It’s been a busy weekend of throwing magenta ping pong balls and raising a butt-ton of money for charity, which has left us at SinBin.vegas a bit behind. But, if Golden Knights hockey happens, you best believe we’re going to watch it, and thanks to this fantastic thing called the Internet, we’ve been able to go back and watch the rookie games we’ve missed, (Here’s the link) and now I’m here with takeaways from the Vegas rookie loss to Colorado.
- The best player on the ice for me was Zach Whitecloud and to be honest it wasn’t all that close. There were flashes from many other guys, which we’ll get to in a moment, but Whitecloud was a steady calming force on the back-end, consistently making the right read and play. His gap control continues to impress and his skating is so solid that he’s able to keep his positioning in any situation that’s thrown his way. He was reliable on the penalty kill and helped allow Nic Hague to get forward time and time again. Whitecloud plays a VGK style of defense, which is a different way to say, simple yet effective. Not that this should come as a surprise, but there’s absolutely a shot he wins the job and finds himself in the Golden Knights starting lineup on October 2nd.
- Behind Whitecloud, there were two other major standouts, Paul Cotter and Jonas Rondbjerg.
- Cotter, playing center with two non-roster players (Pavel Gogolev and Charles Antoine-Roy) consistently drove offense. He has an incredibly high compete level that reminds me a bit of Jonathan Marchessault. Cotter believes that every puck is his and he’s not afraid to bully his way through someone to take it from someone or to get it back. The best skill he displayed though was his vision through the neutral zone. Three or four times Cotter carrier or passed the puck through the neutral zone to lead directly to scoring chances. Great first step towards his goal of being in the AHL rather than OHL this year.
- Rondbjerg has the Golden Knight style of hockey written all over him. He’s a ferocious forechecker who uses his stick well to rip the puck off defenders. There had to be five different instances that the Golden Knights lost the puck in the offensive zone and Rondbjerg either got it back himself or helped to get it back to keep a play alive. Then there’s his backchecking, which might be even better than his forechecking. He’s non-stop getting back into his own zone and he has the foot speed and the stick to go along with his willingness to defend. Gerard Gallant is going to love this kid, and if he finds even an ounce of finish, so are VGK fans.
- Dylan Coghlan had a bit of an up-and-down game for me. Obviously scoring the two goals, he’s going to be the headline story, but his defending, especially playing along-side Jimmy Schuldt, concerned me a bit. On multiple occasions, they seemed to diagnose plays differently which led to chances against where there didn’t need to be. However, I’d rather focus on the good, which there was quite a bit of when he was able to let his offensive game shine. The 2nd goal was an absolute thing of beauty as Coghlan took a puck away at the defensive blue line, then started a rush and eventually scored the goal himself. It was very Theodore-ish. I’d like to see Coghlan with different partners moving forward because it just didn’t look like he and Schuldt fit together.
- Which leads me to Schuldt. Like his one NHL game, there were too many times that the read of the play coming at him into the zone was inconsistent with his partner. This leads to overloading one side of the ice with both defensemen. In this game, it didn’t really matter, but against high-end NHL teams, that means one cross-ice pass from a tap-in goal.
- Pavel Gogolev was the best non-VGK owned player for the Golden Knights, however a lot of what he did was created by Cotter. He looks very fast on the ice though which was the reason he was able to be there for every chance Cotter would create. His play in the defensive zone was quite impressive as well, using both his body and stick to make solid defensive plays.
- Kaedan Korczak continues to look much older than he actually is playing in his own end. There’s an incredible calmness with the puck on his stick that leads to him making the right play just about every single time (I’d have to watch every shift, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he went completely mistakeless in that game.) There are five competing for that spot now, but they all better watch out in the future because Korczak is coming.
- Lucas Elvenes is starting to find his footing when the Golden Knights have the puck, but he’s still lacking a bit when his back is to the goal (when he’s in his own zone or the neutral zone faced towards the VGK goalie). There were a few times he struggled along the boards to get a puck clear and one such instance led directly to a goal. His vision in the offensive zone is terrific though which nearly led to multiple Golden Knights goals. A year in the AHL with Rocky Thompson should go a long way for Elvenes.
- Cody Glass was Cody Glass in this game. He’s literally never out of position and his skating allows him to transition from defense to offense or vise versa in a heartbeat. Defensively, he’s supurb and the way he reads the game without the puck is going to translate very well to the NHL game. However, I still have the same concern with him that I’ve had for years, he doesn’t drive offense. He’ll help create it with forechecking and little passes in and out of the neutral zone, but it will always take great plays from teammates to consistently generate offense when Glass is on the ice. Take his assist for instance. Coghlan made an awesome play defensively to stop a rush and instantly start one the other way. He pushed the puck up to Glass who carried it through the neutral zone quickly. When he got to the blue line he purposely slowed up to manipulate the defenseman and open up space for a pass across the ice to Elvenes. He perfectly made that pass, which led to an even better pass from Elvenes to Coghlan, who put it into the net. Glass made a play, there’s no question about it, but without the excellent defensive play, the awesome cross-ice pass from Elvenes, and the finish, Glass’s play goes for naught. He continues to remind me of Cody Eakin. An awesome defensive center that will make the right play almost every time, but needs offense driving wingers to be effective in the scoring department.
- Finally, there’s Nic Hague. The number one concern I have with Hague’s game is whether he’s going to be able to skate quickly enough to keep up with NHLers. There were probably five times that he got into skating races with guys sending pucks down into the corners and every time I found myself holding my breath. That being said, even if he gave up ground, he’s almost always able to use his big body and long stick to shield the puck away and move it to his d-partner or a forward. It worked in junior, it worked for the most part in the AHL, and it worked in the rookie games, but will it against McDavid, MacKinnon, and Gaudreau? It’s just a massive red flag that I can’t stop seeing. There’s this one play by a certain other big defensemen that led to a certain goal that may or may not have been in overtime of Game 7 and ended the Golden Knights season that I can see happening to Hague when he eventually gets his chance and it scares the crap out of me. Other than that though, Nic Hague looks the part of an NHL defenseman. His passing is on point, he’s got that toe-drag shot down to a science, and he’s good at both blue lines. It’s just that one red flag and I’m not sure we’ll ever get an answer on it until we see him in a real NHL game.
Game 2 recap is coming tomorrow and Game 3 on Wednesday.