The Vegas Golden Knights have reassigned prospect defenseman Erik Brannstrom to the Chicago Wolves with one week remaining before the regular season, coach Gerard Gallant confirmed Thursday.
Brannstrom was not on the ice when Vegas practiced Thursday. The 19-year-old Swedish defenseman, the 15th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, played in the Golden Knights’ five preseason games and scored four points.
“He had a great camp for us and played really well,” Gallant said. “This is just another developmental stage for him, and I’m really happy for him.”
Brannstrom’s reassignment makes way for Jake Bischoff to be on the opening night roster when the Golden Knights begin their second season Oct. 4 against the Philadelphia Flyers. Vegas will carry eight defensemen on the roster, and Brannstrom was the odd man out with Bischoff’s development, as well as the late-Monday night signing of Shea Theodore to his seven-year deal.
Gallant said sending Brannstrom to the AHL is strictly based on playing time.
“I think this kid has been outstanding. He really impressed us. He’s come to camp, played four, five exhibition games, and played really well,” he said. “We love where his development is going, just now is not the right time. So, he’ll get some time in Chicago and hopefully things go well for him.”
The Golden Knights have two preseason games remaining — Friday against the Los Angeles Kings and a Sunday meeting with the new-look San Jose Sharks — both games at T-Mobile Arena. Bischoff will be vying for one of the final two defenseman slots; along with Brad Hunt, Jon Merrill and Nick Holden.
Based on Gallant’s comments, even if Brannstrom had made the team, it was unlikely he was going to see the ice. It’s not in general manager George McPhee’s philosophy to play teenagers at the NHL level. And even if Brannstrom played, the eventual return of Nate Schmidt from his 20-game suspension would have burned Brannstrom’s nine-game cap of his entry-level contract before being sent down to Chicago.
Brannstrom expressed his desire to play in North America this year, preferably in Chicago or Vegas, and he’ll get his chance regardless. The Brannwagon is making a detour to Allstate Arena for now.