If you read our projection of the Vegas Golden Knights’ opening night lineup, you know how thin the team is in regards to skilled, impactful skaters.
Sure, James Neal is one of the league’s most prolific goal scorers. He has never scored fewer than 20 goals in any of his nine seasons in the NHL. And Vadim Shipachyov, despite preparing for his NHL debut this season, is a proven KHL star who should make a quick transition to the North American game. Beyond that, the Golden Knights do not have a ton of sure-fire talent to work with.
Jonathan Marchessault is coming off a breakout 30-goal campaign and has the potential to be a valuable asset, but still needs to prove that he can consistently perform at the level he displayed during the 2016-17 season. David Perron, while certainly useful, isn’t the dynamic point producer the Golden Knights currently lack.
Defensemen Colin Miller and Shea Theodore are both exciting, inventive puck movers and should earn a healthy amount of ice time, but also display occasional lapses in their own third of the ice. And fellow blueliners Jason Garrison and Deryk Engelland are both fringe players who, on most NHL teams, would play the role of a seventh defenseman (or an AHL call-up).
With this clear lack of depth, it may not be totally impossible for one of Vegas’ 2017 NHL Entry Draft selections to force their way onto the Golden Knights’ roster.
Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki and Nicolas Hague, three of Vegas’ first four selections, appear to be the most likely candidates to earn a roster spot out of camp. To do so, they need to blow the socks off of general manager George McPhee, which is no easy task. McPhee typically takes a cautious approach with prospects. To make the roster, the young players will need to go above and beyond.
Per Golden Knights insider Gary Lawless:
Could a Cody Glass or Nicolas Hague or any other draft pick make this team? Absolutely. But they'd have to come into camp and dominate. To be the best at their position and to prove they can continue to excel once the regular season begins. And to stay at that level when the pace increases at Christmas and then again down the stretch as it does in the NHL every season.
McPhee won't want to burn a year of a player's entry level contract only to have him fade by December or to have the coaching staff wondering what to do with him.
Are any of the Golden Knights’ prospects at the point where they could dominate in an NHL training camp against grown men? In all likelihood, no. But it is vaguely possible.
At least for one prospect.
Glass, currently playing for the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, is the most likely candidate to “dominate” in training camp. The 18-year-old center is coming off a 32-goal campaign in which he ranked seventh in the WHL with 94 points in 69 games. The 6-foot-2 forward is an elite playmaker who plays a reliable two-way game. Though the Winnipeg native could benefit from adding some more muscle before entering the NHL, he has the potential to, at the very least, make McPhee think twice about sending him back to his junior club.
Glass’ quest to earning a roster spot begins at rookie camp (which is free to the public, by the way!). Camp begins on Thursday and will run through Monday at the newly constructed City National Arena.
Along with Glass, the Golden Knights’ rookie camp roster is as follows:
Forwards: Patrick Bajkov, Alex Barre-Boulet, Reid Duke, Lucas Elvenes, Jayden Halbgewachs, Tomas Hyka, Ben Jones, Keegan Kolesar, Jake Leschyshyn, Nick Suzuki, Alex Tuch, Tyler Wong
Defensemen: Jake Bischoff, Nikolas Brouillard, Dylan Coghlan, Nicolas Hague, Dmitry Osipov, Keoni Texeira, Will Warm
Goalies: Dylan Ferguson, Jiri Patera, Logan Thompson