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What The Golden Knights Look For In A Draft Pick (Part I)

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have only participated in two NHL Entry Drafts to this point. They’ve selected 20 players including 10 forwards, seven defensemen, and three goalies. Vegas has signed eight of those draft picks, still hold the rights to 11, and forfeited the rights to one (Maxim Zhukov).

It’s a fairly small sample size, but a sample of 20 at least gives us some sort of idea of what types of players the Golden Knights prefer.

4 – Offensive D (Brannstrom, Campoli, Demin, Diliberatore)
4 – Skilled F (Suzuki, Elvenes, Dugan, Kruse)
3 – All-Around Center (Glass, Morozov, Cotter)
3 – Two-Way D (Hague, Corcoran, Bouchard)
3 – Defensive F (Leschyshyn, Rondbjerg, Jones)

To dig a little deeper on that, I went through what I believe to be the two best draft guides (NHL Black Book and Draft Recrutes) to come up with a list of descriptors used on Golden Knights draft picks in 2017 and 2018. I only used terms that were used to positively describe the player. I then formatted them into a “word cloud” to show exactly what Vegas likes in a draft selection.

As you can see, the most commonly used terms are Skill (14), Quickness (9), Two-Way (9), Strong (8), Shot (7), Long-Stride (7), Skating (7), and Vision (6).

These terms are for skaters only, which represent 17 of the Golden Knights 20 draft picks. Brandon Kruse was not listed in either guide, so he was skipped meaning there were 16 players counted. Thus, 14 of the 16 (88%) players were considered to have above average skill. More than half (56%) were also listed as two-way players.

Another term that was commonly seen was “All Situations.” Clearly, McPhee, McCrimmon and the Golden Knights front office like players who show out at even-strength, on the power play and who penalty kill.

Other terms that were used at least four times were Transition, Possession, Work-Ethic, Release (in terms of shot), Hands, Forecheck and Active.

One of the main points of emphasis for scouts is skating. Of the 16 players we have profiles on, seven were described as plus skaters while just two had skating considered a weakness. That also jives with what Scott Luce said before the Golden Knights inaugural Entry Draft in 2017.

You have to be able to skate, first and foremost, because you have to play at a pace that seems to get higher and higher every season. These young players are making plays at such great speed, so you have to be able to skate. You need to have the sense and feel for the game. It’s that combination of speed, skill and sense, in addition to having a willingness to compete on a nightly basis, that are important. –Scott Luce, Director of Amateur Scouting

Vegas has selected more players from the OHL than any other league, however, they’ve never selected two players from the same team.

5 – OHL
3 – Sweden
3 – USHL
2 – WHL
2 – US High School
1 – NCAA
1 – BCHL
1 – OJHL
1 – Russia

Also, surprisingly, the Golden Knights have never picked a player from the Brandon Wheat Kings. Kelly McCrimmon is the owner of the franchise and was the head coach and general manager up until 2017. They signed Reid Duke and Jiri Patera ended up being drafted in the CHL Import Draft to play in Brandon, but Vegas has never dipped into the Brandon pipeline during the Draft.

As for size, the Golden Knights really have not discriminated against players of any height.

Height (Forwards)
3 – 6’2”
2 – 5’11”
2 – 6”0’
2 – 6’1″
1 – 5’9”

Height (Defensemen)
2 – 6’2”
1 – 5’9″
1 – 5’10”
1 – 5’11”
1 – 6’4”
1 – 6’6″

Height (Goalies)
2 – 6’2”
1 – 6’3″

When it comes to weight though, they’re a little closer to having a type. That type is, not too big, not too small. The heaviest skater they’ve ever drafted is Nic Hague at 215 pounds while the lightest is Peter Diliberatore at 160. No forward has fallen outside of an 18-pound span between 173-191.

Weight (Forwards)
4 – 185-189
3 – 175-179
1 – 170-174
1 – 180-184
1 – 190-194

Weight (Defensemen)
3 – 190-194
1 – 160-164
1 – 174-179
1 – 185-189
1 – 215-219

Weight (Goalies)
2 – 203-207
1 – 180-184

14 of the 20 Golden Knights draft selections were born in 1999. This year, a majority of the draft picks will be 2001 born players, but in the past, Vegas has shown a willingness to draft older players, especially last year.

2017 Draft (1999 first-year draft eligible)
1998 – 1 (Hauge)
1999 – 11

2018 Draft (2000 first-year eligible)
1999 – 3 (Cotter, Kruse, Bouchard)
2000 – 5

Finally, Vegas definitely values right-handed forwards. Four of the 10 forwards selected shoot with their right hand including both 1st round picks and one of their two 2nd rounders. The Golden Knights 2018-19 roster had just six right-handed forwards out of 17. However, Vegas acquired four of the six since the beginning of the first season (Ryan Carpenter, Ryan Reaves, Mark Stone, and Valentin Zykov).

All three goalies Vegas has drafted (and the one they traded for from the 2017 Draft) use their left hand to catch. Also, Fleury, Subban, Lagace, and Dansk all catch with their left hand.

(Last year in the NHL,  63%, or 570 of 906, skaters were left-handed. 64% of forwards and 60% of defensemen. Just 5 of 93 goalies, or 5.4%, catch with their right hand.)

4 – Right-handed Forward
6 – Left-handed Forward
2 – Right-handed Defenseman
5 – Left-handed Defenseman

So now when you read through draft guides, you know what you are looking for. Tomorrow, we will publish a list of at least two players who could be available in each round that fit the Golden Knights mold.

(Huge shout out to both the NHL Black Book and Draft Recrutes. Both guides are spectacular and are must-buys for anyone who loves the NHL Draft. I’ve bought both every year the site has been around.)

Previous Podcast #158: Mascarpone


What The Golden Knights Look For In A Draft Pick (Part II)


  1. Dman

    could be team USA Dman Cam York will go to the VGK at #17, —— Projection: Top Three High Skill Defenseman
    Comparable: Cam Fowler

    but they also might have available D Thomas Harley of the OHL or D Moritz Seider of Germany, both 6’3……. or possibly forwards Raphael Lavoie of the Q, 6’4, 32 goals, or Nick Suzuki’s brother Ryan.

    or maybe Arthur Kaliyev, American born in UZ, 6’2, 51 goals in the OHL in Barrie—–Projection: Top Six Scoring Winger
    Comparable: Anthony Mantha

  2. THE hockey GOD

    they need a first string goalie as one they have now, as proven via long season and playoff flop in more than one game (not only the last one), is long in tooth.

    the back up goalie is inconsistent

    their farm system has no good prospects that stand out

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