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Roster Battles Incredibly Limited At 2021 VGK Training Camp

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When you take a hard look at the Golden Knights roster you’ll quickly realize there aren’t many question marks when it comes to lineup construction. The top-six is all but guaranteed to remain intact, the entire blue line is locked in, and there’s no longer a goalie competition for either the starting role or the backup.

There are at least 15 players out of the allowed 20 that will dress on October 12th we can essentially write in with a Sharpie marker. There would actually be a 16th if Alex Tuch were healthy, but his injury leaves at least one more spot open for discussion.

Of course, the lines and pairs could shift, but here are the names that I’d be willing to go out on a limb and guarantee (if healthy) are in the lineup in 27 days at T-Mobile Arena.

Pacioretty-Stephenson-Stone
Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Janmark-(Open)-Dadonov
(Open)-(Open)-(Open)

Martinez-Pietrangelo
McNabb-Theodore
(Open)-Whitecloud

Lehner
Brossoit

Thus, there are reasonably five slots that could be interchangeable.

At forward, there are five players currently under one-way NHL contracts. William Carrier, Brett Howden, Keegan Kolesar, Nic Roy, and Patrick Brown. Then, there’s Nolan Patrick who is an RFA but will likely have a contract prior to Opening Night. Throw in the waiver-exempt Peyton Krebs, Jack Dugan, and Lucas Elvenes and we’re looking at a group of nine players with a chance of suiting up against the Seattle Kraken.

Roy is probably the closest player in this group to having a guaranteed spot in the lineup, especially considering his strong postseason and massive goal in Game 4 against the Canadiens.  The other three spots truly represent the only roster competition in VGK Training Camp.

Kolesar would seem to have the next strongest case considering he was protected against waivers for the entire 2020-21 season. His game certainly progressed over the year and there’s really no reason to believe they’d be willing to risk him on waivers this year when they were in an even tighter spot a year ago.

Carrier has been a fixture in the Golden Knights lineup but his $1.4 million cap hit could put his place in jeopardy. It’s possible they look to sneak Carrier through waivers, like they did Nick Holden a year ago, to bury most of his salary and then allow him to come back to the NHL roster in the event of injury.

Brown is likely to head back through waivers as he’s cleared each of the past few seasons and is expected to do so again.

That brings us to the final two, Patrick and Howden. Both offseason acquisitions, the Golden Knights gave up assets to bring in each. Neither are expected to have a cap hit greater than $1 million but both require waivers to reach the AHL. It wouldn’t look good for Vegas to lose either before they play a game, so it’s probable that both stay on the active roster throughout camp and into the start of the season. It’ll likely come down to their performances in camp to decide which (if either) gets the call to start on Opening Night. They truly represent the only legitimate position battle across the entire VGK roster in training camp.

Because of this, I’d expect to see both get plenty of opportunities in the preseason games. It shouldn’t be surprising to see either, or both, up the lineup early in preseason playing with top-six linemates. DeBoer is going to have to make a tough decision so he’ll want to use this next month to gather as much information on each player’s role in his system as possible.

As for the rookies, it’s going to take something monumental in camp to force them to waive one of the names above. Not saying it can’t happen, or that Krebs specifically isn’t capable of it, but my money would definitely not be on Krebs, Dugan, or Elvenes suiting up on October 12th.

On defense, there’s a real argument that all six spots are settled already, and if I had to pick a side, I’d say Nic Hague will indeed pair with Whitecloud to round out the VGK blue line. But, Dylan Coghlan, Jake Bischoff, and Kaedan Korczak all have a real chance to push for that role.

Once Coghlan inks his contract, he’ll be in a similar spot as Hague, too good to place on waivers. The biggest hurdle for Coghlan is the fact that he’s right-handed. Assuming health, the right side of the Golden Knights defense is pretty well locked in with Pietrangelo, Theodore, and Whitecloud. It wouldn’t be that shocking if Coghlan outplayed Hague, but in reality, to win a starting job he must do it by such a margin that DeBoer is willing to shift Theodore back to the left side (likely to play with Whitecloud). Not impossible, but far from probable.

Bischoff has been about as steady a performer as can be since he’s gotten to Vegas. Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for the Golden Knights, he’s likely to clear waivers. Maybe, just maybe, he can really push Hague for that last spot. If he does, it would probably mean a trade would have to be in the works to ensure the Golden Knights don’t lose someone for nothing to make space for Bischoff.

Finally, there’s Korczak. Due to his age and waiver-exempt status, he’s quite the long-shot to be in the Opening Night lineup. However, talent-wise there’s absolutely a case to be made and one he can strengthen with a great next four weeks. In the end, I really don’t see a way Korczak can overcome the seemingly immoveable obstacle of being waiver-exempt.

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19 Comments

  1. THE hockey GOD

    An article on home opening success of RAIDERS and impact on THE VGK as opening of real ERA for battle of local fans BUCK$. Failure of RAIDERS to sell out their home opening could be a sign of things to come. Or could be due to COVID. Ultimately the impact on the VGK FAN BASE spending money in a stretched “sports” town with a population of “only” two million people could be a factor. Most of which are highly cemented in the blue collar lower middle class range. Thus if if the Raider versus VGK fan dollars competition would be an interesting play. Maybe if it results at least for half of the reason we can see finally a decrease in ticket prices for VGK fans.

    I used to like the raiders, but their fan base “raider nation” is silly and their team doesn’t have any talented super stars to draw new fans too.

    that’s my opinion and I will stick to it until further notice.

    PS without injury I see Krebs making the team and Coghlin will probably be new starting D man (hoping) , he deserves another look over Holden. At least in early part of season barring any injury.

    • B-Rad-Lee

      Raiders did not fill the stadium for the season opener because they eliminate half of the population that might have gone to see a game by imposing a vax mandate.

      VGK has done the opposite. They opted for masks instead of vax. There was a good article I read yesterday about that decision.

      • Richard Santomauro

        Getting vaccinated should be between you and your doctor. Period. Only your personal physician is qualified to provide that advice. I took the Pfizer jabs after consulting with my doctor.

        Politics should not be a factor at all. The so-called “science” has been twisted and hospitals are receiving extra funding to report COVID 19.

        If you’re afraid don’t go to the game, period.

  2. Richard Santomauro

    That 3rd and 4th line won’t produce much in terms of goal scoring. As much as I like Roy and Kolesar, neither did well in terms of producing goals last year either. Kolesar certainly had chances but he was either super unlucky or just plain choked. I like Kolesar’s size. I’d like to see Krebs and Patrick get a chance to prove themselves.

    I am also excited to see Logan Thompson get some NHL experience this year. I am still very disappointed that they didn’t offer Logan the back up. This could turn out to be a major mistake by VGK FO.

  3. Richard Santomauro

    Krebs and Patrick may both be the answer to the 3rd and 4th line, but also may provide the much needed talent on the power play as well.

  4. knights fan in minny

    was that reaves in mark davis suite monday sure looked like him

  5. John W

    If we accept the premise here, that there are 2-4 promising rookies to possibly supplant Hague (not to mention any Veterans at the AHL level), AND the abundance of forwards fighting for bottom six slots, perhaps shipping a package off for Eichel may not be an awful idea? Steve Carp advocated for this over at VHN.

    Smith, Carrier, Hague and 2 firsts for Eichel? Buffalo would have to retain 2.5 to 3.0 of salary, but word is they like Hague and Krebs. The two firsts go in the mix if we really want to keep Krebs.

    If you are a Kolesar fan (I’m not, think he’s an offensive liability at this point), you can clear a “tough guy” slot for him, put him with Krebs and Roy on a faster, more athletic 4th line. Howden is a strong possibility also.

    Just a thought.

    Eichel is only 24

    • Richard Santomauro

      Eichel is too big a risk. Smith should have already been dealt. We need to test drive Krebs.

      If you go after Eichel you possibly ship Carrier, Hague and Smith but that’s it. With Smith gone, you have to put faith in Krebs, Patrick or Brown. Tuch being out hurts.

      I hear Eichel wants surgery which likely puts him out for most of the year if not all of it.

      • Daryl

        If Eichel wants surgery that would mean he wouldn’t cost VGK anything as far as cap goes.

        As for Steve Carp, he is a great fan but if you’ve read most of his articles, he isn’t very hockey knowledgeable

    • ulf

      That’s no centers back to Buffalo, two average players in Smith and Carrier (below average in Carrier’s case, not to mention Smith is a UFA soon), and a youngish defenseman which is exactly what Buffalo doesn’t need. Almost testamount to the old “Bag of Pucks” for a superstar center (albeit with some weird medical history).

      Unfortunately we doesn’t have the farm rookies or attractive players to land a guy like Eichel, even if it was a good move.
      Or more accurately, management doesn’t want to give up the few real prizes it has to get someone like Eichel.

      When Pierre-Luc Dubois was available – not a perfect fit, but would play well in the Vegas system I think – VGK couldn’t compete with a Laine+Rosolovic offer from the Jets.
      If they can’t land someone like that, how can we get Eichel?

      I see why management decided to get aggressive and go for it after over performing in year 1, but the window on this team is short and I’m not sure we have the horses to get there before the usually weak Pacific Division has gotten stronger, and we’ve gotten older.

      • Richard Santomauro

        Eichel is injured and his future is sketchy. There is no way he warrants top line players in a trade – period.

        • ulf

          He’s going to get at least one top player or prospect in the package, history shows no matter what there’s always a team willing to go there; none of Smith, Hague or Carrier are anywhere near top players and Vegas drafts low enough that the 1st won’t be a great player either.

          Look at Erik Karlsson. It was known that his knees and feet weren’t what they used to be, but San Jose traded:
          Chris Tierney (roughly equal to Smith),
          Dylan DeMelo (better than Hague),
          and Balcers (worse than Carrier but they’re both bottom 3 players at best), along with top prospect Josh Norris (look at him now) and a 1st round pick – and this is with EK having only one year left on his deal.

          Eichel is under contract for 10 years, way younger and despite his injury is still recoverable no matter who you talk to – just a matter of how much (all the way according to Eichel, for what it’s worth, and ? according to the Sabres).

  6. Tim

    I’m not a Kolesar fan either couldn’t put a puck in the ocean. Carrier skates well but it hasn’t turned into much offense but he does put a shoulder into people. At 1.4 million I can live with or without him. Stephenson in my opinion is a third line center but can Krebs or Patrick beat him out probably not. They need to be up front with Reilly Smith his 5+ cap hit on an expiring contract makes him venerable buy if you going to do it do it. He’s a class act and we don’t need more publicity on how shitty we treat our players. I hope they televise the rookie tournament in Arizona if anyone finds out please let the rest of us know. On a closing note don’t even think about Jack Eichel Never Never buy damaged goods. Did you hear me Ken

    • THE hockey GOD

      “we don’t need more publicity on how shitty we treat our players” brainwashed by fake media hype to drink the kool aid. Pathetic feeble minded old fool.

  7. sb

    Before the end of this season, VGK will need to move Carrier’s $1.4 mil contract. Why? He performance has stalled, not enough production to justify the $1.4 mil, he’s probably peaked and this is it, Roy and Kolesar may have more upside, gonna need that $1.4 mil to cover pay raised for Whitecloud, Hague, Kolesar, Roy and Janmark. The Team is running short on salary cap money going forward. Move Carrier for a mid-round draft choice.

    • Richard Santomauro

      The situation the VGK FO has put the team in is rather bad. They are going to be forced to do something rash when Tuch comes off of IR as his return will put them over the CAP. The question is whether or not they will bring him back in January or later in the year in time for the playoffs?

      VGK FO has only itself to blame for the CAP nightmares it has created. The time to move Smith would have been this past off season. Now he walks or demands and gets a huge pay raise. He’s going to have to put up huge numbers to warrant an offer of any substantial amount. If that is the case VGK will have to likely give up a major piece or two, possibly Pacioretty or even Stone? Who knows, but one thing is for certain that 1st line is taking up a huge percentage of the salary cap. If that investment doesn’t pay dividends this year it may be time for a complete rebuilding of the top the line altogether. On top of that is the goalie experiment that will either be boom or bust by January.

      Carrier? His $1.4m is rather insignificant. He does bring continuity and solid play defensively and I like him on that 4th line. I don’t see him as a solution to the CAP problem at all. He’s not the issue.

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