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A Look Back At The 11 Players To Score In Their First VGK Game

When Mason Morelli stepped on the ice last night he became the 81st skater to don a Golden Knights jersey in a regular season game. He was the 23rd to do so while making his NHL debut. When he scored a goal in the 1st period, he became the 11th player to do so in their first VGK game and the 3rd in their NHL debut as a Golden Knight.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane to remember each of the 11 players to score a goal in their first VGK game. We’ll start with the three in their NHL debuts as well.

Mason Morelli – February 19th, 2024 at San Jose

Cody Glass – October 2nd, 2019 vs San Jose

Vadim Shipachyov – October 16th, 2017 vs Boston

Next the other eight who did it in the first game with the Golden Knights.

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Carp: Should Russian Players Be Concerned About Playing For The Golden Knights?

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

By nature, I’m no conspiracy theorist.

I don’t believe in aliens. I think Oswald acted alone when he assassinated JFK. I’m pretty sure Elvis is dead, though when I see Nick Ferraro perform as the “Philly Elvis,” sometimes a shadow of doubt creeps into my mind (only kidding).

But I have to admit, what I’m seeing with Russian-born players and the Golden Knights has me scratching my head and wondering just what the hell is going on?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In the brief three-year history of the franchise, there have been three Russian players who were with the Golden Knights — Vadim Shipachyov, Nikita Gusev and Valentin Zykov. Their contributions have amounted to virtually nil. Two of the three have not had pleasant endings and Zykov could also find himself exiting with a less-than-favorable sendoff once his 20-game suspension ends.

First, let’s be clear about all of this. I’m not accusing George McPhee of sabotaging the NHL careers of the trio. Remember, this is the guy who drafted Alex Ovechkin when he was the general manager in Washington and no one’s going to deny that worked out pretty well.

So if you want to paint McPhee as a modern-day Harold Ballard who detested the Russians and perhaps saw their existence in the NHL as a necessary evil, you’d be missing the mark by a country mile.

That said, the fact none of the three have made a positive contribution to the franchise makes you wonder if something is amiss in the evaluation process or in the projection of what these guys could do.

Shipachyov didn’t produce, was sent to the minors, balked at being demoted and was eventually released after playing just three games and scoring one goal. He and his family never found a comfort level in Las Vegas nor was he able to find a comfort level on the ice. He is currently back in the Kontinental Hockey League playing with Dynamo Moscow and he leads the team in scoring with 21 points.

Gusev never got a chance to show he couldn’t play with the Knights. He was unable to break into the lineup during the playoffs, his time on the ice limited to practice. And when the Knights found his asking price to remain with the team was too steep, he was off to New Jersey. He’s doing pretty well with the Devils. He had three goals and four points in his first seven games and has quickly become a fan favorite in Newark.

Zykov, who had two goals in 10 games last year playing limited minutes (he averaged 11:37 TOI during his 10 games last year), worked hard over the summer, made the team out of training camp and had two assists in his first seven games playing on the third line before he got popped for violating the NHL’s performance-enhancing substances program.

I’m not going to get into the whole issue about how it went down, how Zykov essentially got thrown under the bus by some of his teammates and how McPhee reacted. That has all been covered.

I will say it would be disingenuous to think what happened to Zykov and what happened to Nate Schmidt a year ago are the same. The fact is, we’ve never known what was found in Schmidt’s system to trigger the positive test and we’re probably never going to know what exactly Zykov was taking (he and his agent said they were over-the-counter supplements).

Until the NHL becomes more transparent with its drug policy and the testing is more rigorous, you’ll never get the truth.

So, what happens when Zykov serves out his suspension? Do the Knights welcome him back? Do they claim he breached his contract and subsequently cut him loose and eat his $675,000 contract? Do they send him back to the AHL?

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Vadim Shipachyov Describes His Time In Vegas “Like A Terrible Dream”

The only player to ever retire as a Golden Knight is back in the news dropping bombs on the Vegas coaching staff, his agent, and even the city of Las Vegas. Vadim Shipachyov did an interview with Sports-Express.ru which touched on a myriad of topics surrounding his time in Vegas including how and why it all came to an end.

Note: The interview was conducted and printed in Russian so the translations are a bit rough.

I forgot everything that happened last season, like a terrible dream. -Vadim Shipachyov

Shipachyov signed with the Golden Knights on May 4th, more than a month prior to the Expansion Draft. When Vegas’ roster was set, Shipachyov’s two-year $9 million contract had the KHL import as the highest paid center on the team. When he arrived in Vegas, a few weeks before training camp, he was expected to be the Golden Knights’ top line center, and when camp got underway, the eventual Jack Adams winner slotted him on a line with Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith.

In a lose lose situation, the Golden Knights somehow won. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Shipachyov remained on that line through most of the preseason but was left off the Golden Knights opening day roster in Dallas. At the time it was described as a numbers move. Shipachyov was waiver exempt, so he could be sent to the AHL without the possibility of being picked up by another team, which allowed McPhee to protect players like Griffin Reinhart, Jason Garrison, and Calvin Pickard. Shipachyov did not report to the AHL, but McPhee said the team was okay with it. Then, Marchessault and Erik Haula were both injured in the same game. Both were placed on the IR and two NHL roster spots were open. McPhee recalled Shipachyov (and Alex Tuch) and he was played as the center of the third line with Tuch and Brendan Leipsic. Shipachyov played in three games, saw the ice for a total of 32 minutes, and scored one goal. When Marchessault returned from injury, McPhee chose to keep Tuch rather than Shipachyov, and this time Shipachyov was expected to report to the AHL.

He did… for one practice. Then he left and was formally suspended by the team. McPhee allowed his agent to seek out a trade but no agreement was found. Shipachyov then “voluntarily” retired, effectively ending his contract and taking his salary off the Golden Knights books. Shipachyov returned to Russia to his former team, SKA St. Petersburg. By the time the KHL season closed, Shipachyov had fallen out of the starting lineup and was a healthy scratch on the Olympic Athletes of Russia team that won the gold medal. He was not offered a contract by SKA St. Petersburg and will play this season with a lesser team in Dynamo Moscow. “Terrible dream” probably puts it politely.

Yes, a lot of things were written about me. I do not even want to understand it. There was too much untruth. -Shipachyov

Another portion of the Shipachyov “terrible dream” was a mishap at the time he originally signed with the Golden Knights. On May 4th, his contract was announced and he was introduced as a Golden Knight. On May 6th, the contract was voided by the NHL and had to be re-submitted. Reports as to why were that the contract included a “no move” or “no trade” clause that Shipachyov was not eligible for. In other words, Shipachyov and his agent were focused on one thing, making sure Vadim played in the NHL. When he was sent to the AHL, and told he had to report, he less than pleased.

Let’s say I did not know for sure that if you come in the first year, you can send him to the AHL for an indefinite period. Do you know how they explained to me? Like, go to the AHL, where you will earn even more than in the NHL since the contract is one-sided, and the escrow does not need to be paid. I did not understand this because I did not go to the NHL for money. I’m not interested in playing in the AHL. -Shipachyov

It is correct, playing in the AHL on a contract like Shipachyov’s would indeed have earned him more money, but that’s not what he wanted. He wanted to play in the NHL.

When I played three matches, I thought that in the future it will be better. I was ready to be on the ice for ten minutes, in the third or fourth lines. I did not see anything terrible in this. I understood very well that I still needed to get used to the NHL, to adapt. Still, I’ve never played in such a league. And if I were given this time, then I would be used to it. It is clear that in North America the game is played with more power and less space. But I felt I was progressing. -Shipachyov

Gallant and/or McPhee disagreed. However, Shipachyov doesn’t believe he was ever told the truth.

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McPhee Identifies Shipachyov Situation As Seminal Moment In Defining Golden Knights Culture

I knew Shippy would have an impact on this team! I told you all along. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

A bit before the Expansion Draft, George McPhee and the Golden Knights signed a 30-year-old Russian player name Vadim Shipachyov. He was described as a top-six forward with elite vision and passing skills and was expected to be one of the most talented players on the Golden Knights roster come opening night in Dallas.

Then opening night in Dallas came, and Vadim Shipachyov wasn’t on the roster. He eventually got a shot for a few games, but the organization made it clear, they didn’t believe he was good enough to stay over the likes of Alex Tuch, Erik Haula, Oscar Lindberg and others. So, they sent the team’s highest-paid forward (at the time) to the AHL and eventually back to Russia, and in doing so they also sent a message to the entire Golden Knights roster. A message the GM believes may be a major reason they are still playing today.

It wasn’t my observation, it actually came from a coach of another team that I was talking to about 30 or 35 games into the year. He thought the best thing we did all year was take a guy on the big contract who wasn’t performing and ate it, or were prepared to eat it, because it was what was best for the team… Ownership supported it, and we did it, but it turned out to be a bigger move than we anticipated in terms of setting the template right for this team and how we would operate. -Geroge McPhee on Hockey Central

That was just one of the many examples McPhee, Gallant, and the Golden Knights have made to set that type of culture for the NHL’s newest team. Brad Hunt made the roster and remained on it for the entire season despite being a free agent that was signed to play in the AHL. Shea Theodore and Alex Tuch deserved spots out of camp, so the team made room for them. They healthy scratched Tomas Tatar in the playoffs, the trade deadline acquisition that cost three draft picks, because Ryan Carpenter, a waiver claim, was better. And the list goes on and on.

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Closing The Book On The Story That Was Vadim Shipachyov

We have to use a bunch of pictures in this post…(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

On May 4th, 2017 the Vegas Golden Knights signed the 2nd player in franchise history and their first on a one-way NHL contract. Seven months later that very same player retired from world’s best league after playing in three regular season games, totaling less than 32 minutes on the ice, and scoring only a single goal.

Just like that, the Vadim Shipachyov era in Las Vegas, and the NHL, is over.

He was a player many believed would be the most talented offensive player on the Golden Knights roster this season. A player that was supposed to be a top six forward, a power play wizard, and was even expected at the time he was signed to chip in on the penalty kill.

As it turned out, he was none of that.

He just wanted to go home. -George McPhee

Because this is the last time…(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In the end, the Golden Knights lose virtually nothing in the deal.

So case closed. Poka Shippy. (It means goodbye in Russian… I think). Time to shift the focus back to what’s important, the players who are still here in Las Vegas, and a team that’s 9-5-1, gearing up for a home game against the Winnipeg Jets. Right?

Nah. It’s not that simple. You can’t be THAT wrong about someone and simply write it off as “he’s a good guy and it just didn’t work out for us and for him here.” That doesn’t work for me. This whole situation isn’t about what was lost, and I’m certainly not buying McPhee’s “good news.”

The good news is the contract is off the books and a roster spot was opened up. -McPhee

That’s not why Vadim Shipachyov was brought over from the KHL to the NHL. It was to use him as an asset to help the Golden Knights become better in the future.

One of the greatest expenses you will ever have in your life is opportunity cost. Warren Buffet

We’ll probably ever get…(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

That’s right, I just dropped a Warren Buffet quote in an article about a whiny Russian hockey player. When you come down from the shock of realizing that the guy who runs a website that can’t even get a .com actually paid enough attention in macroeconomics class to understand the principle of opportunity cost, chew on that quote for a second, cause that’s what’s really lost in the whole Shipachyov story.

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Vadim Shipachyov Voluntarily Retires From The NHL

The Vadim Shipachyov saga in Las Vegas is officially over.

Listen below to the full press conference with George McPhee including his opening statement in which he “closed the book” on Shipachyov.

We are headed into the studio at The Space to talk much more about this (streaming podcast live on Mixlr) and we will have a few opinion based articles in the near future.

Shippy may be gone, but he’s certainly not forgotten here at SinBin.vegas.

Pierre LeBrun Digs To Uncover Vadim Shipachyov’s Trade Value

Anybody want this guy? Anybody at all? No? Okay. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Trusted NHL insider Pierre Lebrun was on TSN Montreal yesterday, discussing league interest in Vadim Shipachyov. Fans in Montreal were hoping to hear LeBrun say the Canadiens were wildly interested, especially considering, the Habs are $9M under the salary cap, and their offense is near the bottom of the league. Pierre was having none of that.

I don’t believe the Canadiens have any interest. (Shipachyov) clearly struggled in his three games with Vegas. But I would draw this line as to why I think the Canadiens are taking a pass. Who’s the head coach in Vegas? Gerard Gallant, whose passage in Montreal was really well received. He was really well liked. -Pierre LeBrun

The Vegas head coach is well regarded in Montreal, after his two-year stint as an assistant coach. Apparently, Gallant’s actions may have influenced GM Marc Bergevin. Who, we should note, was reportedly at the T-Mobile arena last week when Shipachyov hit the ice.

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