Prospect Ramblings: Gallant and the Golden Knights

by Hayden Soboleski on July 9, 2017

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 forward was 16:45. The year before (under alternative leadership), 5 players exceeded that mark. Gallant hit the reset button and didn't take for granted that Barkov and Huberdeau were ready to carry the load they had the previous year.

 

What this could mean:

Just because they're the apparant top dogs, dont assume Neal, Marchessault, and Karlsson will see outstanding ice time right away. Not that I'd bet against it, but its certainly not a given right off the bat.

 

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Observation:

Gallant used his top draft pick right away. Ekblad is an outstanding player and absolutely deserved his NHL status, but many coaches would have used him far less than 21:49 per night. He may not have used a young team, but he leaned on Ekblad when he knew he could handle it.

 

What this could mean:

When Cody Glass is ready, he's in. There wont be a slow multi-year tryout period; when he's ready for the NHL he will be playing close toa full season and playing the style of game he intends to play for the rest of his career. 

 

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Observation:

Huberdeau got back on track. After a Calder-winning season, Hubedeau hit the sophomore slump in his second season. Enter Gallant, and enter the kid's next step, jumping from 28 points to 54 points. Was this going to happen anyways? Probably, but the coach makes sure talent gets a chance to prevail.

 

What this could mean:

Going into his third season, Oscar Lindberg seems to have stalled. Most people believe he will be a good third-line centerman with top-six potential based on his rookie campaign – under Gallant on this squad I'd wager on him far-exceeding last year's 20 points. 

 

 

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As always, thank you for reading and best of luck in your off-season fantasy hockey preparations. The DobberProspects Fantasy Hockey League will be drafting in just a few weeks and I plan on keeping you well-informed of how our writers and scouts rank the newest draftees!

 

Hayden Soboleski

@soboleskih