Who are the top prospects left in the Golden Knights’ system?
Erik Brannstrom and Nick Suzuki are no longer in the fold, but Vegas still has a number of promising youngsters in the system.
The Vegas Golden Knights have made some notable additions to their roster in the past year or so. In the process, they have also lost two of their best prospects in Nick Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom. Both players were drafted in the first round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and were widely considered the top prospects in Vegas’ system. Despite Suzuki being traded in order to acquire Max Pacioretty and Brannstrom now in Ottawa as a result of the trade for Mark Stone, Vegas still has multiple other prospects that can make their way into the spotlight soon enough.
Cody Glass was always believed by many to be the top prospect in the Golden Knights’ system. Glass is a high-end talent who has been one of the best players in the WHL since his draft year. Glass can do it all offensively. He can score goals and create plays like the best of them. He tends to be more of a pass-first player, but he does possess a dangerous shot. His vision is fantastic — he can read the game at a very high level, which helps him create quality chances on the ice in regularity.
This season, Glass is ranked first amongst all WHL players in points per-game with 1.82 (he recorded a very nice 69 points in just 38 games). More recently, Glass averaged nearly a point per game for the AHL’s Chicago Wolves with five points in six games. He also logged three points in four playoff games with the Wolves.
Assuming all goes according to plan, Glass will be a key player for a long time with the Golden Knights. He fits the mold of a top-six forward in the NHL and possesses all of the skills necessary to do so. It may be a long shot, but with a good summer, Glass could very well be playing in Vegas as early of next season.
Nikita Gusev may be older then the other top prospects owned by Vegas, but he’s likely the most NHL-ready. Gusev is a high-end talent who has been dominating the KHL for years. This year specifically, he scored at a historic pace. Gusev led the entire KHL in points, and did so by a large margin. In 62 games, he scored 17 goals and added 65 helpers for a grand total of 82 points. His 65 assists led the KHL — 17 more than our old friend Vadim Shipachyov, who sits second in that category.
Last year, Gusev was awarded the KHL Golden Stick award, which goes to the league’s most valuable player during the regular season. In addition to being named MVP, he was also named the best forward at the Olympics last year when he logged four goals and 12 points in just six games. He was the straw that stirred the drink for the Olympic Athletes From Russia in their gold medal win.
Gusev has yet to play a professional hockey game in North America, but that may not be the case for long. The Golden Knights signed Gusev to an entry-level contract earlier this month. He will become a restricted free agent on July 1, but one would assume the Golden Knights will make it a priority to sign the 26-year-old to a longer contract this offseason.
Gusev can be an elite playmaker at the NHL level. He has the vision and hockey sense that are comparable with some of the league’s more exciting stars. This is a dynamic player who can make a significant impact for the Golden Knights very, very soon.
Elvenes is one of the most exciting players in the Golden Knights’ prospect pool. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft (No. 127 overall) and could go on to be one of the biggest steals of that draft class.
At only 19 years old, Elvenes already has three seasons in the SHL under his belt. In his draft season, Elvenes spent the majority of his time playing in Sweden’s top junior hockey league, the SuperElit league. In just 41 games, Elvenes logged 45 points as a rookie. To put that into perspective, other notable players to finish a season in the SuperElit as the leading rookie scorer include Lias Andersson, William Nylander, Jonathan Dahlen, Elias Lindholm, Anze Kopitar and William Karlsson.
This feat earned him an opportunity to play in the SHL as a 17-year-old. Elvenes suited up in 12 games for the SHL’s Rögle BK that season, and although he failed to record a point in his short SHL stint, the fact that he was even called up at all was an accomplishment in itself. Fast forward a couple years and Elvenes is well on his way. This past season, he registered 20 points in 42 games for Rögle BK. As a 19-year-old playing against grown men, that’s nothing to sneeze at.
With Erik Brannstrom gone, Nic Hague is far and away the best defenseman in the Knights’ prospect pool. Just one season after getting drafted, Hague has already found himself playing professional hockey in North America. He spent all of the 2018-19 season playing in the AHL for the Chicago Wolves, where he logged 32 points in 75 regular-season games. Hague is a big two-way defensemen, measuring in at 6-foot-6 and weighing 214 pounds. Despite his large frame, though, he is still a strong skater and excels in the offensive zone. Nowadays, defensemen are getting smaller and are heavily relied upon to move the puck effectively. Even with his size, Hague more than fits the mold of a capable puck-mover on the back end.
The Golden Knights went without first-round selection in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft after shipping it to Detroit in order to acquire Tomas Tatar at the trade deadline. With their first pick of the draft, the Knights selected Ivan Morozov at No. 64 overall.
Morozov has spent the majority of the last two seasons playing in the MHL in Russia. He is a strong player and seems physically capable of holding his own against bigger and tougher competition. Although he is known for his 200-foot game, Morozov can be a key player on offense. While fully capable of taking on the role of a playmaker, he has a skilled set of hands that have aided him in scoring some beauties in the past, even while shorthanded.
#WJAC: Russia leads Switzerland 2-0 after 20 thanks to this SHG by two-way center Ivan Morozov (Ranked No. 110) & a seeing-eye shot on the PP by LHD Nikita Okhotyuk (2019 Draft). pic.twitter.com/krcYd31e4h— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) December 12, 2017
Morozov’s versatility earned him some time in the KHL this season (and in his draft year as well). He still has some work to do before he’ll be ready to make the jump to the NHL, but his hockey sense and abilities with the puck on his stick set him apart.
The Golden Knights have multiple other skilled prospects in their system — Brandon Kruse, Ben Jones, Zach Whitecloud, Jack Dugan and Dylan Ferguson are all exciting young players who could make an impact in Vegas one day. Although the Golden Knights have traded away Suzuki and Brannstrom (and a first-round pick that could’ve turned into Joe Veleno), they need not to worry about their future. Vegas has plenty of skilled prospects who have what it takes to help keep the Knights’ early success going for a long time.