It was a weekend to forget from a team perspective for the Golden Knights at the 2023 Rookie Faceoff hosted here in Las Vegas. VGK rookies lost all three games to the Ducks, Sharks, and Avalanche, and struggled on both ends in all three games.
That being said, it wasn’t all bad individually for many prospects. Here are four that stood out positively for me.
Ahac did his best Alex Martinez impression in the two games he played this weekend, blocking shots, dominating on the penalty kill, and being one of the most consistent defensemen on the roster in making the first pass in the defensive zone. In a pair of games where the Golden Knights were consistently under pressure, he looked calm in his own end and his decision-making stood out among a group that had a hard time breaking the puck out. He’ll still need to show a lot at the AHL level to get a shot in the NHL, but he’s trending in a positive direction.
What jumped out most about Chayka was how he took command while he was on the ice. A physical presence on the ice, Chayka uses his body well both in front of the net and along the walls. His long, strong stick also gives him an advantage over just about every forward he comes up against. That command extends to his voice on the ice as well. He’s one of the most talkative players on the ice constantly directing traffic and helping his teammates out of difficult situations. Before this weekend, I was sure Kaedan Korczak was the first in line for a call-up when VGK needed a defense-first defenseman, now, I’m wondering if Chayka and Ahac can push him enough to wrestle that spot away.
Demek is the exact type of player the Golden Knights have been looking for over the course of the last few seasons. A big forward who skates well and lives in front of the net. His forechecking was tenacious in all three games and while it didn’t lead to too much offensively (though he did have a dandy of an assist off a play started by a ref-deflected pass), he was never discouraged and continued to pursue every puck. His work rate in the offensive zone is excellent too. When he has the puck he typically makes the right decision and the moment he gives it up, he’s heading to the net. He still has a lot to prove before he’s ready for an NHL look, but the arrow is definitely pointing up.
The undrafted camp invitee played all three games on the fourth line with a rotating cast of linemates. In all three games, he was the standout player on the line. He did score a goal with a nicely placed shot off the rush that beat the goalie clean, but it was more about his nose for the puck that made him pop during the games. He seems to have a knack for how to support his teammates both when his team has the puck and when they are trying to get it back. He uses his size well and was one of VGK’s most consistent players along the walls. Wouldn’t be surprised at all if he’s officially part of the Vegas system in the near future.