Just when you thought it was impossible to get away from hockey.
The Vegas Golden Knights’ first day of development camp was Tuesday. Unlike last season, when these young prospects were skating in the depths of hockey hell known as the Las Vegas Ice Center, Vegas is at City National Arena with the hope that some of these players will get a shot at the Golden Knights’ opening day roster.
Usually, the first day doesn’t provide a lot of stuff on the ice. Off ice, however, there were some things.
Erik Brannstrom, come on down?
Vegas’ third first-round pick a year ago spent last season with HV71 in the SHL, the top professional league in Sweden. It looks like the 18-year-old defenseman is ready to make the jump to the states.
Brannstrom said after practice Tuesday that he’s hoping to join the Chicago Wolves next season, the Golden Knights’ AHL affiliate.
“I think I’m going over there next season,” said the 15th overall pick of last year’s draft. “I’ve been talking with my agent and we’re discussing it.”
Out of Vegas’ prospects, Brannstrom might be the most NHL ready because of his professional experience. A stipulation in his contract with HV prevented him from leaving his Swedish club to play for the Wolves last year, hence why he didn’t make the trek.
Brannstrom said he feels he’s improved in the defensive zone since this time last year.
“I feel more comfortable out there,” he said. “I feel more stronger in situations than I did before. It’s great to be out there.”
Brannstrom said he added about 10 pounds since last year, hovering around 200 pounds. It’ll be interesting to see how he looks in scrimmages later in the week, but Brannstrom looked quick during individual drills and was still lethal at the offensive end. That’s a fun guy for the Wolves to have.
Confidence in Nic Hague
The Golden Knights’ second-round draft pick last year had a pretty decent year — 78 points in 67 games for the Mississauga Steelheads, got to play in the Calder Playoffs with the Wolves, watched Vegas reach the Stanley Cup Final, and was the best defenseman in the OHL; winning the Max Kominsky Trophy.
Hague, the 6-foot-6 towering defenseman taken 34th overall last summer, enters his second development camp on an obvious high.
“I thought I really learned a lot up there [in Chicago],” Hague said. “I went in there with the same mindset. I thought I did well with my time up there.”
Hague played five regular season games with Chicago last season, tallying one assist, and played three playoff games. Unlike Brannstrom, there’s no guarantee Hague will play a full year in Chicago next season (another year in juniors might not hurt to develop his overall game), but he’s getting better and looks more confident.
Dylan Ferguson chilling at Red Rock
The Kamloops goalie holds a special place in the hearts of us here at KOI. He was the first player to do a one-on-one interview with us when we launched. He’s always been the man. Watching him go from development camp goalie, to stopping a shot from Connor McDavid in an actual NHL game has been fun to watch.
Ferguson, still blooming at the age of 19, went into development camp this year without a nameplate or a jersey number. He definitely has one now, which was a sight to behold on Tuesday. Ferguson has been around Las Vegas a lot since his year in Kamloops ended. He was even the third goalie on the depth chart during Vegas’ run to the Stanley Cup Final.
So, where in the world has he been staying this whole time?
Red Rock Hotel & Casino.
You know the adage of people who don’t live here quickly assume that you live in a casino? Ferguson has been living that life for about two-thirds of the season. He’s been posted up in his hotel room, watching Netflix and ordering room service.
“It can get dangerous,” he said.
As for tonight, there’s an all-you-can-eat sushi spot with Ferguson’s name on it, and he’s dragging defenseman Zach Whitecloud with him. As for why he didn’t get sushi yesterday?
“Fitness testing, man,” he said.
Go get you that AYCE, Dylan.