I did a full, seven-round, 217-pick mock draft for Puck Prose (which you can find here). As of the writing of this article, the Golden Knights have seven draft picks in this year’s entry draft. With those picks, the Golden Knights can get some players of value.
With that simulation, it’s easier to tell who the Golden Knights can actually get. Let’s break down each pick, and the logic behind that pick.
2-61 Niklas Nordgren, RW
Nordgren had the following stat line: 28 games played, 13 goals, 29 assists, 42 points. He was a plus-10 and had 18 penalty minutes. In the playoffs, 10 games played, 6-4—10, 4 penalty minutes, plus-2.
That was in the top Finnish junior league, and he also played 15 games (adding three assists) in the best Finnish league, Liiga, against grown men. Nordgren is an excellent prospect. Yes, he has his faults, including good, not great skating and less than stellar size, but Nordgren is a hard worker, one that finds the best scoring areas, and he has a shot capable of scoring multiple goals. With players of size, Nordgren could do a lot of damage.
Ideally, Nordgren would complement a third line with Keegan Kolesar in the future. Two high-danger scorers who can chip in in the defensive zone and find ways to transition with the puck? Sounds ideal for whoever becomes the Golden Knights’ third-line center.
Nordgren is also not in the CHL system, which means he can join a Wolves roster with room for him to develop sooner rather than later. He’s slated to play in the Liiga next season, and while the Golden Knights would likely let him play there for a year before bringing him over (a la Erik Brannstrom), that’s still more time in the AHL than somebody like Nick Suzuki gets to spend.
4-99 Danila Galenyuk, D
Galenyuk did not spend consistent time anywhere this past season. He spent 13 games with his most consistent team in the MHL, adding three assists, but went to a different team in Russia’s best minor league and played seven games, adding 1-2—3. He played six playoff games in the MHL, where he totalled 0-1—1. Finally, he played three games in the KHL, and two playoff games, but got zero points.
For this reason, Galenyuk is a mystery, and his potential is really the only thing to rely on. That’s why he falls to the fourth round. But he does have a lot of potential, as shown by the fact that he played five important games in the second-best hockey league in the world, for a team that was stacked with talent in SKA St. Petersburg (the team with Vadim Shipachyov, Nikita Gusev, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Pavel Datsyuk).
It’s hard to project exactly what Galenyuk could be, but there’s clearly something there.
4-115 Justus Annunen, G
A goaltender? Don’t they have one in Dylan Ferguson? What about Malcolm Subban? What about Jiri Patera? This just doesn’t make any sense.
Yes it does. Look at teams like Toronto or Montreal, who have two excellent goaltending prospects in their system but could still add more. Toronto had Kasimir Kaskisuo and Garret Sparks, two of the best goaltenders in the AHL this past season, and still added Calvin Pickard.
That’s the developmental system the Golden Knights should have. Yes, they have Subban, who is only 24. Yes, Marc-Andre Fleury will be due for an extension. Yes, Oscar Dansk will be re-signed, and perhaps Max Lagace as well. But the long-term future of the Golden Knights’ net is likely none of those players. Ferguson had a 2.95 and .907 save percentage in a starting role this season, which is good, not great. Patera dominated the Czech U20 league, but that’s the Czech U20 league.
Goaltenders are voodoo. Adding one in Annunen, who did incredibly well in the top Finnish minor league (2.31 goals against average, .907 save percentage, in the playoffs, he got better, 1.83 goals against average and .935 save percentage), could increase the chances of the Golden Knights having a long-term future after Fleury.
Besides, goaltenders are valuable. Imagine all three of the Golden Knights’ prospects (if Annunen is drafted) panning out.
5-135 Pavel Gogolev, RW
Going back for another Russian, Gogolev didn’t light the OHL on fire, scoring just 47 points, but his 30 goals do stand out, especially in 66 games. Gogolev is a sniper, somebody who won’t add much in the way of passing, but somebody who can put the puck in the net. With centers adept at distribution, getting Gogolev the puck will be an easier accomplishment.
If he can round out his game, Gogolev can be something special. he’s always been more of a goal scorer, even in a hard 17-year-old season last year, but his abilities revealed themselves more this season. He’s an excellent skater and can find ways to score in tight spaces.
His lack of playmaking will scare teams off, but in the fifth round, he has the ability to turn into something.
5-154 Trey Fix-Wolansky, RW
Fix-Wolansky is an overager at 19, and a small one at that (5’8”) but his production doesn’t lie (32-57—89 in 71 games this season, 24-30—54 in 70 last year). There are reasons he wasn’t taken last season, including a tendency to turn the puck over and just average puck skills, but he has the smarts to be a productive pro.
At this point in the draft, it’s all about taking flyers on players who could do something, and the more lottery tickets you have, the better. Fix-Wolansky has a few areas of his game he needs to, well, fix, but how many young players don’t?
6-180 Carl Jakobsson, LW/RW
Jakobsson is a versatile winger who can play on either side. He had 14-13—27 in 41 SuperElit (the best Swedish developmental league) games and also got 11 pro games in the SHL.
Jakobsson has good positioning and a great shot, but he doesn’t move as well as he could and he’s on the slender side as he needs to put on weight. Jakobsson can look lost in the defensive zone, but if he’s good enough to earn pro games in a good league at such a tender age, he’s somebody who could turn into something special.
6-185 Damien Giroux, C
With their last pick in this draft, the Golden Knights return to North America for Damien Giroux. Another small player at 5’9”, Giroux is not unproductive (19-24—43 in 68 OHL games), but his age-17 season shows that he has had some improvement (8-17—25 in 53 games).
Like Nordgren, Giroux can get to the net and score from there, and works hard in every aspect of the game. He can play on both special teams, and he has good skating that can be explosive at times. His diminutive size drops him back, especially because he doesn’t have the talent to make up for it like other players of his stature, but he’s another risk worth taking.
The Golden Knights don’t draft until the second round, but there is still a strong possibility for Vegas to add to their growing prospect pool in this draft. There’s ways for the Knights to not just add to it, but to contribute meaningfully.
These might not be the final picks, but they show the wide array of talent available when the Golden Knights step to the podium.