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Vegas Golden Knights Top 25 Under 25: Keegan Kolesar continues to develop in Chicago

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Kolesar, after a rough first professional season, blossomed into a potential future NHL player in his second year under Rocky Thompson.

Vegas Golden Knights v San Jose Sharks
Keegan Kolesar #55 of the Vegas Golden Knights skates in the preseason
Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images

Knights On Ice’s 2019-20 preseason Golden Knights Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the top 25 players under the age of 25 currently in Vegas’ system. Six Knights On Ice writers created their own Top 25 Under 25 ballots. Each individual writer’s ballot was then used to generate a composite score that forms the final ballot.

At No. 22 on the Top 25 Under 25 list is Keegan Kolesar. Kolesar was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for a second-round pick (Alexandre Texier) after an impressive draft-plus-one year where he put up 60 points in 54 regular-season games for the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds. He also collected a whopping 31 points in 19 playoff games. Since then, Kolesar’s played with the Chicago Wolves and continues his maturation process.

No. 22: Keegan Kolesar
Position: RW
Age: 22 (Apr. 8, 1997)
Size: 6-foot-2, 227 pounds
Nationality: Canadian

In his second season with the Chicago Wolves, Kolesar made the impact some thought he’d make in his first AHL season. He tallied 20 goals and 16 assists in 74 regular-season games and was one of the better two-way forces on the Wolves’ roster in the playoffs, scoring six goals and 11 points in 21 games while receiving time on both the penalty kill and power play.

That all came after a tough 2017-18 season that resulted in Kolesar being demoted to the ECHL for an extended stint with the Quad City Mallards (RIP). Eventually, Kolesar returned to the AHL and gave the Wolves a glimpse of the season that was to come.

Something Kolesar will have to tone down is time in the penalty box. Kolesar was third in the AHL playoffs with 48 PIM in 21 games and had 90 in the regular season. A good chunk of that came from fighting — something Kolesar has done in the AHL since his very first game. He’s otherwise a good two-way player capable of playing in his own end, as well as driving the net and getting to the dirty areas in order to create scoring chances.

Kolesar, it feels, is a season or two away from potentially getting a long look as a full-time bottom-six winger for the Golden Knights. He theoretically could even get an opportunity this season if the Knights are plagued by injuries again. Of Chicago’s many (young) wings, Kolesar is perhaps the most NHL-ready.

He’s the natural replacement to Ryan Reaves. But unlike Reaves, Kolesar can also kill penalties. Now, it’s just a matter of whether his offense is up to snuff. A 40-plus point season, which seems within reach for the Brandon, Manitoba native, may be just the statement Kolesar needs.

Sean Tierney

Previously in Vegas Golden Knights Preseason 2019 Top 25 Under 25: