Paul Cotter got lost during the first day of training camp. The forward planned on walking into the Vegas Golden Knight’s secondary locker room at City National Arena to get dressed with the rest of the Henderson Silver Knights players, something he had done in years past. He went to the wrong room.
Cotter then found out he got the call across the hall to the Golden Knight’s main locker room.
“I walked into the other room first, and I couldn’t find my name. So I was like, “oh my god, am I in the big room?” said Cotter, who was told by teammate Jonas Rondbjerg that he, Rondbjerg, and Jake Leschyshyn were all in the “big room” with the rest of the NHL players at City National.
“I think this is the first year where I really see an opening. It’s exciting, it’s cool, and being in this room is a real big step up,” added Cotter.
Silver Knight’s Time To Strike
The trio of Cotter, Rondbjerg, and Leschyshyn have been linked together for a while. Last season as they were the three primary call-ups from the Silver Knights that played games for the VGK. The three have been playing with each other for four seasons now and are fittingly on a line together in training camp.
“We all have pretty good chances. We have been with each other for four years. We know the situation and were pretty good with it. We know we are competing with each other, but at the same time, we’re great buds. So it a cool opportunity for sure,” said Cotter.
Cotter, a Golden Knights 2018 draft pick, saw the least amount of games between these three last season but made an impression in a short stint. He scored two goals in his first seven NHL games.
2017 draft picks Rondbjerg and Leschyshyn saw more games, with Rondbjerg playing in 30 and Leschyshyn playing in 41. Naturally, the two developed some chemistry at both the NHL and AHL level.
“I played with Jonas probably every game last year, whether it was in Henderson or Vegas. Honestly, it’s not that big of a surprise that the three of us are together (on a line in training camp),” said Leschyshyn.
One thing that is hovering over all three of these players’ heads in 2022-23 is waivers. With all three players signing extensions with the Golden Knights over the summer, they have to clear waivers to be sent down to Henderson if they fail to make the team out of training camp.
“I think that is just going to push us that much harder to try and make this team. The three of us know what is like for each other, and it’s nice. It’s exciting that it kind of gives us an advantage playing with each other. I think we will try and build chemistry off of each other and fight for a spot together,” said Leschyshyn.
The Next Step
Leschyshyn, son of former NHLer Curtis, scored six points in the NHL and 27 in the AHL. As a center on a Golden Knights team with its four centers likely set, Leschyshyn says he is open to playing whatever forward position gets him in the lineup.
Winger Rondbjerg is the first Danish-born player in Golden Knight’s history. He identically matched Leschyshyn’s point totals last season with six points in the NHL and 27 in the AHL.
“I’m fighting for a spot, so I’m doing my best to try and get a spot on the team… “I learned a lot last year getting games in the national league. Being able to get 30 games in last year was huge for me. I’ll take that into this season,” said Rondbjerg.
If there is any season for one, two, or maybe even all three of these players to make the team, it is this season. The Golden Knights offloaded some key forwards in the offseason, such as Max Pacioretty, Evgenii Dadonov, and Mattias Janmark. We can also reasonably expect injuries to arise yet again.
Based on not only our projected line combinations but Bruce Cassidy’s training camp lines, there seems to be some spots open in the bottom six. Rondbjerg, Cotter, and Leschyshyn will have to do battle with Michael Amadio, William Carrier, Keegan Kolesar, Brett Howden, and Sakari Manninen for a spot.
“I can play first line, fourth line, and kind of wherever they need me. So if there is a slot that I can fill, I think that I am a player that can fill any role. So I think that helps my game vs a couple of different players, so hopefully, I can sneak in with a spot,” added Cotter.
All three of these players have looked exceptional through two days of training camp. How they perform in the preseason will be a big factor in what comes next for their NHL careers.