Over the past couple of seasons, we’ve started to see a bit more of an influx of younger players into the Golden Knights’ lineup. From Zach Whitecloud and Nic Hague taking up permanent spots on the blue line to Keegan Kolesar, Nic Roy, and Cody Glass pushing for their places in the bottom six, Vegas has been looking to inject more youth into a roster that’s growing increasingly older each year.
With a clear need for upgrades, especially offensively, the Golden Knights promised to “turn over every stone” this offseason in a search to make this team better, get them over the hump, and bring Las Vegas the Stanley Cup. One such stone they may be wise to search under is the prospect pipeline.
The surprise addition of Kolesar to the opening night roster and him sticking with the club for the entirety of the 2020-21 season proves the team is willing to give a young player extended time at the NHL level if deserved. Unlike most young players though, his situation was complicated by the waiver process in that he was not exempt like most other VGK prospects. Placing him on waivers would be exposing him to be lost to another team for nothing, a risk the Golden Knights clearly were never comfortable taking.
This season, another young player is in a similar situation. 23-year-old Dylan Coghlan heads into this offseason as a restricted free agent without arbitration rights, the same spot Kolesar was in a year ago. Coghlan is due to be extended a qualifying two-way one-year offer worth $750,000 at the NHL level. Without much negotiating power, that offer is likely to be signed by Coghlan. However, this season, unlike the last, Coghlan is no longer waiver-exempt. Thus, if the Golden Knights want to place him in the AHL, as they did on multiple occasions (using the taxi squad) last season, he would be required to clear waivers.
Like Kolesar’s situation a year ago, Vegas may see Coghlan as a valuable enough piece that they will not be willing to expose him to waiver, especially with a 32nd team entering the league.
Coghlan played in 29 games last season for the Golden Knights scoring three goals (all in the same game) and adding three assists. He’ll represent an affordable option that has shown some offensive upside and could grow into a bigger role on what is expected to be a revamped power play.
Aside from Coghlan, every other potential significant contributor to the Golden Knights’ lineup in 2021-22 is waiver exempt. That doesn’t mean they can’t force their way onto the roster though, as Cody Glass did each of the last two seasons.
The most probable prospect to break through to the NHL this season is Peyton Krebs. Krebs showed well in his limited time at the end of last season before suffering a jaw injury that ended his year. He’s a dynamic offensive player that uses first-step acceleration and hockey-IQ to generate chances for himself and others. As the Golden Knights look to add offense, they may be wise to leave a spot on the roster open for Krebs.
Behind Krebs is a group of three 2017 Draft picks that could use training camp to push their way on (or back on) to the NHL roster. Cody Glass, Lucas Elvenes, and Jack Dugan have all produced strong offensive numbers at the AHL level. Glass fell out of favor with Pete DeBoer late in the season in 20-21, but certainly has shown enough flashes of talent to put himself in the picture again in 21-22. Elvenes posted monster numbers in 2019 for the Chicago Wolves and followed them up with decent point totals in 2020 for the Henderson Silver Knights. Dugan’s first professional season was successful averaging nearly a point per game through the AHL regular season and playoffs. With a strong training camp and preseason, any of them could force a tough decision for the coaching staff and front office.
Again, all four of these players remain waiver-exempt, so their inclusion on the opening night roster may be connected to the salary cap as much as their deservingness to be on the team, but as the season goes on, each certainly has a chance to make an impact this season.
Over the first four years of the franchise, the Golden Knights have experienced almost nothing but success. But, their ability to use the pipeline to advance the top of their roster has been limited compared to many other teams around the league (see Montreal). With Coghlan’s waiver-exempt status running out, the 2017 Draft picks heading into their low 20’s, and another 1st round pick ready to go, this may finally be the year we see significant impacts from young offensive talent.
If the Golden Knights are serious about winning the Cup, they may need it.