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BRANDON PIRRI TRADED TO CHICAGO FOR (F) DYLAN SIKURA

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have traded Brandon Pirri to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for 5’11” 25-year-old forward Dylan Sikura.

Sikura was a 6th round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft and has played 47 NHL games scoring one goal.

 

Phase 3 Training Camp Roster Observations

Note: This picture is NOT from today’s camp. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights unveiled their roster of 18 forwards, 12 defensemen, and three goalies Saturday night.

Here’s the full roster.

Forwards:  Patrick Brown, William Carrier, Nick Cousins, Reid Duke, William Karlsson, Keegan Kolesar, Peyton Krebs, Jonathan Marchessault, Tomas Nosek, Gage Quinney, Max Pacioretty, Ryan Reaves, Nicolas Roy, Reilly Smith, Paul Stastny, Chandler Stephenson, Mark Stone, and Alex Tuch

Defensemen: Jake Bischoff, Dylan Coghlan, Deryk Engelland, Nicolas Hague, Nick Holden, Alec Martinez, Brayden McNabb, Jon Merrill, Nate Schmidt, Jimmy Schuldt, Shea Theodore, and Zach Whitecloud

Goaltenders: Oscar Dansk, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Robin Lehner

Vegas’ Phase 3 Training Camp roster didn’t come without a few surprises.

  • Krebs makes the initial cut

We explained a few weeks ago why we thought Peyton Krebs deserved a spot not only on the Phase 3 roster but also on the Phase 4 roster when the Golden Knights head into the bubble. Golden Knights management obviously agreed as he’s one of the 18 forwards set to take part in Training Camp this week at City National Arena.

He was around the organization for an extended period of time in the fall as he rehabbed his injury and we were all very impressed by his professionalism. He’s an elite young player that at worst is going to get great experience. It’s a chance for Peter DeBoer to see Peyton Krebs, which he hasn’t had that opportunity. To get through the playoffs there are going to be situations where you are going to rely on your depth and we wanted to see Peyton in this setting to evaluate him further. -Kelly McCrimmon

Krebs missed Development Camp, Rookie Camp, Training Camp, and exhibition games so it would make sense to give him a chance at recovering some lost time, but according to McCrimmon the decision was made because they believe he can help this team win playoff games now. That’s definitely an exciting statement for the 17th overall pick in the 2019 Draft.

Which brings us to our next topic…

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Stephenson Helps, But VGK Still Short On Depth Scoring Options

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have been fortunate thus far this season in regards to injuries. At any given time they’ve never been without more than two forwards, missing only Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin at various times.

Of course, health is important for any team, but it’s especially crucial for the Golden Knights due to their lack of depth in the minor leagues.

Thus far, just three forwards have made both NHL and AHL appearances in the Vegas system. Brandon Pirri, Valentin Zykov, and Nic Roy have only six points despite racking up 25 combined games. Between the entire trio, they’ve yet to find the back of the net in the NHL.

Meanwhile, at the AHL level, those same three forwards have tallied six goals and 12 assists for 18 points in just 22 total games. And, aside from 20-year-old Lucas Elvenes, Pirri and Zykov rank as the top scorers on the Chicago Wolves, and Roy comes in 6th. They are the best the system has, and we’ve already seen what they can (or can’t) do at the NHL level.

I raised this concern during the offseason after the Golden Knights watched four of their top-six AHL scorers leave for other teams or leagues.

Luckily, it’s yet to bite Vegas as they haven’t been forced to dip into that depth. Of course, the addition of Chandler Stephenson pushes everyone down one rung on the ladder, but it’s still a serious issue.

Brandon Pirri had a hot run with the Golden Knights last season and certainly stands as a the best fill-in option, but beyond him, there’s not much there Vegas can rely on.

Elvenes is playing in his first professional season in North America, and is thriving, but he’s likely not cut out for the NHL grind yet. Zykov is playing with Chicago now, but the chances he ever returns to Vegas remain slim after his PED suspension. Then there are Gage Quinney, Curtis McKenzie, Tye McGinn, and Nic Roy. Roy was the clear front-runner of the group, and in his seven-game stint with the Golden Knights, offense wasn’t a word that came to mind.

35% into the season, it hasn’t mattered. Hopefully, it doesn’t in the remaining 65% either.

3rd Line Desperately Needs A Shakeup

The Golden Knights 3rd line this season has been an absolute disaster.

And that’s putting it politely.

Six games with Pirri-Eakin-Glass. Four games with Pirri-Stastny-Zykov. Three games with Zykov-Eakin-Glass. Three games with Nosek-Eakin-Glass. One game with Pirri-Eakin-Stone.

That’s 17 games, and those 3rd lines amassed a total of one goal. A single goal scored by Cody Glass against the Calgary Flames, which if this were soccer, would have been an own goal credited to Mark Giordano.

Individually, it doesn’t look much better.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Cody Glass – 18 games, 3 goals, 7 points*
Tomas Nosek – 17 games, 3 goals, 4 points**
Cody Eakin – 14 games, 0 goals, 3 points
Brandon Pirri – 10 games, 0 goals, 1 point
Valentin Zykov – 7 games, 0 goals, 2 points

*Glass played four games on the 2nd line. He scored one goal and had two assists in those games
**All three of Nosek’s goals were scored shorthanded or with the 4th line

But they aren’t supposed to be an offensive line. Right? That’s the bill of goods that’s been sold since the Golden Knights installed Eakin as the 3rd line center midway through the 2017-18 season.

Well, they aren’t good defensively either.

Eakin ranks as one of the 15 worst forwards with at least 100 minutes played this season with a 41.3% Corsi. He’s the 21st worst skater in the NHL at shot percentage at 40.8%, and he ranks in at least the 200th worst of 292 NHL forwards in goals against per 60, expected goals against per 60, and scoring chances against per 60. He’s been less than stellar in the faceoff circle winning at just a 46.4% clip, the worst of any Golden Knight with at least 100 draws. He has a -7 +/- rating, the worst of any Golden Knight. He’s one of four VGK skaters with a 0.0 defensive point shares number (the other three are Tuch, Roy and Bischoff who have played a combined 10 games). And, he’s registered just three takeaways, the least of any player with at least eight games played.

Pirri is right there with Eakin in all of the advanced stat numbers with a Corsi of 42.2%, shot percentage of 36.4%, and an expected goals for percentage of 41.8%. He’s been on the ice for just two goals while allowing five, and that’s including his 28:16 of power play time. He’s a -3, and has a -0.2 point share number which means if you simply subtracted Pirri and Eakin from the roster completely stats say they’d be almost half a point better in the standings.

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Eakin’s Return Will Shuffle Vegas’ Centers

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

All signs point towards center Cody Eakin resuming the same role tonight he’s performed effectively for the past two seasons. Arguably, one of the better third line centers in the NHL, Eakin’s return to duty is integral to the Golden Knights and their Stanley Cup chase.

He’s a huge player to our team. He works hard, he’s quick and he wins a lot of draws. He’s an easy guy too play with. And on the ice he’s one of the leaders. I gladly welcome him back.-William Karlsson

A healthy Eakin completes Vegas’ depth down the middle. It allows Gerard Gallant to solidify his second line, by reuniting Paul Stastny with Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone. Unfortunately, it could be a harsh reality for young center Cody Glass. Who will either be on the wing or on the bench tonight against Calgary. (If practice Friday was any indication, it’ll be the latter.) (Update: It wasn’t any indication. Glass is headed to the wing.)

That so-called second line can play with each other, they’ve had a lot of success together. For our line, we get matchups that we can play against top lines because Cody [Eakin] can shut them down. It creates transition. -Brandon Pirri

Brandon Pirri will likely play on the third line anchored by Eakin. He quipped about Gerard Gallant’s ‘so-called’ expression, but there’s no question as to what the coach expects from his third line.

He’s so solid defensively and he allows creative guys a little more room to more to make plays. He can make up for the little mistakes here and there. With his speed he can get back and catch those guys. -Pirri

An underrated aspect to Eakin’s game is his speed. He has the ability to break out and create a rush, and quickly get back to defend. Eakin’s two-way play can greatly benefit offensive wingers like Pirri, and eventually Alex Tuch.

He creates a ton of speed, he’s one of the best skaters in the league. He pushes defenses back and creates a gap for guys like me who are looking for high ice a little more. -Pirri

We’ll see how Gallant sets his lineup tonight, but it appears Eakin is playing, and he’s almost certainly centering the third line. Which leaves questions about Glass’ immediate and long-term role this year. I’m sure it’ll be addressed eventually by the coaching staff and front office, but for now, it’s nothing but positive words in press conferences from the head coach and a spot on the wing for #9.

Veterans Embracing Opportunity To Help Along Talented Rookies

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s been a productive preseason for the Golden Knights. The team is undefeated in four exhibition games while using a mix of reliable veterans and rising rookies. Jonathan Marchessault, Max Pacioretty, and Brandon Pirri have all skated on lines with younger players eager to make a mark. It can be a challenge at times due to their inexperience, but for the most part, the veterans seem to embrace their role in helping rookies take the next step.

I don’t think it’s a challenge, I think it’s fun. I’ve noticed that a few of the younger guys, this year they’re playing with more confidence and they’re playing better. Which helps their confidence a lot.-Brandon Pirri

Pirri formed a strong relationship with the young defenseman during his time with the Chicago Wolves last year. He says the deep AHL playoff run made a world of difference in the development of guys like Zach Whitecloud, Nic Hague, Dylan Coghlan, and Jake Bischoff.

They are very mature. They were doing NHL things in the American Hockey League. In the American League it’s more like preseason hockey, but towards the end it’s real hockey. -Pirri

Marchessault understands the pressure young prospects can feel during camp and preseason games having been in their shoes many times during his career.

It’s all about helping them. Ultimately, they want to make the team so you go out there and try to make them look good. You try and give your best effort, talk to them, and build their confidence. I know what it’s like. -Marchessault

Max Pacioretty has four preseason goals, two of them were assisted by Cody Glass. #67 enjoys playing with prospects and tries to organically help them along the way.

It needs to be genuine. If you see something that can help, rather than saying something to say something, it goes a long way. They’re good hockey players at this level. There’s things they can teach me. -Pacioretty

Overall it seems to be quite enjoyable for all of the established players. Playing on lines with players from the pipeline reminds them of their first camp experiences, and allows them an opportunity to give advice and show leadership.

Guest Post: Brandon Pirri Gets His Shot

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The signing of Brandon Pirri was a bit of a shock for most, but today’s guest post author, Brock Lammers, explains why keeping #73 around makes perfect sense. 

At the Final Press conference of the 2019 season, Brandon Pirri said it was all about opportunity. He just wants to play in the NHL. The Knights have listened and they have signed him for 2 years $1.55 million. This isn’t the biggest contract he has signed in his career but it is a good contract for Brandon given the point he is at in his career.

Brandon Pirri is no doubt an NHL caliber forward, as demonstrated by his 10-game 2019 midseason scoring streak. I thought the Knights might have traded him last season. He was hot and his contract was expiring. It felt like there was value in a piece they were potentially set to lose, but they opted to not only keep him, but he remained on the roster through the rest of the season and the playoffs. This tells me that the Knights see something in him.

With the trade of Erik Haula and Ryan Carpenter leaving to free agency there are some open forward positions for Pirri to take. Pirri is a very exciting player with good speed and an excellent stick. He seems to always find himself in a great position for prime scoring chances. His net presence makes him a good asset on the offensive side of the puck. Pirri has also stepped up his defensive game which was one of his notable flaws last season. Many think this was the reason that he struggled to stay in the lineup and many believe if he fixed this aspect of his game he could claim a permanent spot in the lineup.

Game 7 of the 2019 First Round was the best game of Pirri’s career in my opinion. He was all over the ice, aggressively forechecking, had a good defensive stick, and of course, always creating offensive chances. If his play remains consistent with his Game 7 performance I believe he would be a good candidate for a starting slot on the opening night roster. However, with the depth of the Knights roster at the forward position, any sign of inconsistency is a sure way to become a healthy scratch.

His game 7 performance was what the Knights were looking for all year from him and they got it at the most crucial time. With two forwards already gone and another one or two potentially on the trade block, Brandon Pirri is more than an insurance plan, he’s a legitimate 3rd line option for 82 games.

Brock Lammers

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