Golden Knights vs. Coyotes Game Preview: What to watch for in Vegas’ preseason opener

Get prepared for the Knights’ first game of the preseason.

The day has finally arrived. After a long, boring, hockey-less summer, the Golden Knights are finally back in action for the first time in over three months. Granted, it’s only a preseason game, but still. Hockey!

The Arizona Coyotes are in town, and while tonight’s contest is nothing more than a measly exhibition, there are still plenty of storylines worthy of your undivided attention.

The newcomers

Last summer, every single player on the Golden Knights’ roster was a newcomer, so there was a ton to take in throughout the preseason. What would the lines look like? The defensive pairings? What would be the team’s identity? Everything was completely fresh and new.

Things are much different this summer, though. After an unprecedented inaugural campaign that saw Vegas compete in the Stanley Cup Final, the Knights are no longer a complete and total mystery. Fans are now familiar with the majority of the roster and have a general idea of what they’ll be seeing on the ice night in and night out.

But like the summer of 2017, Knights followers will still have to familiarize themselves with some new faces.

Tonight, all eyes will undoubtedly be glued to No. 67,  Max Pacioretty, who Vegas acquired from the Montreal Canadiens last week in one of the biggest trades of the offseason. With five 30-goal seasons on his resume, Pacioretty is regarded as one of the top goal scorers in hockey. However, his 2017-18 campaign is one he’d likely prefer to forget. In a season in which the Habs managed just 71 points, Pacioretty potted only 17 goals and posted just 37 points on the year (his lowest point total since the 2010-11 season). The 29-year-old winger will certainly be looking to rebound after his down season, and he’ll get his first chance to showcase his talents against Arizona.

Another new face in the lineup against the Coyotes is defenseman Nick Holden, who Vegas signed to a two-year, $4.4 million contract in free agency. Holden, 31, isn’t the flashiest player, but figures to play a significant role on the back end with Nate Schmidt out for the first 20 games of the regular season. Holden may not be a player that will get fans out of their seats, but it will be important to monitor his performance throughout the preseason, especially with Vegas’ depth on the blue line being a major question mark going into the regular season.

The kids

As exciting as it will be to watch a player like Pacioretty make his Golden Knights debut, there is simply nothing more intoxicating than seeing prospects get their feet wet in the NHL. And the Golden Knights have quite a few intriguing youngsters in the lineup against Arizona.

The prospect most likely to get the lion’s share of the spotlight will unsurprisingly be Cody Glass. Selected sixth overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, some are expecting Glass to make the Golden Knights as early as this season. While that will be a tall task for the 19-year-old, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. With a strong showing throughout the preseason, Glass could (!) give George McPhee and company no choice but to award him a spot on the opening night roster. The odds of that happening aren’t great, but stranger things have happened.

Defenseman Nicolas Hague will also be in the lineup. Hague, selected in the second round of last year’s draft, has seen his stock skyrocket as of late after dominating the Vegas Rookie Faceoff last week. While Hague may not be the most polished of Vegas’ prospects, he could realistically see some NHL time this season if he continues to turn heads.

Then, of course, there’s Erik Brannstrom, who may be the most dynamic of all current Golden Knights prospects. The 19-year-old Swede is not only mesmerizing with the puck on his stick, but also plays a solid defensive game worthy of greater acknowledgement. Though his chances of making the roster this season are slim, it may not be long before he becomes a staple on the Vegas blue line.

Glass, Hague and Brannstrom are all going to be under the microscope, but there are several other prospects of note who will also be in action this evening. Reid Duke, the first-ever Golden Knight, looks to get into an early rhythm after an injury-riddled 2017-18 campaign with the Chicago Wolves, Las Vegas native Gage Quinney will aim to build off an admirable showing in the Vegas Rookie Faceoff and Keegan Kolesar, a favorite of KOI writer Shepard Price, looks to keep the momentum going after a strong finish to his 2017-18 season.

Full lineup

How to follow

Time: 5 p.m. PT

Place: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM