We finally have a sign of real hockey things! Rookie Camp is slated to begin on Thursday morning and let me just take a moment to say it for all of us: Thank God!
Ever since the Vegas Golden Knights wrapped Development Camp back in June, we have been bored. Sure, there was the start of Free Agency, but the Golden Knights were not a player, as anticipated. Sure, there were a few cap casualty trades and new deals for the returning players, but nothing was truly Earth-shattering. Point is, there has been very little hockey and it has been unbearable!
That all changes Thursday morning. Rookie camp is set to open and the Golden Knights will have the following young bucks in attendance.
That group will be spending two days together here in Vegas, then hit the road for four days of scrimmages, before returning on Thursday for the final session at home. They will be joining the Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Arizona Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, and the host Anaheim Ducks at the 2019 Rookie Faceoff in Irvine, California. Although your favorite players won’t be in attendance, there’s a lot to look forward to over the next week.
What to Watch For
As you may have heard, the Vegas Golden Knights will be holding auditions for their sixth defenseman in camp. Two of the top contenders for that spot will be at Rookie Camp. Nicolas Hague and Zach Whitecloud are both ready to make the jump to the NHL and have the chance to fulfill that dream this year. Jake Bischoff and Jimmy Schuldt are also in the mix for that roster spot, but Bischoff isn’t attending Rookie Camp and Schuldt remains without a contract.
(Update: Schuldt signed a one-year, one-way deal on the first day of Rookie Camp. Both he and McCrimmon stressed that there was never any real fear of a deal not getting done. Later that day, Jesse Granger of The Athletic tweeted a much different story from Schuldt's agent.)
Hague, Whitecloud, and Schuldt will have the most time to showcase their respective talent and appeal to the coaching staff, which could work out in their favor with a strong showing. Another option, albeit as more of a long-shot in the battle, is Dylan Coghlan. Coghlan displayed dynamic offense in the Western Hockey League and that translated to the American Hockey League last season with the Chicago Wolves. If he picks up where he left off last season, the undrafted defenseman could get thrown into the mix, as the Golden Knights' diamond in the rough. For more on Coghlan, check out the profile I wrote on him
earlier this week.
Hague knows how to use that long reach (USA Today Sports)
My personal pick for the spot is Hague. You can’t teach size, but you can teach how to use it. Hague knows how to utilize his large frame and impossible wingspan. He is solid in his own end and possesses a booming slapshot. Nothing is exceptionally flashy about his game, but he is a solid two-way defender and could give the Golden Knights some added stability at even strength and on the penalty kill.
"I just want to play my game. I'm not gonna try to change who I am as a player to try to mold into a spot that may be there."
Will Cody Glass Force His Way to the NHL
Outside of the truly elite draft picks, teams tend to be patient with their draft picks, even the early rounders. If he had more than a partial season of professional hockey under his belt, Cody Glass would be penciled into the Golden Knights’ opening night roster. Instead, Glass likely needs to blow the roof off management’s doors to make the big club out of camp.
Cody Glass has high expectations attached to him (USA Today Sports)
William Karlsson, Paul Stastny, and Cody Eakin give the Golden Knights three solid centers in the top-nine. Tomas Nosek got a new one-year deal, presumably to fill Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s vacancy. Unless he plays some wing or fourth line minutes, there’s no room for the 2017 first-round pick. His clearest route to playing is on the left wing of the third line, but he’d have to unseat Brandon Pirri or Valentin Zykov and frankly, he’s better off at center.
Eakin and Nosek have one year left on their deals, making the 2020-21 season look like a likelier outcome for Glass. If he dazzles in camp and dominates the Rookie Faceoff scrimmages against some high-level prospects, he could force Kelly McCrimmon’s hand. Glass has the skill and the drive to dominate camp and make September interesting. He’s a player to watch through the rest of the month.
Can Ben Jones Build on Another Strong Development Camp
Back in June, Ben Jones impressed at his third Development Camp with the Golden Knights. He was always around the puck, made some spectacular plays, and essentially put himself on the radar, the summer before his jump to the pro ranks. He lit up the Ontario Hockey League last season with 102 points in 68 games, as the captain of the Niagara IceDogs. Despite the big numbers, Jones is a defense-minded center who dominated the faceoff circle this past June at Development Camp. He isn't the biggest name of the group, but the 2017 seventh-rounder could become a value pick for the Golden Knights.
Jones will get another taste of the preseason (USA Today Sports)
Jones will play a big role for the Chicago Wolves this coming season. His versatility as a two-way center will come in handy and could even find himself playing in all situations. With guys like Paul Cotter, Jake Leschyshyn and Nicolas Roy also in the mix, Jones will have internal competition over the next few seasons. These scrimmages would have been perfect to gauge his game at the pro ranks, but unfortunately he won't be playing. On Thursday morning, GM Kelly McCrimmon disclosed that he is recovering from an undisclosed injury and will not be in action. Hopefully, he will be ready for the start of the preseason (September 15).
Hockey, You’re Watching for Hockey
For the first time in a long time, we will have real live hockey to enjoy. If you want to make the trip to SoCal, tickets are available for the Rookie Faceoff scrimmages on a game-by-game basis for the low cost of $10 general admission. Head over to the 2019 Rookie Faceoff site
for more info and tickets. There, you will see the Golden Knights’ rookie squad is scheduled to take on the Avalanche at 1pm on Saturday, the Coyotes Sunday at 3pm, and the Ducks on Tuesday at 3pm.
Although it’s just the prospects for now, it’s still the game we all know and love. These kids will be jousting for organizational positioning and they’ll be playing hard, looking to turn some heads. Sometimes that’s the best form of the game. Following the end of Rookie Camp on Thursday, the Golden Knights will jump right into action, with their first preseason game on Sunday, September 15, at home against the Arizona Coyotes. Expect the Fortress to be rocking as season number three in the desert is set to kick off.
Be sure to follow me on the Twitter and I will keep you up-to-date on the team’s comings and goings including a trip to California for the Avalanche scrimmage on Saturday.