In celebration of the start of the 2020-21 college hockey season, Sports Illustrated profiled the top 100 NCAA players to watch. The Golden Knights were represented by five of their own prospects in SI’s list.
At #24 was Vegas’ newest 1st round prospect Brendan Brisson (Michigan), 2018 draft pick Brandon Kruse (Bowling Green) was listed at #25, and another 2018 pick Peter Diliberatore (Quinnipiac) ranked #31. Defensive prospect Layton Ahac (Ohio State) came in at #43, and lastly, goaltender Isiah Saville (Nebraska-Omaha) was slotted in at #54 by Sports Illustrated.
For some of the Golden Knights prospects, this is a big NCAA season. Junior Peter Diliberatore has his eyes on capturing Quinnipiac‘s second school title, while Layton Ahac and Brendan Brisson chase a Frozen Four title for their Big Ten schools. All three universities are ranked in the nation’s top 15 teams.
While we wait with uncertainty on the specifics of the 2020-21 NHL season, there’s plenty of VGK hockey being played. Currently, 17 Golden Knights prospects are either already playing or getting ready to play this season.
Here’s a list of all Vegas prospects in action and how to watch their games.
Layton Ahac (2019, 2nd) NCAA – Ohio State
Entering his sophomore season, Ahac’s Buckeyes are expected to be very good this season, already ranking in the Top 10. Ohio State games can often be found on NBCSN, Big 10 Network, or Big 10+.
Brendan Brisson (2020, 1st) NCAA – Michigan
Brisson has played in his first two collegiate games and is already on the board with two points. Michigan games can often be found on Big 10 Network and Big 10+.
Nick Campoli (2017, 6th) NCAA – Clarkson
Campoli is entering his Junior season as a Clarkson Golden Knight. He has been more of a checking forward to this point in his career. Maybe this is the season the offense starts to come through. It needs to or his time as a VGK prospect will be limited. Clarkson’s schedule begins on November 22nd with many games airing on ESPN+.
Cormier is a big-time point collecting defenseman that is a lot of fun to watch. He’s in the running to be a part of the Team Canada World Junior roster for the tournament beginning on Christmas Day, but in the meantime, the QMJHL rolls along with a few games a week. All QMJHL games stream live on their website using the All Acess subscription.
Peter Diliberatore (2018, 6th) NCAA – Quinnipiac
Diliberatore had an excellent sophomore season and should be expected to be a huge part of a very good Quinnipiac team. The Bobcats first game is scheduled for November 24th with a few games streaming on ESPN+.
Ryder Donovan (2019, 4th) NCAA – Wisconsin
Donovan scored a pair of goals in the Badgers’ second game of the season. He’s currently playing on the 4th line as a wing. Many games air on Big 10 Network or stream on Big 10+.
Along with Jack Manning of GoldenKnightsWatch.com, this special episode is 100% dedicated to VGK prospects. We touch on every player in the system, talk about the depth of the prospect pool, and consider a few future options for the Golden Knights.
To see the SinBin.vegas Prospect Rankings. Click here.
Ken was joined by Jesse Granger of The Athletic to chat all things Golden Knights prospects. We went through the prospect list using a few different qualifiers including NHL readiness, ceiling, and likelihood to play 100 NHL games.
T6) Zach Whitecloud (D) Acquired: Signed as Free Agent on March 8th, 2018 Age: 22 (November 28, 1996) Most Recent Team: Chicago Wolves (AHL) Previous Ranking: #4
As somewhat of a veteran among the Wolves defense, at age 22, Whitecloud continues to look like the same player we’ve seen since he signed with Vegas. He’s good defensively with a little bit of offensive skill. He moved down on the list because of the way the Golden Knights treated him during the time when Nate Schmidt was out. Jake Bischoff made the roster over Whitecloud and Bischoff couldn’t get into a game. The more and more you see of Whitecloud the more you see a solid NHLer who just needs his breakthrough moment.
More on Whitecloud
9/12/18 – In the last rankings, he was declared the most pro-ready prospect, that honor has been taking from him by Erik Brannstrom. Whitecloud looks like he’s going to become a solid, safe, defensive option that could help an offensive-minded defensive partner thrive. Playing with Brannstrom, Whitecloud took care of the Golden Knights end while helping Brannstrom bring the puck forward and make plays. Think Deryk Engelland, but like 30 years younger. (Sorry Deryk)
7/28/18 – The most pro-ready prospect in the entire Golden Knights pool is Zach Whitecloud. He spent the final few weeks of the season with the Golden Knights and even played in an NHL game with Vegas in which he was +3 vs. Edmonton. In Development Camp he was physically the most ready player, but he also displayed great poise and leadership on the ice. When his time comes, and it may not necessarily be out of training camp, he’s not going to be a flashy player, but he will be reliable. He projects as a solid stay-at-home defenseman with potential upside offensively as he matures. His place near the top of the list is more based on how close he is to playing in the NHL than it is the likelihood he becomes a superstar player. That being said, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Whitecloud puts together a long and successful NHL career.
T6) Dylan Coghlan (D) Acquired: Signed as Free Agent on September 20, 2017 Age: 20 (February 19, 1998) Most Recent Team: Chicago Wolves (AHL) Previous Ranking: #6
He’s become a stalwart in Rocky Thompson’s Wolves lineup. As a right-hand shot, he certainly has value to the Golden Knights eventually as they are short on RD’s. He’s in a very similar spot as Whitecloud, hence the tie, as there’s a bit of a logjam of defensemen and seemingly no room for any of them to ge through. Brannstrom, Hague, Whitecloud, Bischoff, and Coghlan all seem to deserve a look but maybe only one or two will be likely to get it this year after rosters expand. There are a lot of factors of who gets that shot first and when, and it’s not all to do with talent. I wouldn’t expect to see Coghlan in a VGK uniform any time soon.
More on Coghlan
9/12/18 – Coghlan had a bit of a quiet camp, but when he was paired with Hague he looked solid. Wasn’t sure if he would ever develop into an NHL prospect before, it may be safe to say he should get a chance at some point. As a right-handed defenseman, he’ll likely enter the mix next year and beyond. Keep an eye on this guy, he might be the undrafted steal of the 2017 class for Vegas.
7/28/18 – As an invitee to both 2017 Development Camp and Training Camp, Coghlan impressed and parlayed it into a contract before heading back to Kennewick, Washington for the WHL season. While there, he had a massive offensive year for a defenseman, putting up 63 points in 69 games. He’s going to have to get a bit better in his own end, which is part of the reason he was passed over in back-to-back drafts, but his offensive ability is exciting.
8) Ivan Morozov (F) Acquired: 2018 Entry Draft, 2nd Round, #61 overall Age: 18 (May 5, 2000) Most Recent Team: SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL) Previous Ranking: #10
The first real chance we’ve gotten to see Morozov was a good one. He looked very good at times as the 4th line center for Team Russia. His selection to this team was impressive in the first place as Russia historically does not like to choose 18-year-olds for their U20 team. However, Morozov helped make an impact and looks like a terrific 200-foot player. His backchecking was probably the most exciting part of his game as he constantly would come back into his own zone, break up a play and then get the puck moving forward. Still want to see a lot more of him, but don’t be surprised if he’s in the top 3 or 4 the next time I update this list.
More on Morozov
9/12/18 – Did not attend Rookie Camp
7/28/18 – Unable to attend Development Camp following the Draft, Morozov remains a bit of an unknown. However, he has recently signed a contract with SKA St. Petersburg (yeah, the Shippy one) and was selected with Vegas’ only pick in the top 75 of the 2018 Draft which indicates he’s highly regarded. He has quick hands and should be a strong two-way center if/when he makes it to the NHL. A trip to World Juniors would do well for him to move up this list where he probably belongs.
9) Lucas Elvenes (F) Acquired: 2017 Entry Draft, 5th Round, #127 overall Age: 18 (August 18, 1999) Most Recent Team: Rogle BK (SHL) Previous Ranking: #15
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.
More on Elvenes
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.
10) Reid Duke (F) Acquired: Signed as Free Agent on March 6, 2017 Age: 22 (January 28, 1996) Most Recent Team: Chicago Wolves (AHL) Previous Ranking: #14
This massive jump up the rankings has almost everything to do with the call-up he received from the Golden Knights. Of course, he didn’t end up in an actual game, but as a 22-year-old getting the call after playing in the AHL goes a long way. He’s been very good with the Wolves and looked like he belonged in practice with VGK. When they first signed Duke I thought, well this is cute but there’s no way this guy ever plays in the NHL. He’s slowly won me (and seemingly the organization) over and I’ll now say the exact opposite, I’d be stunned if he doesn’t play in the NHL.
More on Duke
9/12/18 – Like Kolesar, Duke is expected to be a bit better than the rookies due to his age. However, there were times he appeared to be playing at a different speed than everyone else out there. That’s not necessarily a part of Duke’s game we’ve seen before. He felt in control of the game most of the time he was on the ice and definitely made his linemates better. Still a bit of a longshot to get a chance with the stacked VGK forward group, but maybe one day the “First Knight” will break through.
7/28/18 – Forever the answer to the trivia question, the first Golden Knight is back from the shoulder injury which kept him out a majority of last season. Duke took an off-ice leadership role at Development Camp but the on-ice success was missing. As a 22-year-old playing with 18 and 19-year-olds Duke was expected to stand out in a big way. He didn’t. He went scoreless in 14 games with the Chicago Wolves after returning from injury. All this being said, Duke has had his downs in his career and he’s always seemed to rebound. Probably higher on this list than he should be at the moment, there’s just something about this guy that makes it feel like he’s eventually going to break through.
Following Rookie Camp at City National Arena and the trade of Nick Suzuki, we’ve updated our prospect rankings. As always, the full rankings can be found using our navigation bar under the “Prospects” tab. Or, click this.
(Last updated: September 12, 2018)
Criteria to qualify for rankings:
Must be younger than 23 years old
Cannot have played more than 10 NHL games
Must be either under contract or drafted by the Golden Knights
Brannstrom attended his first rookie camp and did not disappoint. He was easily the best player on the ice in all three rookie games and showed the much more responsible defensive game needed to have a shot to play in the NHL this year. AHL Coach Rocky Thompson (who was coaching the rookie games) specifically called him “a future top two defenseman.” In the immediate future, he’ll be heading to full training camp to try and earn a spot on the Golden Knights roster this season. With Nate Schmidt out for 20 games, he’s got a real shot.
More on Brannstrom
7/28/18 – The diminutive Swedish defenseman almost has an aura around him when he steps on the ice. Much like a home-run hitter in baseball, there’s a feeling that every time he touches the puck something special is about to happen. He has great vision and an incredibly high confidence level that leads to breathtaking stretch passes. He’s also a very good skater which helps him overcome his small stature. Moving forward he has to work on controlling mistakes. Due to his unwavering belief that he can make something happen with the puck, he tends to turn it over or get caught out of position quite frequently, much more than a reliable NHL defenseman should. Brannstrom has a legitimate shot of making the Golden Knights roster out of camp, but with his waiver exempt status and a bit of a logjam of NHL-level defenseman, he’ll more than likely end up in the AHL to start the year.
Hague had a great trio of games at City National Arena. Not only did he score a number of power-play goals, but he also proved he’s a heck of a leader. Coaches and players couldn’t stop raving about how much impact he had on others during camp. He still looks like he’s not quite ready for the NHL, but it’s starting to feel safer and safer that he’ll be an NHLer. When it happens, he’s going to give Colin Miller a run for his money for heaviest shot on the team.
More on Hague
7/28/18 – Since slipping out of the 1st round, Hague has seemed to play with a chip on his shoulder, going out and winning the Max Kaminsky Trophy for the OHL’s Most Outstanding Defenseman. Hague is a giant on the ice standing 6’6″ tall and weighing over 215 pounds. He also has a laser beam of a shot that he unleashes when he’s able to join the attack or on the power play. His greatest defensive skill is his reach, but his skating still holds him back a bit from being a completely reliable defenseman. Hague will almost certainly head to the AHL this season where he may get a chance to make his NHL debut at some point during the year.
As the #6 overall pick in the 2017 Draft, Glass was expected to be a top-six type forward. He still may eventually become that, but his performances in the rookie games made him look like he’s more likely headed for a role as third center. He makes a lot of little plays on both ends that impress, but he doesn’t quite show the flair that a top-end guy should playing against other 19-year-olds.
More on Glass
7/28/18 – The first draft pick in Vegas Golden Knights history has done nothing but dominate since being selected by George McPhee. He scored 102 points in 64 regular season games in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks including 37 goals. What makes Glass such a promising prospect is his ability (and willingness) to defend. He’s been relied upon in Portland as a top penalty killer and is consistently given a large minute load when his team is ahead. He’s also widely regarded as a tenacious forechecker, a skill that will fit in well with the current Golden Knights roster. Glass projects in the NHL as a two-way player with good speed, solid vision, and the ability to score. He’s still likely a year out from making the NHL roster and will probably head back to Portland this year