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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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Gallant Says Schmidt And Theodore Play Best On Right Side; Where’s That Leave Coghlan And Whitecloud?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When the Golden Knights traded Colin Miller it appeared to leave a massive void in right-handed defensemen. With Miller in Buffalo, it left the Golden Knights with just one right-handed defenseman on the NHL roster, Deryk Engelland. Nate Schmidt, Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, Jon Merrill, and Nick Holden all shoot with their left hand.

However, that’s not to say the Golden Knights don’t have players who can play on the right side. In fact, Gerard Gallant confirmed a pair of them he likes on that side.

From what I remember (Schmidt) played real good on the right side last year so that’s where he’s going to play again this year. When he plays good over there that’s where you want him to play, where he plays his best hockey, similar to Shea Theodore. -Gallant

He did leave a bit of room for leeway though.

But I’m not saying they can’t play the left side in some situations. Just in case that happens I don’t want you to come back to me and say “why are you playing him over there?” It changes, but they both play well on their off-side. -Gallant

Here’s where things get tricky. The two best rookie defenseman through two weeks of camp have been Dylan Coghlan and Zach Whitecloud. Both are right-handed and both play primarily on the right side.

Last year, Engelland played 72 of 72 games on the right. Schmidt played 40 of his 62 on the right while Theodore played just 21 of his 80. But, late in the year, Gallant made the switch pairing Theodore with McNabb and Schmidt with Engelland swapping Nate and Shea. His comments on Monday indicated that he likes both on that side, leaving just three left-side spots available.

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Rookie Game Takeaways – Game 3 vs. Anaheim

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights finished the Rookie Showcase in Irvine winless and looking rather listless for a majority of the three games. However, there were plenty of positives to take away from the tournament in terms of individual players. I wrote up recaps from Games 1 and 2 earlier, this one is a bit more of a recap of the whole weekend, but includes Game 3.

  • The standout of the entire weekend was Dylan Coghlan. His offensive game popped consistently no matter the situation, and he was one of the most responsible defensemen in his own zone. He personally scored three of the team’s seven goals and registered a beautiful primary assist on another. There’s still a long way to go, and rookie games probably hold the least weight in comparison to full training camp and preseason games, but Coghlan’s performance in Irvine will absolutely play a part in the final decision as to which defenseman stays with the team when camp breaks in a few weeks.
  • Paul Cotter did well to start the process of cementing himself as a pro. He was one of the few Golden Knights to play with an edge and it led to him being in the middle of a lot of the team’s best offensive plays. He still has a lot to prove over the next week or two before he’s sent out of camp and either to the OHL or the AHL, but those three games were a giant leap towards Chicago.

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Rookie Game Takeaways – Game 2 vs. Arizona

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

My biggest takeaway from Game 2 of the Rookie Showcase in Irvine is that the Golden Knights sent out a roster that wasn’t good enough to compete in that game, and they still managed to play two solid periods. Let’s be quite honest with what the Vegas roster looked like against Arizona. They had just five forwards of their 12 that were drafted by the Golden Knights. Plus, their defense was without Jimmy Schuldt. Simply put, this game had little to do with the score and even less to do with the team as a whole. In games like this, it’s all about individuals and their path to eventually becoming contributors at the NHL level. Some did just that, others did not, but the terrible period, the apparent lack of energy, and the inability to generate offense as a team means little to nothing so stop tweeting me about it.

  • The first name to highlight is one that’s almost been written off as a Golden Knights prospect, and that’s Jake Leschyshyn. He shows excellent flashes of speed, looked terrific helping to generate offense through the neutral zone and into the o-zone, and looked his normal stellar self backchecking and defending. The former 2nd round pick has not shown a ton while wearing a Golden Knights jersey over the past two summers (partially due to the injury that caused him to miss one), but in this game we could finally see some of the traits that garnered that selection. He plays in all situations and has always been good on the defensive end, but he is finally starting to assert himself a bit more in offensive situations. I’m hoping to see him with Cotter, Rondbjerg, and/or Elvenes in the final game, then we should get to see even more offense show up.
  • Jordan Kooy continues to establish himself as one of, if not the most, promising goalie prospect the Golden Knights have. His size is a big part of that when comparing him to Dylan Ferguson (who will be in the net for the 3rd game). Kooy looks comfortable in his goal no matter what’s going on in front of him, and since that one scrimmage that was a disaster, there hasn’t been a single soft goal scored on him since while in a Vegas net. He was under siege for most of this game and helped keep the score looking respectable.

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Rookie Game Takeaways – Game 1 vs. Colorado

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s been a busy weekend of throwing magenta ping pong balls and raising a butt-ton of money for charity, which has left us at SinBin.vegas a bit behind. But, if Golden Knights hockey happens, you best believe we’re going to watch it, and thanks to this fantastic thing called the Internet, we’ve been able to go back and watch the rookie games we’ve missed, (Here’s the link) and now I’m here with takeaways from the Vegas rookie loss to Colorado.

  • The best player on the ice for me was Zach Whitecloud and to be honest it wasn’t all that close. There were flashes from many other guys, which we’ll get to in a moment, but Whitecloud was a steady calming force on the back-end, consistently making the right read and play. His gap control continues to impress and his skating is so solid that he’s able to keep his positioning in any situation that’s thrown his way. He was reliable on the penalty kill and helped allow Nic Hague to get forward time and time again. Whitecloud plays a VGK style of defense, which is a different way to say, simple yet effective. Not that this should come as a surprise, but there’s absolutely a shot he wins the job and finds himself in the Golden Knights starting lineup on October 2nd.
  • Behind Whitecloud, there were two other major standouts, Paul Cotter and Jonas Rondbjerg.
    • Cotter, playing center with two non-roster players (Pavel Gogolev and Charles Antoine-Roy) consistently drove offense. He has an incredibly high compete level that reminds me a bit of Jonathan Marchessault. Cotter believes that every puck is his and he’s not afraid to bully his way through someone to take it from someone or to get it back. The best skill he displayed though was his vision through the neutral zone. Three or four times Cotter carrier or passed the puck through the neutral zone to lead directly to scoring chances. Great first step towards his goal of being in the AHL rather than OHL this year.
    • Rondbjerg has the Golden Knight style of hockey written all over him. He’s a ferocious forechecker who uses his stick well to rip the puck off defenders. There had to be five different instances that the Golden Knights lost the puck in the offensive zone and Rondbjerg either got it back himself or helped to get it back to keep a play alive. Then there’s his backchecking, which might be even better than his forechecking. He’s non-stop getting back into his own zone and he has the foot speed and the stick to go along with his willingness to defend. Gerard Gallant is going to love this kid, and if he finds even an ounce of finish, so are VGK fans.

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Pick A Pair: The Best D-Pair Match For Every VGK Defenseman

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.)

Nate Schmidt

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

Brayden McNabb

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

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