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The Golden Knights Have Officially Become The Hunted

(Photo Credit: @_jkarsh on Instagram)

On Wednesday night the Golden Knights players were forced to protect themselves from questionable hits and after whistle scrums. It was a scene Vegas fans saw play out a half-dozen times in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Florida Panthers. Sure, the Los Angeles’ Hayden Hodgson isn’t Matthew Tkachuk, but he hit like a Tkachuk on Wednesday.

The Kings ended up tying the game late in the 3rd period and went on to win in overtime. However, that wasn’t their only self-victory that evening. After a questionably late hit on Mark Stone, the Golden Knights appropriately erupted and jumped the career AHL’er. At first look, it’s a desperate player trying to crack an NHL roster and his open check on Stone naturally drew the attention of Kings coaches and others.

You need moments like that and plays like that too. We just looked at it. It was a very clean, good hit. Solid hit. And they didn’t like it and we scored right after and then it’s just one goal and I know they scored too, but I think scoring a goal in this building that kind of shows ‘okay, we can score too’. So definitely that helped and in the 3rd period we just wanted to slow things down and kind of stay calm and just focus on our game, that’s all. And that’s exactly what we did. –Marco Sturm, Ontario Reign head coach

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Penalty Kill Minutes Are “Out There For Somebody,” Eichel Took Many In First Preseason Game

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In his first preseason game of the year, Jack Eichel was the first player over the boards on multiple occasions when the Golden Knights were tasked with killing a penalty.

We didn’t use him a lot on the kill (last year). With Reilly Smith’s minutes, they’re out there for somebody. -Cassidy

Eichel played 2:19 of shorthanded time and took three faceoffs with a teammate in the box. Only once all season (including pre and postseason) last year did Eichel play more on the penalty kill than he did last night.

Without Nic Roy as a right shot center we used Jack for draws, so he started a lot of the kills. It’s something I talked to Jack about doing a little more of so we’ll see how it goes. He’s a smart guy, can pressure pucks, and you saw it with our kill tonight, I thought it was pretty effective. -Cassidy

While everyone’s fairly certain Eichel will dominate on the penalty kill the same way he does just about every other aspect of the game, there’s a cost that comes with it, and Cassidy isn’t blind to it.

With the PK, that’s something we can build into his game, it’s at what expense? How many minutes does he get? Or are you better off spreading it around to other guys to keep them in the game more. -Cassidy

Last night, Cassidy chose to limit Mark Stone and Chandler Stephenson’s time on the penalty kill in favor of taking a look at players like Mason Morelli, Jonas Rondbjerg, Jakub Demek, and Jakub Brabenec. He’s considering doing the same in the regular season with a pair of fourth liners.

Both Kolesar and Carrier, I brought that up last year that I’d like them to kill more, it didn’t work out that way, no fault to them, I used other people. They’ve been killing now against our guys in practice for a year so there’s an opportunity for those two. There’s a little bit of by committee this year for that particular spot. -Cassidy

Managing minutes is going to be a massive story all season for the Golden Knights. Cassidy has already made it clear he’s not willing to give players games off for rest, so he’ll have to do pick and choose his spots inside of games instead.

There are many reasons it’s so hard to repeat as champions in the NHL, workload is among the strongest of them. Having Eichel as an option to help kill penalties is certainly beneficial for the Golden Knights, but he can’t be overused. Cassidy is keenly aware of it, he’ll just have to get reasonable contributions from others to make sure he can actually stick to it.

Logan Thompson Feels First Preseason Appearance Was A Step In The Right Direction

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Preseason is tough on everybody. From younger players fighting to prove their worth to veteran players who are in many ways just trying to make it through healthy, it seems like the motivation for every player on the ice is slightly different, which often leads to messy hockey games.

Goalies may have it the toughest though as game-action hockey for the guys between the pipes is much harder to replicate than it is for skaters.

Traffic around the net, rebound control, little tips and screens, you don’t get a lot of that when you are working in the offseason, so that’s why they need to play. That’s why you see some goals that may go through some holes during the preseason that may not otherwise. They have to get used to things happening in a hurry. -Bruce Cassidy

Logan Thompson stepped into the net last night for the first time since March and only the third time since January. Understandably, he looked a bit unsettled early.

It got better as the game went on. I felt more comfortable there in the 2nd period. Obviously, it’s been a long time since I’ve been in a game but it felt good and it’s a step in the right direction. -Logan Thompson

Thompson mentioned another aspect that often gets overlooked as well.

Getting your lungs back and getting the cardio up. We can go as hard as we want in practice but it’s just not that game atmosphere. -Thompson

In other words, give the goalies a break during the preseason. There may be some soft goals along the way, but in the end, all that matters is being ready for October 10th.

Back-To-Back Winning Coach Highlights VGK’s Championship Net Security

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

By the time the Stanley Cup was handed over to Vegas captain Mark Stone, coaches and players league wide were scheming up ways to copy the Golden Knights championship formula. From defensive alignments, to deeper benches and undoubtedly goaltending efficiency. Some NHL teams have the right goaltender and not enough quality players. Whereas, others have the players but are unsure if they’re good enough in net.

This week Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan referenced the World Champion Golden Knights in his training camp opening press conference. It’s no surprise the two-time Cup winning coach mentioned Vegas because years back he had back-to-back Stanley Cup winning rosters. Like Vegas, the Penguins won using multiple capable goaltenders.

Vegas’ finals winning goalie Adin Hill went 11-4 in the postseason after injured starter Laurent Brossoit recorded five wins and two losses. The same smooth transition occurred with the back-to-back Stanley Cup winning Penguins. Old friend Marc-Andre Fleury picked up his second and third championship rings playing his role in a duel goalie tandem. Which clearly caught the attention of Sullivan and other coaches.

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No Scheduled Days Off Planned For Mark Stone

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Rest. It’s a growing trend around the landscape of sports. From “load management” in the NBA to “squad rotation” in soccer, even golf had to put in new rules to keep players from skipping too many tournaments in a season. Cautious approaches make sense, but they are also frustrating for the people paying to watch the games.

In the NHL, rest has not really become part of the vernacular for head coaches, and certainly not for players. 

We haven’t done it other than maybe late in the year. Would I do it in the middle of January? Probably not. First of all, players don’t want to come out of the lineup even when they’re hurt, so there’s dealing with that part of it. -Bruce Cassidy

Last year, down the stretch the Golden Knights continued plugging along with their full roster as they chased down the top spot in the Pacific and Western Conference. 

They were, however, missing the captain, who sat out the latter portion of the regular season recovering from his second back surgery in nine months. Mark Stone found his way right back into the lineup for the first game of the playoffs and proceeded to play 22 straight en route to being the first Golden Knight to lift the Stanley Cup.

His health is paramount to the team’s hopes to repeat and everyone knows it. That being said, there’s no expectation of scheduled days off for the 31-year-old.

We don’t have a distinct plan saying ‘he’s going to get next Wednesday off or next this and that.’ It’s kind of a fluid situation and he has to be honest with the trainers and they’ll be honest with me and we’ll judge accordingly. We’re not going to overtax him in preseason that’s for sure but if he’s healthy he needs to play and get his timing. -Cassidy

Stone played three preseason games last year including the final two on the schedule. He then played in 43 straight to open the year before missing the final 39. 

He says he feels as good as he has in years coming into camp this season, which means, if there’s a game that counts and Mark Stone is available to play, you can expect #61 to be in the lineup. 

Max Comtois Sees Vegas As The Perfect Fit For His Play Style, Vegas Agrees

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Two years ago, Max Comtois led the Anaheim Ducks in scoring across the 56-game 2020-21 season. It was his first full season in the NHL and it appeared his career was taking off. His 16 goals were four clear of his closest teammate and his 33 points outscored veterans Rickard Rakell, Ryan Getzlaf, Jakob Silfverberg, and fellow youngster Trevor Zegras.

That offseason, the Ducks rewarded Comtois with a contract just north of $4 million for two seasons. That meant upon expiry, the Ducks would be required to extend Comtois an offer of about $2.5 million this summer.

His 16 points in 52 games and 19 points in 64 games did not warrant that type of offer from Anaheim, and thus, the 24-year-old former 2nd round pick became available on the open market.

Comtois and his agent were patient though. They knew to get his career back on the right track, Max shouldn’t be chasing money, but instead looking for the perfect fit. He was not short of suitors, but ultimately felt Vegas was the one.

It just seemed right from the beginning to come here. I had some other options but to me (the Golden Knights) had the best play style that fit with me. -Max Comtois

Aside from being the reigning Stanley Cup champions and having a clear hole in the starting lineup with the departure of Reilly Smith, the Bruce Cassidy style of play was attractive to Comtois.

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Eichel & Draisaitl Agree Playoff Series Came Down To Depth

(Photo Credit: @_jkarsh on Instagram)

On the night of May 15th, 2023, after the Golden Knights eliminated the Edmonton Oilers in the second round of the 2023 NHL playoffs Jack Eichel and Leon Draisaitl walked into two very different locker rooms. Eichel was promptly drenched with celebratory champagne and puffed on Ashton Aged Maduro’s with his jubilant teammates. Draisaitl stepped into a locker room that was emotional, furious, and unsatisfied with how their season abruptly ended. In fact, it was in that moment Oilers captain Connor McDavid sternly stated that he and his teammates were on notice.

We’ve heard the story now from a few places, that he cleared all but the closest team staff out of the room and laid down the parameters for his franchise going forward. That the window for learning how to win was slamming shut, and the time for applying those lessons — and winning Stanley Cups — has officially begun. – Mark Spector on

Now, both Pacific Division contenders are preparing for a new 82-game regular season with a mutual agreement on how that six-game series ended in mid-May. In Elliotte Friedman’s latest 32 Thoughts blog, Draisaitl noticed the difference of quality bench players on VGK’s side.

At the NHL/NHLPA media tour in Las Vegas, Jack Eichel said the difference between Edmonton and Vegas in that second-round series was depth. Leon Draisaitl conceded that, but added, “We couldn’t get to our top game…They didn’t make those little mistakes we made and that was the difference.” –Elliotte Friedman in 32 Thoughts

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Pacific Division: Group of 8 With Only 3 Contenders?

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s been no secret that over the past six seasons, the Pacific Division was regarded as one of the leagues least competitive. Let’s face it, for basically the entirety of the Golden Knights’ existence three or four teams were annually counted out of contention before the puck hit opening night ice. Vegas is the only team to reach the Stanley Cup Final in that span and the Golden Knights became the first Pacific division team to win the Cup since 2014.

Heading into the 2023-24 season, the division looks to play out the same way it did last year. Of course, it’s foolish to eliminate teams before the season begins but would anyone be surprised if Anaheim, San Jose, or Vancouver missed the 2024 playoffs? According to Sportsnet, they wouldn’t be.

Whether it’s a repeat from Vegas, a breakthrough for Edmonton, or something of a Cinderella story from Los Angeles or Seattle, might the 2024 Stanley Cup champion come out of the Pacific Division again? Might this division also house the team that “wins” the first-overall selection? –

According to William Hill, the Pacific Division is expected to be conquered by the Edmonton Oilers (+180), the reigning champions (+210) or the LA Kings (+440) in 2024. The divisional odds are not much different from last season’s expected winners. Vegas came away with division with Edmonton and LA filling out the top three Pacific clubs. As you go further down the list, the prices drastically get larger, suggesting that it would be a major surprise if any team outside of the top three took the division.

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What I’m Looking For From The Golden Knights At The 2023 Rookie Faceoff

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For the first time since Vegas hoisted the Stanley Cup on June 13, Golden Knights players will step on the ice to play a hockey game against players from another team.

Yeah, that’s a stretch, but hey, real hockey is so close, just let me get away with this one.

Tonight is the first of three games for the Golden Knights at this year’s Rookie Faceoff taking place in Vegas and Henderson. VGK’s rookies will take on the Anaheim Ducks tonight and the San Jose Sharks tomorrow at the Dollar Loan Center, and the Colorado Avalanche on Monday at City National Arena.

Vegas’ roster includes 17 draft picks including 1st rounder Brendan Brisson and 2nd round picks Matyas Sapovaliv and Daniil Chayka. Here’s what I’m hoping to see from the team this weekend.

Time for the Jakubs to really make a name for themselves

In the 2021 Draft the Golden Knights used back to back selections in the 4th round on players with the first name Jakub. The first Jakub picked was Jakub Brabenec from Czechia. He showed out well in his first few camps with the Golden Knights but was a bit underwhelming in Development Camp this summer. The other Jakub, Jakub Demek has not had a ton of time on the ice in Las Vegas. He has missed several camps with injury including this summer’s Dev Camp. However, when he has been on the ice either in the WHL or for Team Slovakia, he’s been excellent. The powerful forward should finally get a real chance to assert himself in a VGK jersey and it could catapult him up the prospect list. A point-per-game is the minimum expectation for both Jakubs in these three games.

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Brendan Brisson Switches To #19, Looking To Seize #19’s Place In The Lineup Too

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For Brendan Brisson, 2023 offers opportunities. First, to wear the jersey number he’s waited a few years for, and second, to wear that jersey in the game he’s waited his entire life for.

Reilly Smith’s departure from the Golden Knights left both the #19 available and a winger position open in the Golden Knights lineup. Brisson wasted no time snapping up the first.

I have all the respect for Reilly Smith. Since the first day he got here, he’s been so meaningful not only to the organization but the city of Vegas. I’ve worn 19 my whole life, so I reached out to some of the older guys on the team just to make sure it was all good. I reached out to Reilly as well and told him if there’s a problem I won’t switch. He said, ‘Just make sure you take care of her.’ -Brendan Brisson

Brisson understands the gravity of the change, and he’s planning on using it in a positive way.

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