For the next four days, there will be a blitz of hockey at City National Arena. And it’s not just rookie camp. Things are actually happening in terms of hockey games.
The puck drops for the Vegas Rookie Faceoff today, a four-day rookie showcase highlighting six teams — the Vegas Golden Knights, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks.
The first game starts at 3 p.m. today, and the final game at 7 p.m. So pack a lunch.
This showcase is going to be more than just watching rookies/prospects play hockey. There’s actually some intrigue from the Golden Knights’ side. There are guys playing who could legit see some Vegas ice time in the regular season.
Vegas general manager George McPhee said Thursday he knows about 95 percent of what the team is going to look like at the start of the season.
“There are always a few jobs around the edges that might be available,” he said.
Here are a few names to watch before Vegas plays its first game tonight.
Cody Glass - F
Dating back to development camp in June, Glass has continuously shown a sense of leadership around the other prospects. The 19-year-old former sixth-overall selection is mature beyond his years. Mentally, he may be ready for the NHL level.
The Golden Knights will find out over the next two weeks if Glass is ready to play at the top level. Finding a roster spot won’t be easy for Glass, as his role will likely come on the bottom six. Vegas found consistency at center from Cody Eakin and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Glass will need to outshine those two before one more year at the CHL becomes the final verdict.
“I’m just going to take it one day at a time,” Glass said. “You’re not going to make the team after the first day. I’m going to take every day as it is.”
Erik Brannstrom - D
One way or another, it’s almost guaranteed that Brannstrom will play in North America this season — either for the Chicago Wolves, the Brandon Wheat Kings, or the Golden Knights.
The athletic defenseman is done playing for his native Sweden and is ready to make the jump this year in some capacity. The door is certainly open this year. The suspension of Nate Schmidt and the stalling of a new deal for Shea Theodore has opened the door for a defenseman to play his way to a constant role to start the season.
Brannstrom just turned 19 years old on Sept. 2. He’s the wildcard for the next couple of weeks because he wasn’t in Vegas at this time last year — he spent that time playing for HV71 last year.
“I prefer to play here,” Brannstrom said. “That’s my goal. So we’ll see after that.”
The skill set is there. The physical tools appear to be there. There’s an influx of young defensemen that could make the NHL jump this year. Brannstrom being one of those guys is a serious possibility.
Zach Whitecloud - D
The former Bemidji State product was signed by Vegas on March 8. He played one game — April 5 at Edmonton, recording a plus-3.
The Golden Knights really like Whitecloud and how he’s progressed since coming to Vegas. There are those within the organization who feel he will make the opening day roster by challenging for one of the final defenseman spots.
Whitecloud is quick and does a solid job at moving the puck. Given Vegas’ preference of how to play the puck at the blue line, these are good traits to have.
Whitecloud has the aspirations of being a two-way defender. He very well could be the right stopgap for Vegas at the start of the season.
How to watch Vegas Rookie Faceoff on Saturday
All Golden Knights games can be seen on vegasgoldenknights.com.
What: Colorado Avalanche vs. Vegas Golden Knights
When: 7 p.m.
Where: City National Arena