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What I Learned About 11 Golden Knights Prospects While In San Diego

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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)

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VGK’s Secret, Semi-Secret, And Not-So-Secret Weapons; They’re All Named Tomas

One was signed before the Expansion Draft, another was selected in the Expansion Draft, and the third was acquired at the trade deadline. Tomas Hyka, Tomas Nosek, and Tomas Tatar combined to play 97 games for the Golden Knights in 2017-18 in which they scored 12 goals and tallied 12 assists.

Aside from a few magical moments from Nosek and a couple solid postseason efforts from Tatar, the trio of Tomases were nothing but role players for the Golden Knights in their run to the Stanley Cup Final.

In 2018-19, that should change.

By letting David Perron and James Neal leave via free agency and signing just one NHL-caliber forward, George McPhee has signaled that he believes the team has enough fire-power already within the organization to pick up the 90 points he let walk out the door.

That’s where the Tomases come in. All three should have expanded roles as Tatar is expected to move up the depth chart to become a second line winger, Nosek has a legitimate shot at making his way onto the third (or even second) line and any production out of Hyka would be a bonus compared to the Brendan Leipsic era.

More of this would be good. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Tatar is a perennial 20 goal scorer but never hit his stride after coming over from Detroit at the deadline. He’s almost certainly going to be placed in a more offensive role, likely playing with some combination of Erik Haula, Paul Stastny, and Alex Tuch. Tatar posted a 94.0 PDO in his 20 game stint with the Golden Knights, a full five points below his career average, and the worst on-ice shooting percentage for and on-ice shooting percentage against numbers of his career. These are heavy indicators that as poor as Tatar appeared, it’s probable he’ll bounce back. (If you forgot what PDO is, click here) He’s the not-so-secret weapon. A weapon the Golden Knights can’t afford to have struggle again.

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Why Everyone Should Be A Fan Of Tomas Hyka

We cheer for all Golden Knights, but some of them just make us root a little harder for them. Tomas Hyka is one of those. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last night Tomas Hyka made his NHL debut, one that has been in the makings for the a 24-year-old from Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic for quite some time. Hyka is a classic NHL underdog, and his journey to making his debut for the best team in the league is somewhat of a wild one.

It dates back to 2011 when he was invited to training camp with the Philadelphia Flyers after being undrafted.

I had a really good camp there, like I did here, I scored and did a little celly, it was funny, but they couldn’t sign me. I don’t even know the reason they couldn’t sign me. It was kind of sad. -Tomas Hyka

The reason is a rule in the CBA that says players born outside North America must go undrafted twice before they can be signed to a contract with an NHL team. Hyka had only been through one draft, so despite being offered a contract, and possibly a spot on an NHL roster at the age of 18, he couldn’t sign with the Flyers. Instead of going home though, he played for the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL where he scored 20 goals and tallied 64 points in 50 games. That put his name back on the radar for the 2012 Draft.

Then I got drafted by the Kings and they did not really give me the opportunity. -Hyka

In fact, he was never even invited to a training camp with the Kings. Back to Gatineau he went, where he scored another 20 goals and put up 54 more points for his second straight year in the QMJHL. Yet, the call still never came from the Kings.

Hyka then returned home to play for his hometown team, BK Mlada Boleslav for three of the next four years waiting until the Kings gave up his NHL rights. That happened this Summer and the Golden Knights did not wait long to pounce.

When Vegas wanted to sign me I was like ‘for sure I want to do it!’ -Hyka

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GOLDEN KNIGHTS RECALL TOMAS HYKA (F), PLACE LUCA SBISA (D) ON IR

Golden Knights News Update

While we continue to grieve, we are doing our best to return to normalcy and know that hockey is a way we, and many of you, escape from the unfortunate realities life often deals us. We will never forget the tragic event that occurred on October 1st.

Here is what happened while we were away mourning the loss of so many innocent victims.

  • The entire Golden Knights organization, including players, coaches, front office, and business staff, were accounted for. In a press release, they added this statement, “However, we know that this is not the case for many other organizations in our city. Our hearts are with those affected and we will be doing what we can to support the victims, their families and those grieving.”
  • Fan Fest has been canceled. It was originally scheduled for tonight from 6-8 PM outside The D Casino.
    • Instead, players will make appearances in the community to show support to first responders and victims.
  • A Finnish tabloid ran a story including a quote from Erik Haula claiming many members of the Golden Knights were eating dinner at Mandalay Bay when the incident occurred. Here is the story.
    • The translated version claims a real estate agent called Haula to let him know what was happening. Haula and teammates were unaware until he received the call. He was quoted as saying “there is panic in the streets,” and “the building is closed, we are going to be here all night.”
    • This is an unconfirmed report. There is a team practice today at 11 AM, with media availability following. We should have more about the validity of this story later today.
  • The roster deadline is scheduled for today at 2PM PST. The Golden Knights, and all NHL teams, must cut down to 23 players by that time.
  • One player was placed on and cleared waivers, that was Teemu Pulkkinen. Despite scoring twice including on the power play, Pulkkinen will be sent to the Chicago Wolves.
    • Last season, Pulkkinen was placed on waivers by the Red Wings, was then claimed by the Wild prior to the season beginning. He was then traded to the Coyotes in February. Vegas selected him from the Coyotes in the Expansion Draft.
  • According to Steve Carp of the RJ, Tomas Hyka was sent to the Chicago Wolves. He was waiver exempt.
  • The Golden Knights have claimed goalie Malcolm Subban off waivers. He is a 23-year-old who was waived by the Boston Bruins. Per NHL rules, he must remain on the Golden Knights NHL roster.

Many roster moves are expected from the Golden Knights today, follow us on Twitter (@SinBinVegas) for the most up-to-the-second information.

McPhee Must Make Multiple Tough Waiver Decisions By Tuesday

October 3rd is right around the corner. That’s the day NHL teams are required to cut their roster down to the 23-man squad that will begin the regular season. The Golden Knights now have 30 players remaining in camp who are eligible to make the final 23.

It’s not as simple as picking seven guys to send down to the minor leagues though. In the NHL, if you want to “re-assign” a player to the AHL, the player must go through a process called waivers. In short, every team has the option to buy the player’s contract off the Golden Knights and place them on their NHL roster. Unless… the player is waiver exempt, like Shea Theodore, Tomas Hyka, and Alex Tuch.

To this point, 91 players have been placed on waivers in the NHL, including Chris Casto, Paul Thompson, and T.J. Tynan of the Golden Knights. A total of 1 player was claimed (Jordan Nolan LA -> BUF). Over the past three years, more than 1,000 players were placed on waivers prior to the season, only 15 were claimed. It’s not terribly common, but it does happen.

Are Hyka and Tuch worth the risk to try and sneak Nosek through waivers? (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

So, who are the guys Vegas may have to consider trying to slip through the process? Starting with forwards, Brendan Leipsic, Tomas Nosek, Teemu Pulkkinen, and William Carrier are the four players who have 2-way contracts. Assuming the Golden Knights get James Neal back to start the year, which now seems probable, there are four spots available to go to those four players plus Hyka and Tuch. Send the waiver exempt players to the AHL and there’s no risk of losing anyone, but if George McPhee wants to keep Hyka and/or Tuch, he’ll have to roll the dice to try to get someone through.

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Hyka And Wong Continue Push For Roster Spots

It’s becoming undeniable at this point.

Sign here, please. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Tomas Hyka scored again, his sixth goal in five games in a Golden Knights sweater, and Tyler Wong had an impact on just about every shift on the ice during the Golden Knights 4-2 preseason win in Anaheim.

Both were brought into the Golden Knights organization (or at least the Chicago Wolves for Wong) prior to the Expansion Draft and they are both making it difficult to be sent away as final cuts near at training camp this week.

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, it’s unlikely George McPhee elects to keep multiple players like Wong, Hyka, and the now-injured Brendan Leipsic, but when compared to the likes of William Carrier, Tomas Nosek, T.J. Tynan, Stefan Matteau, or Paul Thompson it’s going to be tough to rationalize sending any of the three to Chicago.

No doubt, they played very well and Hyka scored a nice redirect goal tonight. He finds a way to put the puck in the back of the net. A lot of guys played a good game tonight and we are really happy with the effort we put out in tonight’s game. -Gallant

It’s not just goals either, Hyka and Wong played together on multiple power plays and their ability to keep the puck in the zone and moving was superb.

The Golden Knights have three preseason games left, all at T-Mobile Arena over the next week. Gerard Gallant has mentioned on numerous occasions that he expects the final two games to be close to the opening night roster, don’t be surprised if either Hyka or Wong, if not both, are on it.

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