It was a weekend to forget from a team perspective for the Golden Knights at the 2023 Rookie Faceoff hosted here in Las Vegas. VGK rookies lost all three games to the Ducks, Sharks, and Avalanche, and struggled on both ends in all three games.
That being said, it wasn’t all bad individually for many prospects. Here are four that stood out positively for me.
Ahac did his best Alex Martinez impression in the two games he played this weekend, blocking shots, dominating on the penalty kill, and being one of the most consistent defensemen on the roster in making the first pass in the defensive zone. In a pair of games where the Golden Knights were consistently under pressure, he looked calm in his own end and his decision-making stood out among a group that had a hard time breaking the puck out. He’ll still need to show a lot at the AHL level to get a shot in the NHL, but he’s trending in a positive direction.
For the first time since Vegas hoisted the Stanley Cup on June 13, Golden Knights players will step on the ice to play a hockey game against players from another team.
Yeah, that’s a stretch, but hey, real hockey is so close, just let me get away with this one.
Tonight is the first of three games for the Golden Knights at this year’s Rookie Faceoff taking place in Vegas and Henderson. VGK’s rookies will take on the Anaheim Ducks tonight and the San Jose Sharks tomorrow at the Dollar Loan Center, and the Colorado Avalanche on Monday at City National Arena.
Vegas’ roster includes 17 draft picks including 1st rounder Brendan Brisson and 2nd round picks Matyas Sapovaliv and Daniil Chayka. Here’s what I’m hoping to see from the team this weekend.
Time for the Jakubs to really make a name for themselves
In the 2021 Draft the Golden Knights used back to back selections in the 4th round on players with the first name Jakub. The first Jakub picked was Jakub Brabenec from Czechia. He showed out well in his first few camps with the Golden Knights but was a bit underwhelming in Development Camp this summer. The other Jakub, Jakub Demek has not had a ton of time on the ice in Las Vegas. He has missed several camps with injury including this summer’s Dev Camp. However, when he has been on the ice either in the WHL or for Team Slovakia, he’s been excellent. The powerful forward should finally get a real chance to assert himself in a VGK jersey and it could catapult him up the prospect list. A point-per-game is the minimum expectation for both Jakubs in these three games.
Eight months ago the first few games of the 2022 edition of the World Junior Championships were played. However, due to a rash of positive COVID tests, multiple teams were forced to forfeit. It became clear fairly quickly that the sanctity of the tournament was jeopardized by the forfeitures, so the IIHF quickly moved to postpone the tournament to a later date.
Because the event has an age limit on it, there weren’t a lot of options on when the hockey’s international governing body could reschedule the tournament. So, we find ourselves here in August preparing for a tournament that typically kicks off the day after Christmas.
All games that were played in December have been wiped from the record books and Russia has been banned from the tournament due to the country’s invasion of Ukraine. That leaves the tournament with 10 participating nations, with all games to be played at Rogers Place in Edmonton, from August 9th to the 20th.
Lukas Cormier (Canada), Matyas Sapovaliv (Czechia), Jakub Demek (Slovakia), and Carl Lindbom (Sweden) are the four Golden Knights who will participate in this summer’s event.
Cormier, the smooth-skating offensive-minded defenseman, will likely play a key role for a Canadian team with eight drafted defensemen including #1 overall pick in 2021, Owen Power. Cormier’s prowess on the power play should see him getting significant special teams time. The biggest question mark will be where he lands on the depth chart at even-strength. Is he a top-four guy or does he play a sheltered role on the third pair?
Sapovaliv came into camp with a cloud above his skating. It was clear on the ice that he’s not the fastest player, but overall the skating did not slow him down in the scrimmages. His forechecking was elite for the group on the ice and he made a lot more plays than the scouting reports suggested he would. He’ll probably be used in a defensive role in this tournament, likely playing 3rd or 4th line minutes with penalty killing duties.
Demek did not attend Dev Camp which was likely to make sure he was fully healthy for this tournament. He’s one of just seven drafted players on the Slovakian team, including Juraj Slafkovsky, this year’s #1 overall pick. Hopefully, Demek gets a chance to play with Slafkovsky either on a line or on the power play. If he does, it should give a bit more of a glimpse into where he is compared to a player who is probably going to make his NHL debut in October.
Lindbom was solid in the goal during Camp, which was an improvement over his performance in the rookie games in Phoenix. There are three goalies on Team Sweden, both of which were selected much earlier in the Draft than Lindbom. Jesper Wallstedt was picked 20th overall in 2021 while Calle Clang went 77th in 2020. If Lindbom plays over these two, it will be a strong statement. If he doesn’t, while disappointing, not much should be made of it at this point.
After selecting Zach Dean with the 30th overall pick in the 1st round, the Golden Knights entered Day 2 with five picks. Here’s a quick rundown of what we know about each player selected by the Golden Knights in the 2021 NHL Draft.