Paul Cotter was selected in the 4th round by the Golden Knights and within days became one of the most promising prospects in the Vegas system. At Development Camp, Cotter flashed in drills as well as scrimmage before heading off to Western Michigan University to play his freshman year in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
Cotter did not score a goal and registered just one assist over his eight games at Western Michigan. His roles on the roster ranged from healthy scratch to top line center for the Broncos. Then, Cotter decided to leave.
Paul Cotter on his choice to leave Western Michigan for the London Knights
"London is a top-notch organization. It’s a place where many current NHLers developed and made the transitions in their games needed to make the next level easier." #OHL
— OHLInsiders(.com) (@OHLinsiders) November 12, 2018
Cotter will now join the London Knights of the OHL and likely instantly step into their everyday lineup.
He’s really grown as a player and he’s a mature young man. We believe he’s going to bring leadership and character to our dressing room. I think he can score at this level. He’s a good two-way hockey player. –Mark Hunter, London Knights GM to London Free Press
So what does this mean for the Golden Knights?
Well, first, of course, it does not change his status as property of Vegas. It does, however, move up the date in which he must sign a contract with the Golden Knights to reserve exclusive rights. For NCAA players, the team does not have to sign the player until August 15th following his graduation from school. For Cotter, that would have been August 15th, 2023. However, with him leaving school, that date now moves up over a year to June 1st, 2022.
That’s a minor semantic detail that could hurry Cotter’s arrival to Vegas, but there’s a bigger one involved which will come into play as soon as next offseason. NCAA players return to school in August, prior to NHL Rookie Camp. Thus, NCAA players do not attend the camp that begins a week prior to full NHL training camp. This usually allows these players to play in a preseason game or two, or more if they stick with the team deeper into training camp, before being sent back to Canadian Juniors.
In Cotter’s case, following playing this season in Canada rather than Michigan, he’ll attend Development Camp in July, then return to Vegas for Rookie Camp in late August. He’ll probably play in multiple preseason games and will be given the chance to make the Golden Knights roster as soon as next season. It’s unlikely he does crack to the 23-man roster out of camp, but with the move to the OHL at least he now has a shot, where if he remained in college he would not.
Finally, it means a step up in competition for Cotter. The OHL is a much stronger and deeper league than the NCHC.
All in all, not a ton changes for the Golden Knights in regards to Cotter. However, it’s a significant move for the player himself who now has his “must sign by” date pushed up, an opportunity to attend Rookie Camp, and a greater challenge competition wise the rest of the year.