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2021 NHL Draft

The Pick: Golden Knights Select Zach Dean 30th in 2021 NHL Draft

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Vegas Golden Knight, Zachary Dean of the Gatineau Olympiques. (Dominic Charette)
Zach Dean: Photo Courtesy of the QMJHL. (Dominic Charette)

The Vegas Golden Knights took another step towards restocking their prospect pool on Friday night by keeping their first-round pick and selecting center Zach Dean with the 30th overall pick.

Last week, Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon dealt fading prospect center Cody Glass to Nashville Predators. The move meant the Vegas Golden Knights officially traded away all three of their original 2017 first-round picks: Glass, Nick Suzuki, and Erik Brannstrom.

On Friday, Dean joined the new class of pivot prospects, including fellow first-rounders Peyton Krebs and Brendan Bisson, who are already in the Golden Knights system. 

Since the Golden Knights are Stanley Cup contenders, there is always speculation the team will trade away top picks for immediate help. The NHL trade and roster freeze expired on Thursday, and the frantic pace of moves on Friday afternoon captivated social media. Bombshell trades such as defensemen Seth Jones to Chicago and Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers highlighted the exciting afternoon. And the Golden Knights Twitter admin took advantage of the chaos to stir Golden Knights trade chatter, too: 

This tweet meant nothing. Not only did the Golden Knights not trade their 30th overall selection, but they also made no trades at all. General manager Kelly McCrimmon selected Zach Dean at 30th to round out the final handful of picks in night one of the draft. 

“He’s a player that we had really good coverage on, not only this year but also last year,” McCrimmon said. “(He’s a) skilled centerman, really competitive, and he has talent.”

Dean is an 18-year-old forward who normally plays center but can switch to the wing as he did last season. He has played two seasons in the QMJHL with Gatineau Olympiques and was just under a point-per-game player in 2020-21.

His career-high in points (in the QMJHL) came in 2019-20, where he had 46 points in 57 games. Elite prospects ranked him the highest in their pre-draft rankings at no. 15, and his lowest ranking was from Dobber Prospects at no. 42.

Eliteprospects.com, who rated Dean the highest, stated Dean is a player who “plays at a breakneck pace. He is a skilled puck handler and passer on top of his skating ability. His hands work independently from his feet. With his top arm free from his side–pushed out well in front of him–it grants him as much maneuverability as possible. If you get open, he will get you the puck. It is just that simple.”

Dean is a very good two-way player that has a great scoring touch in front of the net. He can find space in small areas. He generates offense with an old-school net-front mentality. At 6-foot and 176 pounds, Dean will need to add size to become an NHL regular able to compete at the front of the net against angry NHL defenders. 

Despite Golden Knights trades which have jettisoned their prospects and picks in efforts to return to the Stanley Cup Final, the organization still has a good prospect pool. Dean joins Krebs, Brisson, Lucas Elvenes, Ivan Morozov, and Kaedan Korczak as top Golden Knights prospects.

The Vegas Golden Knights salary cap doesn’t have much space. Young and impactful players in the system are essential for savings where ever possible. Unfortunately, 30th overall picks rarely make an immediate NHL impact, but Dean can spend two more years in juniors to develop his game.

Saturday, the Vegas Golden Knights have five picks in rounds two through seven. Three of the picks were acquired by Golden Knights trades, including the Nikita Gusev, Cody Eakin, and Erik Haula trades.

The Golden Knights traded away initial picks in deals for Mattias Janmark, Tomas Tatar, Nick Cousins, and Chandler Stephenson. Round two will start at 8:00 a.m. PST.

The Golden Knights’ first pick Day 2 will be four picks into the second round at no. 36.

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Owen Krepps is a senior at Robert Morris University and a contributing writer for Vegas Hockey Now. He also writes for RMU Sentry Media, Colonial Sports Network, Pittsburgh Sports Castle, Pittsburgh Now, and The Titusville Herald and runs his own Youtube channel by the name of Owen Krepps.

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