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Monday Morning Mailbag: Can Erik Brannstrom earn a spot with the Golden Knights this summer?

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You asked, we answered.

2017 NHL Draft - Portraits Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

We’re in the midst of what is easily the most boring, insufferable time of the year. It’s late July and exactly zero things are happening. But even though there isn’t a ton of late breaking news, there’s still plenty to talk about. Let’s go over some of your questions as we trudge through the month’s home stretch.

I don’t think any of the Golden Knights’ top prospects end up making the team this season. Though each of them are showing a ton of promise, there just doesn’t appear to be a spot for a youngster in the lineup at the moment. That said, stranger things have happened. If Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki or Erik Brannstrom prove to the Golden Knights brass that they belong in the NHL during training camp, they’ll be granted that opportunity.

Of the Knights’ top prospects, I’d view Brannstrom as the likeliest to earn a spot out of camp (though, again, I wouldn’t put money on it). The Swedish defender is a bit on the lighter side and could stand to put on some more weight, but there’s no denying his potential as a formidable puck-moving defender at the next level. The 19-year-old Swede is coming off a successful 15-point campaign in the SHL and can begin playing in the AHL as early as this season (assuming he doesn’t force his way onto the Knights this summer).

Brannstrom is absolutely mesmerizing to watch. If you haven’t already, you can check out his highlights below.

Tatar is coming off a season he’d probably like to forget. Just a few years removed from a breakout 56-point campaign, the 27-year-old failed to reach the 40-point threshold for the first time since the 2013-2014 season. After being shipped to Vegas at the trade deadline, Tatar managed just six points and a minus-11 rating in 20 games. And during the postseason, he commonly found himself sitting in the press box.

With a full offseason to train with his new team, though, it wouldn’t come as much of a shock to see Tatar score more than 20 goals next season. After all, the Slovakian forward has scored at least 20 goals in each of the last four seasons. With more of a fixed role as a middle-six winger this season, Tatar will have every opportunity to turn things around.

Much can change during training camp, but at the moment we appear to have a pretty good grasp of what the Knights’ lineup could look like to start the season.

2018-19 Golden Knights Projection

LW C RW
LW C RW
Marchessault Karlsson Smith
Haula Stastny Tuch
Tatar Eakin Carpenter
Nosek Bellemare Reaves

Something to watch this summer is the Golden Knights’ use of Erik Haula. With a sudden logjam at center, Haula will likely make a shift to wing. Which line he plays on remains to be seen, but it seems probable that he’ll stay on the second line with Paul Stastny at center and Alex Tuch on the right flank (Tuch saw some time as the second line right wing last season when James Neal was hurt, so he appears to be a logical fill-in with Neal now in Calgary).

It will also be interesting to see who earns the spot at wing on the third line. I currently have Ryan Carpenter pencilled in as the right winger there, but Tomas Hyka or Brandon Pirri could make a strong push for that spot as well. Both spent some time with the Knights last season and neither of them looked particularly out of place.