The Vegas Golden Knights have a lot of talented young players but few spots on their roster for them. So you can imagine how fierce the competition is as well as how great the pressure is to perform.
Every shift feels like it’s being dissected as if were the Zapruder film. Too many bad shifts and you can plan on spending your season in Henderson instead of Las Vegas.
But the younger Knights accorded themselves well in the team’s 4-3 preseason win over the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday night. Nobody locked up a spot on the Opening Night roster for Oct. 12, but no one skated themselves into a Silver Knights jersey either.
“I liked the way our young players competed,” Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer said. “We’re still evaluating, which is what the preseason is for. But I liked the way our team is set up well with our young defensemen.”
Dylan Coghlan and Kaedan Korczak are trying to stick as the swing seventh defenseman. Peter DiLiberatore is also trying to make a positive impression on the blue line and collectively they gave management enough reason to keep them around for a few more days.
“Cogs is an NHL player,” DeBoer said of Coghlan, who spent some time with the Golden Knights last year. “But I thought Korczak showed a lot and I liked what I saw from DiLiberatore.”
He didn’t like the three penalties the latter two were whistled for. But the Knights did an outstanding job with their penalty killing units. The Avalanche were 0-for-8 and that was with DeBoer electing not to use William Karlsson and Reilly Smith, two of his regulars on the penalty kill.
Of course, the Avs were minus their big guns. No Nathan MacKinnon or Gabriel Landeskog. No Mikko Rantanen. No Cale Makar or Devon Toews. But still, they didn’t mount much with the man advantage. Five on five, they were pretty good, beating Laurent Brossoit once in each period with Oskar Olausson, Bowen Byram and Jack Johnson doing the honors.
The Knights, for the second straight game, scored with their power play as Nicolas Hague scored in the first period and Jonathan Marchessault tallied with 4:10 remaining. DeBoer doesn’t want to have the power play be a focus of scrutiny and would prefer it be evaluated at the end of the regular season. But he may change his tune if things continue to work.
And while the Vegas D-corps looked good, the forwards battling for a spot on the roster also stepped up. Patrick Bown, who has seen time with the Golden Knights the past couple of years, scored 2:07 into the contest to open the scoring and made a lot of good decisions. Jake Leschyshyn, who has yet to play an NHL contest, also made a good showing as did Peyton Krebs, who DeBoer played with Brett Howden and Jack Dugan.
“I thought Krebsy was better from the first game,” DeBoer said. “He looked more comfortable, didn’t turn the puck over and was moving well. Jack Dugan is an interesting player. When he gets the puck on his stick, he’s a real threat.”
Brown, who was the Henderson Silver Knights captain last year, will gladly trade the “C” for a Golden Knights sweater.
“I love it here,” Brown said. “I want to stay here. My ultimate goal is to play in the NHL. This is my third year with these guys and it’s awesome.”
Three takeaways from Tuesday’s game:
1. LB is OK: Laurent Brossoit’s debut as a Golden Knight in goal was solid. He tracks the puck well through traffic and two of the three goals he gave up he never really saw the puck until it was too late.
“I thought he was solid,” DeBoer said of Brossoit, who made 19 saves in earning the win. “When we got him, the scouting report on him was “Calm, Cool and Collective” and I think we saw that from him tonight.”
2. Vets finish strong: It was no surprise DeBoer had his veteran players on the ice in the late stages as the Avs pulled the goalie and pushed for the equalizer. Alex Pietrangelo and Alec Martinez finished the game and Reilly Smith, William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault were also out there toward the end.
“I think our veteran guys decided they were not going to lose this game,” DeBoer said.
3. Good in the circle: The Knights were running a bit cold in the faceoff circle early on but they got better and despite losing a draw which led to Jack Johnson’s third-period goal, Vegas wound up winning 29 of the 52 faceoffs, a 56% clip.
It has been a point of emphasis for DeBoer since he took over two years ago and his main centers did well vs. the Avs. Brett Howden was 7 of 12 and Nicolas Roy was 8 of 11.