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Projecting The Future Henderson Silver Knights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

We’ve discussed countless times the future of the NHL roster including free agents such as Robin Lehner, Ryan Reaves, Deryk Engelland, and others, but the look of AHL roster is a different story.

With the minor league affiliate moving to Henderson, it’s likely that we’ll all want to be a little more familiar with the everyday roster than many were when they were in Chicago. So, I decided to look at all three positions and attempt to project who will be on the AHL roster when the league starts up the 2020-21 season. Then, at the end, I take a stab at guessing the first lineup the Silver Knights roll out when they step on the ice for the first time at Orleans Arena.

(Also, since this is a projection article, I’m using the name Henderson Silver Knights. Of all projections in this article, that’s the one I’m most confident about getting right.)

Bold = Projected to be on roster
* = Signed AHL contract

Forwards

Under Contract: Jonas Rondbjerg, Jake Leschyshyn, Lucas Elvenes, Brandon Pirri, Paul Cotter, Ben Jones, Patrick Brown, Tyrell Goulbourne
RFA: Reid Duke, Gage Quinney, Keegan Kolesar
UFA: Curtis McKenzie, Valentin Zykov, Tye McGinn*, Jermaine Loewen*
Unsigned: Jack Dugan

There aren’t too many question marks surrounding the group of forwards that will be with the Silver Knights next season. There are eight forwards under contract and most are expected to at least start the season in the AHL. Elvenes is the one that may potentially push in camp to make the NHL roster, but with the logjam of forwards currently on the Golden Knights, Elvenes’ waiver-exempt status likely means he’s wearing silver instead of gold when camp breaks. Pirri is an interesting case with the team moving to Henderson. One of the biggest benefits to the Vegas organization to Pirri was the fact that if he’s not in the NHL, he’s in Chicago, closer to his family. He has one year left on his deal, so he doesn’t have a ton of power, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he politely asks for a trade, one Vegas would likely grant.

The RFA class is an interesting one as all three have been recalled to the NHL during their time with the Wolves and Quinney and Kolesar both made NHL appearances. No reason to let any of the three of them walk. Don’t really see a place on the NHL roster for any of them straight out of camp though.

Dugan is a bit of a wild card as we would have expected a contract to have been signed by now if he were indeed ready to leave college. There’s no rush with the sports world paused, so it still could get done any day (which I expect to eventually happen), but every day that passes has to make you wonder a little more if he’s headed back to Providence. In the end, he’s a pro player, and he should be a Silver Knight next season.

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AHL Arena In Henderson Facing Opposition

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

Things aren’t looking quite as golden, or should I say silver, as they did a few months ago when the Golden Knights took over the state of Henderson address announcing the construction of a 6,000 seat stadium.

The plan is to replace the current Henderson Pavilion with a state of the art hockey arena to serve as the permanent home of the AHL team The Creator recently purchased. The team was set to practice at the new facility being built on Water St., play at Orleans Arena for the next few years, and then move to the future arena on the corner of Green Valley and Paseo Verde.

Obviously, the shutdown of the league, and the world for that matter, caused by the coronavirus will present some challenges, but the issues go well beyond that in the eyes of many Henderson residents.

Stories recently published on KNPR and in the Review-Journal show Henderson and the Golden Knights appear to have different ideas than those who live and work in the arena.

Basically there were three meetings, they were hour-long meetings, exact same presentation. Packed packed meeting rooms and long lines to get to the next one… This wasn’t really a meeting in support of this hockey team and this new venue that would support it, these were people who seemed pretty concerned about this new venue in their neighborhood. -Mike Prevatt, KNPR

The issues range from minor to major with the minor ones surrounding traffic and parking while the major issue wondering about the way in which the city is going about making the arena a reality and how much of the money to pay for it is coming out of Henderson residents’ pockets.

Mayor Debra March has said Henderson would pay for half the building with up to $40 million in public money, but the city has since backed off that figure, saying the cost has not been determined. -Blake Apgar, LVRJ

The proposal is expected to be brought to the city council officially on May 19th according to the RJ.

Normally concerns voiced by the people end up holding little weight when it comes to the construction of arenas and the decisions to publicly finance them. However, the current state of the world is likely to at least throw a bit of a wrench into the works for the Golden Knights and their AHL plans.

What seemed like a slam dunk a few months ago may not look so clear when the question of spending $40 million on an arena comes up in a little over a month’s time.

Concerns of traffic, parking, and infrastructure, while probably all fair and valid now, will likely be answered as more plans are unveiled, but the financial aspect of the project will remain uncertain, to say the least.

AHL Arena Being Built On Henderson Pavilion Site

It’s been a big month in news surrounding the AHL and it rolls on today. First, we learned they were coming, then we learned where they’ll practice and temporarily play, we’re pretty sure what they’ll be named which leaves just one more order of business. The location and details of their permanent home arena somewhere in Henderson.

Speaking at the Henderson “State of the City” address, Kerry Bubolz confirmed the location of the new arena for the AHL team.

We’re going to be building a brand new American Hockey League arena on the Pavilion site right here in Henderson. -Kerry Bubolz

The Henderson Pavilion is located on the corner of Paseo Verde Parkway and Green Valley Parkway, across the street from Green Valley Ranch Casino.

We’re looking to build this facility, it’ll be world-class, it’ll be 6,000 seats, it’ll be the perfect size for American Hockey league play. -Bubolz

Bubolz confirmed that the team has already taken over 5,300 refundable deposits for the AHL franchise yet to be officially named.

The Creator did give a slight hint to the name though.

Our AHL team name will include the name of this town, Henderson. -The Creator

The Golden Knights announced yesterday the new AHL will play its home games at Orleans Arena for the 2020-21 season. Our sources indicate that the plan is for the team to play there for two or three seasons while the new arena is being built.

The team name is expected to be Henderson Silver Knights, but it has not been finalized at this time.

Golden Knights Purchase AHL Franchise, Relocating Them To Las Vegas/Henderson

The Golden Knights have purchased the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL and pending the expected approval from the AHL’s Board of Governor’s, they will be relocated to Las Vegas/Henderson for the 2020-21 season.

Though it was not announced formally today, the team is expected to play at The Orleans Arena next season and stay for either two or three years. The plan is then for the team to move to a new arena, yet to begin construction, in Henderson.

The AHL team is expected to be named the Henderson Silver Knights and they will practice at Lifeguard Arena in Henderson, the new public rink being built on Water Street.

By every relevant metric, the growth of the game here the last few years at all levels has been remarkable. We could not be more proud to bring a second professional hockey club to the Valley to accelerate this growth even further. -The Creator

The Golden Knights will end their affiliation with the Chicago Wolves at the conclusion of this season and will bring all players under Golden Knights contract with them to the new affiliate in Las Vegas/Henderson.

This move will effectively centralize our hockey operations and streamline our processes in terms of player development, scouting, transfers and staffing. -George McPhee

The Golden Knights are currently accepting refundable season ticket deposits of $50 for the AHL franchise. They can be purchased at this link with current season ticket holders receiving priority access in the seat selection process.

Carp: The AHL In Vegas? An Interesting Proposition

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

Before the NHL accepted Bill Foley’s $500 million and let him join their exclusive club, I floated the idea to him about the possibility of putting his American Hockey League affiliate in Las Vegas.

After all, the perfect venue was right down the street from T-Mobile Arena in the Orleans Arena. It sat around 7,000 for hockey. It had free parking. The concessions were fairly priced. He probably could cut a decent deal with Boyd Gaming on the lease.

Best of all, he could get players to transfer back and forth from the parent club without having to get on a plane to do so.

Foley didn’t think it would work. He thought the franchise would be better served having its farm team in another location.

Of course, no one back in 2016 had any idea what was going to happen a year and a half later. The Golden Knights took the league and the city by storm and had unprecedented success on and off the ice. Suddenly, there were people on waiting lists to purchase season tickets. And even as the team jacked up the price of season tickets, most of the subscribers have stayed loyal.

So now there was a glut of hockey fans who go gaga over the Golden Knights but can’t get into T-Mobile Arena. It is indeed a fortress, accessible only by financial largesse to a privileged few.

What to do?

Bring another team to town. Play at the Orleans for a couple seasons until your rink in Henderson is built for the AHL team. Use the guys you already have under contract with the Chicago Wolves. Hell, the fans already know who all those guys are. It’ll be an easy transition. They could play in a division with Ontario, Bakersfield, Stockton, Tucson, San Diego, Palm Springs (when Seattle launches in a couple of years) and yes, San Jose.

Sounds good in theory, doesn’t it?

Sure does, especially If you’re Kerry Buboltz, the team’s president who continues to come up with creative ways to separate you from your money so they can pay Mark Stone $9.5 million annually for the better part of this decade.

Would this AHL in Las Vegas/Henderson idea work? My thinking to Foley was it would be an affordable alternative for those who couldn’t go to an NHL game, like the Wranglers were while cultivating more fans for the Vegas NHL team.

Yes, I knew it would cost more to go to an AHL game instead of an ECHL contest. But if you could take your family to a game at the Orleans for under $100, that would help make it work.

Where it really works is from a hockey standpoint. A defenseman goes down, an AHL callup could drive 10 minutes from the Orleans to T-Mobile. The AHL guys can live in Summerlin and practice at City National Arena or the team’s under-construction rink in Henderson. George McPhee could still pull his creative strings to clear salary cap space and the team would save a ton on travel costs. They can scout the organization’s players more often. They can regularly interact with the AHL team’s coaching staff. It would certainly streamline things.

However, would it work at the turnstiles? Could you turn a profit by owning your own AHL team? Currently, the Knights have a partnership with the Wolves, who are independently owned. The Wolves are staying put, though they’ll get a whole new roster of players from their next NHL affiliate once Vegas pulls its players out of Chicago.

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Orleans Arena Expects To Become Home To Golden Knights AHL Affiliate Next Season

Photo Credit: Brian Idziak, SinBin.vegas

The Golden Knights AHL affiliate is currently the Chicago Wolves, but according to multiple sources that may change as soon as next year.

Per SinBin.vegas sources, Boyd Gaming and The Orleans Hotel and Casino are expecting the Golden Knights to purchase an AHL franchise and move them to Vegas to play at the Orleans Arena.

The current plan is expected to have the team play at Orleans Arena for two seasons before moving to a new rink built specifically for the AHL.

Earlier today, David Andrews, the President of the AHL, said the Golden Knights are in talks with other AHL team owners about purchasing a team.

The Orleans Arena was previously home to the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL from 2003-2014. Orleans announced in December 2013 that they would not be renewing the Wranglers lease which eventually forced the team to cease operations.

Per Wikipedia, Orleans Arena’s capacity for hockey is 7,773. The Wranglers’ highest season average attendance was 5,531.

Two teams have their AHL affiliate playing in the same building as the NHL team (Winnipeg and San Jose), while another four (COL, MTL, BOS, TOR) play within an hour drive. In Toronto, the Maple Leafs play in an arena 2.1 miles away from the Marlies. Orleans Arena is located 2.0 miles from T-Mobile Arena.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Golden Knights and Wolves had agreed to a 5-year partnership. However, a SinBin.vegas source indicated that there is an “out-clause” for the Golden Knights after three seasons.

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Report: Rocky Thompson Named Chicago Wolves Head Coach

Update (2:20 PM) – Both the Golden Knights and Chicago Wolves have sent out press releases confirming this hire. 

According to a report from TSN’s Elliotte Friedman, the Chicago Wolves, the Golden Knights AHL affiliate, have found a new head coach.

Because the Golden Knights control all hockey operations with the Wolves, the decision was made by George McPhee.

Thompson was hired to take over the head coach position in Windsor in 2015 and went on to an 81-40-11 record in two seasons which includes the Spitfires Memorial Cup win this year. Prior to Windsor, Thompson was an assistant with the Edmonton Oilers for one season. He was also an assistant with the Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) and Oklahoma City Barons (AHL).

Thompson was an absolute menace on the ice as a player. He spent most of his career in the AHL, but did have short stints with the Calgary Flames (15 games) and Florida Panthers (10 games). He racked up 117 PIM in those 25 games and consistently averaged at least 175 PIM in each AHL season. One year, Thompson spent 275 minutes in the box in a 79 game season. His total was 1,382 penalty minutes in 630 career games.

From time to time, the players YouTube me and come in and say, ‘holy smokes, you were an animal.’ –Thompson to Calgary Herald

But, that’s not how he coaches.

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