Knights On Ice’s 2020-21 preseason Golden Knights Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the top 25 players under the age of 25 currently in Vegas’ system. The KOI staff members created their own Top 25 Under 25 ballots. Each individual writer’s ballot was then used to generate a composite score that formed the final rankings.
The Vegas Golden Knights selected forward Jack Dugan in the fifth round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the first draft in franchise history, choosing him with the No. 142 overall pick. He has proven to be an absolute steal, but he appears to have just scratched the surface of his capabilities.
No. 8: Jack Dugan
- Age: 23
- Position: Left wing
- Currently playing: Henderson Silver Knights
- Nationality: American
Dugan makes a considerable jump on this list from No. 21 all the way up to No. 8, though he was ranked as high as sixth overall.
Dugan has an especially deep desire to win and believes in being dominant at a particular level before moving on, which he has put ahead of his career trajectory on several occasions.
Instead of following the norm and moving on to prep school after his sophomore year in high school, he stayed at McQuaid Jesuit High as a junior in hopes of bringing home a state championship; he did just that after leading his team in points with 53 in 18 games.
He went on to score 133 points in 96 games with Northwood School in the USHL-Prep league and then spent a year with the Chicago Steel of the USHL, potting 31 goals and 66 points in 54 games, before heading to Providence College.
He was given a chance to sign with Vegas immediately after getting drafted but instead elected to pursue his childhood dream of winning an NCAA championship. He finished second among freshmen in scoring with 39 points in 41 games and led the Friars to the Frozen Four in his first year at Providence before being named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team.
Again, he was offered a contract but again had the self-confidence and determination to remain at Providence. He went on to lead the NCAA in scoring as a sophomore, though the tournament was canceled because of the pandemic.
Dugan was one of 10 finalists for the 2020 Hobey Baker Memorial Award, which recognizes the top player in college hockey. He led all players in assists (42) and points (52) as well as power-play points (22), points per game (1.53), assists per game (1.24) and even-strength points (30). However, he was snubbed and was not named one of the three finalists for the award.
It wasn’t until last summer that Dugan agreed to join the Golden Knights; he ultimately signed a two-year, entry-level contract last July and just completed his rookie season with the Henderson Silver Knights.
As he has done at every level in his career, Dugan thrived in the AHL this past season, scoring 10 goals and 23 assists for 33 points in 37 games, good for second among all AHL rookies in both assists and points. He led Henderson in assists and was second in points on the team, averaging 0.89 per game.
He was a very consistent contributor as well, never going more than two games without a point all season.
Jack Dugan power play goal— Vegas Knightly (@VegasKnightly) May 2, 2021
Assists: O'Regan, Murphy pic.twitter.com/tfU4j6qgrW
Dugan followed that up with three goals and four points in five playoff games, tying for first in goals and finishing third on the team in points. He scored a hat trick in his first playoff game.
Despite his excellent campaign, he was left off the AHL All-Rookie Team, but he’ll likely take it in stride and use it as fuel.
The 23-year-old Rochester, New York native has been laser-focused on setting and then hitting benchmarks his entire career, and there’s every reason to believe he’ll bring that same level of success to the NHL.
At some point in the very near future, the Golden Knights are going to have to make room for him.
He should inject a much-needed offensive scoring punch into the bottom six for Vegas, though he has the skill and playmaking ability to eventually move into a top-six role.
Jack Dugan goal— Vegas Knightly (@VegasKnightly) May 2, 2021
Assists: Pachal, O'Regan pic.twitter.com/6btzp2TaVz
The 6-foot-2, 209-pound winger considers himself a “power playmaker” given his size, speed and playmaking ability, and he models his game after players like Jamie Benn and Blake Wheeler. He can be physical and has an underrated shot, but his passing has long been the most polished tool in his chest.
He still needs to work on limiting his pass-first mentality, particularly on the power play, and will need to continue to use his skating and physicality to be a more effective 200-foot player.
That being said, the coaching staff showed great faith in him in the playoffs by entrusting him with significant minutes late in the game when Henderson had a narrow lead.
Dugan remains a confident competitor, and his patience and willingness to put the time in make it very unlikely that he’ll be rushed into a situation for which he’s not ready.
It’s not a matter of if but when Dugan will take that next step.
When the time comes, expect to see him doing a lot more of this at T-Mobile Arena.
Previously in the Golden Knights Top 25 Under 25 2020-21 Series:
Honorable mention: Layton Ahac
No. 25: Jonas Rondbjerg
No. 24: Jake Leschyshyn
No. 23: Paul Cotter
No. 22: Keegan Kolesar
No. 21: Ben Jones
No. 20: Marcus Kallionkieli
No. 19: Lukas Cormier
No. 18: Pavel Dorofeyev
No. 17: Brandon Kruse
No. 16: Peter DeLiberatore
No. 15: Connor Corcoran
No. 14: Ivan Morozov
No. 13: Isaiah Saville
No. 12: Jiri Patera
No. 11: Brendan Brisson
No. 10: Dylan Coghlan
No. 9: Kaedan Korczak