as a freshman. Statistically, he’s not going to blow you out of the water, but Ahac is a very good defense-first defenseman. He and the Buckeyes will be at T-Mobile Arena for the Fortress Invitational in early January.

7/5/19 – The tall, skinny, defenseman is headed to Ohio State to play college hockey this year, but he sure impressed in camp before leaving. His skating was impressive, his poise was excellent, and his passing from the defensive zone was suburb. I would have liked to see a little more jump to his offensive game, but in a first camp, as a 3rd round pick defenseman, he looked pretty darn good.

 

4) Jackson Hallum (F)
Acquired: 2020 Entry Draft, 3rd Round, #91 overall
Age: 21 (September 8, 2002)
Most Recent Team: University of Michigan (NCAA)
Previous Ranking: 10

Yet again, Hallum was one of the most exciting players on the ice at Development Camp. His speed and playmaking jump off the page to whoever is watching and it definitely appears he’s starting to truly understand how to play at a speed quicker than everyone else on the ice. He needs a big college season though to keep the upward momentum. It didn’t happen last year, maybe it will this year.

More on Hallum
2/11/23 – Ranking: 10 – Hallum was impressive in Rookie Camp and the hope was that his speed would help him dominate games in college. That hasn’t quite come to life in his freshman year at Michigan as he’s scored just four goals and added eight assists in 26 games. There has to be more to his game than speed, hopefully, that happens in the next few years at Michigan.

2/23/22 – Ranking: 7 – Everyone knows Jackson Hallum can skate like the wind. That was on display for anyone and everyone to see once again at his first Development Camp. The question was whether or not he could do anything offensively with a gear faster than everyone else on the ice. He didn’t exactly light the scoreboard up, but time and time again he was putting defenders in bad positions either creating scoring chances or drawing penalties. There’s a lot to be excited about for a kid getting ready to make a significant leap in competition this season as he heads to Michigan.

2/23/22 – Ranking: 13 – Moving up a level hasn’t seemed to slow down Hallum, either physically in his skating or in his scoring. There’s always going to be a concern as he continues to progress to tougher levels, but 49 points in 41 games is nothing to scoff at in the USHL. The penalty numbers are a bit odd though as he’s taken 70 PIM this season. Will be interesting to see if he remains this type of pest.

8/7/21 – Ranking: 12 – Yet again, Hallum torched the high school circuit, putting up 41 points in 21 games. Now it’s time for a massive step up in competition, not only in who he’ll play against, but who he’s playing with. We mentioned the stacked University of Michigan team when talking about Brisson, it’s even more interesting for Hallum, who may not even find his way onto the ice at all. If he can make an impact on that team, we’re really onto something, if he doesn’t, we might learn that the high school numbers were a mirage.

2/3/21 – Ranking: 17 – The speedy high schooler is once again shredding kids he’s much better than in Minnesota preps. Seven goals in six games and another 10 assists is certainly going to excite anyone, but the competition is about as weak as it gets for an NHL Draft pick that it’s not time to get overly excited. Missed seeing him in a Development Camp, hopefully we do in 2021.

 

5) Matyas Sapovaliv (F)
Acquired: 2021 Entry Draft, 2nd Round, #48 overall
Age: 19 (February 12, 2004)
Most Recent Team: Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Previous Ranking: 3

Sapovaliv did not flash like we had hoped in the most recent Development Camp and rookie games but there’s no doubt the skill is there for him to be a useful center. He put on a bunch of weight and it shows in the way he is able to use his body forecheck. The skating, which was a concern, does not seem to be as big a problem as was described after he was drafted.

More on Sapovaliv
2/11/23 – Ranking: 3 – As he’s set to hit his 19th birthday tomorrow, Sapovaliv has soared up the list. This actually has a lot more to do with others dropping, but Matyas has done everything you can ask for in his first season post-draft. He posted seven assists in seven games at World Juniors and was utilized as a defensive specialist as well. He’s also posting strong numbers in the OHL with Saginaw. His forechecking continues to be a strong suit and his ability to read the game as a defensive center is strong. He certainly looks like he has an NHL future.

8/16/22 – Ranking: 11 – The concern during the draft on Sapovaliv was his skating. At Development Camp, it was not notably poor which is a good sign having stepped on the Vegas ice just days after being drafted. He’s a strong forechecker and his awareness in the defensive and neutral zones is great. He potted a goal at World Juniors, but there were definitely some signs that he was struggling to keep up as the tournament went along. He’s a real boom or bust type prospect, and it’s not hard to see some of the characteristics that make VGK believe he’ll boom.

 

**To view the rest of the SinBin Prospect Rankings, click here.**

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