This is not a drill! I repeat, this is not a drill! Hockey is back!
I suppose for the Vegas Golden Knights it would be more accurate to say hockey has begun... right?
Whatever, we can argue over syntax some other time. The important thing for this moment is that hockey has returned to our lives and all is once again right in the world. Ya know, if you ignore all of the bad and focus solely on that one point.
Tuesday night at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, CA — which I'm told by my editor is a real place — a group of prospects will be the first to don the colors of the Golden Knights in a real game when they play against the prospects of the Los Angeles Kings.
There is no shortage of players to keep an eye on but let’s try and narrow it down just a little bit.
5 - Jake Leschyshyn, C
Players coming off injury are always important to watch, especially when the injury occurs to the leg or knee injury of an athlete. After tearing his ACL on February 3 of this year, the 5-foot-11 center will finally get back into game action as he hopes to continue where he left off last season when he had 40 points in 47 games for the Regina Pats. How will his skating and mobility be? Did he lose any speed or quickness? Will he be at all tentative in his first game action since the injury?
The questions concerning the Golden Knights second-round pick are many, but we will get our answers soon. Hopefully, for the team and for the young forward, the answers we get are positive.
4 - Reid Duke, C
I'll be honest with you. Until the video of Reid Duke, then the only Golden Knight, went viral I had no idea who this kid was. He's not a bad player by any means. His 70 combined goals over the last two seasons as a member of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings is testament to that fact, but on the whole he was a pretty average player who had been a former sixth-round draft pick.
Now he is one of the more recognizable names in Golden Knight circles and a fan favorite to many. And this is his first opportunity to prove himself. Prove himself to the fans and, more importantly, to the Golden Knights management. Prove that in an organization full of interesting, high-ceiling prospects, the 21-year-old center is not to be forgotten.
3 - Cody Glass, C
Listed as KOI writer Ryan Quigley's prospect who could conceivably make the roster this season, I would be remiss if I didn't have Cody Glass on this list. The first ever draft pick of the Golden Knights will see his first live action, but it loses a bit of intrigue because it is a rookie camp game.
While this represents a step up in competition and a definite improvement on what he played against last season in the WHL, it isn't enough to read anything into. He won't really be tested until the full training camp opens and he gets matched up against full-time NHL players.
2 - Nicolas Hague, D
The second-round pick from this year's Entry Draft, Hague has the size and potential one would find ideal for an NHL defenseman. So when the 6-foot-6 Kitchener, Ontario native fell to the second round, it was seen as a steal for the Golden Knights’ brass. And it is. However, his biggest issue was, and continues to be, his skating and puck handling. There remains much to be desired there.
I'm not exactly convinced by Vegas 2nd-round pick Nic Hague's ability to carry the puck. pic.twitter.com/J0TPdDDOg0— Adam Herman (@AdamZHerman) August 11, 2017
Was this the reason he slipped out of the first round? Perhaps. Whether he will be able to fix or overcome this weakness in order to eventually crack the NHL roster and not be a liability at the highest levels of the sport is still to be seen and this game should give us a window into his (extremely) early development.
1 - Keegan Kolesar, W
Perhaps overlooked by many among the more flashy prospects in the organization, Kolesar could be the most intriguing entering camp. The Golden Knights snatched Kolesar from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the cost of a second-round pick
The gritty two-way winger shined in the playoffs for the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds, where he had 31 points in 19 games to cap off a season where he put up his second consecutive 60-point campaign. While that won't likely continue in the NHL, the 20-year-old could find his way into the lineup with a strong camp. It helps that he is one of the team’s few natural right wingers, of course.
He provides a competent player with a solid skill set in all three zones and his physicality should translate to the NHL game as he stands 6-foot-2 and 223 pounds. Not Nic Hague, but a big player nonetheless.