July 29: Vegas Golden Knights
In only the second entry draft in team history the Golden Knights had to sit out the first day after trading their first round pick to Detroit (Joe Veleno) in a transaction that saw Tomas Tatar move to the bright lights of Vegas. After a successful first year at the draft table you can expect that GM George McPhee and company did their homework to make sure they got a sizeable return at the draft table in day two, and start to round out their top-heavy prospect pool. The Golden Knights only had one pick in the first three rounds, but eight picks overall which saw them select three forwards, four defensemen and goalie with a focus on NCAA prospects; half of their players targeted will be headed to the American collegiate system.
Ivan Morozov, C; Round 2- 61st Overall
Sometimes doing well in the playoffs has its disadvantages, and making it to the Stanley Cup Final is no exception. The Golden Knights had to wait patiently until the end of the second round when they took Ivan Morozov with the 61st pick. Morozov was ranked everywhere from early second round to late third round depending on the publication, but he brings a two-way style of game that should translate well to the NHL. Morozov played in the MHL where he compiled 23 points in 30 games and five more points in seven playoff games. He caught the eye of many scouts at the U18 World Junior Classic where he tied for second on team Russia in points. Morozov is adept at both ends of the rink, however this may limit him from a fantasy perspective because he’s well versed in the defensive zone. It’s expected that he’ll stay to play in the KHL after his rights were transferred to perennial powerhouse SKA St. Petersburg, which should help his progression, but there is always the worry of the “Russian factor”.
Slava Demin, D; Round 4- 99th Overall
Demin is an offensively gifted defenseman that spent most of the year in the BCHL where he posted 45 points, including nine goals, in only 57 games. As a native Californian, he worked his way through the Anaheim Jr. Ducks system before making the jump to one of the top tier-II junior leagues in Canada so that he could maintain his NCAA eligibility and is committed to one of the top programs in the country next season where he’ll head to the University of Denver. His path over the past couple of seasons looks very similar to Ian Mitchell whom he’ll play alongside and be mentored by this year. Expect moderate point totals as Demin gets acclimatized to the NCHA style of game – typically considered the hardest conference in NCAA – and then a big jump in point totals if Ian Mitchell decides to head to Chicago at the end of 2018-19.
Paul Cotter, C; Round 4- 115th Overall
As a natural centre, Cotter has played a minimal role in some of the top programs with the Compuware and Little Caesars around the Detroit area before ending up with the Lincoln Stars in the USHL last season. Out of the 39 points he picked up in the 51 games he played in, 18 of those were goals. In fact, he’s always had a good knack for finding the back of the net, and will look to hone those skills next year where he’s committed to play with Western Michigan in the NCAA. It’s difficult to tell how high Cotter’s fantasy upside is going reach because early on it was expected that he’d be more of a two-way depth player, but in the past couple of years he’s shown an increased ability for finding the score sheet. It’s his solid mix of skill, speed and grittiness that may eventually land him in the NHL as a secondary scorer, but it will take a couple more years in the NCAA to paint a clearer picture of what his long-term potential is.
Brandon Kruse, LW; Round 5 – 135th Overall
In an unexpected move the Golden Knights went off the board to select Kruse in the 5th round. Originally passed over in his initial draft year, most prognosticators did not have the 5’9” winger on their draft lists, and weighing in at 154 pounds the 19 year old was probably as surprised as any to have been selected. That is certainly not to take anything away from his rookie season playing with Bowling Green State University where he posted 33 points in 41 games, and earned WCHA All-Rookie Team honours. A few key players in the Falcons lineup have graduated, so one should expect that he’ll see an increased role in the organization. There is not question that he’s going to add some muscle to his tiny frame if he ever wants a shot at the NHL level, but he has shown an increased progression in skill level that is promising.
Conor Corcoran, C; Round 5 – 154th Overall
As one of the younger players in the draft, Corcoran has spent the past two seasons playing with the Windsor Spitfires in a more defensive role. He is a bit rough around the edges, but has spent some time with the Golden Knights’ AHL affiliate coach Rocky Thompson, who almost assuredly gave his input into this selection.
Peter Diliberatore, C; Round 6 – 180th Overall
The last of four college picks in the 2018 draft, Diliberatore spent the previous two seasons playing in U.S. prep school before he begins his NCAA career at Quinnipiac University this coming season. As a defender, he posted a modest 36 points in 58 games and will likely take some time to adjust to a faster pace and mature opponents. Diliberatore is a long term project and plays a defensive-minded game despite his 5’11” frame.
Xavier Bouchard, C; Round 6 – 185th Overall
Bouchard’s stock continued to fall over the course of the 2017-18 season and Vegas hopes that they grabbed a player in the 6th round in unusually off year. The monster 6’4” defender posted a reasonable 21 points in 65 games, but also came in last place with a plus/minus of minus-30 for Baie-Comeau in the QMJHL. There is no question that Bouchard is more of a stay-at-home defenseman and he’ll look to shake off last year’s inconsistent play and increase his offensive potential. Ten years ago, Bouchard would have probably found himself in the top two rounds, however his technique doesn’t coalesce with the fast-paced style of the NHL. The Golden Knights have the luxury of being patient with him.
Jordan Kooy, G; Round 7 – 208th Overall
What makes Kooy’s selection stand out is that Vegas decided to trade their 7th round pick next year to clearly get the guy they wanted. As with most goalies, Kooy is a very long way away from putting on an NHL jersey, but he is an intriguing pick and a player to watch over the next couple of years in the OHL. He was a backup last year for the London Knights and suited up for 24 games. Kooy finished the year with a 3.11 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage and should have a decent shot at taking over the starter’s job this season.
Development Camp Notes:
As expected, the Golden Knights first-round selections were standouts at their development camp, which was held at the end of June. Erik Brannstrom, Cody Glass and Nick Suzuki showed signs of high-end NHL potential and were clearly the best players on the ice.
However, there were several other notable prospects that made an impact. One of the NCAA’s most highly sought after prospects, Zach Whitecloud, made a big impression where his poise and maturity gave indications that he may not be that far off from NHL readiness. Another NCAA free agent that surprisingly did not sign with an NHL team despite a massive amount of interest across the league was Jimmy Schuldt. Schuldt was a Hobey Baker Award finalist and has decided to return to St. Cloud State University for his senior year. He showed a lot of consistency, and efficiency in his game which translates well to the NHL level. He’ll be a name to watch for next spring when the NCAA wraps up as he’ll garner attention from almost all NHL teams where Vegas hopes that have the inside track.
Jack Dugan was one of the best prospects in camp after making huge strides this season in an unusual trajectory to get to the NHL. He’ll enter his freshman year at Providence (NCAA) this coming season.
Here is a full list of prospects that attended the development camp:
After a long Stanley Cup run, Vegas has been fairly quiet on the trade and free agent front through much of July. They did, however, ink highly coveted UFA Paul Stastny to a 3-year contract that will help solidify the middle, but one has to wonder what that means for their two top prospects (Glass and Suzuki) as Vegas boasts a solid lineup of NHL veterans especially down the middle. Even with ‘Wild Bill’ Karlsson yet to sign, the Golden Knights still have P. Stastny, E. Haula, C. Eakin and R. Carpenter that will eat valuable minutes that could have been delegated to at least one of their top prospects.
The defensive situation is in a similar state of affairs: they have six solid NHL ready defenders with Shea Theodore not far from re-signing. Any hope in seeing Brannstrom suit up in the starting lineup will have to wait until next year, but he’ll likely be the first call-up if injuries occur and it’s almost a gimme that he’ll get a cup of coffee this season. The extra year in the AHL will only help his long term development, so be patient.
Remaining Free Agents
- William Karlsson
- Shea Theodore
- Paul Stastny
- Daniel Carr
- Nick Holden
- Zach Whitecloud
- Zachary Fucale
- Curtis McKenzie
- Alex Grant
- Jimmy Oligny
- Gage Quinney
- James Neal – (signed with the Calgary Flames)
- David Perron – (signed with the St. Louis Blues)
- Jason Garrison – Unrestricted Free Agent
- Luca Sbisa – Unrestricted Free Agent
- Mikhail Grabovski
- Teemu Pulkkinen – (signed with Dinamo Minsk – KHL)
- Phillip Holm – (Vegas still holds his rights – signed with Torpedo – KHL)
- Clayton Stoner – Unrestricted Free Agent
- Paul Thompson – Unrestricted Free Agent
- Chris Casto – Unrestricted Free Agent
- Colin Miller
- William Carrier
- Tomas Nosek
- Oscar Dansk
- Maxime Lagace
- Marc-Andrew Fleury
- Ryan Reaves
- Brandon Pirri
- Stefan Matteau