After reading scouting reports, watching highlights and attending a day of development camp, it’s time to take a shot at the best case scenario for when each Golden Knights prospect may make it to the NHL.
We’re not going to fast track anyone. It never hurts a kid to play a an extra year or two in juniors. It’s better to overcook them than throw them in there raw. It’s like having a kid in 8th grade and suddenly throwing him into 11th grade. It’s too much, not only on the ice but socially for some of these kids. So we’ll be open minded, if someone’s ready, we’ll play him, but there’s a good chance all of these guys will be headed back to amateur this year. -George McPhee on 2017 Draft Picks
Alex Tuch (Acquired via Expansion Draft trade from Minnesota)
The plan is to begin the season on the Vegas Golden Knights roster. Tuch believes he’s prepared for Vegas.
I’m confident in my abilities to make the team next season. I’m concentrating on being in the lineup for that season opener. I’m going to come into training camp and really show them what I’ve got. I’m excited to get going. -Tuch
Tuch is still on an entry-level contract so the organization has the power to option him to Chicago. However, team officials seem eager to get Tuch in the mix. Probably, one of the reasons the 21-year-old is in town this week.
They gave me the option, I thought it’d be a really good idea to go over there and get a lay of the land a little bit. I also want to help some of those draft picks that will be coming in. I think I can be a leader. -Tuch
It’s going to be a numbers game come October, and because the Golden Knights have the option to send him to the AHL, that’s what may wind up happening out of necessity rather than desire or skill. But, if he’s not on this one, expect to see Tuch on opening day rosters for years to come.
Reid Duke (Signed as free agent on March 6th)
Most entry-level free agents don’t have the same expectations high-round prospects do. Duke is different though. As we’ve mentioned before this team signed the former Wheat King for a reason. He was clearly one of the leaders on and off the ice at Development Camp and is spectacular with the media. Duke has done an excellent job handling the pressure of being the franchise’s first player. His letter to NHL prospects on NHL.com showed the confidence and intelligence scouts raved about. Making the Golden Knights this season would be major surprise. Duke will need a year or two to develop in the AHL but the organization will give him every opportunity to succeed. He’s a clear fan favorite, but he also seems to be an organizational favorite, and a guy they would like to see make it to the NHL in Vegas, if nothing more than to prove they were right for making him the historic first Golden Knight.
Cody Glass (Selected 6th overall in 2017 Draft)
It could take 1-2 years before Vegas fans root for Glass on a consistent basis. Using the 2015 and 2016 drafts as examples, only a handful of players selected in the top ten get NHL experience in their first year. Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews and Patrick Laine didn’t need time to develop, Glass isn’t like those guys. Other top ten picks needed more time in major-junior leagues or NCAA. The Golden Knights could take their time with the skilled center. Meaning, he’ll be back with the Portland Winterhawks this season, and it’ll likely be two or three years before he’s ready for Vegas.
Nick Suzuki (Selected 13th overall in 2017 Draft)
Like Glass, the organization will probably take their time with Suzuki. Some scouts believe the smart offensive center has already developed into a pro player. Suzuki comes off incredibly mature when he described his hockey IQ as one of his best attributes. Don’t get too excited though. Expect the organization to take their time with the 17-year-old. Suzuki will return to the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL for the next season or two.
Erik Brännström (Selected 15th overall in 2017 Draft)
EliteProspects.com project Brännström will return to the Swedish Hockey League for the 2017-2018 season. At 17-years-old, and undersized, the Swede will need a few more years developing. Most will agree there’s a bright future for Brännström though.
He’s all-round, good at skating, and quite tough for his age. There’s a big load of potential here. -Tom Monten, Team Sweden’s U20 Coach
It possibly could take up to 3-4 years before Brännström makes the big club but when he does expect a high-motor, puck moving defenseman with major value. McPhee said they think he’s the next Ryan Ellis.
Jack Dugan (Selected 145th overall in 2017 Draft)
Dugan could take the longest time of any player. He will be playing one season with the USHL and then plans on heading to Providence College for what could be another four years. Competition won’t be an issue so Dugan should develop on time, if not quicker than most. However, his lack of major amateur league experience will keep him off The Strip for three to four years optimistically. It’s not crazy to think it may be five or six though.
Jake Bischoff (Acquired via Expansion Draft trade from New York Islanders)
Bischoff hasn’t cracked the NHL yet as the Islanders sent him to their AHL affiliate in Bridgeport, CT. A product of the USHL and the Minnesota Gophers, Bischoff will likely start the season with the Wolves and could become an option for the Golden Knights. He seems to be high on the organization’s radar. The 22-year-old signed a two-year entry-level contract which will kick in when the season starts. Like Tuch, the language in his contract allowing him to be sent to the AHL may be the only reason it happens. But if you are looking for a player that may find his way on to the NHL roster from Development Camp, this might be the guy.
Keegan Kolesar (Acquired via Draft Day trade from Columbus)
Kolesar played through his eligibility in the WHL and will now likely be making his way to the AHL. However, he’s a good candidate to make his way to Vegas due to injury, trade, or any other reason a roster spot may open. It was just one day, and he’s a little more experienced than a lot of the guys on the ice, but if his shot continues like it did yesterday, he won’t be in the AHL for long.