Prospect Ramblings: Gallant and the Golden Knights

Hayden Soboleski

2017-07-09

The head coach can make all the difference from young players trying to make a name for themselves in the NHL. This effect will be amplified more than ever on the vegas Golden Knights, a rag-tag team of players who, for the most part, have never played together before which leaves an enormous amount of room for the coach to mold the team. 

 

To take a look at how Gerard Gallant may influence the young talent on the Knights roster, I'm going back to the 2014-15 season, when Gallant took over the bench of the Florida Panthers in the previous offseason. The Cats had just gone through a season of turmoil, in which they went through two head coaches, four goalies starting at least 10 games, and a captain who was injured most of the campaign. Safe to say that this bunch without much of a direction is actually comparable to the freshest franchise in the NHL.

 

Before I start making my observations – of course I acknowledge that not everything is the head coaches doing. Young stars like Huberdeau and Barkov were on track to take another step regardless of who was in charge. Its up to us to decide how much of a factor Gallant played in each of the following changes, but they occured nonetheless.

 

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Observation:

The fight for the crease went from "whoever is hottest right now" to a 60-20 split. Injuries plagued the previous year, but it was clear during Gallant's first year that the starter (Luongo) was getting 60 starts, and the backups could duke it out for the remainder.

 

What this could mean:

Calvin Pickard is not going to be in a 1B/1A situation with Fleury. He will likely be a strght-up backup goalie, getting 15-20 starts barring injuries. He is still a solid goalie prospect but dont expect him to push Fleury out of the paint even if he gets hot.

 

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Observation:

He leaned on veterans to stablize the bottom-six. The likes of Upshall, Thornton, Kopecky, and MacKenzie were getting most of the season in the bottom-six. For young skaters with upside, it was top-six or bust. As such, there were no rookie forwards on this squad. Is this a result of the Floriad Panthers organization more than the coach? Yes, but its not like Vegas is swimming in top-notch prospects breaking down the door. 

 

What this could mean:

Alex Tuch, Breandan Leipsic, and Tomas Nosek will need to make themselves serviceable players in a non-sheltered role if they're going to make the team. Hopes of easing their way up the lineup starting at the bottom doesn't give the Knights lineup stability, and Gallant may prefer to keep veterans present there (assuming some free agents are signed).

 

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Observation:

Ice-time isn't top-heavy until its been earned. In his first season with Florida, the highest average TOI for a