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A “Seasoned” Wong Is Ready To Prove He Can Take The Next Step

Another preseason hat trick would go a long way to proving his point. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Forward Tyler Wong is currently in the middle of his second rookie camp with the Golden Knights after spending last season in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves.

It’s a very hard league to play in. A lot of guys say that the jump from juniors to the American league is the hardest in hockey. -Tyler Wong

21-year-old Wong is right about the tough transition from major junior leagues to the AHL. A TSN study shows the percentages of late round draft picks to go from juniors to the AHL to the NHL is very low. A 7th round draft pick has less than a 10% chance of skating on NHL ice. For Wong the odds are even longer. He went undrafted.

There are a lot of older players that make your life hard. There’s lots of guys with kids, they’re fighting for their livelihood. Being a 21-year-old trying to jump right in there is eye-opening. -Wong

I would consider myself a helicopter Dad, and I’d probably be a helicopter GM as well. The AHL has progressed drastically over the years but like Wong mentioned, older journeymen type players are fighting for ice time or even a spot with the team. Sometimes that means literal fighting, but I also equate it to heavy (dirty?) hits, banging along the boards, and overly physical play. That makes me nervous for highly invested prospects. However, the AHL is the definitely right league for a player like Wong to develop and beat the odds.

You have to find a whole nother level that you have to sacrifice and compete in order to be a contributing player. It was a learning year. I had to battle to stay in the lineup. I had to battle for everything I got. -Wong

And that’s what Wong plans on doing in camp, battle, and convince the team he’s not only a pro player but an NHL player.

The biggest thing for me is to show them I’ve progressed since last year and continue to progress into an NHL player. That’s my goal. I played a year in the American Hockey League, and I want to show Mr. Gallant, and Mr. McPhee, and all the people up stairs that a year as a pro seasoned me. I know what it’s going to take to make the next step to the NHL from the AHL. -Wong

While his stats weren’t great last season with the Wolves (54 Games, 3 Goals, 4 Assists, -11) the Alberta native is confident there’s plenty of room for improvement.

I’m not going to quit. I’m going to keep fighting for every inch. That’s what I’m going to do here in camp and in the season. Wherever I end up I’ll keep fighting. -Wong

He may not be one of the Golden Knights coveted prospects but Wong is out to prove he can be.

Who We’re Watching At Development Camp (2018)

Four of a Kind (Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, Erik Brannstrom, Nic Hague)

href=””> It’s going to take a lot, but this year McPhee may actually consider giving a roster spot to a rookie. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)[/

The question for these four is if any of them are ready to take the next step to play in the NHL next season. George McPhee called it a long shot that any of the four make the roster, but if they are going to, the path starts now. They’d have to clearly rise above everyone else to even have a chance. Last year, Brannstrom was the most impressive, but the junior seasons of Glass, Suzuki, and Hague give hope they’ll come in and shine this week.

Zach Whitecloud

Whitecloud has a chance to be this year’s Alex Tuch. Last year the 21-year-old Tuch looked like a man amongst boys at Development Camp and it began his path to earning a spot on the Golden Knights roster full time. As it currently stands, there does look to be a spot open for Whitecloud to slide into, but he has to be great starting this week to get it. Whitecloud won’t be the oldest player in camp, but it needs to look like he is. He should be without question the most pro-ready player at Development Camp. By the time the week is out, making sure that is clear would go a long way to McPhee penciling him into the plans to start out next season.

Jimmy Schuldt

Many of the players at Development Camp for the Golden Knights are not under Vegas’ control, Schuldt is the most intriguing of them all. Like Whitecloud was a year ago, Schuldt is one of the most coveted undrafted NCAA free agents and will be free to sign with any team when his next season at St. Cloud University is over. A Hobey Baker finalist, he’s an offensive-minded defenseman who was the captain of his team as a junior.

Last year at this time he was in the Montreal Canadiens Development Camp and the Habs have reportedly been keeping their eyes on Schuldt ever since.  McPhee proved a year ago that he’s willing to sign a player like Schuldt and hand him an immediate roster spot right out of college. Being invited to Vegas’ camp is a good sign the Golden Knights like the player and may consider signing him when he’s eligible. However, coming to camp doesn’t always mean you have a leg up on signing the player. Zach Whitecloud was in Kings camp last year, and we all know how that worked out.

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Tyler Wong Contract Situation

Like with many Russian players, the Nikita Gusev contract situation is a difficult one. From how I understand it (and I could be wrong, but I shall show my work with all CBA excepts cited available at the end of this article), the Golden Knights have two options with Gusev.

But before we get to those options, let’s explain some things first. First off, Nikita Gusev was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lighting in 2012 but never signed a contract. Thus, he remains property of the Golden Knights indefinitely. (Kelly McCrimmon recently confirmed this on the VGK Insider Show)

Next, Gusev was born on July 8th, 1992. He is 26-years-old. Per the CBA Article 9.1 (c), Gusev is required to adhere to the NHL’s “entry-level system” if he signs a contract prior to turning 28. Therefore, if Gusev signs an NHL contract this year (2018-19) or next year (2019-20) he would be forced to sign a one-year contract with a max value of $925,000. (CBA 9.3 a)

There are some performance and signing bonuses possible, which do count against the salary cap, that could allow Gusev to earn an extra $825,000. The signing bonus is probable, which can be up to 10% or $92,500 (CBA 9.3 b). However, most of them are unlikely as Gusev would have to be an extraordinary player to receive these bonuses. Such options are 20+ goals, 35+ assists, and .73+ points per game. (CBA Exhibit 5-Performance Bonuses)

So, it’s reasonable to believe Gusev’s entry-level contract will be less than $1,000,000 against the Golden Knights cap.

Which brings us back to when to sign him and the two options.

Option 1: If Gusev were to sign prior to the Golden Knights season ending, he would earn a pro-rated portion one-year entry-level contract for as long as he’s with the NHL club. The contract would end when the Golden Knights 2018-19 season concludes, thus it would “burn” his entry-level contract requirement. Gusev would not qualify as an unrestricted free agent (CBA 10.2 a, i). Instead, he would become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. (See CBA 12.1 A)

Option 2: If Gusev waits until after the Golden Knights season ends, he would once again have to sign the one-year entry-level contract worth a maximum of $925,000. However, when the year is up, he will be 27-years-old and thus qualify as an unrestricted free agent. (See CBA 10.2 a)

This is where it gets incredibly tricky for the Golden Knights as both options have major benefits but also massive potential drawbacks. I’ll break it down the way I was taught by my 4th grade teacher Mrs. Pope, using a pros and cons list.

Option 1

  • Pros
    • Gusev would be under contract as soon as March 6th (His current team trails 2-1 in a best-of-seven series)
    • Gusev would be an RFA upon his contract’s end, thus keeping him under VGK control
    • Gusev could sign a longer-term deal as soon as July 1, 2019
    • Gusev would be eligible to play for VGK immediately and participate in the playoffs
    • Gusev would earn a larger sum of money quicker by foregoing the ELC year, which is likely what he is looking to do
  • Cons
    • The ELC year would be wasted and Gusev’s cap hit would likely be larger than $925,000 in 2019-20 when VGK has less cap space
    • If Gusev chooses to return to Russia, VGK loses his rights upon return. (CBA 10.2 (b) (ii) (A) (4))

Option 2

  • Pros
    • Gusev’s cap hit would be around $1,000,000 in 2019-20
  • Cons
    • Gusev becomes a UFA following the one season, making him eligible to leave Vegas without VGK getting anything in return

All of this is, of course, hinging on the situation that SKA St. Petersburg’s season ends prior to the Golden Knights. If SKA wins the Gagarin Cup, Gusev could be playing until April 25th at the latest. The NHL playoffs begin on April 8th or 9th.

If I had to guess, I’d suspect the Golden Knights could simply wait until the offseason, choose Option 2, and take the risk they can re-sign him prior to him hitting free agency on July 1, 2020. Also, if I had a guess, there’s probably a loophole or two in the CBA that I’m missing that will crop up if/when Gusev does indeed choose to come to North America.

Even if they do intend on going down the path of Option 1, I find it unlikely they’ll throw him in the fire instantly. The different size ice surface (Russia plays on the larger international size) makes a major impact in players’ transition to North America and the NHL. So, as much as it would be an amazingly fun story, I wouldn’t bet much on Gusev suiting up in a meaningful game for the Golden Knights this season. Next year though, that’s a completely different story.

So, there you have it, that’s the best I can do on the Gusev situation. It’s unique,

CBA Excerpts

9.1 (c) Notwithstanding the chart set forth in (b) above, a Player who at the time he was drafted was playing for a team outside North America or who meets the qualifications set forth in Article 8.4(a)(v) (a “European Player”) who signs his first SPC at ages 25-27 shall be subject to the Entry Level System for one (1) year. A European Player who signs his first SPC at age 28 or older is not subject to the Entry Level System under any circumstances.

(a) The maximum annual aggregate Paragraph 1 NHL Salary, Signing Bonuses and games played bonuses permitted to be paid to a Group 1 Player in each League Year of his first SPC shall be as follows:
Draft Year – Compensation
2005 – US$ 850,000
2006 – US$ 850,000
2007 – US$ 875,000
2008 – US$ 875,000
2009 – US$ 900,000
2010 – US$ 900,000
2011 – 2022 – US$ 925,000

(b) The aggregate of all Signing Bonuses attributable to any League Year to be paid to a Group 1 Player may not exceed 10% of the Player’s compensation for such League Year. Games played bonuses attributable to a League Year shall be included in compensation for that League Year at their full potential value (i.e., assuming all such bonuses are earned) and shall be treated as Paragraph 1 NHL Salary. A Group 1 Player may not contract for or receive any bonuses whatsoever other than a Signing Bonus, a games played bonus and Exhibit 5 Bonuses.

10.2 (a) (i) Any Player who either has seven (7) Accrued Seasons or is 27 years of age or older as of June 30 of the end of a League Year, shall, if his most recent SPC has expired, with such expiry occurring either as of June 30 of such League Year or June 30 of any prior League Year, become an Unrestricted Free Agent. Such Player shall be completely free to negotiate and sign an SPC with any Club, and any Club shall be completely free to negotiate and sign an SPC with such Player, without penalty or restriction, or being subject to any Right of First Refusal, Draft Choice Compensation or any other compensation or equalization obligation of any kind.

10.2 (b) (ii) (A) (4) the Player, having become a Defected Player pursuant to Section 10.2(b)(i)(B), and having played no more than two (2) full seasons with an unaffiliated club(s), has become free of any obligation to such unaffiliated club(s) during the off season and has not, prior to thirty days thereafter, entered into a valid SPC for a period which includes the current and/or following season for his services as a professional hockey player with the Club which last had the NHL rights to negotiate with such Player;

12.1 Eligibility for Player or Club Election of Salary Arbitration.

(a) A Player is eligible for salary arbitration if the Player meets the qualifications set forth in the following chart and in Section 12.1(b) below:

First SPC Signing Age 18-20 4 years professional experience
21 – 3 years professional experience
22-23 – 2 years professional experience
24 and older – 1 year professional experience

Exhibit 5- Performance Bonuses
(1) Individual “A” Bonuses Paid by Clubs
The maximum amount payable for any single category of Individual “A” Bonuses identified below is $212,500 per season. (For example, an Entry Level SPC may not contain bonuses of $212,500 for 20 goals and an additional $212,500 for 30 goals, provided, however, it may contain a bonus of $100,000 for 20 goals and $112,500 for 30 goals). An Entry Level SPC may contain any number of Individual “A” Bonuses; however, a Player may not receive more than $850,000 in total aggregate Individual “A” Bonuses per season. Individual “A” Bonuses are payable by the Clubs (as opposed to the League).
(a) Forwards
(i) Ice time (aggregate and/or per Game). Player must be among top six (6) forwards on the Club (minimum 42 Regular Season Games played by Player and comparison group). (Note: an Entry Level SPC may contain bonuses for both aggregate and per Game ice time; however, the maximum aggregate amount the Player may receive on account of the ice time category is $212,500.)
(ii) Goals: 20 Goal Minimum
(iii) Assists: 35 Assist Minimum
(iv) Points: 60 Point Minimum
(v) Points Per Game: .73 Points Per Game Minimum (minimum 42 Regular Season Games played)
(vi) Plus-Minus Rating: Among top three (3) forwards on the Club (minimum 42 Regular Season Games played by Player and comparison group).
(vii) End-of-Season NHL All-Rookie Team
(viii) NHL All-Star Game (selected to play or plays)
(ix) NHL All-Star Game MVP

The full CBA can be read here. If you find anything you believe I may have wrong, please do not hesitate to point it out.


Now that the moment has officially come where Tyler Wong is sent away from camp without an NHL contract, it’s come time we really clear up what it means for his future with the Golden Knights or another team. Wong is signed to a standard player contract with the Chicago Wolves, the primary AHL affiliate of the Golden Knights. He is NOT signed to the Golden Knights like players such as Reid Duke, Tomas Hyka, or Keegan Kolesar. However, Vegas is also NOT in any imminent danger of losing him to another team.

Technically, they should be, but looking through the history of the league, and knowing the “good ole boys” network NHL GM’s keep with each other, Wong won’t be signed by any other GM. With the gentleman’s agreement not to poach AHL players off each other’s teams, NHL GM’s can essentially skirt the 50 man maximum contract limit. This is the reason Wong was not given a 2-way contract before he was sent to Chicago.

Whether he was offered a 2-way deal or not, he would have been paid the exact same amount per game for the Wolves, and if/when he gets called up to Vegas, they’ll offer him the same deal they would have today, so his NHL pay would remain the same as well. So, it’s a win-win-win for the Golden Knights, Chicago Wolves, and Wong, assuming no GM goes crazy… which they won’t.

Fear not folks, Tyler Wong may not officially be a Golden Knight, but there’s absolutely no way he’s on another NHL roster without McPhee having his say first.

Hyka And Wong Continue Push For Roster Spots

It’s becoming undeniable at this point.

Sign here, please. (Photo Credit: 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.

Leipsic Hurt, Roster Spot In Jeopardy?

Get healthy man, your roster spot relies on it. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When you look at the back end of the roster for the Golden Knights there is a group of about seven forwards all vying for a one, possibly two, spots. Of the players in the running to leave camp with that 12th or 13th forward spot, one of them has been absent recently.

That man is Brendan Leipsic, the diminutive forward the Golden Knights selected from the Maple Leafs in the Expansion Draft. He was not skating during the most recent session of practice at City National Arena due to an injury that dates back to Thursday.

He had a minor injury last game in the warm up. He’s going to be five or seven days, no more than that. So it’s nothing major. -Gerard Gallant

That kept Leipsic out of the third preseason game in San Jose, and he was also not in the lineup for the game in Colorado. The injury will certainly keep him out of today’s game in Anaheim, and very well could see him miss Tuesday and Thursday’s preseason games at T-Mobile Arena.

Gallant has made it clear that he wants his roster to be nearly fully formed by the final two preseason games, and with Leipsic not having a chance to perform in a game, his spot on the roster is in serious jeopardy, no matter than his coach is saying in press conferences.

We never cut guys because of injuries. It’s nothing serious, so he’ll do some off-ice stuff the next few days and then he’ll get back on the ice. It won’t eliminate his chances for sure. -Gallant

However, the play of Tomas Hyka and Tyler Wong should have Geroge McPhee and Gallant thinking. All three of forwards play a similar style of game based on speed and scoring. It’s unlikely the Golden Knights will be willing to keep more than one player like these three, so Leipsic’s absence isn’t easily overlooked.

See ya in 5 to 7 days my friend. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Wong scored a hat trick in the preseason opener and Hyka has scored in every game in which he’s dressed for the Golden Knights (including a pair of rookie games in El Segundo).

Coach may not cut players because of injuries, but he’s also probably not in the business of taking jobs from guys playing well in favor of ones who haven’t been able to get on the ice. We have no idea where each player stands, but if it’s close, which we believe it probably is, Leipsic needs to get back out there by Thursday, and needs to perform when he does.

Projecting The Opening Day 23-Man Golden Knights Roster

I remember it like yesterday, writing articles about meetings The Creator was having with the league making presentations in conjunction with Quebecor trying to sell the idea of expanding the league. Now, I’m about to take a shot at picking the 23 players who are going to make the roster when the Vegas Golden Knights play the first regular season game in franchise history. Crazy.

Enough about me, let’s cut some guys!

Forwards (13)

Vadim Shipachyov, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, David Perron, Cody Eakin, Erik Haula, Oscar Lindberg, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, William Karlsson, Teemu Pulkkinen, Alex Tuch, William Carrier, Tomas Hyka

Due to the fact that the Golden Knights are expected to keep eight defensemen, there are some tough decisions on the back end of this list. The first nine are pretty well set in stone, the final four will be selected from a pool of seven.

The first who makes the list is Pulkkinen, and that has a lot to do with this skill set. His shooting ability is borderline elite in the NHL and he’s never really had a lot of time to prove himself in the league. However, the reasoning for his inclusion is more in the fact that he sticks out as a different style of player than the rest of the group. There are fast guys, there are big guys, but there’s no one else quite like him.

Next is Tuch. This one has a lot to do with the way he’s been playing on the ice, but it has even more to do with the fact that he’s one of the very few Golden Knights George McPhee paid to bring in. McPhee gave up a 3rd round pick to get Tuch from the Wild and he’s done everything in his power (including attending Development Camp) to make the roster. Wouldn’t be completely stunning if he’s sent to Chicago, but it would be a bit of a surprise.

Congrats Will Carrier, you made the team! Well, SinBin’s idea of the team. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

That brings us to the final two spots. I selected Hyka and Carrier out of the group including Brendan Leipsic, Tomas Nosek, and Tyler Wong. Hyka has been playing great hockey both in game action as well as in practice. It seems like every time the puck is near him he’s making things happen. That was also the case for Wong in the preseason game, and in rookie camp, but hasn’t been quite as apparent since the veterans showed up. Leipsic is an incredibly similar player to both Hyka and Wong, but simply hasn’t flashed throughout camp or in the one preseason game in which he played. For smaller speedy players, they should stick out like a sore thumb on the ice, skating by people and scoring goals. One of these three did that better than the other two. Hyka has also never played an NHL game, which represents massive upside for a guy who’s had this much success in camp and was singled out by the Golden Knights prior to the Expansion Draft. It’s a risky move considering McPhee would have to hope Leipsic can sneak through waivers without losing him, but Hyka deserves the spot more than Leipsic at this point, so it’s worth the risk.

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Non-VGK Contracted Player Standing Out In Camp

Tyler Wong on the ice at the first day of training camp with the Golden Knights. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Before the rookie games in El Segundo I gave you Tomas Hyka. Two minutes into both games, Hyka scored goals for the Golden Knights. Now, before the first preseason game in team history, I present you with Tyler Wong.

The 5’9″ 21-year-old from the Lethbridge Hurricanes, who spent time in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization last year, is set to make his first-ever appearance in an NHL preseason game with the Golden Knights, and he’s pumped.

(This game) is huge. The way I’ve been approaching this camp is every time I get out there I take it as it might be the last time I’m out there. So I want to make a good impression. Everyone has their spots to fill, so I’m going to go out there and play it like it might be my last one. -Tyler Wong

Wong really impressed the Golden Knights during rookie camp and was all over the place in the pair of games in El Segundo. Then real camp got underway, and he’s even been more eye-catching, particularly his speed.

He’s been terrific. You notice him every time he’s on the ice. He works his tail off and he’ll do whatever it takes to score, and we’re happy with that signing as well. -McPhee

There’s one issue though, he’s not technically signed to the Golden Knights. Wong signed a contract with the Chicago Wolves for the 2017-18 season, so any team has the ability to swoop in and sign him to an NHL contract thus stealing him away from Chicago, and in turn, the Golden Knights.

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