The Las Vegas Golden Knights are an unprecedented success story. As an expansion team, they reached the Stanley Cup final in their first year. However, to create long-term success, they need young players in their system. Here are a few of those players.
Pavel Dorofeyev, LW/RW, 22 – Las Vegas Golden Knights
Drafted with the 79th overall pick in 2019, Dorofeyev played youth hockey in Russia and made a name for himself in the Kontinental Hockey League. He debuted for the Henderson Silver Knights of the AHL in 2021, where he battled injuries in a slightly underwhelming season. He continued dealing with injuries in the 2022-23 season after a healthy 2021-2022 season that saw him score 27 goals and 25 assists. Those 52 points set a career-high for the young left winger and led all Silver Knights. He also set a career-high with 63 games played.
However, Dorofeyev’s brief stint for the Golden Knights at the end of the 2022-23 campaign put him on the radar. Some outlets where fans can bet online suggest he will be an impact player for Las Vegas this season. In that stint, he scored seven goals and added two assists in just 18 games played. The franchise is coming off its first Stanley Cup championship, so the roster is one of the strongest in the league. However, Dorofeyev cracked it, thanks to his offensive capabilities, the one potential weakness for the defending champs. Surrounded by a group of forwards that are not as strong offensively as they could be for their roles, we expect Dorofeyev to see opportunities to produce.
Lukas Cormier, LD/RD, 20 – Henderson Silver Knights
While Dorofeyev is the likeliest youngster to impact the 2023-24 squad, Cormier is arguably the best prospect in Vegas’ system. Drafted 68th overall in the 2020 NHL draft, this Canadian defenseman had a breakout season in 2020-21 with the Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Cormier won the Emile Bouchard Trophy as the league’s best defenseman and was a First All-Star Team member. He defended both accolades again in the 2021-22 season.
Offensively, Cormier has produced at every stop, scoring a career-high 33 goals and 81 points in 2021-22 before scoring ten goals and 35 points in his first season in 62 games with the Silver Knights last year. His offensive prowess as a defenseman gives him a distinct skill set that allows him to blend with forwards on his line. He is undersized for his position at just 176 pounds, and a strong group of Vegas defensemen that includes Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore should block him from getting meaningful playing time soon. Both Pietrangelo and Theodore’s offensive capabilities make it hard for Cormier to etch out a role with the NHL club just yet.
David Edström, Center, 18 – Frölunda HC
Thanks to their Stanley Cup win, Las Vegas had the last pick in the NHL Draft this year. With that pick, they selected Edstrom, an 18-year-old Swedish center currently playing in the Swedish Hockey League. Edstrom’s draft stock shot up thanks to a strong performance in the U18 World Championship, causing the Golden Knights to select him with the final pick in the first round.
Known for a high hockey IQ that makes him difficult to defend, Edstrom scored 15 goals and 28 points overall in just 28 games last season for Frölunda HC and scored five goals in seven games at the U18 World Championship that helped him get drafted. He has a slender 6-foot-3, 187-pound frame but has time to fill out as he gets closer to Vegas. What Edstrom lacks is an upside. As a late first-round pick, he is a low-ceiling, high-floor player who translates well to the NHL game but lacks a single skill to give him a projectable upside. However, at 18 years old, he has time to change that.
Matyáš Šapovaliv, Center, 19 – Saginaw Spirit
Another young center, Sapovaliv, went to the Golden Knights in the second round of the 2022 NHL draft. Unlike Edstrom, Sapovaliv is dominant below the crease and is a strong playmaker, possessing a higher ceiling than a player like Edstrom. However, with that ceiling comes some question marks, albeit minor. He drifted a bit from the crease, playing on the perimeter leading up to the draft, a subject of concern for teams.
He has addressed some of those habits, as seen in his production, leading the Spirit in goals with 27 and tying for the team lead in points with 56 in 65 games. He is a slim 193 pounds, like Edstrom, but his 6-foot-3 frame leaves room for bulking. Sapovaliv is an exciting prospect that is a few years away from a roster spot in Las Vegas, but his floor still puts him on the Golden Knights roster at some point.
What The Future Holds For Las Vegas
The Golden Knights are a favorite to win the Stanley Cup and have made the playoffs five of the six seasons that they have been an NHL team. They started the 2023-24 campaign perfectly, opening with wins in 11 of their 13 games.