Phase 2 of the NHL’s Return to Play protocol is underway which meant groups of six players were allowed to resume training on the ice at team facilities.
The Golden Knights provided a video of one of those groups including Marc-Andre Fleury, Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny, Nick Holden, and Deryk Engelland.
Group sessions are expected to continue for the next six weeks or so until the league re-opens for training camps prior to the 24-team playoff. The target date to start training camps is mid-July while the hope is to start playing games in early August.
When Pete DeBoer took over as head coach of the Golden Knights, one of the most drastic changes he made to the everyday lineup was to take Deryk Engelland out of it.
Before the season was paused, Engelland had been scratched in 12 straight games and had played in just one of DeBoer’s last 18. All in all, Engelland appeared in only five of the 22 with DeBoer behind the bench.
Under Gallant, Engelland was scratched just eight times in 213 regular-season games and not a single time in 27 playoff games.
DeBoer still believes Engelland is a major part of the team, however. Speaking with JT The Brick on Fox Sports Radio, DeBoer went out of his way to praise the leadership Engelland brought while being placed in a “tough situation.”
To a man they all want to win the Stanley Cup, that’s their number one motivation. They are willing to do whatever they have to do to be a part of it. I look at Deryk Engelland as an example of that. Tough situation, veteran guy, we had to scratch him some games here recently before the pause. The messaging to me was ‘I just want to be a part of this. When you need me, let me know, and I’ll be ready to go.’ You can’t have enough of that and that’s what makes groups like this special. -DeBoer on Fox Sports Radio
DeBoer went on to say the leadership group of the team is eight to ten players deep, but clearly has an affinity towards Engelland.
The question moving forward is where does Engelland fit in on a roster that has become crowded on the blue line. The Golden Knights have six NHL contracts on the books for defensemen already to go along with Nic Hague, Jake Bischoff, Dylan Coghlan, and Jimmy Schuldt all chomping at the bit in the AHL.
Leadership and character are major pieces in what the Golden Knights look for when constructing their roster, but at some point skill on the ice has to take precedence over intangibles. DeBoer proved unequivocally he trusted Nick Holden, Jon Merrill, and Zach Whitecloud over Engelland in the lead-up to the pause.
And, despite the kind words, likely tipped his hand as to Engelland’s future as a player in the Golden Knights organization along the way.
It feels like ages ago now, but just six months ago the Golden Knights kicked off the third season in franchise history. It began with a pair of hotly contested games against the hated San Jose Sharks, each resulting in Vegas wins. From there, the Golden Knights ripped off wins in six of their first nine games before hitting the skids a bit dropping 12 of the next 17.
It all added up to a paltry 11-11-4 start. In those first 25 games, the Golden Knights were without Alex Tuch for 17, Nate Schmidt for 12, Malcolm Subban for nine, and Cody Eakin for four. Plus, Valentin Zykov was suspended for 20.
According to George McPhee though, those weren’t the only ailments plaguing his team early in the season.
We started the season a little slow. We had three players that were injured. The hidden injuries, we had three guys that were hurt late in the summer in training and missed a lot of training time. They were really behind when we got going. It was pretty obvious. -McPhee to GoldenKnights.com
My first thought was, “who’s he talking about?”
Shea Theodore’s bout with cancer could certainly fall under that category, but it’s hard to call that one “hidden.” Tuch, Schmidt, Eakin, Subban, and Whitecloud were all hurt on the ice during regular or preseason games, so he can’t be talking about them. Then there was the William Karlsson “can’t take draws” injury that seemed to occur in a preseason game, but once again, that shouldn’t have gotten in the way of the summer training.
“Three guys hurt late in the summer in training.”
The first, most obvious, candidate would be Ryan Reaves. He missed a majority of training camp, not hitting the ice for the first time until September 24th.
The next best guess is Paul Stastny who was absent for the first four preseason games but played in the final three and didn’t miss any of the 71 games played thus far.
Finally, there are Mark Stone and Deryk Engelland. Both participated in training camp, but neither saw preseason action until the third preseason game. That’s not horribly unusual, but when looking for “hidden” injuries the only names missing from the first two preseason games have to be considered.
Statistically, Stone was dominant out of the gates this season putting up 18 points in his first 15 games. The other three, not so much. Reaves tallied just three points in his first 20, Engelland had just two in 20, and Stastny had nine points in his first 20.
Or maybe it’s someone else I’m not even considering. But the point of this isn’t to out the guys who were potentially injured though, it’s to ask why that is an acceptable excuse?
In their first official roster activity since the NHL season was put on halt, the Golden Knights locked up defenseman Zach Whitecloud to a two-year contract at $725K AAV.
Whitecloud becomes the third Golden Knights defenseman to be locked into next season since early February. First, Vegas acquired Alec Martinez and will pay him $4 million against the cap in 2020-21, then they extended Nick Holden on trade deadline day for a cheap $1.7 million for two seasons, and now Whitecloud.
That leaves the Golden Knights blueline fairly stocked. Shea Theodore and Nate Schmidt are under contract for each of the next five seasons, Brayden McNabb, Holden, and Whitecloud each have two years left now, and Martinez’s deal expires at the end of next season.
That’s six NHL defensemen under contract for the 20-21 season with Nic Hague, Jake Bischoff, and Dylan Coghlan all waiting in the wings in the AHL. Plus, Jimmy Schuldt will become an RFA whenever free agency opens this summer meaning he’ll likely stick around for another year as well.
So, where does that leave the two defensemen currently on the roster both set to become UFAs? Well, the previous nine games before the pause told the beginning of the story (neither Merrill nor Engelland played defense in any of them), Whitecloud and Holden’s extensions tell the middle, and now the end will have to wait until July 1 (or whatever the equivalent is this year).
Under Gallant, Merrill played 38 of the Golden Knights’ 49 games. Engelland was in Gallant’s lineup for 44 of 49. Under DeBoer, Merrill has played 11 of the 22 (with one as a forward) and Engelland just five. Clearly, both Merrill and Engelland had fallen out of the Pete DeBoer led Golden Knights lineup prior to the pause.
Now, with six defensemen under NHL contract and four more pushing for time there’s simply not space for both Engelland and Merrill, if there’s even space for one.
Plus, looking over the roster and the salary cap balance sheet, if there’s one place for Vegas to upgrade with a massive piece, it would be on defense (paging Alex Pietrangelo).
Things get even trickier for Merrill and Engelland when you consider that none of the six NHL contracts are waiver-exempt next season. Also, Nic Roy will require waivers next season as well. Vegas spent the majority of the season juggling their roster this year because they could. Glass, Hague, Whitecloud, and Roy could all go back and forth without any risk. That’s no longer the case for Whitecloud and Roy, which means the expected roster already has 18 (and 19 if you count the backup goalie), waiver-eligible players. There’s simply no room for another one.
The move of signing Whitecloud should be celebrated as it was done for an incredibly cheap price and it gives the Golden Knights even more cap flexibility heading into an offseason with an uncertain cap. But, for those who are fans of original Golden Misfits, the deal likely signals the end of at least one and probably two of them.
A group of five Golden Knights, led by Alex Tuch, have officially opened the first NHL player-owned sports bar in Las Vegas. Deryk Engelland, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore, and Tuch took over Wolfgang Puck’s previous place in Downtown Summerlin, and with the help of Puck and his staff, have opened the “Player’s Locker.”
I brought it to a few different guys on the team. It was guys that I saw were going to be here for a long time. Shea Theodore was one of the first ones I went to. We’re really close and I just wanted other guys that really showed interest. I think we have a really good group and I’m really excited about it. -Alex Tuch
The restaurant had its “soft opening” Saturday and has a grand opening in the works soon. It’s a mix of upscale Wolfgang Puck inspired food with a bar food twist. The menu includes one dish named after each player.
Alex Tuch, William Karlsson, Deryk Engelland, Reilly Smith and Shea Theodore are teaming up with celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck to create a sports bar called “Wolfgang Puck Players Locker.”
The opportunity to be a partner in the first-ever sports restaurant in Vegas is something I couldn’t pass up. I am very excited to work side by side with one of the greatest chefs in the world, Wolfgang Puck. -Alex Tuch
The restaurant is taking over the old “Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill” in Downtown Summerlin in between California Pizza Kitchen and Shake Shack. There will be a brand new menu including “traditional sports fare”as well as an “innovative new beverage program” which will surely include both Engelland and Ryan Reaves’ beers.
We are thrilled to be partnering with members of the Vegas Golden Knights here in Las Vegas, the new hockey capital of the world. We have created a unique and one-of-a-kind sports dining experience around great food and the best players in the NHL! -Wolfgang Puck
The restaurant is being re-designed around a “floor-to-ceiling display of more than 100 custom glass lockers.” Each of the five Golden Knights will have their own dedicated locker.
There will also be two outdoor patios, one dog-friendly, as well as an expansive bar area, and a private dining room named “The Players Lounge” which is expected to host the five VGK owners consistently.
Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill will remain open until mid-January, at which time it will undergo a brief, one-week remodel before re-opening its doors as the new Wolfgang Puck Players Locker. Additional details will be announced in the coming months. -Press Release
Some appreciate his play, most don’t, but there’s no question he’s beloved by the fanbase.
That’s Deryk Engelland.
When a bad play leads to a goal some fans are quick to point out the last guy defending the puck. Which at times, happens to be Engelland. However, it can take a series of events why a team gave up a goal. We can’t always blame the guy that made the initial turnover or the last line defense. It is a team sport after all.
Believe it or not, Engelland has proven to be a valuable asset to the Golden Knights organization. And in many ways. We all know his community impact, leadership skills, and that he’s an overall good dude.
But there’s more. Engelland helped one of the Golden Knights core players, Shea Theodore grow, and is in the process of breaking in two and possibly more defensive prospects this season. Consider Engelland as a defensive coach on the ice, or training wheels. And he’s only charging the league minimum.
First of all, we like to try to put experience with a little bit of inexperience. Just to give them a little bit of a safety valve. -Ryan McGill
His minutes have dipped, but so did his salary. Relative to his contract, he’s expected to play a third-pair role, protected by high offensive zone starts, and busting ass on the penalty kill. That’s the job description for most team’s 5th-7th defenseman. Not many have the extra skills to be an on-ice prospect developer.
For just the second time this season, the Golden Knights will see a new defensive pair along their blueline. Following the injury to Nate Schmidt, Nic Hague was placed into the lineup playing alongside Deryk Engelland. He held that position for seven straight games, recording two assists, six shots on goal, and averaging 14:28 per game.
Tonight, however, Hague will watch from the press box as Jake Bischoff is slated to make his NHL debut. Bischoff made the Golden Knights roster out of training camp last year, stayed with the team for about three weeks, but never drew into a game. This year, he was sent to the AHL out of training camp before being recalled eight days ago to replace Jimmy Schuldt.
Like Hague, his defense partner will be Deryk Engelland as the two slot in as the Golden Knights third pair.
Recently, speaking at a fan Q&A hosted at Jaguar & Land Rover Las Vegas, assistant coaches Ryan McGill and Mike Kelly were asked about what goes into the decision-making process of picking defensive pairs.
First of all, we like to try to put experience with a little bit of inexperience. Just to give them a little bit of a safety valve. Number two, you want to have somebody that can move the puck up the ice quick or that can be involved with the play with another guy that can watch his back. -Ryan McGill
McGill is the assistant that handles the Golden Knights defense.
But the biggest thing trying to find chemistry. If you don’t find chemistry you can’t have those players together all the time. -McGill
Kelly, who has worked alongside Gerard Gallant for nearly a decade, piggybacked McGill’s comments.
If something happens on the ice where it didn’t go well for the younger guy, he makes a mistake, he’s going back to the bench with the guy he’s playing with. You like to have someone who is a good person with experience whispering in his ear saying ‘don’t worry about it kid.’ -Mike Kelly
The Golden Knights have always had a heavy focus on leadership, character, and other unquantifiable intangibles. Through two years and eight games, it’s hard to argue against its success.
You put them with people that you think it’s going to work with and you kind of look the other way, cross your fingers, and hope it works. Most of the time it does. Sometimes they are going to hit a rocky patch but you know if they are with a Deryk Engelland you know they are hearing the right words. -Kelly
Every rookie that’s come through the Golden Knight d-corps, Hague, Schuldt, Whitecloud, and Theodore, has found their way to Engelland’s side.
Now it’s Jake Bischoff’s turn. Here’s to hoping there aren’t too many “don’t worry about it kid” comments needed from Engelland tonight in Pittsburgh.
Since the start of the franchise, one of the constants has been Deryk Engelland. The 37-year-old veteran has been trusted to shoulder a lot of the defensive responsibility for the Golden Knights no matter the situation.
He’s consistently been the first man over the boards any time the Golden Knights are killing a penalty. He’s been paired with top defensemen (Schmidt, McNabb, Theodore) throughout the entirety of his VGK career, and he’s third in total ice time for Golden Knights skaters in franchise history.
But through three games, there’s started to be a shift. His minutes are starting to decline, he’s starting fewer shifts in the defensive zone, and his production is dipping with it.
Engelland’s average time on ice this season is 17:59, which is down more than two minutes from his Golden Knights career average. This number is heavily aided by the 13 power plays Vegas has defended. He’s spent 14:34 on the kill, with the next closest Golden Knight more than three minutes behind at 11:21 (McNabb).
Thus, with penalty kill time up and total time down, that means he’s playing much less at even strength. Digging into it, the numbers are alarming. Here are the 5-on-5 TOI numbers for Vegas defensemen through three games.
Holden – 60:28 (20:09 per game) Merrill – 57:28 (19:09 per game) McNabb – 48:34 (16:11 per game) Theodore – 48:01 (16:00 per game) Engelland – 38:48 (12:56 per game) Hague – 25:01 (12:30 per game) Schmidt – 2:22
Yep, you are reading that right, Nick Holden is receiving seven more minutes per game at even strength than Engelland. Last night, Engelland played nine fewer minutes than Jon Merrill at even strength.
Last year, Engelland averaged 16:30 of even-strength time per game. They leaned on him even heavier in the playoffs averaging 17:34 per game at even strength against the Sharks. That’s almost four and five minutes more than he’s gotten to open this season, while his PK time has remained virtually the same.
When the Golden Knights take the ice on October 2nd there will likely only be one change along the blue line. Out went Colin Miller and in comes the winner of the rookie defenseman battle between Jimmy Schuldt, Nic Hague, Zach Whitecloud, Jake Bischoff, and Dylan Coghlan.
However, the way they line up may have to change with the new makeup of the defense. With Miller in Buffalo, the Golden Knights are left with just one right-handed defenseman among the guaranteed mix. That leaves plenty of options in how Gerard Gallant and Ryan McGill will set the pairs.
Here’s an attempt to breakdown what each defenseman does best and who they might match up best with.
(Each player is listed with their best match as a partner, other options they could succeed with, and players to avoid. The match is to maximize that player’s skills, it is not necessarily to create the best pair. Other options are ranked in order from best option to worst. Players to avoid are listed in no particular order.)
Schmidt is the swiss-army knife of the Golden Knights defense. He really does it all and it allows for him to be partnered with pretty much anyone. As a mobile puck-mover, he can be paired with a stay-at-home player or he can be put with another puck-mover to create a dynamic pair. Schmidt is able to contribute offense, but he’s also one of the most reliable players the Golden Knights have in their own end. Schmidt has played on both sides, and played with Engelland and McNabb for the majority of last season. However, they have paired him with Theodore on multiple occasions, including in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. It’s never really gone well, but there’s been a willingness to try it. Best Match: McNabb Other Options: Schuldt, Engelland, Merrill, Theodore, Hague, Whitecloud, Coghlan, Bischoff, Holden Avoid: None
The defensive stallwart, McNabb almost has to play with a skater. That being said, McNabb has really been at his best with Schmidt as his partner. Late in the year last season, they put him with Theodore, and while Shea thrived it often led to McNabb being caught in vulnerable defensive positions which was highlighted by the OT goal that ended Vegas’ season. Throughout the two year history, the Golden Knights have really only used McNabb with Theodore, Schmidt, and Engelland and one of those pairs was a nightmare. McNabb has spent the entirety of his Golden Knights career playing on the left side. Best Match: Schmidt Other Options: Theodore, Schuldt, Coghlan, Whitecloud, Hague, Avoid: Engelland, Bischoff, Merrill, Holden