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With Training Camp Underway GM McCrimmon Happy For Some Normalcy

(Photo by Brandon Andreasen)

Golden Knights training camp begins today representing the return of the players and finally the fans. The start of a normally scheduled camp has the Golden Knights brass ecstatic as well. The Golden Knights’ GM addressed the media yesterday to give his expectations on training camp and making another chase for the Stanley Cup.

Really excited about 82 games. Really excited about playing 31 other teams. Last year was a challenge for a lot of people and for a lot of different reasons. We’re really optimistic that this will feel a lot more like a normal NHL season. We’re pleased with our offseason, pleased with the makeup of our team as we head into the season. -Kelly McCrimmon, Vegas GM

While the GM was satisfied with his offseason changes he’s also eager to learn more about what’s in the cupboard. Entering their fifth NHL season, Vegas’ front office would like to add contributions from some of their more experienced prospects.

I always get excited about the evolution of young players. I’m excited to see Keegan Kolesar, Dylan Coghlan, Nic Hague, Nic Roy, that group of young players. I’m excited to see their progression because that’s a big part of how your team improves. Zach Whitecloud, still a young player. I’m excited to see those players. -McCrimmon

The list of players the Golden Knights GM rattled off are under contract for one more season before entering restricted free agency. Of course, it’s an established roster but the Golden Knights at some point will need impact from the younger generation. McCrimmon also mentioned centers Nolan Patrick and Brett Howden but there are different expectations considering both are new to the organization.

Coach Pete DeBoer will have the luxury of roughly three weeks and seven preseason games to examine his younger players. DeBoer will need some to quickly become everyday NHL players. There may not be many openings in Vegas’ opening day roster but there could be bottom-six minutes up for grabs.

This year has seven preseason games, last year did not. I think there’s real value in that. Not only for your veteran players but it’s a great opportunity for young guys… I believe our forwards as a group are better than they’ve been at any point in our existence. I think we made our team better at the forward position. -McCrimmon

McCrimmon stated, and few would disagree, Vegas has a roster that only a handful of teams can match. The general manager never mentioned direct expectations but the goal has to be the same under The Creator’s ownership.

With the franchise’s best-ever forward unit, star-studded defense, and superb goaltending, it has to be a Cup or Bust type mentality behind closed doors. Expect another fun ride.

Roster Battles Incredibly Limited At 2021 VGK Training Camp

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When you take a hard look at the Golden Knights roster you’ll quickly realize there aren’t many question marks when it comes to lineup construction. The top-six is all but guaranteed to remain intact, the entire blue line is locked in, and there’s no longer a goalie competition for either the starting role or the backup.

There are at least 15 players out of the allowed 20 that will dress on October 12th we can essentially write in with a Sharpie marker. There would actually be a 16th if Alex Tuch were healthy, but his injury leaves at least one more spot open for discussion.

Of course, the lines and pairs could shift, but here are the names that I’d be willing to go out on a limb and guarantee (if healthy) are in the lineup in 27 days at T-Mobile Arena.

Pacioretty-Stephenson-Stone
Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Janmark-(Open)-Dadonov
(Open)-(Open)-(Open)

Martinez-Pietrangelo
McNabb-Theodore
(Open)-Whitecloud

Lehner
Brossoit

Thus, there are reasonably five slots that could be interchangeable.

At forward, there are five players currently under one-way NHL contracts. William Carrier, Brett Howden, Keegan Kolesar, Nic Roy, and Patrick Brown. Then, there’s Nolan Patrick who is an RFA but will likely have a contract prior to Opening Night. Throw in the waiver-exempt Peyton Krebs, Jack Dugan, and Lucas Elvenes and we’re looking at a group of nine players with a chance of suiting up against the Seattle Kraken.

Roy is probably the closest player in this group to having a guaranteed spot in the lineup, especially considering his strong postseason and massive goal in Game 4 against the Canadiens.  The other three spots truly represent the only roster competition in VGK Training Camp.

Kolesar would seem to have the next strongest case considering he was protected against waivers for the entire 2020-21 season. His game certainly progressed over the year and there’s really no reason to believe they’d be willing to risk him on waivers this year when they were in an even tighter spot a year ago.

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Golden Knights Whose Stock Can Rise In Training Camp

Training Camp is right around the corner, and while the Golden Knights depth chart is fairly set due to the sheer number of returning players, there are still plenty of guys who can use this next month to make their move into bigger roles this season. Players who put in excellent training camps are often those who are called upon first when the team experiences injuries or even just needs a shuffle in lines.

So, even though we can pretty much plot out the Golden Knights’ lineup for Opening Night right now, these players all have a chance to position themselves for larger roles on the team as the season rolls on.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Jack Dugan

The odds Dugan makes the roster out of camp are nearly insurmountable, but that certainly doesn’t mean he can’t show up and show out to move up the ranks once the waiver situation clears. In camp, the forward battle will be between guys like William Carrier, Brett Howden, Nolan Patrick, and Keegan Kolesar, but once the roster is set and the games get underway, there will be a pecking order as to who is called next in the event of an injury. Last year, Dugan was never even in the conversation and didn’t even see a sniff of the NHL. This year, it starts with Rookie Camp, the tournament in Phoenix, and then main camp. If Dugan can dominate against the kids and then make an impact in main camp as well as preseason games, he’ll certainly jump up the line in the “next man up” rankings. We know he has the scoring touch and he plays a style of game coaches love. Plus, he has a bit of a nasty streak in him which could be needed if the season isn’t going as planned early for the Golden Knights. A big month of September would go a long way for Dugan to earn his NHL debut, even if that doesn’t come until the calendar flips to 2022.

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Predicting The Golden Knights Offseason

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The offseason is about to truly get going. Rosters freeze in a couple of hours, expansion lists are due slightly after that and will be released to the public tomorrow. That’s when the fun begins as each team will surrender a player to the Seattle Kraken and the deals will start coming through. Shortly after that the NHL Draft, then free agency. In the next two weeks, a whole lot of teams will look different, and the Golden Knights could be one of them.

Yes, we waited until the absolute last minute for this but now is the time. Jason and I worked together on our offseason predictions for the Golden Knights. Here’s exactly what we think will happen and what the roster will look like come Opening Night 2021-22.

NOTE: This is a guess at what we believe the Golden Knights will do. This is not an endorsement for any of these moves. (We’ll get to that when they are actually made.)

Free Agency

Alec Martinez – Unsigned

It’s simply going to cost too much for the Golden Knights to retain the two-time Cup winner. After his excellent showing in the playoffs, while playing on a broken foot, the soon-to-be 34-year old will be looking to cash in one last time. We expect him to hit the market on July 28th and sign quickly for at least $5 million AAV.

Mattias Janmark – Unsigned

George McPhee has never been a big fan of rentals, but since Kelly McCrimmon officially took the GM chair they have gone down this road a bit more. Nick Cousins was acquired and walked a few months later in free agency and we expect the same from Janmark. It’ll be interesting to see how much he can fetch on the open market as he hits unrestricted free agency for the second year running. He’s signed for $2.3 and $2.25 each of the last two years and may be headed towards that number again.

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Internal Upgrade Options For 2021-22 Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Over the past couple of seasons, we’ve started to see a bit more of an influx of younger players into the Golden Knights’ lineup. From Zach Whitecloud and Nic Hague taking up permanent spots on the blue line to Keegan Kolesar, Nic Roy, and Cody Glass pushing for their places in the bottom six, Vegas has been looking to inject more youth into a roster that’s growing increasingly older each year.

With a clear need for upgrades, especially offensively, the Golden Knights promised to “turn over every stone” this offseason in a search to make this team better, get them over the hump, and bring Las Vegas the Stanley Cup. One such stone they may be wise to search under is the prospect pipeline.

The surprise addition of Kolesar to the opening night roster and him sticking with the club for the entirety of the 2020-21 season proves the team is willing to give a young player extended time at the NHL level if deserved. Unlike most young players though, his situation was complicated by the waiver process in that he was not exempt like most other VGK prospects. Placing him on waivers would be exposing him to be lost to another team for nothing, a risk the Golden Knights clearly were never comfortable taking.

This season, another young player is in a similar situation. 23-year-old Dylan Coghlan heads into this offseason as a restricted free agent without arbitration rights, the same spot Kolesar was in a year ago. Coghlan is due to be extended a qualifying two-way one-year offer worth $750,000 at the NHL level. Without much negotiating power, that offer is likely to be signed by Coghlan. However, this season, unlike the last, Coghlan is no longer waiver-exempt. Thus, if the Golden Knights want to place him in the AHL, as they did on multiple occasions (using the taxi squad) last season, he would be required to clear waivers.

Like Kolesar’s situation a year ago, Vegas may see Coghlan as a valuable enough piece that they will not be willing to expose him to waiver, especially with a 32nd team entering the league.

Coghlan played in 29 games last season for the Golden Knights scoring three goals (all in the same game) and adding three assists. He’ll represent an affordable option that has shown some offensive upside and could grow into a bigger role on what is expected to be a revamped power play.

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Golden Knights Need More From Blue Line, Specifically Theodore

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Goal scoring has been a bit of a chore the last few weeks for the Golden Knights. In their last 13 games, they are averaging just under three goals a game, but they’ve racked up seven goals on the power play, three in overtime, two with their goalie pulled and one into an empty net. That leaves just 23 goals in the last 13 games that have been scored under “normal” circumstances, less than two a night.

A big reason for this is the lack of scoring from the blue line. Last night, Dylan Coghlan exploded onto the scene scoring his first, second, and third career goals all in the same night. Amazingly, Coghlan is now tied for the team lead in goals by defenseman. We’re more than 40% of the way through the season, and Coghlan passed Alec Martinez, Nic Hague, Zach Whitecloud, and Alex Pietrangelo, and matched Shea Theodore in goals.

The VGK defense now accounted for 13 of the team’s 73 total goals, or 18%. That number is not too abnormally low across the landscape of the NHL, but for a team built on the shoulders of a strong defensive forward group, they need heavy contributions from the blue line to keep up offensively. It’s something they got last night, but hasn’t been over the past two months.

Theodore hasn’t scored since January 22nd, 15 games ago for him. Pietrangelo has just one goal in that same span. Martinez has one goal all season. Hague’s tallied one in his last 15 games and Whitecloud is goal-less in his last 13.

On the power play, the Golden Knights have yet to get a goal from a single defenseman despite Theodore and Pietrangelo receiving more than 50 minutes of power play time a piece and Martinez nearing the 30 minute mark.

With Pietrangelo likely out for a significant amount of time, it’s going to be up to Theodore to really shoulder the load for the Golden Knights, something he hasn’t been doing recently. In the first seven games of the year, Shea averaged more than four shots per game. In the last 13, he has hit four just twice and has seen his average dip to two per game.

In the last 10 games, Theodore is seeing about 24 minutes of ice time per night, nearly 20 of which has come at even-stength. Vegas has allowed more goals than they’ve scored at even-stength with Theodore on the ice over that span.

Quite simply, the Golden Knights need Theodore’s offense, and they haven’t been gettting it recently. Since his injury, his point production has been cut in half (from a point per game to 0.5 points per game), and defensively he’s making more mistakes than we’ve seen from him since his rookie season.

His role is set to increase even more with Pietrangelo sidelined for the foreseeable future. Theodore’s offense must return or the Golden Knights will continue to struggle to score consistently.

Dylan Coghlan’s Debut Extra Special For Lifelong Friend Of William Karlsson

Photo Credit: @filipsoriano on Twitter

Dylan Coghlan made his NHL debut last night, racking up 13 minutes of ice-time in a 5-2 Golden Knights win. The undrafted 22-year-old finally broke through after spending four years in the Golden Knights organization, including an appearance at their first Development Camp at the Las Vegas Ice Center.

Coghlan has racked up more than 130 AHL games with the Chicago Wolves and has been on the Golden Knights taxi squad for the first month of this season. His wait to finally be able to call himself an NHL player was long, but he wasn’t going through it alone.

Meet Filip Andreason, a member of the team at Newport Sports who has worked closely with Coghlan since early in Dylan’s time with the Chicago Wolves.

Photo Credit: @Fandreason on Instagram

I started watching him in Chicago and really liked what I saw. So I had a meeting with him and I felt like from that day on we both really wanted to work towards the same goal. Since that day he’s been putting in so much work to make his NHL debut. -Andreason

Photo Credit: @jallert on Instagram

Andreason is a former hockey player from Sweden who has recently launched a career on the management side of the game and Coghlan’s debut represents one for him as well.

In his hometown of Märsta, Sweden beginning at the age of four, Andreason played on a team called the Arlanda Wings. His teammate on the Wings, who also lived a few doors down in the same neighborhood was William Karlsson. The two have been lifelong friends and a huge reason why Andreason watched the NHL debut of a player he represents hit the ice as a Golden Knights last night.

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Adding A Golden Knights Taxi Squad For Breakout Insurance

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Everything is on the table for the NHL in their attempt to save the 2020-21 season. One idea that’s been floating would allow Vegas prospects to get some real hands-on the job type experience. When the league starts up the season, pipeline players like Jimmy Schuldt, Lucas Elvenes, and Dylan Coghlan will be around the Golden Knights roster much more than usual.

I hear [the NHL] are talking about a taxi squad. Players will get paid their AHL salary but get NHL per diem. –Elliotte Friedman on 31 Thoughts Podcast

A taxi squad is a group of players that practice with the team and could be called upon to play in reserve. There’s actually an amusing story behind the origin of taxi squads.

The NHL’s idea would make it financially viable for team owners and add extra insurance if roster players contract coronavirus and are unable to compete. Major League Baseball adopted the taxi squad system this summer and it worked successfully for the league. Realistically, the extra players would be used for the worst-case scenario, a team-wide breakout. Nevertheless, the next generation of Golden Knights would be given an invaluable experience.

On 31 Thoughts podcast Friedman also touched on how taxi squads would affect the salary cap. The Golden Knights are up to their neck with limited cap space, for it to work for them and other clubs, practice players would have to be exempt from the cap. Friedman tends to believe taxi squads wouldn’t impact a team’s salary cap, which could benefit the Golden Knights.

Yes I think so. That’s why they’re talking about AHL salaries. I don’t know if that’ll be what happens but I’ve had a couple of different people tell me they’re talking about taxi squads. –Friedman on 31 Thoughts Podcast

The reason this benefits Vegas is that they’d be able to have just 19 players on the acrive roster counting against the cap but still run a full practice. Normally, if a player isn’t on the active NHL roster (unless coming off IR), he can’t practice with the team. So, if VGK wanted to drop a player to the AHL to save cap space, he’d have to go practice in Henderson. This year, they might be able to get away with paying just 19 players against the cap all season.

There have been calls to shorten NHL training camps in years past but it sounds like it’s a given for 2020-21. It would speed up the process and help get the shortened season off the ground and on the ice by early January.

Secondly, you are not inviting 60 players to camp this year… I’ve heard talk they are going to cap it at 35. You have the players show up for camp right after Christmas and you play for January 6th. –Friedman on 31 Thoughts Podcast

Adding reserve players is one of the easiest decisions the league needs to make. The only dilemma is if owners complain about the added payroll, albeit AHL salaries. However, in all likelihood, the taxi squad proposal will be approved and all 31 franchises will carry a substitute lineup.

Is it possible we see Peyton Krebs earlier than expected?

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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The Options Are Endless To Replace Schmidt, With Nick Holden’s Versatility At The Center Of It All

The main storyline heading into Golden Knights training camp was the battle between the five rookie defensemen to see who would win the roster spot and ultimately find themselves in the NHL. Camp came and went, and when Gerard Gallant submitted his opening night lineup, it was six veterans on the blue line and a pair of rookies in the press box.

Then hockey intervened, and now it’s become unavoidable. Tonight, Tuesday, and likely for the next 10 games or so the Golden Knights will be forced into playing at least one rookie on defense.

But before we get into which one will get the call first (and second and third), it’s imperative to understand how the Golden Knights veteran defensemen stack up.

First, there are the two studs, Shea Theodore and Brayden McNabb. Historically, the Golden Knights prefer to have a “shut-down pair” which they rely upon to take the lion’s share of the minutes against the opposition’s best line. With the new preference of Theodore playing on the right, McNabb’s history on the left, and nearly 20 games of experience playing together, those two will likely be a pair for the foreseeable future. They’ll probably be pushing 22 minutes apiece per night, and they’ll be asked to stop the #1 line of the Sharks, Bruins, Coyotes, Flames, and whoever else the Golden Knights play until Nate Schmidt returns.

Next, there’s Deryk Engelland, the crafty defensive-minded veteran who has averaged 20 minutes a game each of the first two years of the Golden Knights existence. He’s right-handed, plays on the right side, and really needs a puck-mover as a partner to have the most success. His most likely partner is Jon Merrill, at least at first. Merrill has the ability to move the puck, he was listed in the Golden Knights top-four defensemen to start the year, and he exclusively plays the left side.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Which brings us to the fifth and final veteran blueliner, and the player who’s success or failures basically determines the arrangement of the Golden Knights defensive unit until the return of #88. His name is Nick Holden, and he’s the “ambidextrous” (not really, but he has a long history of playing both sides of the defense over the past three years) defenseman that has become the fulcrum of the Vegas blue line.

Holden played 36 games on the right side last year while playing 25 on the left. He started this year off on the left of Deryk Engelland. He’s played with Engelland (Holden on left), Theodore (Holden on left), Merrill (Holden on right), and McNabb (Holden on right) in just the last six meaningful games he’s been in the lineup. In the preseason this year, he played with Bischoff (Holden on right) and Schuldt (Holden on right). Thus, he’s played with skaters, puck-movers, plodders, big guys, little guys, offensive guys, stay-at-home guys, or however else you want to label a defenseman.

I think we all feel comfortable playing with each other and fortunately, I think every guy’s played with everybody. Out of necessity last year with Schmidty out and even this year in training camp we were kind of interchangeable. -Holden

That’s why he’s the key piece moving forward. If Holden is not at least serviceable, the entire d-corps will falter. The side, the partner, how far up the lineup, it all matters for Holden. So, for me, finding the right spot for Holden is even more important than selecting which of the four rookies is in the lineup.

No rookie left training camp with a clear edge on anyone else. Sure, we all ranked them the best we could, but we really were splitting hairs. So, whichever one is in the lineup, you’ll probably be getting somewhat of the same caliber of performance. The difference between them is where Holden will end up, and with him, we’ve seen good, we’ve seen bad, and we’ve seen somewhere in between, and the Golden Knights need more good than bad while their best d-man sits out.

Which leads us to the options. These are listed in no particular order, except for the fact that Hague is listed first because he’s the most likely player to get the first chance.

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