This isn’t earth-shattering news, nor is it all that important to the future of the Vegas Golden Knights, but a first is a first, and we’re officially two days away from another first in the history of the franchise.
With the 96th pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the Golden Knights selected Maksim Zhukov. He’s a goalie who at the time was playing with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL.
Since being drafted, Zhukov attended Development Camps in both 2017 and 2018, was drafted by the Barrie Colts in the CHL Import Draft (48th overall), played 19 games in the OHL with Barrie before leaving Canada to head back to Green Bay and the USHL.
By NHL rule, in order to retain the exclusive negotiating rights on a drafted player, a team must extend a “bona fide offer” (fancy term for a contract) to a player prior to June 1st of the 2nd year following his selection in the draft.
In the case of Zhukov, that’s Saturday (June 1, 2019), and at this moment, that has not happened.
Thus, if in the next two days the Golden Knights do not sign him to a contract, he will become the first draft pick in team history to be eligible to re-enter the draft. If selected, he becomes property of the new team, if not, Zhukov would be able to sign an entry-level contract with any team.
Now, it’s important to note that by not signing Zhukov it does not exclude the Golden Knights from signing him in the future. If undrafted, he could still attend Development Camp and Vegas could eventually sign him like they would any other unrestricted free agent. It’s just no longer do they have exclusive rights on him, meaning if another team wanted to swoop in, they could.
As for how Zhukov has played, the answer is not very well. In the USHL this year he put up a 3.94 goals against average and a save percentage of just .882. He wasn’t much better in the OHL either posting a 3.43 GAA and .900 Sv%.
He ranked as the 30th best goalie in the USHL (and second on his own team) by save percentage and 37th by goals against. He was beat out in Barrie by a goalie who is ranked by NHL Central Scouting as the 28th best North American goalie prospect, and was outplayed in Green Bay by an undrafted 19-year-old headed to Quinnipiac next season.
All in all, it shouldn’t be seen as a big surprise if the Golden Knights let the clock hit midnight on Zhukov. Nonetheless, he would go down in history, so there’s that.