With the 2020 NHL Entry Draft kicking off tonight in a virtual setting in the middle of October, you might be excused for feeling a bit out of sorts. It’s a strange time for so many things. One of the strangest things that could happen tonight is that the VGK might end up not selecting anyone at all today. How likely is that to happen? Will the Golden Knights draft someone tonight?
As trade talks have heated up regarding Marc-Andre Fleury over the last few days, VHN has learned one of the sticking points in getting a third team involved to eat up to half of Fleury’s remaining salary is the price the Golden Knights are willing to pay that intermediary. If the price is indeed a first plus a second, Vegas has to think fast if they want to give up this year’s first or next. As listed by our good friends at PuckPedia, the Golden Knights do not have a second, fourth or fifth round pick this year. Vegas does have two third-round picks as well as a sixth and seventh round selection tomorrow.
The second round pick to move Fleury would have to be next year’s pick (where they have two in the second round), leaving the choice to Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon which first rounder is better to keep. If you believe as many do this year’s draft is very deep, it makes sense to shed both picks from the 2021 draft. I personally would likely opt for both picks coming from next year as well if there’s a choice to be made. Of course, you’re gambling on finishing better than you did this year and hitting a home run or two in free agency.
Should Vegas keep its first round pick for tonight, here are a few potential names that could be available at number 29.
I feel like the Golden Knights have the most need on defense, not forward as some would suggest. Vegas has gone forward-heavy in its first three drafts and has plenty of talent at the NHL and prospect level. Defense is another story. Even if the VGK go out and land Alex Pietrangelo or Torey Krug in free agency, those guys can’t play the whole game. Having a top-four defensive nucleus that you trust in all situations can win you a lot of games and cover a lot of possibilities. Especially now that Nate Schmidt’s name (and salary) is going to pop up in more and more trade rumors this week, defense is where I’d focus my search.
Braden Schneider, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
The obvious choice for a few reasons if he’s still available. One is that Kelly McCrimmon knows the Wheat Kings very well because he used to own the team. Talk about a direct scouting pipeline. Another reason is that he’s a right-shot defenseman which is always a big value. He has good size at 6-2, 202 lbs. and puts up decent offensive numbers (42 points in 60 games). Schneider takes care of his own end very well. If he does fall to #29 I do not hesitate to snatch him up.
Helge Grans, Malmo (Sweden)
Another right-shot defenseman, Grans is #6 among European Skaters according to Central Scouting. At 6-3 he has good size and also has good offensive instincts. His draft stock jumped in the last half of the season, indicating a player on the rise as he matures physically.
William Wallinder Jr., MODO (Sweden)
The biggest (6-4) in my group of potential picks, Wallinder is lauded for his skating ability. Let me tell you, that’s nothing to sneeze at because I’ve seen so many prospects fail to make the NHL because of poor skating. The other important skill he brings is the ability to carry the puck with poise, due in part to his skating ability. You can teach a lot of skills but to have those two already well developed is a major plus.
Ryan O’Rourke, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
A well-rounded player who can also contribute occasionally on offense. Also praised for his leadership skills, something that I think gets overlooked a lot in a young player.
Justin Barron – Halifax (QMJHL)
I left Barron off my draft list because of his injury history. If he is able to get past the problems brought on by blood clots and other maladies I think he will be an everyday NHLer. But I’m not one to take that chance with a first round pick.
I would pick Schneider if available hands down. But I have a feeling he may not be and for that reason, I’m going with Wallinder as my selection at #29 overall for the Vegas Golden Knights.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think happens in the first round in the comments!
The Stage is Set for Vegas to Run Away Early
When the Vegas Golden Knights saw the team’s schedule for this season, I’m willing to bet there were more than a few smiles in the front office. While no game in the NHL is a guarantee, the way the schedule breaks down for the VGK to start the season favors them jumping out to a lead that will be tough to overtake in the Honda West Division.
Looking at the first six games, it’s easy to see how the Golden Knights could potentially win all of them. Opening with a pair against the struggling Anaheim Ducks followed by four against an Arizona Coyotes team that will still be figuring out its new identity this season. the Golden Knights have it comparatively easy. Consider the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche, the two best teams in the division outside of Nevada, face each other twice right away.
After those six games, a pair with St. Louis could yield a split. So let’s call it 7-1 at that point. After that, six more games against the bottom-dwelling California teams. Vegas will play two each against the San Jose Sharks, LA Kings and Ducks once more.
I’m not saying things always go perfectly. They often don’t. But it is possible that before the Golden Knights play four in a row against the Colorado Avalanche a month from now, they could potentially be 13-1, 12-2 or something resembling that mark. No other team in the HWD has that type of chance to jump out in front and Vegas needs to capitalize.
Here’s the other advantage for Vegas in starting with six games against perceptibly weaker opponents: the ability to lock in. Line combinations, defensive groupings, special teams. All the things you take time on in pre-season games. All things that every other NHL team didn’t have a chance to do because we had no pre-season. Vegas is fortunate to have those games on the schedule right away to dial things in just a little bit more over the course of two weeks of games.
If the VGK capitalize and get off to a fast start, there’s no way anyone in the HWD will catch them.
Why Five Defenseman For The Vegas Golden Knights?
The Vegas Golden Knights are going into tonight’s game with only five defensemen and 13 forwards instead of the usual 6+12=18 setup for skaters.
Why? The answer is simple. Cap compliance.
By dressing Keegan Kolesar and his $725k salary, the Golden Knights will barely clear the bar and get under this season’s $81.5M salary cap. After signing Alex Pietrangelo in the off-season and trading away Paul Stastny and Nate Schmidt, the Golden Knights were still a sliver over. So they waived Nick Holden and were able to shave another ~$1M against the cap. The problem is, they don’t have a sixth defenseman they want to dress who makes what Kolesar does. So 13 forwards it is.
Vegas will have to do similar juggling all season long, but GM Kelly McCrimmon doesn’t seem concerned. McCrimmon cited the workhorse time on ice numbers of both Shea Theodore who led Vegas in that category last year, and Alex Pietrangelo who led the St. Louis Blues in the same category. Perhaps rotating five defensemen and giving more ice time to the workhorses will bode well for Vegas. If there’s a season to do it, one that only lasts 56 games as opposed to 82 might be the one to do it.
Keep an eye on how the defense fares over the first two or three weeks of the season. If things go well, expect to see this setup more often than not for the Golden Knights.
Four Bold Predictions For The Vegas Golden Knights
When we say bold predictions, we mean BOLD.
Vegas Hockey Now is very big on keeping things real and giving you the unfiltered analysis – good and bad – on the Vegas Golden Knights.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t think big like Golden Knights fans either. If everything were to go right this season, what great things could happen? This isn’t a list that includes ‘the team will be good this season’ on it. This is shooting for the moon and having fun doing it. Here we go.
Prediction #1 – Major Hardware
This is the year the Golden Knights add more hardware to the trophy case, but not something they’ve won before. With two legitimate Norris Trophy candidates on the roster in Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore the VGK will be in the conversation all season long when it comes to defense. The only worry I have is one player cannibalizing the other because they’re on the same team. I’ve seen it happen.
That said, I’m predicting Robin Lehner puts forth a Vezina-winning campaign this year. Partly because he’s been nominated before and is fully capabale, but also look at the defense in front of him. I fully expect Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury to capture the William Jennings Trophy (fewest goals against) this season, and Lehner should be making room for his first Vezina Trophy.
Prediction #2 – Chandler Stephenson, NHL All-Star
No, there wont’ be an All-Star Game this year. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the NHL won’t hand out selections. Even if it ends up being post-season First and Second Team All-Stars, Stephenson will be on the list. Playing between Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, we predict a huge season for the pivot that sends folks scrambling to pick him up in fantasy leagues across North America. He hasn’t looked out of place whatsoever and that’s even with Pacioretty flying around like he has wings on his skates. This line will be electric and Stephenson is literally in the middle of it all.
Prediction #3 – Vegas Has Highest-Scoring Defense in the NHL
A reach? We don’t think so. Pietrangelo and Theodore will obviously play a big role in this, but don’t overlook the rest of the defenders. Plus, Pete DeBoer likes an active defense jumping up into the play to make things happen offensively. It makes for a nice attacking blend of hockey that helps the Golden Knights keep other teams back on their heels. Offense from the defense will be a tremendous bonus on a team that has one of the best top six forward groups in the NHL, and could potentially boast one of the best power plays this year.
Prediction #4 – The Stanley Cup Comes To Vegas
I’m not buying the Colorado hype. I think the entire East Division is going to beat itself to a pulp. Tampa Bay is the most likely Stanley Cup opponent and they’ll get Nikita Kucherov back by then (no cap in the playoffs). So don’t kid yourself, this isn’t going to be easy. But Vegas is deeper than Tampa up front and on defense. While I definitely give the edge in special teams and goal to the Lightning, I believe the Golden Knights have what it takes to bring Lord Stanley’s Cup to The Strip this season. You heard it here first!
So there you go, four bold predictions for this season. What are your predictions? Tell us in the comments… Golden Knights or otherwise!