Since the NHL hit the pause button 26 days ago, the Golden Knights have conducted two pieces of business. Well, technically the Henderson Blank Blanks conducted the business, but you get my point.
Both moves involved the signing of undrafted free agent defensemen to AHL contracts.
First, the Golden Knights announced the addition of Jake McLaughlin from UMass Amherst. McLaughlin played four years in the NCAA improving in +/- and capping out at 14 points in 34 games this season.
McLaughlin is a 6’2″, 190 pound, left-handed stay-at-home defenseman. He led his team in blocks two of his four seasons. UMass was an impressive 10-1-1 when McLaughlin scored at least one point. He attended 2018 Development Camp with the Chicago Blackhawks.
McLaughlin reportedly received offers from multiple AHL teams before selected Vegas (or really Henderson). Speaking on a recent podcast, he detailed the moment he learned Vegas was interested.
I was with my cousins in a car. I get this call from a random number; Las Vegas. And I’m like, ‘what the hell?’ So I answer it and he says, ‘you know who this is?’ (I said,) ‘No.’ He said his name, he said I’m blah blah blah from the Vegas Golden Knights. And I’m like oh shit this is legit. So I talked to the guy and he made his pitch to me. He said there’s going to be opportunity with this new team and we really like you. So I was on the phone with him for 15-20 minutes. –Jake McLaughlin to Moousecast Podcast
**It was probably Mike Levine, director of amateur free agents, that called him.**
A few days later he signed. McLaughlin says George McPhee called him after he signed. They told him Development Camp is scheduled for late June but it’s hard to tell if that will happen or not.
McLaughlin went undrafted when he was eligible and says he wasn’t receiving a lot of attention throughout the season, but according to CollegeHockeyNews.com he “transformed himself into one of the most reliable players in college hockey.”
The other signing was completed yesterday. That was Zack Hayes, a 20-year-old defenseman who was playing in the WHL with the Prince Albert Raiders.
Hayes is a larger defenseman standing 6’3″ and weighing in at around 220 pounds. He’s a physical, strong-bodied defenseman that would certainly be described more as a stay-at-home guy than a puck-mover.
He was known in the WHL for big hits and fights. He racked up 68 PIM in 2019-20, but outdid that number each of his previous three years with 74, 98, and 82 respectively.
Per the HockeyProspect.com Black Book, Hayes is a consistent, conservative, strong, defenseman who is tough to play against in the defensive zone.
Hayes went undrafted had been linked to the Anaheim Ducks having participated in their 2019 Development Camp, September Training Camp as well as in the Rookie Faceoff in which he took on the Golden Knights. He went shotless in the game but clearly made an impression on the Golden Knights front office.
He played alongside another player with a VGK contract, Brayden Pachal while in the WHL. The pair bolstered a defense that helped the Raiders win the WHL Championship in 2018-19.
The signing of Hayes means the Golden Knights have signed each of the last two captains of the Prince Albert Raiders. Gage Quinney was also a former Raider but did not play with either Hayes nor Pachal.
Again, both Hayes and McLaughlin signed AHL contracts meaning they will not have to clear waivers and are both expected to be members of the Henderson Blank Blanks when they play at Orleans Arena next season.