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Iole: Draft Has Allowed VGK To Acquire Superstars, Now It Needs To Solidify Depth

This season, diehard VGK fan and legendary combat sports columnist Kevin Iole will be delivering columns a few times a month on Sundays. Today, Kevin wants the focus to shift off Jack Eichel, and on to another, cheaper center.

Drafting well is the best way to build a contender in the NHL and it’s the best way to remain one. Teams can’t build a championship team exclusively through free agency, though it is a tool. And teams aren’t going to trade their way to a title either, though, again, it’s a tool.

The Golden Knights have been outstanding traders, and their free agent moves have worked.

But it’s all been buoyed by a trait that is far underappreciated: Their ability to draft and develop well.

And yes, I’m serious.

Let’s look at it: Were it not for a smart draft pick in 2017, there’d be no Max Pacioretty. The Knights were able to land the prolific goal-scorer they needed on their first line because they did exceptionally well to draft Nick Suzuki at No. 13 in 2017.

There’s no Mark Stone without a few picks later the selection of Erik Brannstrom. He hasn’t turned out to be the player either the VGK or the Ottawa Senators thought he’d be yet, but he’s only 22 and players develop differently than others. In a draft that produced Miro Heiskanen and Cale Makar at Nos. 3 & 4, plenty of teams felt the VGK got a steal grabbing Brannstrom at 15.

The Eichel Watch wouldn’t have ended in the VGK’s favor on Thursday were it not for the shrewd pick of Peyton Krebs, who dropped from No. 10 on the final ranking of North American skaters to the 17th overall choice because he was injured at the time.

Obviously, Alex Tuch was the key component in the deal that sent Jack Eichel and his injury neck to the Golden Knights, but ever since word leaked out that the Knights were interested, the word was that there was no deal if Krebs wasn’t involved.

In the end, the Knights sent Tuch, Krebs, a Top 10-protected 2022 first-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick to Buffalo for Eichel and a 2023 third-round pick.

Now that the deal is done, there will probably be further casualties when — if — all are healthy to get the team salary cap compliant. Fairly and accurately grading this deal will take years.

But if the Knights don’t win the Stanley Cup with Eichel on the team during the term of his $10 million a year contract, then even if he turns into the next Connor McDavid, the deal will be a bust of epic proportions.

This deal is about winning the Stanley Cup, and as Coach Pete DeBoer said at his media availability, the Knights have never been shy about their intentions.

The opportunity to get a guy like [Eichel] is very rare. There’s been no bones made about the fact that this organization wants to win, and they want to win now, and they’re willing to provide whatever resources to the players, the coaches, and to the fans in order to chase a Stanley Cup. -Pete DeBoer

What the Knights need now is a little bit of the unexpected. They need someone they’ve drafted or signed to step up and blossom, perhaps even more than is expected. They drafted Jack Dugan in the fifth round in 2017.

(Photo Credit: Rob Schneidmiller, Ice Time Southwest)

If he could step up and be a reliable contributor in the middle six, that would be a godsend for a team that needs a bit of luck to make all of this work.

Maybe when the KHL season is over Ivan Morozov joins the team and has that kind of impact.

Elvenes, Cotter, Jones, Primeau, somebody, anybody.

Whoever it is, the Knights need some players in their organization to play beyond expectations to fill the holes that are going to inevitably be created by the slashing that’s going to come to get cap compliant.

VGK fans will moan about that, but they’re lucky they’re in a salary-cap league. If there were no cap, it would have been a battle of the richest teams to land Eichel: Instead of Calgary and Vegas as the finalists, Buffalo would have been auctioning Eichel to the Rangers, the Maple Leafs, the Canadiens, the Red Wings and the Kings.

The cap put Vegas into position to land the mega-talents that McCrimmon and George McPhee have acquired. The trick is augmenting the superstars with enough talent from draft picks and college signings to make it all work.

When you talk about player acquisition, you can’t forget the college free agent signings. Zach Whitecloud is an indispensable piece of this team, and he was signed as a college free agent.

The VGK would be fortunate if Dugan, or Morozov or another player in the system steps up and plays a prominent role. The more production they can get from minimum-contract players, the better.

The trade is a huge gamble, of course, but acquiring a potential superstar at a position of need who is only 25 is worthwhile.

Drafting well helped the Knights land Eichel, as well as Stone and Pacioretty.

Hopefully, there are more good picks to come, because McCrimmon and McPhee have left the cupboard nearly as barren as Jim Rutherford did with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

**You can find all of Kevin’s tremendous boxing and MMA work at Yahoo Sports here.**

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62 Comments

  1. Richie-Rich

    An epic bust indeed!

    It’s a pure roll of the dice, a gamble. Disk replacement surgery has worked out well on other sports (although I have to admit I have not looked this up), but has never been tried on any hockey player.

    Kelly is betting that Eichel will return at 100% of his former self and produce similar 1st line center stats in terms of goals and assists. The good news is that Eichel is still quite young. The bad news is that he costs $10 million per year. That’s 1/8th of the entire salary cap. I am not going to go do the math, but I think Eichel, Stone and Patches are eating up about 40% of the cap? Anyone care to check?

    Complicating the trade is the fact that Whitecloud just got about a $2 million dollar raise. We likely can get ready to say goodbye to Reilly Smith unless he wants to accept the same deal as he has now long term. From a market perspective he’s likely going to want at least $1 to $2 million more than the $5 million he is currently getting.

    So, where is this depth going to have to come from?

    Player development, the draft and possibly a low cost rental. Say what you want about the Silver Knights, but they have been extremely good. The talent is excellent. The depth should come from there!

    After this season we are probably saying goodbye to Reilly Smith, Janmark, Carrier, McNabb and possibly even Theodore.

    I still think, despite the recent great performances, that The Walrus is not the solution in goal. The jury is still out and we will know for sure by mid-January. I am not very worried about the goal tending because Brossoit is a serviceable starter and I think is as good and probably better in some areas of goal tending. We also have a star in Logan Thompson on the Silver Knights in goal.

    • I totally agree with you that Lehner isn’t the future of this team. Yes, he has been playing well, but rolling around on the ice like a panda at the zoo won’t always keep the puck out of the net.

      The depth will have to come from the HSK, as there will be a bunch of players leaving via FA and trades. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Karlsson get dealt in the near future after he comes back from the IR.

      • Jc Schnobrich

        Robin lehner has been the best player on our team every game.

        Wtf else does he have to do before you people realize how good of a goalie we have.

        For crying out loud. Fluery is gone and he’s not better than Lehner.

        Please wake up

        • Richie-Rich

          It’s not about Fleury. Stop talking about Fleury. I am not talking about him.

          I criticize Lehner because there are so many holes in his game. Glaring holes that kept him from winning the #1 spot outright in years past including as a Golden Knight.

          Now, Lehner has a chance to prove the critics wrong. 5 or 10 games isn’t enough of a resume yet to make a conclusion. However, I have given Robin praise for his play the past 5 or 6 games. He’s definitely been able to raise his game and his lack of lateral mobility and speed has been offset by good defense in front of him as well as better defense and goal positioning.

          Robin needs to keep the games close and win the majority of those when his team is not playing at its best. So far so good.

          We will know once he has several more months in the rear view mirror.

          But Marc Andre’ Fleury has absolutely nothing to do with it and is no longer even relevant.

          • Daryl

            Thank you… Ppl on here can’t get MAF out of their heads. Just because we comment or don’t think RL is our future doesn’t mean we are talking about or comparing him to MAF.

            RL has things he needs to work on. Yes he is a good goalie but he isn’t a great goalie. He also doesn’t seem to make that highlight save or that one save when the tram desperately needs it.

          • rick schoen

            My only criticism of Lehner is that he gives up to many rebounds that wind up in the back of the net. Too many goals have come off rebounds.

          • Daryl

            @Rick

            His rebound control is his biggest weakness and he is horrible at it. But he also has other major problems, 2 to be exact. Once he goes down, he isn’t getting back up. And I’m not talking about on his back or belly. If you can get him to drop to his knees he can’t get back up. Another issue is his side to side movement. RL is really good against bigger, slower teams but he can hang with the faster players or trams with really good cross ice passing

          • Pistol Pete

            He’s working on his game with the goalie coach. I think he may have lost some weight to go along with that good-looking haircut.

        • sb

          Lehner has been a very, very good goalie for the past 5 years. The stats don’t lie. What’s this Lehner hatred all about? MAF. Nursery school stuff egged on by certain writers.

          • THE hockey GOD

            nursery staff writers ?

          • Daryl

            You just can’t get over MAF can you???

          • Ulf

            Very true. Lehner has been good for a number of years.
            I’d also take issue with anyone calling. Patches a “superstar”. I think Stone is as close as VGK has to one but no one is in the same league as the acknowledged superstars on other teams (wel, maybe Eichel will change that)….and that’s ok. Some teams do really well without bonafide superstars. Don’t know about the Cup though , but I’m hopeful next year.

    • THE hockey GOD

      what’s so magical about “mid january”?

      right, nothing.

      Jesse Granger
      @JesseGranger_
      ·
      3h
      “We left him out there hanging to dry, and thankfully he showed up on time and gave us a chance.”

      “He’s been absolutely phenomenal.”

      Robin Lehner is carrying the injury-depleted Golden Knights.

      • Richie-Rich

        The Walrus will have plenty of games under his belt for a full evaluation by mid-January. Regulars will be returning as well.

        I have to admit, The Walrus is playing better than I expected. That is expected from struggling teams and bottom feeders.

        • sb

          Lehner has been a Top 10 goalie for the past five years. The stats don’t lie.

          • Daryl

            Stats stats stats…. That’s all you ever say when it comes to RL

          • Richie-Rich

            Well then, why in the hell would any team be kicking a top 10 goalie around the league? That’s the bigger question sb.

            Lehner hasn’t stuck anywhere. Likely because teams don’t think they can win it all with him due to the flaws in his game.

        • THE hockey GOD

          looks like back up goalie has imploded, mickey redmond , a very good color commenter despite being a “homer” at times, thought that they were going to pull him after wing’s three goals and said two of them were particularly bad.

          But the real impetus of the bad goals were they two bad penalties : no 7 for delay of game , and no 28 for offensive zone penalty. Let to poor PKs, and they never recovered despite a mad rush at end.

          in the end pure BS was wrong again about krebs being the problem.

          and Where’s KEN ? ?

          and who tried to knock off the entire John Dutton clan ?

      • Daryl

        Granger has always been in RL support group. Yes he has played good, but not that good. They won the last game 5-2,basically 3-2, but he gave up 2 not extremely difficult shots. He also fell flat on his face and left a wide open net which was completely missed. On another play he was too far out of net and out of position but the shot went high over the goal. Yes he’s played good, but he’s also been extremely lucky at times

        • sb

          Lehner, .920 SA. Better than that other guy, the 2nd worst goalie in the NHL, …… .881 SA @$7 million.

          • Daryl

            There you go again with stats…. Hawks also have one of the worst defense in the NHL. While VGK is hurting with injured players, their defense has mostly been in intact. This is a prime example of why you can’t go off stats alone… And this is also why people who don’t understand the game and don’t really know anything about a sport use nothing but stats

      • Bob

        Agree Lehrer has been excellent inmost games….but no player regardless of position is excellent in all games.
        The “team defense” is so important for a goalie just ask MAF.
        Astute followers of hockey and his teammates agree in his ability as
        an excellent goalie.

  2. John W

    Good article. One perspective that I think is missing in all this is that in my opinion the Knights have a built in advantage with free agents, in that 1) Nevada has no State Income Tax ( poor Tuck just took a 10% pay cut by going to NY) and 2) The perception that Vegas is a great place to live.

    Sure, the Knights go big game hunting, but they start ahead of a lot of other teams when Free Agents make signing decisions.

    “Uh, honey, it’s down to Vegas and Buffalo….where would you rather live?”

    At least Geography and the perception of the organization help the Knights in their strategy.

  3. Pure GENIUS

    A bag of pucks would have been more valuable than Pylon Krebs. Not a credible hockey analyst who has Krebs more than 4th liner at best. TSN summed his potential the best. Over promoted and questionable if he will be an nhl caliber player. All their points were right on the money.

    Like they said…. Just because Vegas picked him 17th when every team before that passed does not make him a 17th pick in the eyes of all the teams. They are right. He was drafted way to high.

  4. Galdom

    I’m done here. Can’t listen to Vlad anymore. The most negative person in the world. What’s he so angry about? Has he ever kissed a girl? Everyday it’s something with that idiot. The team is absolutely decimated with injuries and they are on a 5-1 run. And he is still angry. What a loser. I wish there was a way to not see his comments as I filter the other ones. Anyways, take care y’all and Let’s go Knights!!!

    My last post. Just want to say that I enjoyed conversing with you all and good luck to not just the Golden Knights health but to everyone.

    • THE hockey GOD

      kissed a girl ?? he is a girl 🙂

    • Howard

      Pretty sure that VLAD guy was predicting VGK win in Montreal the other night. I don’t find him negative at all, I find him OBSESSIVE over Krebs and he’s right IMO, Krebs will never amount to much of an NHL forward, and will likely be at best, a bottom 6’er. VLAD while obsessive again, also right on Krebs being a constant NEG. Rating on the ice.

    • GENIUS

      I missed the part on this site where posters are only allowed to have opinions and comments that YOU agree with.

      Typical snowflake. It’s my way or I quit and call you names

      Let’s Go Brandon!!!!

  5. Bob Hobrough

    way to go vlad your pissing off the good people on this site you jack ass

  6. Bob Hobrough

    way to go vlad you donkey you anger the good people on this site you must be proud

  7. knights fan in minny

    way to go vlad you site wrecker you must be proud

    • Vlad

      Typical lefty. Unless you agree with me it’s nothing but hatred from you.

      Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Even if you disagree with it snowflake

  8. Tim

    The two forwards I see having the best chance to help the Knights are Ivan the terrible and Branden Brissom who’s playing well at Michigan. I like Pavel D but may be a year or two away. I’m losing faith in Jack Dugan simply because if he was any good he’d be up instead of Jake L. and Jonas R. At 23 as big as he is leading the nation in scoring what we desperately need he’s M.I.A. somethings wrong? One other interesting note I see Nolan Patrick is out undisclosed reason which tells me he has some sort of mental issues or the migraine issues he had in Philly either way he may be a bust or at the very least someone you can’t count on.

    • THE hockey GOD

      the VGK seem to put seniority and number of years in their organization over quick call ups, exception KReBS. They clearly show cased him and didn’t have any intent of keeping him due to all the early rumors on the Eichel deal. They called up Cotter too. Mainly because he probably got a trip back to his home state. Which is a nice thing for the organization to do.

      BAsed upon their call up, Cotter is probably the next, next, next, next, next, next “man up”

      • Richie-Rich

        After Eichel, I don’t think the VGK has any more room to trade prospects for talent. In fact, they’re going to have to find $3 to $5 million in space, which likely means bye bye Smith and 1 or 2 more productive players.

        VGK shouldn’t be moving any more potential AHL talent.

    • Pistol Pete

      Tim, I was hot for Dugan as well. From what I can tell he’s having trouble elevating his two way game to NHL standards. Leschyshyn and Rondbjerg are up because they have judged to give up the fewest goals. I’ve learned that exceptional offensive output notwithstanding, ie. Jack Eichel making the roster and scoring his first goal at 18, that defending is the first prerequisite for an NHL forward. Dugan I think is doing in the AHL what made his successful in the NCAA, playmaking and getting nearly a point a game, more assists than goals. Works in the NCAA and the AHL but not NHL. He must know what he needs to improve, stronger defense and in front of the net. I remain hopeful.

      • Pistol Pete

        Eichel btw is -69 so defense has not been his strong point apparently. I see that changing on the VGK. Better all around team. His +/- numbers will improve.

        He’s so gifted offensively that he bypassed the defensive requirement. Not so for Dugan and other HSK grinders.

        • Richard Santomauro

          Let’s focus on the surgery first, recovery second and getting back on the ice as the goal. Whether or not Eichel returns to the same high level 1C remains to be seen. Like Lehner, the jury will be out on Eichel for 6 months after he returns to the ice. Both of these front office moves were gambles unlike the trades for Stone, Patches and Stephenson.

          Eichel is expected to be present tonight at the Kraken game. I will be in my season seat in section 11 Row M.

  9. Vic

    Just ignore Vlad and his 17 other names. He’s busy checking plus and minus stats from the minors and his Krebs voodoo doll. It’s like Doc on speed and pretty humorous……but the Johnny One Note stuff is tiring on the eyes. While we await the faceoff with Detroit……Some plus/minus trivia….Bobby Orr was a career +582 (not a typo). In the nine full seasons before the knee, he averaged +63 with 1.4 points per game, and 100 penalty minutes per year while kicking just about anyone’s ass. For you youngsters, he played defense. Kill some time watching some clips of him so you can see who changed the game forever (and I hated the Bruins).

    • Vlad

      Am I wrong? Have I quoted incorrect stats?

      No and no

      Just because you disagree with the blatantly obvious facts doesn’t mean you are entitled to berate and criticize other posters you lefty POS

    • Pure Genius

      Have I been wrong? Nope

      Ironic you whine and cry about others posting stats ONLY to post another players stats

      What an ass clown

      • THE hockey GOD

        you were wrong last nite game, krebs leaving didn’t help the team. “mr pure BS”.

        you can’t have it both ways, no soup for you.

      • Vic

        There’s a padded cell with your name and your 17 other names waiting for you.

        Bryan Trottier…..Lifetime +449 and 1.1 points per game.

  10. If we don’t win a Cup with this Eichel character, this sucks and the 2 Mac’s need to be put out to pasture. I’m tired of giving up young studs and draft pics. I love Stone and Patches but this Eichel character needs to produce immediately. No Cup, no 2 Mac’s !!!!!!

    • Pure GENIUS

      If he lasts without injury he is a franchise player

      What Vegas gave up is minimal … if his health holds out

      Having said that you could trade for the best of the best only to see the person have a career ending or debilitating injury. Always risk.

      As well Vegas’ drafting has not been great

    • sb

      The two Mac’s as you called them have developed a team that is the 2nd best in the NHL over its four year existence. This is the most successful 4th year team in the history of N. American professional sports. Bad GM’s? You can always start following Buffalo or Chicago.

      • ulf

        To be fair, it’s not. Even just in the NHL St. Louis went to the cup finals three years in a row in their first three years. You can argue someone had to because of the way the format was then, but you can also point out the NHL’s playoff format (and Pacific Division, which for a time has been the weakest one in the lot) has greatly benefited VGK.
        Not to take away from the team’s success, but there are a lot more comparables that put the small case of VGK into greater perspective.
        Hoping for the best next year if not this year!

  11. ulf

    Although I like that VGK gave up almost nothing to take a chance on Eichel (Tuch is entirely replaceable and Krebs is ok, and despite the tone of the article, drafting well is NOT a VGK FO strength), I do think we’re gonna be hard-pressed to hoist the Cup with this group this year.
    After this year, as noted there are going to be changes by necessity. Let’s see what happens then.
    But VGK has been a trade-oriented club since we got off to the surprising start. Since the salary cap era started, that has usually bitten teams in the rear sooner than later. There has to be more competent drafting for ongoing success.

  12. THE hockey GOD

    where’s Ken ?

  13. Pistol Pete

    All of a sudden the Pacific is looking stronger. Ducks beat the Blues and Kings the Leafs away pulling a point ahead of VGK. Ducks and Sharks up too.

    Pavel Dorofeyev, how’s your two way game coming buddy?!!’

    • Richie-Rich

      Dorofeyev, Dugan, Cotter and Primeau are three off the top of my head who could provide a much needed boost. I like Primeau because he would be a huge presence in front of the net in the o-zone. After seeing them all at the NHL and AHL level I think Cotter was the most ready for the NHL followed by Dugan.

  14. Pistol Pete

    Cotter got called up Ken reported a couple days ago. He looked good preseason. Is Dorofeyev fairly fast? He’s the biggest goal scorer on the roster in terms of goals to points. He must drive the net but probably needs work on defense otherwise they would call him up. He gained close to 25 lb. The analysts are supposed to be good at determining whose play would best hold up at the NHL level defensively. Dorofeyev must need more development. He was playing in the KHL at 18 which is strong, however he did not score much.

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