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Golden Knights Prospect Watch: World Juniors are upon us

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It’s been a while since we’ve checked in with the dudes in the system. Today seems like a good day.

NHL: Preseason-Arizona Coyotes at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a hot minute since we’ve checked in on the younger Vegas Golden Knights.

With World Juniors starting today, what better time than now?

Puck drops at 1 p.m. PT on NHL Network. The games that matter from a Golden Knights today are — Czech Republic starts the day against Switzerland, Canada takes on Denmark, and Sweden faces Finland.

Six Golden Knights prospects will take part in World Juniors. Here’s what you need to know about those taking part, as well as what else is going on with some other notable names.

Cody Glass

  • 54 points in 26 games with Portland (WHL)
  • Center on Team Canada

Another year, another scoring explosion for the first draft pick in Golden Knights history.

Glass is having another stellar campaign with the Winterhawks (12 goals, 42 assists) in just 26 games. He had 102 points in 64 games last season. Do the math — he’s on pace to shatter that.

The performance by the young center has earned him top-line honors for Team Canada heading into World Juniors. Glass will be in the middle of a line with captain Maxime Comtois (Anaheim) and fellow 2017 first-round selection Owen Tippett (Florida). Old friend Nick Suzuki will be on the second line, if you were curious.

This will be Glass’ last season in juniors before he (expectedly) makes the jump to AHL Chicago. His development clock seems to be ticking faster than that of Erik Brannstrom, who looks more NHL-ready (and may have a readier roster spot than Glass). But if these types of plays translate at the next level, watch out.

Erik Brannstrom

Arizona Coyotes v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
  • 20 points in 24 games with the Chicago Wolves
  • Captain of Team Sweden for World Juniors

Speaking of that kid who could arguably be on the pro roster right now, he’s the captain of Team Sweden. How about that?

The 19-year-old Brannstrom has been determined since development camp that he’s ready for the limelight of the North American style of hockey. He has four goals and 16 assists. That’s not too shabby for the youngest player on the roster.

But there’s still plenty of room of improvement for Brannstrom. His 22 penalty minutes are second among defensemen on the Wolves (Jimmy Oligny, 28), and while plus-minus isn’t the best stat to go off an eye test, his minus-5 is that of an anomaly compared to Nic Hague and Zach Whitecloud’s plus-20.

Friend of the site Jesse Granger was at AllState Arena a couple weeks ago to check on some prospects, notably Brannstrom, and where the Swede is at in his development. More notably, he describes an electrifying play from Brannstrom that can be made at the minor level, but it’s more understanding the smarter play in a situation. You can read that here if you have a subscription.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the Brannwagon. He’s at a near-point-per-game pace in his first season playing the North American game. He was one of the final cuts toward the end of preseason. He’s also 19. The prospect of him in Vegas next year is growing.

All aboard.

Ivan Morozov

  • Golden Knights’ first draft pick in 2018 (No. 61)
  • Playing on Team Russia in World Juniors
  • Played four games with SKA

There hasn’t been much chatter surrounding Morozov. The potential, however, is there.

Morozov has 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in 14 games SKA-1946, the junior squad in Russia. Such a statline bumped him up to SKA St. Petersburg for four games. If you’re getting called up to SKA at 18 years old, you have to be doing something right.

That’s the same squad as fellow Golden Knights “prospect” Nikita Gusev. More on him later.

Morozov is intriguing. He has the build (6-foot-1, 187 pounds) to where he can develop into a power forward-type of player. He could also stay in Russia for a bit and play with the top team in the KHL down the road. If you haven’t had a chance to see much of Morozov, you might be in for something this week.

Lucas Elvenes

  • Playing for Team Sweden
  • Eight assists in 20 games with Rogle BK

The 19-year-old playmaker was fun to watch at development camp. He’s not known for his goal scoring (evident of eight assists and no goals for Rogle). Elvenes makes up for it with his smooth skating ability and puck vision.

Elvenes is likely to be on the top line for Sweden with Isac Lundestrom (Anaheim) and Fabian Zetterlund. The blueliners are going to steal the show for Sweden. Their forwards might be flying under the radar. Per Corey Pronman of The Athletic back in August:

He has very good offensive instincts, showing the ability to make incredible passes at a pro pace. Although when I watched him I saw a few too many overly risky plays/bad turnovers, you take a lot of the good with some of the bad. One big reason for his improvement was an addition to his foot-speed. He was an OK skater in his draft year, but he’s added some more speed to his game.

There’s growing expectation, with a good rest of his season with Rogle and a good outing in World Juniors, that Elvenes could be in Chicago next season. He’s listed as a wing, but a move to center might be beneficial for Elvenes if he makes the jump to the North American game with his buddy Brannstrom.

Jiri Patera

  • 11-8-2 with Brandon Wheat Kings, .915 save percentage
  • Former sixth-round pick in 2017
  • Goaltender for Czech Republic

If you’re expecting to see Patera at some point, it might be on a miracle. Jakub Skarek might see the bulk of the crease for the Czechs. For the love of everything good, he’s seeing Dominik Hasek comparisons.

Patera is in the right spot, though, playing with the Wheat Kings (Kelly McCrimmon connection). He’s having a solid season. He had a 42-save performance the other day in a 5-2 loss. That’s not supposed to happen. But alas, he’s on the roster. It’s a pretty big deal.

Jonas Rondbjerg

  • Two points in 23 games for Vaxjo Lakers
  • Playing for Team Denmark

Rondbjerg has flashes of offensive potential, even though he doesn’t have the numbers to prove otherwise.

I mean, just look at this.

Denmark isn’t expected to do much in this tournament. Rondbjerg will be expected to play a significant role as a bottom-six defensive-minded forward. If he can put the puck in the back of the net a little more consistently, he might be one of those 200-foot players that can find a way closer to the NHL sooner than later.

But wait, there’s more

Nic Hague

We didn’t forget about the former OHL Defenseman of the Year. He’s still good. He’s not putting up plenty of points. But man, Hague is getting there.

His improvement in the defensive zone during this past preseason has the organization excited. The minute he can utilize that 6-foot-6 frame on both ends of the ice, Hague is going to be a problem. He has 17 points in 30 games in his first full season in the AHL. That’s not bad.

Hague made strides in becoming a prolific two-way defenseman. One more year in Chicago could be all he needs before the jump to Vegas.

By the way, Jesus Christ this is absurd. Still.

Nikita Gusev

Yeah, remember this guy? The reigning MVP of the KHL? He’s killing it again.

Gusev has 51 points in 40 games. He’s going to shatter last year’s total of 62 in 54. The Golden Knights have been in contact with Gusev’s reps since the end of last season, and Gusev is in the final year of a two-year deal with SKA. The option will be on the table.

Will he come? Will he not? Whatever the case, Vegas could be owning the rights of a back-to-back KHL MVP at this rate.

Jack Dugan

Vegas’ fifth-round pick in 2017 is off to a stellar start with Providence.

Dugan leads all freshmen in scoring with 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) and is the second leading scorer on the Friars behind junior Josh Wilkins. He also has more points than Flyers first-round pick Jay O’Brien (2).

The Pittsburgh native dominated with USHL Chicago last year (66 points in 54 games) and is on pace to have an outstanding freshman year for the No. 10-ranked Friars.

Paul Cotter

The move from the NCAA to the OHL is proving to be a fruitful one for the Canton, Michigan native taken in the fourth round by the Golden Knights this past summer.

Cotter had one point in eight games with Western Michigan before moving on to OHL London, where he’s compiled eight points (two goals, six assists) in 12 games.

He had one hell of a summer, too.

Jordan Kooy

Speaking of the London Knights, here’s their goaltender. He’s good. He’s also worth the seventh-round pick Vegas traded to Pittsburgh to get him.

Kooy has a .931 save percentage in 13 games to go with a 2.13 goals-against average. Okay, yes, it’s juniors and stats should be taken with a grain of salt. But holy cow, anytime I see goalie numbers like this, it’s outstanding.

Think of this: On Dec. 15 against Niagara, Kooy made 38 saves in a 3-2 win. Seventeen of those came in the third period alone.

Cue the eye emojis. That’s insane. The goalie depth in this organization is just absurd.