The addition of Alex Pietrangelo will change everything in how the Golden Knights look on the back end. As opposed to having a more balanced group as they’ve had in the previous three seasons, they’ll come into this one with a much more clear hierarchy, Pietrangelo being at the top.
The most ice time any Vegas defenseman has averaged in a given season was 22:14 which was achieved by both Shea Theodore in 19-20 and Nate Schmidt in 17-18. Pietrangelo hasn’t averaged less than 24:00 in any season since his first full NHL year back in 2010-11 and has crossed 25:00 per game in six seasons.
Pietrangelo’s impact will be most felt on Theodore, who had risen to become the Golden Knights’ best offensive defenseman and TOI leader last year.
In a Q&A on the Golden Knights website, head coach Pete DeBoer was asked about Pietrangelo’s effect on Theodore.
I think Theodore is obviously on everyone’s radar now with how he’s played. He’s one of those guys now that every time you’re playing Vegas you’re going to circle his number on the board and he’s going to get a lot of extra attention. His benefit to Theodore, but also to a lot of other guys, is be able to free them up. –DeBoer to VegasGoldenKnights.com
The first thing I think of when I hear the word insulates from an NHL coach is in relation to competition. As the top offensive defenseman on the roster, Theodore was always going to draw the toughest defensive opponent, but with Pietrangelo here now, that may change.
It’s no secret Alex Pietrangelo is an elite defenseman in the NHL. If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have been the captain of a Stanley Cup champion, he wouldn’t have received Norris Trophy votes in seven different seasons, and he definitely wouldn’t have signed a $62 million contract with the Vegas Golden Knights.
But what is it that makes him special and worthy of garnering the title of highest-paid player in Golden Knights history? Well, I dug into the film to figure it out.
It starts with what he does in the defensive zone. He’s about as sound of a blueliner as you will find in the entire NHL. I’d make a highlight tape, but it would be about as exhilarating as watching paint dry, so I’ll spare you.
But that’s not what really sets him apart. There are plenty of lockdown d-men in the league and none get paid the way Pietrangelo now does.
Where he really separates himself from most is the way he reads the game offensively. He’s absolutely elite at becoming a part of the offense as a defenseman. Whether that means activating off the blue line, replacing the forward on a cycle play, or joining the rush, Pietrangelo does it all at an incredibly high level.
This makes him unbelievably challenging to defend against and should have VGK fans drooling about what they are going to see when the games finally get back underway.
Let me illustrate.
This is likely a set play off the faceoff, but it’s a play that very few players in the NHL can make. Pietrangelo sees the draw is won and the puck heading to the half wall. So, he activates off the blue line towards the goal. Watch the path he takes though. He wants to head directly to the back post and catch the feed across, but there’s a bit of traffic in front, so when he hits the faceoff dot, he alters his route slightly towards the slot, with his stick on the ice the entire time presenting himself for the pass. Then, he gets it, receives it perfectly, and pulls off a dazzling inside-out move that embarrasses both a defenseman and the goalie. Mesmerizing.
Next, here he is replacing a forward who is heading towards the blue line.
Over the course of the last month, the NHL has been releasing lists of the top players in the game. They broke it down into four position groups and ranked the best players in each; 20 at center, wing, and defense and 10 goalies. (See each list below)
The Golden Knights were represented in three lists by five players including Robin Lehner (G8), Mark Stone (W10), Max Pacioretty (W15), Shea Theodore (D14), and newcomer Alex Pietrangelo (D4).
Vegas was also the only team in the NHL to have multiple players listed at more than one position with a pair of wings and defensemen.
To take a look at exactly how the Golden Knights stacked up against the rest of the league, I created the “Star-Power Rankings” using the NHL’s lists. The best player in each position group earned 20 points, 2nd place got 19, and so on. Goalies only had 10 players listed so they were scored 20, 18, 16, etc.
In celebration of the start of the 2020-21 college hockey season, Sports Illustrated profiled the top 100 NCAA players to watch. The Golden Knights were represented by five of their own prospects in SI’s list.
At #24 was Vegas’ newest 1st round prospect Brendan Brisson (Michigan), 2018 draft pick Brandon Kruse (Bowling Green) was listed at #25, and another 2018 pick Peter Diliberatore (Quinnipiac) ranked #31. Defensive prospect Layton Ahac (Ohio State) came in at #43, and lastly, goaltender Isiah Saville (Nebraska-Omaha) was slotted in at #54 by Sports Illustrated.
For some of the Golden Knights prospects, this is a big NCAA season. Junior Peter Diliberatore has his eyes on capturing Quinnipiac‘s second school title, while Layton Ahac and Brendan Brisson chase a Frozen Four title for their Big Ten schools. All three universities are ranked in the nation’s top 15 teams.
While we wait with uncertainty on the specifics of the 2020-21 NHL season, there’s plenty of VGK hockey being played. Currently, 17 Golden Knights prospects are either already playing or getting ready to play this season.
Here’s a list of all Vegas prospects in action and how to watch their games.
Layton Ahac (2019, 2nd) NCAA – Ohio State
Entering his sophomore season, Ahac’s Buckeyes are expected to be very good this season, already ranking in the Top 10. Ohio State games can often be found on NBCSN, Big 10 Network, or Big 10+.
Brendan Brisson (2020, 1st) NCAA – Michigan
Brisson has played in his first two collegiate games and is already on the board with two points. Michigan games can often be found on Big 10 Network and Big 10+.
Nick Campoli (2017, 6th) NCAA – Clarkson
Campoli is entering his Junior season as a Clarkson Golden Knight. He has been more of a checking forward to this point in his career. Maybe this is the season the offense starts to come through. It needs to or his time as a VGK prospect will be limited. Clarkson’s schedule begins on November 22nd with many games airing on ESPN+.
Cormier is a big-time point collecting defenseman that is a lot of fun to watch. He’s in the running to be a part of the Team Canada World Junior roster for the tournament beginning on Christmas Day, but in the meantime, the QMJHL rolls along with a few games a week. All QMJHL games stream live on their website using the All Acess subscription.
Peter Diliberatore (2018, 6th) NCAA – Quinnipiac
Diliberatore had an excellent sophomore season and should be expected to be a huge part of a very good Quinnipiac team. The Bobcats first game is scheduled for November 24th with a few games streaming on ESPN+.
Ryder Donovan (2019, 4th) NCAA – Wisconsin
Donovan scored a pair of goals in the Badgers’ second game of the season. He’s currently playing on the 4th line as a wing. Many games air on Big 10 Network or stream on Big 10+.
A small puck-moving defenseman that is best known for his offense. He’s just 5’9″ and isn’t considered the best skater but he is dynamic in the rush. He’s best on the power play where he amasses most of his points.
Cormier is a puck-mover who has a good first pass out of his zone and good vision in the offensive zone. He makes quick decisions with the puck and his passes are crisp with great accuracy. He did have some bad games in our viewings this year, where some bad-puck management was on display along with some questionable play in his own zone. He’s not a big defenseman, he even looks smaller than his listed size. Regardless, it’s going to be very challenging for him to make it to the NHL. -NHL Black Book
Cormier says he models his game after Torey Krug and Sam Girard.
3rd Round – #91 Overall Selection: Jackson Hallum (F) – St. Thomas Academy (HS-MN)
Hallum is a speedy forward that some consider to be the best skater in the entire draft. He’s a two-way player due to his high end-skating but is more known as an offensive-minded forward who generates offense for any line he’s on.
Hallum has excellent explosiveness and top end speed and this season he started to figure out how to best use it to his advantage offensively. Using his speed to not only gain the edge and drive the net on opponents but to also penetrate the middle of the ice, quickly knifing through lanes to get to the net. Hallum is strong on his skates and can use his skating abilities down low to control possession. What keeps Jackson from being a high-end NHL draft prospect is his overall playmaking ability and his tendency to make some questionable decisions with the puck, sometimes skating out of scoring positions or turning the puck over in bad areas of the ice. -NHL Black Book
**TRADE** VGK acquires pick #135 for a 2022 4th Round pick
A well-rounded defenseman who is a strong skater. Scored just 11 points in 47 games in the USHL but was strong for Team USA at the Hlinka/Gretzky tournament. His offensive is hot and cold but defensively he’s usually sound.
Noah Ellis (6th round pick) says he models his game after Shea Theodore. Said he loves how smooth he plays the game.
A 200-foot center that has played in both offensive and defensive roles both in Russian leagues and internationally. He’s 21-years-old making him by far the oldest player Vegas has ever selected. He posted 40 points in 30 games last season in the MHL.
(Huge shout out to both the NHL Black Book and Draft Recrutes. Both guides are spectacular and are must-buys for anyone who loves the NHL Draft. I’ve bought both every year the site has been around.)
With all hockey completely halted, there’s no better time to re-rack the SinBin.vegas Prospect Rankings board. Three players were taken off the board with Zach Whitecloud playing more than 10 games, Keegan Kolesar turning 23, and Slava Demin being traded to the Blackhawks in the Robin Lehner deal.
That leaves 20 skaters and 4 goalies in the Golden Knights system, I rank them all.
Golden Knights Prospect Rankings This page can always be found here.
(Last updated: April 16th, 2020)
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
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.
Krebs did everything he was supposed to since the moment he was drafted. He got himself healthy, he had a chance to practice with the NHL team for a day, and then he went back to the WHL and dominated putting up 48 assists to lead his team despite playing only 38 of the team’s 63 games. The only disappointment was that he was not selected for Team Canada at the World Juniors, but that was more due to where he was in his rehab as opposed to his skill level and worthiness to be on the team.
More on Krebs
11/16/19 – Krebs is finally back from the Achilles injury. He skated in one practice with the Golden Knights before heading back to Winnipeg to play in the WHL. He’ll wear the “C” for the Ice and is expected to be a dominant force in the league again this year. The big test will come at the World Junior Championships in December. He’ll be one of the best players on the Team Canada roster, and coming off their disappointment last year, the pressure will be on.
7/5/19 – The Golden Knights first pick in the 2019 NHL Draft is everything and more that you can ask for out of a center prospect. He’s a 200 foot player, plays in all situations, has a high level of skill, drives the offense on his line, and has great hockey sense and compete level. Unfortunately, Krebs came to camp with an injury and wasn’t able to skate. Had he gone out and dominated camp, he would have had a real shot to have been #1 on this list due to his ceiling. Hopefully he makes it took rookie camp in September, if not, World Juniors will be his next real shot to show he’s ready. By then, Glass will probably have played in 10 games, so don’t be surprised if Krebs is atop this list the next time it is updated.
2) Jack Dugan (F) Acquired: 2017 Entry Draft, 5th Round, #142 overall Age: 22 (March 24, 1998) Most Recent Team: Providence College (NCAA) Previous Ranking: #2
It’s still a mystery how Dugan was not among the three finalists to win the Hobey Baker Award after leading college hockey in points the entire season. Even without the honor though he clearly defined himself as one of the best players in college hockey. Now the question is what’s next? He could stick around for one more year after missing out on the playoffs this year, or he could sign a contract and play with the AHL team in Vegas. Either way, he’s going to be pushing for an NHL spot by the back end of the 2020-21 season.
More on Dugan
11/16/19 – Since his terrific 2019 Development Camp, Dugan has taken his game to the next level absolutely dominating the NCAA. His 24 points in 10 games leads college hockey. Dugan recently mentioned on a podcast that he wants to “dominate” at the level he’s at before moves on. He’s doing that, and then some.
7/5/19 – Maybe the most impressive player at 2019 Development Camp, Dugan appears on the path to being one of the best picks in the Golden Knights 2017 draft class. He’s absolutely everywhere in the offensive zone whether his team has the puck or not. His skating looks excellent for as large as he’s become and his ability and willingness to carry the puck seems to have come a long way. The one thing missing with Dugan is his finishing ability. It just didn’t show up much at all despite having multiple chances in Dev Camp. He’s going back to Providence this year, and it wouldn’t shock me if he’s there for a few more, but when he’s done, he’s going to be in the picture for the Golden Knights, which is awesome for a 5th round pick.
1/8/19 – The fact that Dugan dropped three spots has much more to do with what I think of the system as a whole as to what I think of Dugan. In short, I really like this kid and think he’s going to be a good player someday. The problem is that NCAA kids take forever to get to the NHL and I don’t see any difference with him. As a freshman he’s put up 22 points in 20 games at Providence so he’s continuing to produce despite the rise in competition.
9/12/18 – Did not attend Rookie Camp
7/28/18 – The leap Dugan made from the 2017 Development Camp to 2018 was tremendous. He was a scoring machine in the scrimmages both putting the puck in himself and setting up teammates. Last year he scored 66 points in 54 games with the Chicago Steel. This year he’ll be making the leap to Providence College to play in the strong Hockey East conference. Don’t expect to see Dugan in a Golden Knights uniform anytime soon, it literally might be four years away, but this is a player with a lot of upside and will likely go from relative unknown in the Golden Knights prospect system to an impactful player on NHL ice in a hurry.
3) Lucas Elvenes (F) Acquired: 2017 Entry Draft, 5th Round, #127 overall Age: 20 (August 18, 1999) Most Recent Team: Chicago Wolves (AHL) Previous Ranking: #3
Elvenes turned in a great first full professional season in North America, leading the Wolves in points and ranking fourth among all rookies in the AHL. It’s a bit surprising that both Gage Quinney and Keegan Kolesar received call-ups before him, but age likely played the biggest factor in that decision. Next year will be big for Elvenes. It’s time to take that final step.
More on Elvenes
11/16/19 – Another fast riser on this list, Elvenes is all the way up to #3 because he’s taken the AHL by storm as a 20-year-old. He’s leading the Wolves, all AHL rookies, and ranks 2nd in the entire AHL in points with 21. He also leads the league in assists with 16 in 16 games. Elvenes is a playmaking forward that seemed to be slow to see his game translate to NHL-sized ice. No longer is that an issue as he’s scoring in every situation in the 2nd best league in the world, the AHL. He’s knocking at the door of getting a chance to show his stuff at the NHL level, but don’t expect his stay to be long if he does get that chance due to injury at some point soon.
7/5/19 – Admittedly, I’ve been all over the place on Elvenes, but the more I watch him, the more I like him. Plain and simply, he’s a playmaker and the more comfortable he is with the players he’s playing with, the more plays he makes. In Development Camp he and Dorofeyev were shredding defenses, creating scoring chances left and right. The smaller ice appears to be less and less of an issue for him and I think surrounding his with guys who can score will help him a lot. This season with the Wolves is going to be a big one for Elvenes. If he dominates, he’s going to fly up this list, if he’s just so so, he could be near the bottom soon.
1/8/19 – There is obviously an inherent bias towards guys directly after World Juniors, but I will admit, I went in with a keen eye on Elvenes looking for one thing, playmaking at even-strength. Finally, I saw it and I saw it in bunches while Sweden was still in the tournament. He looked dangerous almost every time he was on the ice and with a maligned Swedish forward group he was probably the second or third best forward on the team. Playing in the SHL appears to have him looking for the puck a bit more and becoming more active in the play. I’m still not 100% sold this is an NHL prospect, but he’s a lot closer now than I thought four months ago.
9/12/18 – Elvenes has been flying up the charts on prospect ranking charts all over the place, but not here. He moves up a bit because he showed out very well on the Golden Knights power play, but at 5-on-5 he continued to be invisible. In practice he looked like he was primed to go out and have a huge impact on the games, then he didn’t. Not even close to time to give up in him, but he’s got to figure out the even strength on the small ice.
7/28/18 – A member of Team Sweden for the second consecutive World Junior Summer Showcase, Elvenes needs to build on his last international appearance. He put up four assists and a goal in two games last year with the Swedish U20 team but his game hasn’t translated on the North American ice at Development Camp. He didn’t flash much at all during the scrimmages either year. Playing on the smaller ice may be a factor.
There’s nothing not to like about Korczak’s game. He’s got size, he’s a good skater, he’s physical, he’s calm on the puck, he can move the puck, and he’ll chip in offensively. His numbers will continue to look good in the WHL, but it’s all about how he looks against better competition going forward and unfortunately we aren’t going to get to see much of that any time soon.
More on Korczak
11/16/19 – Korczak looked really good at camp and he has taken that game to the WHL racking up 14 points in 19 games for the Kelowna Rockets. Korczak is the type of defenseman that the Golden Knights are desperately looking for at the NHL level. Of course, he’s not ready at this point (nor would he be available to them anyway) but he’s a mobile, puck-moving d-man who will chip in offensively while taking care of his own end. The next time we really get to see what Korczak has to offer will likely be for Team Canada in December. If he can show something special in that tournament, the 2nd round pick is going to be in the top-five on this list next time for sure.
7/5/19 – The Golden Knights moved up in the draft to select Korczak and it didn’t take long to show why they valued him so much. In his own end, he’s a rock, defending both with his feet (mainly by keeping terrific gaps) and his stick. But what impressed me most with Korczak was his willingness to jump into the rush, or even start a rush. He reminded me a lot of Nate Schmidt, where the entire offense just looks more dangerous in transition when he’s out there.
The most recognizable characteristic about an NHL player, even more so than their name, face, or even how well they play hockey, is their number. Numbers were even more important for Vegas because with everyone new to the team that was the first way everyone was going to get to know the players. In theory, every number would come with a story. Of the 98 potential options, players had to have a reason to choose the one they wear every day. Right?
Well, we asked every player on the Golden Knights how they selected their jersey number, and while some have solid backstories, most don’t. Nonetheless, here they all are.
#3 – Brayden McNabb
I’ve just always worn it since junior, there’s really nothing behind it. I think I’ve always just liked 3 growing up, I just like the look of it.
#5 – Deryk Engelland
Probably just given to me, I don’t know. It was a long time ago (laughter). I was 5 or 7 growing up, but there’s no real reason for it.
#9 – Cody Glass
I was 9 when I was around 12 years old. It’s the number my brother wore, so that was kind of ironic that I ended up with it here. I’ve worn 8 most of the time but (Griffin) Reinhart had it so I had to go with something else.
#10 – Nic Roy
They just gave it to me. I had no control, but I’ve had it in the past. Had it for Team Canada in World Junior.
#14 – Nic Hague
My Dad wore it in minor hockey and junior B. I had it every year in minor hockey. The first year I did not wear it was my first year in Junior and then when I got to Chicago. I just got lucky that in the 3 years no one else wanted it.
#15 – Jon Merrill
I had a couple of options when I was coming here and it was just random that I took 15. I would have kept 7 but (Jason) Garrison had it and then I wanted 24 but Lindy (Oscar Lindberg) really wanted it. So I went with 15.
#19 – Reilly Smith
18 wasn’t available.
#20 – Chandler Stephenson
I always had numbers in the teens but I figured I’d try something new. It looks a little wide on the jersey, but I like it.
#21 – Cody Eakin
It was my Dad’s old number.
#26 – Paul Stastny
My Dad. He’s always been my favorite player and my mentor. Growing up I think you just see the number all the time. Everyone wants to be like their Dad, especially if they are a good role model. So for me, it was easy.
#27 – Shea Theodore
I wore 17 in junior, so I kind of like the 7’s. When I went and played in San Diego I wanted 17 but a guy already had it so I kinda just took 27. Then when I came to Vegas they gave me a pick and I just like the way it looked.