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.
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.
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?
Must be either under contract or drafted by the Golden Knights
Players are ranked based on value to the organization. The most important factor is the player’s ceiling, or how good they can eventually become, but also taken into consideration is how close they are to playing in the NHL and how likely they are to play in the NHL. This is NOT a ranking of which players are the best if a game were to be held today.
Recently Removed: Cody Glass (NHL), Nic Hague (NHL), Nic Roy (NHL)
Krebs is finally back from the Achilles injury. He skated in one practice with the Golden Knights before heading back to Winnipeg to play in the WHL. He’ll be wearing the “C” for the Ice and is expected to be a dominant force in the league again this year. The big test will come at the World Junior Championships in December. He’ll be one of the best players on the Team Canada roster, and coming off their disappointment last year, the pressure will be on.
More on Krebs
7/5/19 – The Golden Knights first pick in the 2019 NHL Draft is everything and more that you can ask for out of a center prospect. He’s a 200 foot player, skates in all situations, has a high level of skill, drives the offense on his line, and has great hockey sense and compete level. Unfortunately, Krebs came to camp with an injury and wasn’t able to skate. Had he gone out and dominated camp, he would have had a real shot to have been #1 on this list due to his ceiling. Hopefully he makes it took rookie camp in September, if not, World Juniors will be his next real shot to show he’s ready. By then, Glass will probably have played in 10 games, so don’t be surprised if Krebs is atop this list the next time it is updated.
2) Jack Dugan (F) Acquired: 2017 Entry Draft, 5th Round, #142 overall Age: 21 (March 24, 1998) Most Recent Team: Providence College (NCAA) Previous Ranking: #8
Since his terrific 2019 Development Camp, Dugan has taken his game to the next level absolutely dominating the NCAA. His 24 points in 10 games leads college hockey. Dugan recently mentioned on a podcast that he wants to “dominate” at the level he’s at before moves on. He’s doing that, and then some.
More on Dugan
7/5/19 – Maybe the most impressive player at 2019 Development Camp, Dugan appears on the path to being one of the best picks in the Golden Knights 2017 draft class. He’s absolutely everywhere in the offensive zone whether his team has the puck or not. His skating looks excellent for as large as he’s become and his ability and willingness to carry the puck seems to have come a long way. The one thing missing with Dugan is his finishing ability. It just didn’t show up much at all despite having multiple chances in Dev Camp. He’s going back to Providence this year, and it wouldn’t shock me if he’s there for a few more, but when he’s done, he’s going to be in the picture for the Golden Knights, which is awesome for a 5th round pick.
1/8/19 – The fact that Dugan dropped three spots has much more to do with what I think of the system as a whole as to what I think of Dugan. In short, I really like this kid and think he’s going to be a good player someday. The problem is that NCAA kids take forever to get to the NHL and I don’t see any difference with him. As a freshman he’s put up 22 points in 20 games at Providence so he’s continuing to produce despite the rise in competition.
9/12/18 – Did not attend Rookie Camp
7/28/18 – The leap Dugan made from the 2017 Development Camp to 2018 was tremendous. He was a scoring machine in the scrimmages both putting the puck in himself and setting up teammates. Last year he scored 66 points in 54 games with the Chicago Steel. This year he’ll be making the leap to Providence College to play in the strong Hockey East conference. Don’t expect to see Dugan in a Golden Knights uniform anytime soon, it literally might be four years away, but this is a player with a lot of upside and will likely go from relative unknown in the Golden Knights prospect system to an impactful player on NHL ice in a hurry.
3) Lucas Elvenes (F) Acquired: 2017 Entry Draft, 5th Round, #127 overall Age: 20 (August 18, 1999) Most Recent Team: Chicago Wolves (AHL) Previous Ranking: #9
Another fast riser on this list, Elvenes is all the way up to #3 since he’s taken over the AHL by storm as a 20-year-old. He’s leading the Wolves, all AHL rookies, and ranks 2nd in the entire league in points with 21. Also, Elvenes leads the A in assists with 16 in 16 games. He’s a young playmaking forward that seemed to be slow to see his game translate to NHL-sized ice. No longer is that an issue as he’s scoring in every situation in the 2nd best league in the world, the AHL. He’s knocking at the door of getting a chance to show his stuff at the NHL level, but don’t expect his stay to be long if he does get that chance due to injury at some point soon.
More on Elvenes
7/5/19 – Admittedly, I’ve been all over the place on Elvenes, but the more I watch him, the more I like him. Plain and simply, he’s a playmaker and the more comfortable he is with the players he’s playing with, the more plays he makes. In Development Camp he and Dorofeyev were shredding defenses, creating scoring chances left and right. The smaller ice appears to be less and less of an issue for him and I think surrounding his with guys who can score will help him a lot. This season with the Wolves is going to be a big one for Elvenes. If he dominates, he’s going to fly up this list, if he’s just so so, he could be near the bottom soon.
1/8/19 – There is obviously an inherent bias towards guys directly after World Juniors, but I will admit, I went in with a keen eye on Elvenes looking for one thing, playmaking at even-strength. Finally, I saw it and I saw it in bunches while Sweden was still in the tournament. He looked dangerous almost every time he was on the ice and with a maligned Swedish forward group he was probably the second or third best forward on the team. Playing in the SHL appears to have him looking for the puck a bit more and becoming more active in the play. I’m still not 100% sold this is an NHL prospect, but he’s a lot closer now than I thought four months ago.
9/12/18 – Elvenes has been flying up the charts on prospect ranking charts all over the place, but not here. He moves up a bit because he showed out very well on the Golden Knights power play, but at 5-on-5 he continued to be invisible. In practice he looked like he was primed to go out and have a huge impact on the games, then he didn’t. Not even close to time to give up in him, but he’s got to figure out the even strength on the small ice.
7/28/18 – A member of Team Sweden for the second consecutive World Junior Summer Showcase, Elvenes needs to build on his last international appearance. He put up four assists and a goal in two games last year with the Swedish U20 team but his game hasn’t translated on the North American ice at Development Camp. He didn’t flash much at all during the scrimmages either year. Playing on the smaller ice may be a factor.
(Prospect Rankings update following each significant event including prospects such as Development Camp, Rookie Camp, World Juniors, etc. They can always be found on the static page listed in the navigation bar on the site.)
The NHL rink is 200 feet long by 85 feet wide. An international rink is nearly identical at 197 feet long but it’s significantly wider at 98.4 feet. Those 13 feet make a major difference in how the game is played and it makes transitioning from one ice size to the other a challenge.
Over the summer I had a chance to speak to two different wingers who were used to one size and then had to suddenly swap to the other. The first was Lucas Elvenes, a Golden Knights draft pick who has played in Sweden throughout his entire career before finishing up this season with the Chicago Wolves. The second was Mark Stone, who went with Team Canada to play in the IIHF World Championship in Slovakia.
Both agreed that the difference is significant and it absolutely takes some time to get used to.
It took some time to get used to for sure. I think the first game was difficult especially for us playing a good team. Being good hockey players the 20 of us figured it out pretty quick. -Mark Stone
Oh yeah, it’s a huge difference. Every time you come into the offensive zone you are close to the goal. Back home you have to work more to get a shot. -Lucas Elvenes
Where both noticed it the most was when their team had the man-advantage. Both Elvenes and Stone, while at massively different levels, play the same position on the power play. Each are set up to the goalie’s left on the half wall playing as both a shooting option as well as a pivot to move the puck out to the point or through the seem.
Power play is a lot different. You feel like you have all this time and space. If you are at the top of the circle, taking a shot from there it’s not going in. It’s just such a far shot and a bad angle. From the circles to the boards it just adds in a lot more room. -Stone
The D-Zone is always close to you, so you can’t make mistakes. The gap is tough for me because the forwards are always close to me. Plus the guys are big and like to hit.
Nikita Gusev plays the same role, but on the other side. But that’s New Jersey’s problem now.
The question is how will other Europeans in the Vegas pipeline translate on the smaller ice? Both Stone and Elvenes agreed that eventually the size difference fades and it just becomes hockey.
Over the past weekend, I spent four days in San Diego watching the Chicago Wolves play three games in the Western Conference Final of the AHL’s Calder Cup. My focus was specifically on the Golden Knights draft picks and the players Vegas has under control for beyond this season.
To make this easiest to write, and hopefully to read, I’ve listed every player that either played or I was able to talk to while in San Diego, that has time left on their contract with VGK or are RFAs.
Cody Glass (1st Round, 6th overall in 2017, $863,333 AAV through 21-22)
Anyone who reads/follows me closely knows I haven’t been as high on Glass as the rest of the world seems to be. I’ve come to the realization that the reason for this isn’t because I necessarily view him as a player much differently than most, but that my expectations are substantially higher. As the 6th overall pick in a draft class that includes Elias Petterson, Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar, Nico Hischier, and many others that have already had major impacts in the NHL, my expectation for Glass is massive. Top-six forward, impact player, one of the faces of the franchise. That’s what I’m looking for, and still, even though the next paragraph is going to make it sound otherwise, I’m not sure he’s going to be that guy.
Glass literally does everything on the hockey rink that you want to see from a center. The skill that jumped out most to me over the three games was his backchecking and breakouts. Every time his line turned it over in the offensive zone, he was flying back to negate any transition chance. His skating speed really showed in that sense, but also showed once the Wolves recovered the puck and began their transition back into the offensive zone. He’s terrific carrying the puck out of the D-zone, through the neutral zone, and into the O-zone. I’ve seen him do it with ease at the CHL level, but to see it look exactly the same at the AHL level gives me a strong belief that it’ll continue in the NHL.
I liked how he played along the walls, I loved his vision, his positioning, his movement in the offensive zone. Pretty much everything he did, I thought, yep, this guy is pretty darn good. But still, over the course of three games, there wasn’t enough shown in his ability to create offense. It’s the only thing I can knock him for, but at the same time, it’s the thing I value most in a high draft pick forward. Aside from the occasional chance created directly off an entry (which I do believe will continue in the NHL), there wasn’t a ton created beyond rebound chances. Again, I’m aware that my expectations are gigantic, and I’m asking a lot out of him having played a month in the AHL, but I still didn’t see enough of what I needed to in order to completely change my mind and say he’s going to be a superstar in the NHL.
Cody Glass is going to be an NHL player, and I’m probably going to be on the bandwagon calling for him to make the roster out of camp, but I’m still on the fence of whether I think he’s closer to a Cody Eakin or a William Karlsson. When all is said and done I’m confident he’ll fall somewhere in between these two, however, my opinion still shades more towards 21 than 71.
Nic Hauge(2nd Round, 34th overall in 2017, $791,667 AAV through 21-22)
I came into the weekend expecting to come out saying Hague is the surefire #1 defensive prospect in the Golden Knights system. That’s not what I ended up seeing. That’s not to say Hague was bad, because he certainly wasn’t, it’s just that the fears I had, which I’ve been told by multiple high-ranking people that I shouldn’t have, didn’t go away.
The biggest among those is whether or not his skating is good enough to keep up with the elite skaters at the NHL level. The place it showed up most was in gap control. When a player would enter the zone, sometimes not even moving that quickly, far too often Hague would be more than a stick length away from him (which is a long way with his long arms and stick). Then, once he did enter, it took too long to close down that space which often led to an easy pass or on multiple occasions a dangerous shot. It’s important to note that I watched him play against the same team, on the road, three times, so there could be a gameplan piece here that I’m missing (and when speaking to Rocky Thompson about Hague he didn’t seem to have any issues with the way he was defending). However, that style won’t work in the NHL and his recovery plan (reaching out with that long stick and poking pucks away) won’t work as often against Nathan MacKinnon as it did Corey Tropp or Sam Carrick.
I still love Hague in the offensive zone and on the power play though. His instincts at the blue line are tremendous and he’s going to be a threat to do some damage when he does eventually make it to the NHL. Really looking forward to watching him play in the preseason against NHL level forwards, but at this moment, he no longer ranks as the “most likely defenseman to make the NHL roster in the Golden Knight system” on my list.
Zack Whitecloud (Undrafted, Signed as free agent, $925,000 AAV through 2019-20)
Glass and Suzuki should shine at the Summer Showcase. Hopefully on the same line. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Every year, in advance of the IIHF World Junior tournament that takes place in December, four teams get together for the World Junior Summer Showcase. Last year it took place in Plymouth, Michigan where Erik Brannstrom starred for Team Sweden. This year the Summer Showcase is headed to Kamloops, British Columbia and the Golden Knights are well represented.
Golden Knights prospects selected for World Junior Summer Showcase
Team USA Paul Cotter (2018, 4th Rd) Brandon Kruse (2018, 5th Rd)
Team Canada Cody Glass (2017, 1st Rd) Nick Suzuki (2017, 1st Rd)
The Golden Knights had a total of 10 picks coming into the day. They traded one away for a prospect. Here’s a quick rundown of each player selected. See the three first round picks here.
Round 2 (#34) – Nic Hague – An incredibly tall defenseman from the OHL in Canada. He’s got one of the best shots of all prospects in the draft. His skating needs some work due to the fact that he grew a lot quickly. 6’6″ will put him among the tallest defensemen in the NHL. He says he models his game after Vitor Hedman and Colton Paryako.
Round 2 (#45) – TRADE – VGK trades #45 for Keegan Kolesar – The 69th pick in the 2015 draft from the Columbus Blue Jackets. He’s a tough winger who spends a lot of his team beating people up. This being said, the guy can score as well, having put up 56 goals in 118 games over the past two seasons in the WHL.
Round 2 (#62) – Jake Leschyshyn – The son of former NHLer with the Nordiques, Huuricanes, Senators, among others, Leschyshyn is a solid center. He tore his ACL in February, but he said in March that he expects to be back on the ice for training camp. Another WHL product continuing the trend of players Kelly McCrimmon knows very well.