Vegas Golden Knights Top 25 Under 25: Zach Whitecloud steps up in first AHL campaign

Whitecloud’s impressive first season as a pro could go a long way as he looks to prove he is worthy of playing in the NHL.

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 one point, defenseman Zach Whitecloud was a must-have free agent in the college ranks. Ultimately, he chose to join the Vegas Golden Knights, and that decision has already paid off for both Whitecloud and Vegas. Whitecloud has already made a name for himself in the AHL, especially during the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs.

No. 8: Zach Whitecloud
Position: D
Age: 22 (November 28, 1996)
Size: 6-foot-2, 209 pounds
Nationality: Canadian

Before signing with the Golden Knights, Whitecloud played in the NCAA at Bemidji State University. In his rookie season with the Beavers, Whitecloud was named to the NCAA (WCHA) All-Rookie Team — a feat which another Golden Knights prospect, Brandon Kruse, accomplished the following season.

Although he went undrafted, Whitecloud has emerged as a legitimate NHL prospect for the Golden Knights. Whitecloud follows in the footsteps of other NHLers who were undrafted college free agents such as Danny DeKeyser, Jay Beagle, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Noel Acciari, Chris Kunitz and Torey Krug, among others.

Not long after signing his contract with the Golden Knights, Whitecloud suited up for his debut NHL game on April 5, 2018 (though it was rather uneventful). Now, the 22-year-old blueliner has a chance to play his first full season in the NHL after a solid rookie campaign in the AHL. Due to their cap struggles, the Golden Knights had to part ways with Colin Miller this summer, which could potentially open up the door for Whitecloud to crack the roster out of camp.

In his rookie season with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, Whitecloud collected six goals and 22 assists, totaling 28 points in 74 games during the regular season. Although those stats may not sound incredible, he adjusted to the pro game rather quickly. Whitecloud led the entire AHL in plus-minus last season with a plus-39 rating.

Whitecloud took his game to the next level in the playoffs and was a key cog for a Wolves team that made it to the Calder Cup Final. In the playoffs, Whitecloud played in 22 games and recorded three goals and 12 assists. Incredibly, he wound up leading the AHL in postseason points by a defenseman.

Whitecloud brings a lot to the table for the Golden Knights. He is a versatile 200-foot defender who can put up points while also playing a sound defensive game. While he is a mobile defenseman, he doesn’t always make the “flashy” plays. He does not put himself if dangerous positions where there is a chance of losing the puck very often. His offensive game still has some room to grow, but he has adjusted very well so far to the professional game and looks ready to improve upon that next season, whether he plays in the AHL or the NHL.

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