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Second Golden Knight Could Be On The Ice At Thursday’s Frozen Four

It’s been about a month now since Vegas signed first ever player Reid Duke. Not much more was expected but I was hoping Vegas would be in the mix for some college free agents. Well, maybe they still are. Thursday the semi-finals of the Frozen Four take place and one name in particular will be closely watched by Vegas scouts. Defenseman Neal Pionk of the University Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs is quite highly sought after.

Pionk is a new hybrid style defenseman. At 5’10, 170lbs the Minnesota native was passed over a few times because of his small stature. His talent, however, is tough to overlook. Scouts rave about his experience, skating ability, offensive zone presence and physicality. Pionk scored 33 points in 40 games and is a legitimate two-way defenseman. Of course Pionk can turn the puck over but has smart recovery instincts. He’s developed into a major threat on special teams as well. The former Sioux City Musketeer might be small but his speed and skill make up for it. Plus, the UMD Bulldog shoots right-handed. Yep, a right-handed defenseman, one of Don Cherry’s most coveted prospect.

ESPN’s Craig Custance spoke with GM George McPhee earlier this month about the Golden Knights interest in Pionk. McPhee implied Vegas will be in the market for NHL caliber prospects not AHL depth players. We can assume the 21 year-old defenseman is projected for the T-Mobile Arena or McPhee wouldn’t be interested. Nor would 20 other clubs.

Pionk’s two-way ability will have to be a factor in Thursday’s semi. In last week’s NCAA Regional game, Pionk factored in the game-winning overtime goal vs. Boston University. The right-handed defenseman came up clutch a week earlier picking up a PP assist in the NCHC championship vs. North Dakota. Pionk’s leadership leads on and off the ice. To prove that, you better believe he’ll face the media after a win or loss. Most of his postgame interviews are online, check out Pionk on YouTube.

Depending on the outcome of Thursday’s game, Vegas could sign Pionk on Friday. If Minnesota-Duluth wins, the Golden Knights will have to wait a few days. By next week, Vegas could have two players on their roster. A little birdie from the team told us in a candid conversation that “college free agents would be stupid” to sign anywhere else but Vegas, implying the playing time and opportunity here is unlike anywhere in the Original 30. Pionk is the only player Vegas is rumored to be interested in. When there’s smoke there’s fire.


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  1. Tyler

    He’d be stupid to go anywhere but Vegas? That’s hilarious.

    He could step into a top-6 role for Buffalo immediately. Play with Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Rasmus Ristolainen, Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo, Evander Kane. He could be paired with a top prospect in Brendan Guhle, or someone he knows well in Jake McCabe.

    He would also be joining two good friends in Cal Petersen and Judd Peterson.

    He could be a part of bringing back a fanbase and city starving for playoff hockey, in a hockey-crazed market.

    That’s a lot better than going somewhere that probably won’t last more than 5 years, in a place where nobody cares for hockey, on a team that will probably finish dead-last and doesn’t have any good players or even a coach/system yet.

    (If there’s 20 teams after him, 19 of them are better situations than Vegas.)

    • PhiSig 150

      Like Las Vegas or not (we could give two shits) this team is not moving in the foreseeable future . It’s going to be a success and even if it’s not there is no way in hell Las Vegas is moving in the next 10 years. People need to get over their Quebec wet dreams. Not sure what you’re trying to accomplish by talking shit to Knights fans but I hope your self-esteem is a little healthier now. I’m pretty sure you can find a better site to engage in a Sabre circle jerk. Viva VGK!

  2. pfh64

    He’s a free agent and money being equal, players will go where they can play. Or want to play. Tyler, you say not in a hockey market, but the TV ratings say differently. LV has higher ratings than some “traditional” markets. Go look. And last time I checked the last number one pick was not exactly from the “frozen pond” territory.

    • PhiSig 150

      I have no idea why a 21 year old would choose Las Vegas over Buffalo? Oh wait I forgot our 6s are Buffalo’s 10s.

  3. PhiSig 150

    We have one player so for guys that got passed over or drafted but cut the fact that you have a very good chance of making the roster and getting significant playing time has to be a selling point. Money will be equal except with states with state income tax then players take a pretty good hit on their salary. Another selling point for guys on their first contracts who aren’t sure if they’ll get a next. Every penny counts. Also let’s not forget we’re talking about young 20 somethings. We have the biggest DJs, the hottest clubs, the most beautiful women, top restaurants, our city literally never closes plus your a quick plane ride from what all of Southern California has to offer. Other NHL fans need to embrace us because we’re not going anywhere anytime soon. We’re like the herpes of the NHL we might irritate you and you pray to be finally done with us but we’ll keep coming back year after year so get used to it. Getting sick of people running their mouths before we’ve even played our first game. Welcome us to the NHL then shut the f**k up already. Viva VGK bitches!

    Jason how do the college free agents factor into our cap? Are we holding off until we see what the cap is like after the expansion draft? Do we have to offer all these guys guaranteed contracts or why not do what the NBA and MLB does and invite these guys to camp and see who sticks?

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