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DeBoer Committed To Using Depth Forwards More On Penalty Kill

As the Golden Knights head into the 2021-22 season there’s not a lot they want to change. They’ve been to the conference finals in back-to-back seasons, they tied for the President’s Trophy last year, and they’ve been consistently one of the winningest teams in the NHL since their inception.

But, since they haven’t reached the mountaintop yet they know they can’t stand pat and expect things to be different this time around.

Speaking with the media on the first day of Training Camp, head coach Pete DeBoer clued us in to one such place he’s looking for change in his forward group.

What we saw last year was I felt we overplayed some of our top guys, especially penalty killing situations. When we talked in the summer about building this team out with Kelly and George, I’m a big believer that we’ve got to have at least a couple penalty killers in the depth of the lineup so that you’re not overtaxing the top guys, you can save them a little for offensive situations. -DeBoer

Last season, the Golden Knights’ primary penalty killers were William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Mark Stone, and Chandler Stephenson, all top-six players.

Regular Season PK TOI
Total (Per/game)

William Karlsson – 99:29 (1:47)
Reilly Smith – 91:02 (1:43)
Mark Stone – 74:12 (1:21)
Chandler Stephenson – 69:47 (1:22)
Tomas Nosek – 51:04 (1:21)
Alex Tuch – 41:24 (0:45)
Nic Roy – 41:14 (0:49)

Playoffs PK TOI
Total (Per/game)

William Karlsson – 24:21 (1:17)
Reilly Smith – 26:09 (1:23)
Mark Stone – 25:48 (1:21)
Chandler Stephenson – 23:14 (1:27)
Tomas Nosek -4:04 (0:41)
Alex Tuch – 11:36 (0:37)
Nic Roy – 10:16 (0:32)

With Tomas Nosek off to Detroit and Alex Tuch injured for the first few months, this concept of using depth players to penalty kill opens the door for a number of guys. The chief among them is newly acquired Brett Howden.

Howden has averaged 1:44 of penalty killing time per game over the past few seasons for the Rangers and has been reliable doing it. This could be a hint that Howden has an inside track into the Golden Knights’ lineup early in the season.

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With Training Camp Underway GM McCrimmon Happy For Some Normalcy

(Photo by Brandon Andreasen)

Golden Knights training camp begins today representing the return of the players and finally the fans. The start of a normally scheduled camp has the Golden Knights brass ecstatic as well. The Golden Knights’ GM addressed the media yesterday to give his expectations on training camp and making another chase for the Stanley Cup.

Really excited about 82 games. Really excited about playing 31 other teams. Last year was a challenge for a lot of people and for a lot of different reasons. We’re really optimistic that this will feel a lot more like a normal NHL season. We’re pleased with our offseason, pleased with the makeup of our team as we head into the season. -Kelly McCrimmon, Vegas GM

While the GM was satisfied with his offseason changes he’s also eager to learn more about what’s in the cupboard. Entering their fifth NHL season, Vegas’ front office would like to add contributions from some of their more experienced prospects.

I always get excited about the evolution of young players. I’m excited to see Keegan Kolesar, Dylan Coghlan, Nic Hague, Nic Roy, that group of young players. I’m excited to see their progression because that’s a big part of how your team improves. Zach Whitecloud, still a young player. I’m excited to see those players. -McCrimmon

The list of players the Golden Knights GM rattled off are under contract for one more season before entering restricted free agency. Of course, it’s an established roster but the Golden Knights at some point will need impact from the younger generation. McCrimmon also mentioned centers Nolan Patrick and Brett Howden but there are different expectations considering both are new to the organization.

Coach Pete DeBoer will have the luxury of roughly three weeks and seven preseason games to examine his younger players. DeBoer will need some to quickly become everyday NHL players. There may not be many openings in Vegas’ opening day roster but there could be bottom-six minutes up for grabs.

This year has seven preseason games, last year did not. I think there’s real value in that. Not only for your veteran players but it’s a great opportunity for young guys… I believe our forwards as a group are better than they’ve been at any point in our existence. I think we made our team better at the forward position. -McCrimmon

McCrimmon stated, and few would disagree, Vegas has a roster that only a handful of teams can match. The general manager never mentioned direct expectations but the goal has to be the same under The Creator’s ownership.

With the franchise’s best-ever forward unit, star-studded defense, and superb goaltending, it has to be a Cup or Bust type mentality behind closed doors. Expect another fun ride.

Observations On Every Player Who Put On A VGK Sweater At The Rookie Faceoff – Defensemen & Goalies

Golden Knights rookies spent the weekend in Phoenix competing in three games against fellow rookie squads from the Coyotes, Sharks, and Kings. A total of 25 players suited up for Vegas, here’s are my observations on every single one of them.

Defensemen

(Photo Credit: Robert Schneidmiller, IceTimeHockeySW.com)

Daniil Chayka (3 games, 1LD, 1 LD, 1LD)

Chayka was steady but never really seemed to get his footing adding any offense. In his own end, he was able to use his strong frame to push guys off the puck as well as protect it when he had it. The decision-making could probably have been a bit quicker, though it got better as the weekend wore on. For a first impression, there was a lot more good than bad.

Kaedan Korczak (2 games, 1RD, 1 RD)

As expected, Korczak looked like he was on another level compared to almost everyone else on the ice. He was calm on the puck, quick in retrieval, and always made the right decisions. There’s probably never going to be much offense in his game, but his willingness to push the puck up the ice will certainly generate chances for his teammates in the future.

Artur Cholach (3 games, 2LD, 2LD, 3 LD)

The first game he looked a step behind pretty much everyone rushing at him, but as the games continued he was able to gain his footing and improved. The concern about his ability to get to pucks and get them off his stick quickly enough to succeed at this level remains though. Overall, it wasn’t a bad weekend for him, but it was far from great.

Lukas Cormier (2 games, 2RD, 2RD)

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Observations On Every Player Who Put On A VGK Sweater At The Rookie Faceoff – Forwards

Golden Knights rookies spent the weekend in Phoenix competing in three games against fellow rookie squads from the Coyotes, Sharks, and Kings. A total of 25 players suited up for Vegas, here’s are my observations on every single one of them.

Peyton Krebs (2 games, 1C, 1C)

Literally 15 seconds into Game 1, Krebs made the best move of the weekend by any Golden Knight, carrying the puck over the blue line, stopping on a dime, and stickhandling through a defender’s legs to set up a Grade A scoring chance. His compete level is always on display and it really kicked up in the third game when it was clear he took a leadership role both on and off the ice. He came away from the two games without much to show for on the scoresheet but his impact was obvious.

(Photo Credit: Robert Schneidmiller, IceTimeHockeySW.com)

Pavel Dorofeyev (3 games, 1LW, 1LW, 1LW)

The first thing you’ll always notice about Pavel’s game was once again on full display, and that’s his ability to hold the puck and create space for himself and his teammates. He had a few really dangerous scoring chances but wasn’t able to slot one home. He and Marushev looked good together, but there’s no doubt Dorofeyev was at his best in Game 3 playing with Krebs and Dugan.

Maxim Marushev (3 games, 1RW, 1RW, 3RW)

Marushev plays a simple but effective game. He’s reliable with the puck on his stick and he’s always in quickly on the forecheck. He hit the post on a 2-on-0 shorthanded chance and was both creating chances for others as well as collecting them himself all weekend. For a 7th round pick, there’s not much to dislike about his game.

(Photo Credit: Robert Schneidmiller, IceTimeHockeySW.com)

Mason Primeau (3 games, 2LW, 3C, 2 LW)

No one’s stock raised more in my book this weekend than Primeau’s. His skating looks very good for a player of his size and his hands were worlds better than what we saw a while back when he was in Development Camp at City National Arena. Primeau was constantly making plays all over the ice. Some helped generate scoring chances but more often we’d see plays along the wall, in the neutral zone, or exiting the offensive zone that relieved pressure for his teammates. Officially, he goes down in the books with just one assist, but there was another goal clearly created off his play in the D-zone and a bundle of chances he was in on that weren’t finished.

Zach Dean (3 games, 2C, 1C, 3C)

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Why Forward Line And D-Pair Combinations Matter In Rookie Games

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When it comes to prospects, we’re always on the hunt for information, trying to differentiate between players who have an NHL future and those who are simply along for the ride.

Rookie camp, and especially rookie games, are crucial in that sorting process as they stand as one of the rare times a large collection of Golden Knights prospects gather and compete on the same sheet of ice. Comparing Lukas Cormier’s 54-point QMJHL season to Kaedan Korczak’s five-game stint in the AHL playoffs only offers so much, but when they step on the ice together and compete against the same competition, much more can be gathered.

Most of that information comes from what we see on the ice. However, every once in a while we get some crumbs that give us a look into how the organization views these players, which will massively affect their chances of becoming future Golden Knights.

One such crumb was shared by this weekend’s coach, and Henderson Silver Knights head coach, Manny Viveiros.

Management and the scouting staff, they’ll put the lines together for us cause they’ve seen these kids over the last few years. They’ve been a big help in that part by putting who they want to see together including the d-pairs as well. So we’re going to decide who’s playing this weekend and with who and we’re going to go out there and support the kids and coach them on the bench. -Viveiros

This means every lineup we see being put out on the ice this weekend offers a look into the minds of the front office.

Pavel Dorofeyev and Maxim Marushev playing with Peyton Krebs on the top line tells us something about the two Russian standouts. While Mason Primeau playing on the wing of 2021 1st round pick Zach Dean and the more experienced Jack Dugan speaks volumes to where they feel the career of the 6’5″ 20-year-old who spent a portion of last year in the ECHL is headed.

Every player, every position, every decision is done with a purpose and there’s a reason behind every purpose.

Here’s the lineup the Golden Knights used in their first rookie game against the Coyotes, one they dropped 5-2 in a bit of a sloppy, penalty-filled affair.

Dorofeyev-Krebs-Marushev
Primeau-Dean-Dugan
Pearson*-Brabenec-McCallum*
D’Amato*-Demek-Gaucher*

Chayka-Korczak
Cholach-Cormier
Lajoie*-McCormick*

Patera
Vikman
*  = Free Agent

This is just one lineup of three we’ll get to examine this weekend. With them, we’ll get more information on players like Layton Ahac, Marcus Kallionkieli, Jermaine Loewen, Zack Hayes, Jonas Rondbjerg, and Peter DiLberatore.

In the end, it’s just a weekend, and placement in the lineup, as well as subsequent performances, will always be just a piece of the puzzle to how the Golden Knights view each prospect moving forward.

But it’s neat to get a peek behind the curtain a bit, now that we know where to look.

Rookie Camp/Games Bold Predictions

We’re finally here, hockey is back. No, it’s not quite regular season game time yet, but players wearing Golden Knights jerseys will be skating around competing both in Rookie Training Camp and then the Rookie Faceoff in Phoenix this weekend.

14 forwards, 10 defensemen, and three goalies are set to participate in rookie camp with 21 of them under VGK or HSK contracts. Let’s make some bold predictions about what we’ll see in the next few weeks from these youngsters.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Kaedan Korczak won’t record a single point in the three rookie games but will be VGK’s best defenseman

There have been high hopes for Korczak since the Golden Knights moved up in the 2nd round of the 2019 Draft to acquire him. Aided by some amended rules due to COVID, his rise through the ranks since being drafted has been quick, but he’s looked like he belonged every step of the way. He’s a big kid that skates very well for his size and has a multitude in his arsenal of defensive techniques. Be it gap control, body position, a strong stick, physicality, or anything else it takes to be a good defensive defenseman, Korczak has it. The trouble is his game is not really suited to put up points. It’s a bit similar to McNabb’s in that it’s not like he’s afraid to get forward or carry the puck, but his first idea when he does it is not to score, but instead to put the puck on a better offensive player’s stick. This is why coaches will love Korczak, and why he’ll eventually be an NHLer, maybe even this season. But it won’t show up on the scoresheet, which is often what we’re all a little too focused on any time there are two teams on the ice.

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Roster Battles Incredibly Limited At 2021 VGK Training Camp

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When you take a hard look at the Golden Knights roster you’ll quickly realize there aren’t many question marks when it comes to lineup construction. The top-six is all but guaranteed to remain intact, the entire blue line is locked in, and there’s no longer a goalie competition for either the starting role or the backup.

There are at least 15 players out of the allowed 20 that will dress on October 12th we can essentially write in with a Sharpie marker. There would actually be a 16th if Alex Tuch were healthy, but his injury leaves at least one more spot open for discussion.

Of course, the lines and pairs could shift, but here are the names that I’d be willing to go out on a limb and guarantee (if healthy) are in the lineup in 27 days at T-Mobile Arena.

Pacioretty-Stephenson-Stone
Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Janmark-(Open)-Dadonov
(Open)-(Open)-(Open)

Martinez-Pietrangelo
McNabb-Theodore
(Open)-Whitecloud

Lehner
Brossoit

Thus, there are reasonably five slots that could be interchangeable.

At forward, there are five players currently under one-way NHL contracts. William Carrier, Brett Howden, Keegan Kolesar, Nic Roy, and Patrick Brown. Then, there’s Nolan Patrick who is an RFA but will likely have a contract prior to Opening Night. Throw in the waiver-exempt Peyton Krebs, Jack Dugan, and Lucas Elvenes and we’re looking at a group of nine players with a chance of suiting up against the Seattle Kraken.

Roy is probably the closest player in this group to having a guaranteed spot in the lineup, especially considering his strong postseason and massive goal in Game 4 against the Canadiens.  The other three spots truly represent the only roster competition in VGK Training Camp.

Kolesar would seem to have the next strongest case considering he was protected against waivers for the entire 2020-21 season. His game certainly progressed over the year and there’s really no reason to believe they’d be willing to risk him on waivers this year when they were in an even tighter spot a year ago.

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A New Era Begins This Week

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This week begins the unofficial start to the 2021-22 NHL season. Fresh Golden Knights prospects will hit the ice for Wednesday’s Rookie Camp and try to impress the men that drafted them and the coach that may lead them in the future. Sure, it won’t be the names you’ll see in Pete DeBoer’s regular season lineup but it’s hockey nevertheless and a reminder to fans that their favorite local team is only weeks from competing for another chance at the Stanley Cup.

Although it’s only Vegas’ fifth rookie training camp we can all agree that this is a new era for Golden Knights hockey. Who would’ve thought we’d be saying that but it’s true. Just one player off the roster changed the face and direction of the 31st franchise. Fans are still upset after the club traded Marc-Andre Fleury back in July and some (most) will never get over it. However, Vegas has a reasonable fanbase that will gladly trade in some painful news for an oversized, shiny silver chalice. That chase, in essence, starts on Wednesday.

VGK Important Dates:

Wednesday, September 15: Rookie Camp opens

Thursday, September 16: First day of rookie on-ice practice

Friday, Sept. 17: Rookie Faceoff- Vegas at Arizona, 7:30 PM

Sunday, Sept. 19: Vegas at San Jose, 2:00 PM

Monday, Sept. 20: Los Angeles at Vegas, 11:00 AM

Wednesday, September 22: Main Camp opens

Thursday, September 23: First day of on-ice practice

As you can see the schedule is fairly fluid starting Wednesday, leading up until Vegas’ first preseason game against San Jose. Beginning this week, loose diets, offseason bad habits, and summer mentalities will have to change in order to properly prepare for Game 1 of the preseason. After all, the regular season will come quick and the Golden Knights are eyeing another fast start in October.

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Predicting Pacific Division Regular Season Point Totals Using William Hill Lines

There’s really no polite way to put this, so I’ll just come out and say it, the Pacific Division is bad. Aside from the Golden Knights, there’s not another team in the division that would be shocking if they missed the playoffs, and it’s probable two or three teams are going to be in the hunt for the #1 pick.

Just two of the eight teams set to compete in the Pacific this year made the playoffs a year ago, and the division claimed spots #2, 3, 7, 8, and 13.

There has been quite a bit of turnover with a number of teams in the division and the Seattle Kraken represent somewhat of a wild card.

The William Hill Mobile Sports app recently released their season point totals for all 32 NHL teams. The Golden Knights checked in at 105.5 points, tied with Tampa Bay for the second-most in the league (COL 109.5). No one else in the division has a line set over 97.

Edmonton Oilers
Over/Under – 96.5

The Oilers were easily the next best team in the division behind the Golden Knights last year, despite playing in a completely different division. The challenge with projecting Edmonton to get to 97 points is a combination of their miserable offseason and their reliance on two players. If either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl miss any period of time, 97 points is toast, but even if they are healthy, the Oilers’ depth is so bad that it still might be tough to each the number. The saving grace for Edmonton is they’ve gotten solid goaltending and the division is putrid. Nonetheless, there are plenty of games outside the division to keep them from reaching the number, or challenging the Golden Knights atop the division. Pick: Under 96.5

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VGK Fantasy Hockey Outlook

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If you are anything like me, when you play fantasy sports you have to have at least one player from your favorite team on your roster. You’d think being a fan of the Golden Knights would make this easy. Vegas has been one of the top three or four teams in the NHL each of the past two seasons and are right there again this year. However, fantasy hockey and actual hockey are much different.

NHL.com has released a whole host of fantasy hockey lists from Top 250 to sleepers to rookies to watch and the Golden Knights are notably absent on many of these lists. But, when they added it all up, VGK found themselves in 4th on the overall team rankings. Very confusing, let’s go through it.

The Golden Knights have eight players in the NHL Top 250. The first guy on the board doesn’t come until #24 though, that’s Robin Lehner. Then we find Max Pacioretty (#33), Mark Stone (#43), Alex Pietrangelo (#54), Shea Theodore (#63), William Karlsson (#138), Alec Martinez (#152), and Jonathan Marchessault (#164). Alex Tuch is also listed in “Key Injuries” which means he would likely have been in the Top 250 as well.

Lehner certainly earns the Golden Knights a lot of weight in the fantasy world and actually, Laurent Brossoit behind him helps out as well. The pair are ranked 4th in the NHL in fantasy goalie tandems behind the Islanders, Lightning, and Avalanche.

One slightly surprising omission is Peyton Krebs on the rookie list. Spencer Knight and Cole Caufield headline the list, but names like Marco Rossi, Jamie Drysdale, and Quinton Byfield made the cut. In fact, there are even a few “other” rookies listed and Krebs couldn’t even get his name included there.

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