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.
When the Golden Knights’ group of six defensemen were healthy and in the lineup together last season, the team was almost unbeatable. Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Alec Martinez, Brayden McNabb, Zach Whitecloud, and Nic Hague are all set to return for 2023-24 and expectations remain incredibly high for what the group can do when they are all on the ice.
It seems unfathomable at the moment, and if there were a game tomorrow not a coach in the world would choose any other lineup, but, if the Golden Knights are going to repeat as champions, there’s a strong chance one of the six has been unseated by June 2024.
That’s because of the collection of younger blueliners just about ready to push through to the NHL level waiting in VGK’s system.
Former 2nd round pick Kaedan Korczak and 3rd round pick Lukas Cormier are the highest touted prospects, but Daniil Miromanov, Brayden Pachal, and Daniil Chayka all look like they have the skills to help an NHL team team.
Right now, none of these guys are ready to take a job away from one of the reigning champion incumbents. At some point though, the Golden Knights are going to have to make room for them, and that point could come much sooner than later.
One of the perpetual pages on SinBin.vegas is our Golden Knights Prospect Rankings where we rank every under 23-year-old in the VGK system. The rankings should help to give fans a look at who is close to coming up to the NHL, who has a chance to make a true impact, and give a better sense of each guy in the prospect pool.
What our rankings do not do is compare the Golden Knights’ system to those around the NHL. For that, we need help from those who spend all of their time in focusing on the league’s up-and-comers. One of the best in the world at that is The Athletic’s Corey Pronman. He recently released a ranking of the top 170 hockey players under the age of 23.
The rankings are broken down into tiers including “Bubble elite NHL player,” “NHL All Star,” “Top-of-the-lineup player,” and a few more below it.
Here’s where things get scary for the Golden Knights. They do not have a single prospect listed in any of those three categories. In fact, Vegas’ first prospect is slotted at #69, and he’s the only player in Pronman’s top 100.
That player is Lukas Cormier, who is currently ranked #3 in the SinBin Rankings.
A lot has changed since the last update to the SinBin.vegas Prospect Rankings. VGK added a new group of prospects via the NHL Draft, a number of former draft picks departed the system, and the first Development Camp in two years took place at City National Arena.
There’s a new prospect atop the skater rankings, a new name atop the goalie rankings, and a bunch of shuffling up and down the rankings.
Here’s the new list, ranking all 26 skaters and 5 goalies in the system.
Criteria to qualify for rankings:
Must be younger than 23 years old for skaters, 25 years old for goalies
Cannot have played more than 10 NHL games
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: Zack Hayes (Age), Ben Jones (Free Agent), Jack Dugan (Free Agent), Maxim Marushev (Age), Brandon Kruse (Rights Expired), Nick Campoli (Rights Expired), Dylan Ferguson (Free Agent)
There’s really only one thing holding Korczak back from the NHL and that’s roster space. He’d have to have a massive Training Camp to push any of the top-seven defensemen off the roster, but there’s no denying he’s ready enough to play in the bigs if there were a spot. He completely dominated Development Camp to the point that he was ruining drills because he’s so sound defensively. He physically looks like an NHLer too. There’s no question of if with him now, it’s when and then for how long, and my guess would be once he breaks through, he’s spending a decade plus in the league.
More on Korczak
2/23/22 – Ranking: 2 – Korczak made his NHL debut earlier this season and definitely didn’t look out of place in the big leagues. He’s continued to take strides both offensively and defensively in the AHL and the occasional nonchalant-ness that we had seen previously is dissipating. His biggest challenge with Vegas is going to be the logjam in front of him, not to mention the few challengers pushing behind him. He’s an NHL player without question though.
8/7/21 – Ranking: 2 – Korczak worked his way up the depth chart for the Silver Knights as the year went on but could never find his place in the lineup permenantly. That should change this year as he’ll probably end up on the HSK top-pair fairly quickly. He’s close to being NHL ready, but the group of seven defensemen in front of him at the NHL level will likely keep him down. Wouldn’t be shocked to see his NHL debut in 2021-22 though.
2/3/21 – Ranking: 4 – The moment Vegas drafted Korczak we knew he was going to be a big guy, but he’s already a monster just one season removed from his draft year and he’s probably only going to get bigger. As he progresses through high levels like World Juniors and the AHL, it appears his calling card will be more as a defense-first penalty kill type player, but he’s certainly looking like he has an NHL future, and probably a long one.
4/16/20 – There’s nothing not to like about Korczak’s game. He’s got size, he’s a good skater, he’s physical, he’s calm on the puck, he can move the puck, and he’ll chip in offensively. His numbers will continue to look good in the WHL, but it’s all about how he looks against better competition going forward and unfortunately we aren’t going to get to see much of that any time soon.
11/16/19 – Korczak looked really good at camp and he has taken that game to the WHL racking up 14 points in 19 games for the Kelowna Rockets. Korczak is the type of defenseman that the Golden Knights are desperately looking for at the NHL level. Of course, he’s not ready at this point (nor would he be available to them anyway) but he’s a mobile, puck-moving d-man who will chip in offensively while taking care of his own end. The next time we really get to see what Korczak has to offer will likely be for Team Canada in December. If he can show something special in that tournament, the 2nd round pick is going to be in the top-five on this list next time for sure.
7/5/19 – The Golden Knights moved up in the draft to select Korczak and it didn’t take long to show why they valued him so much. In his own end, he’s a rock, defending both with his feet (mainly by keeping terrific gaps) and his stick. But what impressed me most with Korczak was his willingness to jump into the rush, or even start a rush. He reminded me a lot of Nate Schmidt, where the entire offense just looks more dangerous in transition when he’s out there.
2) Brendan Brisson (F) Acquired: 2020 Entry Draft, 1st Round, #29 overall Age: 20 (October 22, 2001) Most Recent Team: University of Michigan (NCAA) Previous Ranking: 1
It would have been great to have seen more out of Brisson at Development Camp. He didn’t score a goal in the scrimmages and aside from his well-known elite one-timer, he didn’t pop as the only 1st round pick on the ice. Often times players aren’t quite themselves in the summer, especially after a long season. So it’s possible he comes into Rookie Camp, lights it up, and claims a spot. But as of right now, he still appears to need some professional seasoning in the AHL.
More on Brisson
2/23/22 – Ranking: 1 – Brisson has shot up this chart in large part due to his stellar sophomore season at Michigan but also his inclusion and impact on Team USA at the Olympics. Brisson continues to be dangerous on the power play, and his hockey sense has started to shine through. He’s not afraid to stick his nose into traffic to grab a loose puck and he has a good knack for where loose pucks are going to end up. When chaos happens, Brisson is usually there to clean it up. He continues to look like a bonafide NHL prospect with a ceiling in the top-six.
8/7/21 – Ranking: 4 – Brisson had a solid freshman season at Michigan scoring 10 goals and adding 21 points in 24 games. He’s a power play weapon and will continue to be a point producer at the NCAA level this season. However, with Michigan’s stacked lineup, his playing time will be interesting to monitor. Michigan had four of the top five picks in the 2021 Draft and all are expected to be on the roster this year. As a late 1st round pick from the year prior, Brisson should be able to hold down a permanent spot, but we’re definitely going to learn a lot about him as to where coach Mel Pearson has him in that stacked lineup.
2/3/21 – Ranking: 3 – Brisson’s selection to the eventual gold medal-winning Team USA at the World Juniors was incredibly impressive considering how stacked that team was. He offers something unlike anything we’ve seen from a VGK prospect to this point and that’s an unbelievable shot. He loves to sit in the circle on the power play and rip shots past goalies who know it’s coming and still can’t stop it. He definitely has a ways to go in regards to strength and experience and the offensive play can improve in other areas aside from the shot, but there’s no doubt Brisson has an exciting future.
All Lukas Cormier does is post numbers. He once again won the Defensman of the Year award in the QMJHL (first guy ever to win it back-to-back) and he looked comfortable both Development Camp and World Juniors. Questions will continue to remain about how well he’ll hold up in the defensive end against pros, but his offensive game is easily good enough to play at the NHL level. He’ll probably play at least a full year in the AHL before he makes any real push for playing time with the Golden Knights.
More on Cormier
2/23/22 – Ranking: 6 – In maybe the least surprising prospect news, Lukas Cormier is filling it up in the QMJHL. He’s been doing it for three years and is likely to continue his upward trajectory in Juniors. He was also selected to Team Canada and played in two games in World Juniors before it was postponed. It wasn’t perfect for him in that tournament, but he was able to get on the board with a point and an assist. The question marks are still there, but he’s still looking like he could be a 3rd round diamond in the rough.
8/7/21 – Ranking: 5 – Cormier took the most significant jump in this edition of the rankings and it’s well deserved. 54 points in 39 games in the regular season to go along with nine more in eight playoff games cannot go unrecognized. He’s still young and with his small frame he’s likely to take a little longer to even be ready for the AHL, let alone the NHL. He should get a chance to participate in training camp with VGK and maybe even get into a few preseason games. Both will be key in seeing where the ceiling could be on him. Basing it just on his junior stats though, the ceiling is very high.
2/3/21 – Ranking: 10 – This kid is a little firecracker and he’s going to be a fun one to keep an eye on as his career progresses. He’s an offensive wizard, especially on the power play and he’s feisty enough to give people problems in his own end. 21 points in his first 14 QMJHL games has people in Eastern Canada buzzing and his invitation to the ridiculously stacked Team Canada World Junior camp should turn heads. We’re a long way from seeing Lukas in a Golden or even Silver Knights jersey, but there’s absolutely some intriguing upside here.
The fastest riser in the rankings, Brabenec finished off an excellent season in the QMJHL and then impressed at Development Camp. It’s a shame he didn’t go to World Juniors because he could have easily turned heads. There’s really not much to dislike about his game. He’s an excellent passer, he has a knack for being in the right place around the blue paint, and he forechecks with a ferocity. He’s definitely not ready for the NHL, maybe not even the AHL, but the future is bright.
More on Brabenec
2/23/22 – Ranking: 10 – In his first season in North America, Brabenec is lighting it up with one of the league’s best teams. He’s tallied 28 assists in 34 games and added 12 goals too. Plus, he was named to the Czechia team at World Juniors where he looked decent in his appearance. He still has a long way to go as he’s still very young, but the ceiling on Brabenec now is much higher than it was a year ago.
8/7/21 – Ranking: 25 – One of the youngest players in the entire Draft, Brabenec has plenty of time to develop and move up this list. He’s done well internationally but has been underwhelming in the Czech league. He’s expected to be much more of a defensive center than anything else though.
Wow did Vikman look good in the net at City National Arena during Development Camp. He was extremely calm in the net, moved well for a bigger guy, and was positionally sound all week long. I know he’s probably not, because he’s yet to become old enough to drink in the United States, but he looked good enough to be able to play in an AHL game tomorrow.
More on Vikman
2/23/22 – Ranking: 4 – Vikman was fairly good in his start in the Rookie Faceoff and looked like he was right on par with Patera in the practices. He’s been solid in the WHL and he was very good in his pair of hames for the U20 Team Sweden.
8/7/21 – Ranking: 6 – Vikman bounced between three leagues in Sweden and didn’t have a ton of sucess in any of them. He’s still very young, so there’s no reason to give up, but at the moment, this is the only place he can be in these rankings.
2/3/21 – Ranking: 5 – Vikman is the earliest drafted goalie in the VGK system (2nd all-time behind Maxim Zhukov). The Golden Knights moved up in the Draft to get him so there has to be plenty they like. At the moment though, unspectacular stats in Sweden make it hard for me to assign much value.
To see the rest of the SinBin.vegas Prospect Rankings, click here.
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.
For the first time since 2019, the Golden Knights are holding a Development Camp at City National Arena. The pandemic wiped out two years of Dev Camp and it’s left us with a lot of prospects who have either never been in a sweater with a Vegas logo on it or have done it sparingly.
With that, there’s a lot to keep an eye on during the scrimmages at the end of the week. Here’s what I’m looking for.
1) Will Brendan Brisson look like the clear #1 prospect in the VGK system?
Brisson has impressed at every level including his most recent short stint in the AHL. However, I’ve still been left with some questions, most notably his ability to hold the puck in the offensive zone and his overall defensive game. As one of just two 1st round picks, and playing as an older player, Brisson needs to clearly stand out as one of the best players in these scrimmages.
2) Can Lukas Cormier’s offensive game translate against better competition?
Numbers, numbers, and more numbers. That’s all we’ve seen from Cormier in the QMJHL. But, due to the lack of camps the last two years we’ve only seen hin in Vegas for the Rookie Faceoff in Arizona and then a few preseason games. He wasn’t particularly good in either and it seemed like his deficiencies defensively overshadowed his offensive game. It would be great to see that half-goal-per-game player show up with a VGK uni on.
3) Is Kaedan Korczak ready?
If you take one peek at Korczak’s frame, you’ll know he’s more than ready to play in the NHL physically. He was steady through the AHL season and looked competent in his single NHL appearance. Back in September in the Rookie Faceoff, there was a lack of urgency to his game that concerned me. It seemed to dissipate as I watched him a few times for Henderson. I’m hoping to not see it again.
(Photo Credit: Rob Schneidmiller, Ice Time Southwest)
The Golden Knights’ prospect pool has been starting to look a little barren over the course of the last few seasons. With the departures of multiple 1st round picks from the first five drafts and a host of players getting their opportunity in the NHL this season, there’s not a ton to get excited about.
However, two recent middle-round prospects are teammates and are both tearing up the QMJHL. 3rd round pick in 2020 Lukas Cormier and 4th round pick in 2021 Jakub Brabenec each had standout regular seasons for the Charlottetown Islanders and they are continuing on the success in the Q’s playoffs.
This is the second consecutive year Cormier has claimed the Émile-Bouchard Trophy becoming the first player in league history to do so. The award’s history is full of standout NHL defensemen including Kris Letang, Thomas Chabot, Sam Girard, David Savard, and Keith Yandle.
The rookie awards won by Brabenec come with impressive alumni too. Sidney Crosby, Jakub Voracek, Nico Hischier, Alexis Lafreniere, and Nikolaj Ehlers have all claimed both of the awards in their first seasons in the QMJHL also. Former VGK waiver claim Valentin Zykov also won both awards back in 2012-13.
The smooth-skating offensive defenseman Cormier once again was a point-grabbing machine this season amassing 81 in 62 regular season games. He took a major step forward in the goal-scoring department this year more than doubling his career-high with 33 goals. In the playoffs, Cormier has not slowed down a bit tacking on four more goals and 12 points in nine postseason games.
Meanwhile, the high-IQ, creative, and skinny Brabenec, playing in his first season in North America, surpassed the point-per-game mark by tallying 64 in 58 contests. Like Cormier, his success has continued on into the playoffs where he has 10 assists in the Islanders’ nine games.
The Charlottetown Islanders currently lead their semifinal series 2-1 over the Sherbrooke Phoenix with Game 4 coming up tonight at 4 PM. You can stream the game live using the CHL’s official streaming site.
If Cormier and Brabanec’s Islanders win tonight or Wednesday, they’ll head to the QMJHL finals where they can earn a trip to this year’s Memorial Cup in late June.