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What we learned in the Golden Knights’ preseason loss to the Sharks

Young players still have some room to grow.

San Jose Sharks v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

It was a mixed bag of emotions for the Vegas Golden Knights in their 4-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks in their preseason opener on Sunday at T-Mobile Arena.

One can say they scored a power-play goal and nothing else matters in this world. Others can say young players looked just that and have some room left to grow.

Here are some thoughts from Sunday’s game.

Nolan Patrick: Power-play artist

If there’s one way you can turn around Nolan Patrick’s career it’s giving him power play time.

Patrick had an assist in 15:12 on Sunday, coming from Max Pacioretty’s power-play goal 34 seconds into the third period. He nearly had another assist setting Evgenii Dadonov on the power play from the slot, but Dadonov’s shot hit the post. Patrick was placed in the net-front role on the man advantage.

It wasn’t an electrifying debut from Patrick, but he looked solid. He didn’t try to do much with the puck, but he made smart decisions with it when rested on his stick. He was also 10-for-16 in the faceoff circle.

“I thought we had some good looks,” Patrick said. “I’ve played net-front quite a bit in my career, so I’m pretty comfortable there. I thought we moved it pretty well tonight.”

With Alex Tuch out until 2022 after undergoing shoulder surgery, it’s all hands on deck with the Golden Knights power play. There may not be any limitations if DeBoer wants to fix the unit that went ice cold in the playoffs last season.

“As far as the power play goes, if we go 3-for-3, I’m not going to sit here and tell you it’s fixed just like if we go 0-for-3 next game,” DeBoer said. “For me, I would ask that we look at this over the course of a year. We can evaluate this at the end of the year. “

Paul Cotter doing Paul Cotter things

It happens nearly every year since Cotter was drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 draft. He always finds a way to make a play or two in camp to make you wonder if it translates to game action.

It did on Sunday. Cotter scored three minutes into the second period off a backhand feed from Jack Dugan to cut the San Jose lead to 2-1. On his next shift, Dugan sidestepped Sharks defenseman Brent Burns along the end boards and set up another dangerous opportunity.

Cotter played at third-line left wing with Brett Howden (who had a strong game himself) and Peyton Krebs (some questionable moments) and skated for 15:35.

“I think there’s a lot of critiquing that needs to be done,” Cotter said. “I think defensively, just shape up a few things. You watch these older guys like [Mark] Stone and Pacioretty, a lot of the time they’re not doing something crazy, just being at the right spots and knowing what to do with the puck at the right time.”

With the talk of guys that could challenge for a bottom-six role, while ambitious, Cotter is a name that has to be considered. He’s always seemed to have solid offensive instincts, whether it’s knowing where to go to set up shop or making plays at the blue line to force a scoring chance the other way.

Cotter will likely end up in Henderson when all’s said and done, but he’s something that the organization should feel comfortable with in his development.

Star players should be bubble-wrapped in preseason

You could hear a pin drop when captain Mark Stone took a puck to the face late in the first period. Lying on the ice for a good minute, Stone jumped back up and went back to the locker room on his own power.

DeBoer said Stone received stitches and was held out of the remainder of the game due to precautionary reasons.

Defensemen Brayden McNabb and Shea Theodore also didn’t finish out the game and DeBoer did not have an update on what nicked the top-four blueliners.

You run into the problem with star players playing in the preseason, especially early on, but you understand the reasoning. You want every player from the time you cut down the roster at the final week to be as well-rounded in the system as possible. But never should it be at the expense of losing your top forward and two of your best defensemen.

Ultimately, you hope that it’s cautionary reasons, but this is the worst-case scenario you run into with two weeks from the season opener.

The Golden Knights will continue the exhibition slate on Tuesday at home against the Colorado Avalanche.