With eyes set on 23, the Golden Knights training camp roster of 66 has been cut all the way down to 26. The VGK front office have just a few more decisions to make. But, these final ones are always the toughest.
The 26-man roster included 15 forwards, nine defensemen, and two goalies. Three more players will have to find their way off this group before Vegas can drop the banner celebrating the Stanley Cup and begin their quest to repeat.
Obviously, the two goalies, Adin Hill and Logan Thompson are expected to suit up on October 10th, with the playoff hero Hill expected to start between the pipes against the Kraken. Down to 24.
Forwards Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, Chandler Stephenson, Ivan Barbashev, Nic Roy, William Carrier, and Keegan Kolesar are all guaranteed, if healthy, to be on the roster as well. That puts us at 15.
On the back end, Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, Alec Martinez, and Nic Hague are all locks. So, we’re down to ten.
Ten players. Seven will be on the roster, three will be not.
They are Michael Amadio, Brett Howden, Paul Cotter, Pavel Dorofeyev, Max Comtois, Brendan Brisson, Zach Whitecloud, Ben Hutton, Brayden Pachal, and Kaedan Korczak.
The first variable is always health. Right now, one of those ten players, Zach Whitecloud, is not healthy, and has already been ruled out for the rest of the preseason. If he’s not available to go to start the season, he’ll be placed on injured reserve (IR) and would represent one of the three that would not be on the official 23-man opening night roster. That being said, if Whitecloud can play, his name would have been up there next to Pietrangelo and Theodore as a lock.
Amadio, Howden, and Hutton are all as close to locks as you can be as well. The Golden Knights are not immune to throwing a surprise at us every once in a while, but in this case, it would be a bit of a stunner if the 23-man roster drops without all three of their names.
So, we’re down to six players for two or three spots (depending on Whitecloud). In order, here’s who is most likely to make the final 23.
Projected to make roster
Cotter played 55 games last year and scored 13 goals and 18 points. He’s clearly shown he can play and succeed at the NHL level. Not only is he the most likely of the final group to make the roster, he’s also the most likely to be in the starting lineup on William Karlsson’s right wing as well.
This may come as a bit of a surprise that Comtois is ahead of the next player on the list, but the situation surrounding Max gives him a leg up. The decision on Comtois is not only whether or not he makes the roster for October 10th, but if he’s even a part of the organization at all eight days from now. Comtois’ pedigree, the way Bruce Cassidy has spoken about him, and the fact he’s still here at this point, all heavily indicate he’s going to be offered an NHL contract soon.
Of the players on the bubble (which is a strong term for even a player like Pavel who is likely to make the roster) he’s been the most impressive in the preseason. Couple that with the fact that he proved his ability to put the puck in the net in the NHL last year and he has a high probability of making the roster out of camp. In addition, Dorofeyev is not waiver exempt. Thus, if the Golden Knights choose to go a different direction, all 31 other NHL teams would be free to steal Dorofeyev from the Golden Knights. Someone probably would, which is why it’s pretty unlikely Vegas gives them a chance.
Projected to make roster (if Whitecloud is out)
Despite being a limited figure on the ice for the Golden Knights last year (1 playoff game and 10 regular season games), Pachal’s name is engraved on the Stanley Cup, which shows just how much the organization felt he did with the team. He’s not waiver exempt, so like Dorofeyev, he could be lost for nothing if he doesn’t make the final 23. The difference with Pachal though is that he has cleared waivers before, whereas Pavel has not.
Projected to miss roster
Recently, Bruce Cassidy compared Korczak’s game to that of Zach Whitecloud. The 2019 2nd round draft pick’s strongest upside in this battle for the final spot is upside. We know what we’re getting out of Hutton, and even Pachal for that matter, we really don’t with Korczak. The challenge for Kaedan is that due to his age and experience, he remains waiver exempt. The Golden Knights are free to ship him back and forth from the NHL to the AHL as they wish. If he had to clear waivers, he’s definitely above Pachal and might even be above Ben Hutton, but he doesn’t, and thus, he probably will head to Henderson before the week is out.
The Golden Knights have given their oldest remaining 1st round pick plenty of looks this preseason, and he’s done fairly well with them. He’s looked pretty good next to Jack Eichel and he remains a weapon on the power play. That being said, it’s just not time yet as he still has some room for development, especially when it comes to board battles. Add in the fact that he too is waiver exempt, and it’s highly unlikely he beats out any of the remaining forwards.