July 31-in-31: Vegas Golden Knights
Welcome to our annual 31-in-31 Summer Series here at DobberProspects! Every day in July we will be bringing you a complete breakdown of a team’s draft, notes from their development camp, and insights into their off-season moves so far. Following this up, the August 31-in-31 Series will dive into every team’s prospect depth charts with fantasy insights and implications for the upcoming seasons. Check in often, because we plan on filling your hockey withdrawal needs all summer long!
In each of the first three years of the Golden Knights existence as a franchise, Vegas has walked away from the draft table heralded as one of the consensus strongest drafting teams. This year was no exception. After an unimaginable Stanley Cup run in their inaugural season, Vegas decided that they had already amassed enough core pieces to be considered a legitimate Cup contender for the next few years. They traded away some of their top prospects in Erik Brannstrom and Nick Suzuki over the past couple of seasons in an effort to solidify their lineup.
Although they were eliminated from this year’s playoffs after a controversial call in the deciding game against San Jose, they headed into the 2019 draft holding onto eight total picks. Four of their draft selections were in the first three rounds, and another three in the fifth round. Time and time again they selected players that were deemed to go much higher in the draft based on consensus rankings. Despite the short amount of time as an organization they have a very interesting prospect pool, and their recent selections add to the depth and overall talent level of the Golden Knights.
1st round, 17th overall: Peyton Krebs, C – Kootenay Ice (WHL)
Prior to the draft during a training session, Krebs was cut by a skate that left him with a partial tear of his Achilles tendon. Although the injury comes with an almost 100% guaranteed success rate in recovery, the injury may have been enough to allow him to slide to the bottom half of the first round and into the lap of the Golden Knights’ organization.
Krebs spent the season with the dwindling Kootenay Ice and was the sole shining light on an otherwise underperforming team where he was required to do much of the heavy lifting without much support. Next season, a franchise move to Manitoba (Winnipeg Ice) may spark one of the largest upticks of point production across the entire CHL as the change of scenery brings along with it some high-end talent – enter Matthew Savoie – that will give Krebs some much-needed support. By this time next year, it’s quite possible that everyone will look back and wonder how he ever slipped to the late teens.
As a playmaker, Krebs has shone internationally playing with top-end teammates. He’s a natural leader and was given the honour of captaining his WHL team at the young age of 17. He can be counted on in all situations and has a high skill level, which allows him to use his elusiveness to find open teammates. Although he doesn’t have exceptional speed, he uses his top gear to pull off shifty moves and create space. Krebs’ game should translate very well at the NHL level when he’s ready.
2nd round, 41st overall: Kaedan Korczak, D – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Korczak provides quick transition as he’s able to utilize his decent size to create turnovers and quickly turn the puck from the defense to offense; a crucial skill that is required in the NHL.
He’s a very intelligent two-way defender that has superior skating for his size, and as he fills out he will be relied upon as an offensive piece for the Kelowna Rockets where he has seen time over the past three seasons. Although there will be some stiff competition with teammate Lassi Thompson (drafted 19th overall by the Ottawa Senators), another right-handed defenseman, it’s safe to assume Korczak will continue to develop his offensive attributes this coming season.
He already has one of the best defensive overall games and was widely considered as one of the best one-on-one defenders in this year’s draft, so it’s only natural he’ll begin to round out the rest of his overall skill level.
3rd round, 79th overall: Pavel Dorofeyev, RW – Stalnye Lisy (MHL)
Dorofeyev was one of the biggest sliders of the draft before Vegas selected him in the third round. When he played against players of a similar age he demolished teams in the MHL: Russia’s top junior league. However, his lack of exposure at international tournaments may have had a negative impact on his overall draft standing for NHL teams.
Despite earning minimal minutes he played half the season in the KHL for a total of 23 games, which is nearly unheard of for Russian draft-eligible prospects. Although he only picked up a single goal and an assist there were times that he often showed glimpses of his talent level against men in the KHL.
What sets Dorofeyev apart is the way he stickhandles through traffic and is able to seemingly always come out with possession and control. He weaves through the offensive zone using slick moves, but needs to bring those shifts on a more consistent basis. Next year will be pivotal in his development.
3rd round, 86th overall: Layton Ahac, D – Prince George (BCHL)
Some prognosticators considered the selection of Ahac in the third round a bit of a reach by the Golden Knights. Looking at his stats, you might assume that only 32 points in 53 games in the BCHL doesn’t have much offensive upside, even as a defenseman. On second glance, you might realize that Ahac’s game was taken to the next level during the playoffs where he picked up 17 points in as many games, including five goals. His dominant play for the Prince George Spruce Kings helped propel them to the championship and win the BCHL title. He was relied upon to nullify Victoria’s superstar, Alex Newhook, in the process.
Ahac is committed to Ohio State (NCAA) and that affords Vegas the opportunity to be patient where they can keep a close eye on his development over the next few years. He has quick feet and plays an incredibly mature game for someone his age where he is able to neutralize opponents by making consistently good decisions at a fast pace.
4th round, 110th overall: Ryder Donovan, C – Dubuque (USHL)
Donovan’s stock continued to fall over the course of last season, and was originally ranked as a late first round option prior to the start of the year. However, he possesses many of the characteristics that can’t be taught – great vision, above average speed, and decent size – which makes him an enticing package.
One of the knocks on Donovan was that he didn’t utilize his size as much, but there are so many other aspects to his game that it’s very surprising he slid outside of the first 100 draft selections. Although he dominated Minnesota High School league, he was only able to pick up a single point in nine games during USHL action. He’s committed to the University of Wisconsin next year where he will join a young, but star-studded offense. It will be a big jump from high school competition, so you can expect some growing pains, but his responsibility should increase over the course of the season.
5th round, 135th overall: Isaiah Saville, G – Tri-City Storm (USHL)
Saville plays a very mature game for a draft eligible goalie. He shows great composure, which allows him to stay in control even when quickly moving laterally across the net. Although he doesn’t possess great size, he uses his angles extremely well which enables him to fill more net than you would expect.
My guess is that it was his size that scared teams away from a selection prior to the fifth round. However, Saville has done nothing but excel and win at nearly every level he’s played. He had a massive tournament and was a huge reason why Team USA took home gold at the World Jr. “A” Challenge, and was also named the USHL’s Goalie of the Year. If he was only two inches taller, he may have found his way inside the first round.
5th round, 139th overall: Marcus Kallionkieli, RW – Sioux City (USHL)
You may not think Kallionkieli’s pathway to the NHL is a typical one for many Finnish hockey players, but look again as there have been a handful (Tolvanen and Raanta) that have come to the USHL to help hone their craft during their draft year. What sets Kallionkieli apart from his peers is his wicked shot that is both as accurate as it is hard. He has a very quick release that helped him find the net 29 in only 58 contests on one of the most terrifying lines in the USHL. His natural goal-scoring ability alone makes the fact he was selected in the fifth round a bit of a shocker as it was expected he would land somewhere in the first three rounds.
5th round, 141st overall: Mason Primeau, C – North Bay Battalion (OHL)
The son of former NHLer, Wayne Primeau, Mason is a monster on the ice. He was able to pick up 10 goals and 16 assists for a total of 26 points in only 49 games for the Brampton Battalion of the OHL this past season after he was traded from the Guelph Storm. Although they were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs, he posted another three points in the Battlions’ five games.
There is no question Primeau is a bit of a project, as his skating has issues. That’s not surprising for a 17 year old that is now one of the tallest players in the league and is still taking time to get acclimated to his body. Vegas will be patient with him and he should see an increased role on Brampton who have a couple of key players graduating which will open up some more offensive spots.
Vegas Golden Knights Development Camp Roster
(Players are listed in alphabetical order by last name)
Forwards (24): Wyatt Bongiovanni, Nick Campoli, Mitchell Chaffee, Ryder Donovan, Pavel Dorofeyev, Jack Dugan, Lucas Elvenes, Cody Glass, Taro Jentzsch, Ben Jones, Marcus Kallionkieli, Brandon Kruse, Jake Leschyshyn, Jermaine Loewen, Cole MacKay, Cullen McLean, Mick Messner, Garrett Pinoniemi, Mason Primeau, Jonas Rondbjerg, Charles-Antoine Roy, Zak Smith, Keenan Suthers and Gustaf Westlund.
Defensemen (15): Layton Ahac, Xavier Bouchard, Dylan Coghlan, Connor Corcoran, Bray Crowder, Slava Demin, Peter Diliberatore, Nicolas Hague, Kaedan Korczak, Mason Lohrei, Brayden Pachal, Kirby Proctor, Tim Theocharidis, Zach Uens and Mike Vorlicky.
Goaltenders (4): Dylan Ferguson, Jordan Kooy, Jiri Patera and Isaiah Saville.
For more news and notes about the Development Camp, please visit: https://www.nhl.com/goldenknights/news/vgk-announce-2019-development-camp-roster-and-schedule-of-events/c-308023520
It comes as no surprise that the two players that stood out the most at their respective positions were Cody Glass, and Nic Hague. Glass didn’t play the entire set of scrimmages, but was dominant while he was on the ice. Interestingly, after he left his linemates, Jonas Rondbjerg and Jack Dugan, continued their exceptional play and looked a step above the rest of attendees.
It’s hard to imagine that a team who just completed their second season in the NHL could already be in such cap distress, but that’s exactly what position the Golden Knights had put themselves in shortly after the end of the regular season. At one point they were 10% above next year’s salary cap ceiling so it was very clear that it would be a buyer’s market for the rest of the NHL as they approached Vegas to ‘help’ them with their cap troubles.
Vegas subsequently traded Erik Haula to the Carolina Hurricanes for Nicolas Roy and 2021 conditional fifth round pick. The following day they moved on from defenseman Colin Miller and traded him to the Buffalo Sabres for a 2021 second round pick and a 2022 fifth round pick. On the surface these seem like clear losses for the organization, however, you have to remember how both players were acquired and look at the full picture.
One of the most intriguing players yet to sign is Nikita Gusev who is apparently asking upwards of $4M while Vegas has evidently offered him a contract in the range of $2M. With a couple of prospects yet to sign and with Vegas still over the cap ceiling, it would not be surprising to see Gusev get traded for futures in the coming weeks.
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