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To use a Las Vegas term, the Golden Knights went all-in to start their tenure in the NHL, and while they still conceivably can return to contender status next season, they’ve sacrificed a significant portion of their future in an attempt to win now.
In their inaugural draft, the Golden Knights had three first-round picks. They selected Nick Suzuki, Cody Glass, and Erik Brannstrom, and subsequently traded away all three. They also moved their first-round pick the following year.
In Year 3, Vegas selected Peyton Krebs, whom they sent packing this season to Buffalo. In the short term, the strategy has paid dividends, but it’s time for Vegas to keep its prospects and test the organization’s prowess at developing its own. The immediate problem is, Vegas will yet again be without a first-round pick this year after, you guessed it, trading the pick away.
Brendan Brisson - Vegas’ 2020 first-round pick stayed with the University of Michigan, playing alongside some of the game’s top prospects for two seasons. After putting up 42 points in 38 games this season with the Wolverines, he jumped into the Henderson Silver Knights roster, and to say he made an impact in the AHL is an understatement. Brisson scored eight points in his first seven professional contests.
A natural center, Brisson thinks the game well, and positionally finds his spot at both ends of the ice. He gained valuable experience as a member of Team USA at the Olympics as well.
Lukas Cormier - When the attack is on and the puck is pinned deep in the offensive zone, Lukas Cormier often creeps in and has the scoring prowess of an extra forward. By the truest sense of the phrase, Cormier is an offensive defenseman, which he proved this season by scoring 81 points and 33 goals from the blue line with the QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders.
When the 20-year-old joins the AHL next season, his main challenge will be to continue contributing offensively without giving up scoring chances. This balance will prove to be Cormier’s hurdle, but his upside is immense and should have the Golden Knights excited for a future power-play contributor.
Zach Dean - Aside from Brisson, Dean is the only former first-round pick — 30th overall in 2021 — in the Golden Knights’ organization. Dean didn’t have the best season in the QMJHL, missing time while producing 52 points in 47 games. More was likely expected but Dean was consistent and plays the game with speed.
He does not hesitate on the rush when choosing to move the puck or drive the net. He’ll be back in the QMJHL next season looking to dominate.
One To Watch
The Golden Knights are bringing over Russian prospect Ivan Morozov and hope the older, 22-year-old prospect can make the step into their lineup immediately. He got a taste of North American hockey, finishing the season with the Silver Knights, but the real test for the 2018 second-round pick will come at training camp, or perhaps in offseason rookie tournaments.
He took a step backward in the KHL this season, spending a portion of the season in the VHL, but has professional experience, and will look to prove his worth.
Ready To Step In
If Jack Dugan could stay healthy and in the lineup, there’s a good chance he’d already be playing on Vegas’s third line. The Golden Knights either need to make room for Dugan this season or send him the way many of their prospects go, using him as trade bait.
On the blue line, 6-foot-4 defensive defenseman Kaedan Korczak looks like a solid candidate to make the step into the NHL. He moves well and plays physically, two traits that are welcomed in the NHL’s Western Conference.
Needs At The Draft
Eventually, the Golden Knights will not be able to afford their lineup and the need for NHL-ready prospects will appear. In particular, holes are about to pop up on the wings, as multiple veterans are due for free agency after this season.
Decent value should be available for Vegas in the middle of the second round when they finally get to pick as there is a large pool of forwards who conceivably could go anywhere between 15-40 in the draft depending on individual team preferences. Because of that, talent will likely slide into Vegas’s range at 48th overall as teams work through their draft lists.
Vegas can no longer afford to buy depth, it will need to come from within, and that means diversifying picks once they’ve grabbed a few prospects with offensive upside.
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