The Vegas Golden Knights are gearing up for the 2019-20 NHL season with their annual training camp set to begin this weekend. They have invited 53 players to camp: 7 goaltenders, 17 defensemen, and 29 forwards. There are a number of key roster battles to watch this year and the team will need to be down to a 23-man roster (and cap compliant) before the regular season begins on October 2.
We are going to take a look at the preseason schedule, seeing if we can get an idea of when we can expect rooster cuts to take place, and examine to roster to try to estimate the opening night lineup/salary cap and what the minor league options will be.
The players report for off-ice sessions and medical testing on Thursday September 12, with the players who had already been together in rookie camp having a final evening practice session. On Friday September 13 the players split into 3 groups, Teams A and B have morning practices and a scrimmage while Team C has an afternoon session. They do the same on Saturday September 14 (they rename the scrimmage groups to A and B rather than keeping the same names each day). On Sunday September 15 there is a morning practice for non-game players while the rest have the first home game against the Arizona Coyotes at 1:30pm PST/4:30pm EST. On Monday September 16 there is a final scrimmage with Teams A and B in the morning and Team C in the afternoon.
The first cuts may come after the scrimmage is complete, there are a number of juniors prospects who will be in camp mainly to get experience with the system and don’t have much of a shot at making the actual lineup. It is also right before the teams heads on the road for their series of away games, and from there they are split into two practice groups, so I am guessing this is an ideal place to trim the roster.
On Tuesday September 17 the non-game players have a morning practice at home while the rest head on the road to face the Colorado Avalanche at 6:00pm PST/9:00pm EST. There is a scheduled day off on Wednesday, so if they have not made cuts yet then this would be another spot to watch. On Thursday September 19 there is a morning skate for the guys heading on the road to play the Los Angeles Kings at 7:30pm PST/10:30pm EST while the non-game group stays home for an afternoon practice. On Friday September 20 there is a morning session for the non-game players while those who traveled get an afternoon practice. Then once more on the road Saturday September 21 with a morning session for the non-game players while the rest head to face the San Jose Sharks at 7:00pm PST/10:00pm EST.
Right around here should be where the next round of cuts occur. The Chicago Wolves begin their AHL training camp on September 22 and play their first preseason game on September 26. Meanwhile Vegas has scheduled days off on both Sunday and Monday, then when they return they have only a single practice group scheduled. From this point forward the roster should look fairly similar to what we would expect to see on opening night, although there will obviously be a handful of guys battling for the final roster spots.
They return for a single group practice on Tuesday September 24. On Wedneday September 25 they have a morning skate and then have a home game against the Avalanche at 7:00pm PST/10:00pm EST. Thursday September 26 is another morning practice session while they remain at home to face the Kings at 7:00pm PST/10:00pm EST on Friday September 27. One more group practice on Saturday September 28 and then on Sunday September 29 there is an optional skate in the morning with a final home game vs the Sharks at 5:00pm PST/8:00pm EST.
They don’t have any additional practices scheduled after that, so all the final cuts will happen right before the deadline.
29 Marc-Andre Fleury – 2017 expansion draft
30 Malcolm Subban – 2017 waiver claim
40 Garret Sparks – Acquired from Toronto Maple Leafs in 2019
35 Oscar Dansk – 2017 free agent signing
1 Dylan Ferguson – Acquired from Dallas Stars in 2017
32 Jiri Patera – 2017 6th round pick
34 Jordan Kooy – 2018 7th round pick
Barring any injuries we already know the NHL starter will be Fleury. His backup is not as set in stone as some may expect it to be. Subban is penciled in as backup because that is the role he played over the past two seasons. However Sparks was just brought in on a 1-way NHL deal after serving as a backup for the Toronto Maple Leafs last season and Dansk played well when he was used as an injury call-up. All three of them would need to clear waivers in order to be sent to the AHL, all three of them have a single year remaining on their contracts, and all three of them would be solid options to serve as an NHL backup. So it will be interesting to watch and see who winds up sticking with the big club this year.
Ferguson is a waiver exempt rookie, so his getting sent down to the minors is inevitable. The question for him though is will he serve as a backup for the AHL Chicago Wolves or will he get sent all the way down to the ECHL Fort Wayne Komets? Personally I’d like to see him down in the ECHL where he can play more minutes, however if one or both of the older goalies get claimed off waivers then they will have no choice but to play him in the AHL.
Patera and Kooy are both unsigned so the assumption is that they will be back in the juniors. Kooy is only 19 so his return is all but assured, but Patera is old enough that he could sign and play in the AHL if they think he is ready for it this year. Although unless they lose two netminders on waivers I really can’t see that happening.
NHL (2) – Fleury/Subban $7.850M
Minors (6) – Sparks, Dansk, Ferguson, Strang, Kupsky, Dhillon
88 Nate Schmidt – 2017 expansion draft
27 Shea Theodore – Acquired from Anaheim Ducks in 2017
3 Brayden McNabb – 2017 expansion draft
22 Nick Holden – 2018 free agent signing
5 Deryk Engelland – 2017 expansion draft
15 Jon Merrill – 2017 expansion draft
4 Jimmy Schuldt – 2019 free agent signing
24 Jaycob Megna – 2019 free agent signing
45 Jake Bischoff – Acquired from New York Islanders in 2017
2 Zach Whitecloud – 2018 free agent signing
14 Nicolas Hague – 2017 2nd round pick
52 Dylan Coghlan – 2017 free agent signing
8 Brett Lernout – 2019 free agent signing
94 Brayden Pachal – Amateur try-out
85 Connor Corcoran – 2018 5th round pick
82 Xavier Bouchard – 2018 6th round pick
6 Kaedan Korczak – 2019 2nd round pick
The core D from last season have returned, the Top 4 looks to be pretty set as they still have Schmidt, Theodore, McNabb, and Engelland. We can also pencil in Holden and Merrill at the bottom of the lineup, although it remains to be seen whether they will dress as the 3rd pairing or if they will again play the role of 7th D sliding in and out of the lineup.
There should be one or two additional D moving up this year (depending on whether they go with 13 or 14 F), but it remains to be seen yet who it will be or what role they will play. Most people as penciling in Schuldt, although after watching him at the rookie tournament I really don’t think he is NHL ready yet. Hague was the best all-around D at the rookie tournament, but he is a Top 4 guy so they are probably better off letting him be the #1 D in Chicago rather than a 3rd pairing guy in Vegas. Coghlan, on the other hand, made a strong case for nabbing a spot on the blue line. He is a right-handed offensive D who plays a rather similar style to the recently departed Colin Miller, so he could slot in as a 3rd pairing D and PP specialist.
Whitecloud didn’t do bad, so depending on how he plays in the preseason he could make a case for being a 6/7 D, but what works against him is that he is the highest paid of all the young D options and they are right up against the cap as it is. Another option is Bischoff, who played a bit last season, he is a defensively responsible 2-way guy who is old enough that sitting in the press box or playing 3rd pairing minutes shouldn’t really hurt his development. Another to watch is Megna, he spent time in the AHL with Anaheim last year and is experienced enough to be a #7 D.
I expect Lernout will clear waivers and be sent to the AHL, and if they sign Pachal it will probably be to and AHL deal with the Wolves as well. Based on the rookie tournament I’d assume that none of Corcoran, Bouchard, or Korczak are close to NHL ready and as they are all unsigned and all too young for the minors I expect them all to head back to the juniors.
NHL (8) – McNabb-Theodore/Schmidt-Engelland/Holden-Coghlan/Merrill-Bischoff $19.358M plus $0.800M bonus.
Minors (14) – Hague, Whitecloud, Megna, Lernout, Schuldt, Pachal, Binkley, Greco, Haas, Petschenig, Israel, Martin, Stewart, Galipeau
61 Mark Stone – Acquired from Ottawa Senators in 2019
67 Max Pacioretty – Acquired from Montreal Canadiens in 2018
26 Paul Stastny – 2018 free agent signing
71 William Karlsson – 2017 expansion draft
19 Reilly Smith – Acquired from Florida Panthers in 2017
81 Jonathan Marchessault – 2017 expansion draft
89 Alex Tuch – Acquired from Minnesota Wild in 2017
21 Cody Eakin – 2017 expansion draft
75 Ryan Reaves – Acquired from Pittsburgh Penguins in 2018
92 Tomas Nosek – 2017 expansion draft
73 Brandon Pirri – 2017 free agent signing
11 Curtis McKenzie – 2018 free agent signing
28 William Carrier – 2017 expansion draft
7 Valentin Zykov – 2018 waiver claim
12 Tyrell Goulbourne – 2019 free agent signing
10 Nicolas Roy – Acquired from Carolina Hurricanes in 2019
37 Reid Duke – 2017 free agent signing
23 Patrick Brown – 2019 free agent signing
9 Cody Glass – 2017 1st round pick
46 Jonas Rondbjerg – 2017 3rd round pick
39 Jake Leschyshyn – 2017 2nd round pick
70 Lucas Elvenes – 2017 5th round pick
55 Keegan Kolesar – Acquired from Columbus Blue Jackets in 2017
53 Marcus Kallionkieli – 2019 5th round pick
43 Paul Cotter – 2018 4th round pick
64 Ben Jones – 2017 7th round pick
72 Gage Quinney – 2018 free agent signing
36 Tye McGinn – AHL Contract
54 Jermaine Loewen – Amateur Try-Out
18 Peyton Krebs – 2019 1st round pick
57 Mason Primeau – 2019 5th round pick
The Golden Knights Top 6 from last season is back so we can safely assume that Karlsson, Marchessault, Smith, Stone, Pacioretty, and Stastny will be on the roster. Tuch is in at 3 RW, although he could see minutes with the Top 6 in the event of injury and should still get work on the PP. Eakin should be in at 3 C, he did a solid job last year and is also capable of slotting up in the event of injury. They also plan to have Carrier back as 4 LW and Reaves as 4 RW, although they have lost their usual center.
Most likely this will result in Nosek becoming the new 4 C, and that would allow Pirri to get a shot as 3 LW, although both of them can play C or wing so we could see them swapping. And lastly Zykov should be up as the 13th F because that is the role he played last year, he spent most of the year in the NHL and was claimed by two different teams when they attempted to waive him down, so chances are he won’t clear waivers to be sent back to the AHL.
If they are going with 13 F/8 D then this is the lineup we should see. However, if they chose to go with 7 D there is room for another forward to get a shot at making the lineup, and it is possible they could waive somebody like Zykov or Pirri even though the risk of losing them is high. This would be the best shot for Glass to make the opening lineup, as having him and Eakin as the Bottom 6 centers is better than trusting somebody like Pirri or Nosek who are more used to being on the wing. However, he is at heart a Top 6 C so they may want him to get big minutes in the AHL rather than limited usage in the NHL, although between him and Tuch their 3rd line could be a 2nd line on most other teams.
There are a couple other guys who could make a push for NHL minutes if the team wants a more experienced center for the 4th line. Brown is pretty much an AHL vet at this point in his career, but he has experience and wouldn’t be a bad 4 C. He should clear waivers and would be a veteran mentor to help the youngsters develop. Roy is right on the cusp of being NHL ready so getting him 4th line minutes wouldn’t be bad either. However, Roy is still waiver exempt so chances are he starts in the AHL, but keep an eye on him if they need mid-season call-ups.
McKenzie is an experienced AHL veteran and could be one of the Wolves captains this year, he shouldn’t have any problems clearing waivers. Goulbourne also needs waived, but he’s a bottom of the lineup physical type so he shouldn’t have any issues clearing either. McGinn is an AHL vet signed to an AHL deal, so he will be in Chicago. Loewen is a bottom of the lineup physical/defensive guy, if he signs it will probably be to an AHL deal.
Duke, Kolesar, and Quinney have been with the team but are still waiver exempt, expect them in the AHL. Rondbjerg, Leschyshyn, Elvenes, and Jones are waiver exempt rookies, they should also be down in the AHL. Cotter is a waiver exempt rookie but also has the option of going back to the OHL, but based on his play at the rookie tournament I think he is ready to turn pro with the Chicago Wolves this year. Jones has been inured and missed the rookie tournament, but they expect him to be back during the preseason.
Lastly we have the guys that should definitely be heading back to the juniors. Krebs is still recovering from injury and will rehab in Vegas, but will return to the juniors as soon as he is healthy. Kallionkieli was injured and missed the rookie tournament, he is a Euro pick who could play in the minors this year, but they drafted him to the WHL Brandon What Kings so chances are he will go there. Primeau is a decent bottom 6 center, but he’s got a bit of development to do so expect him back in the juniors as well.
NHL (13) – Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith/Paciooretty-Stastny-Stone/Pirri-Eakin-Tuch/Carrier-Nosek-Reaves/Zykov $53.450M
Minors (30) – McKenzie, Brown, Goulbourne, Roy, Duke, Kolesar, Quinney, Glass, Rondbjerg, Leschyshyn, Elvenes, Cotter, Jones, McGinn, Loewen, Levac, Jenks, Szydlowski, Ross, Shaw, Munson, Petruzzelli, Boudens, Kamrass, Torrel, Crawford, St. Amant, McKenzie, Lyszczarczyk, Ross
Projected Roster and Cap Hit
If we go with the 2 G/8 D/13 F I listed above then the Golden Knights would be at $81.458M, or $80.658M with an $800k bonus cushion. This means they actually come in under the cap with a little bit of wiggle room to swap around which guys make the roster (e.g. Glass or Hague could make the team rather than a guy who makes a little less money) and gives them a little bit of room if they need any injury call-ups during the season.
This wouldn’t be a bad lineup to start the team with, and it gives the kids a little bit of extra time to adjust and play a bigger role in the AHL. And as we saw back in 2017 when Tuch and Theodore began the year with the Chicago Wolves the team is more than willing to make moves in order to accommodate a young player after they show that they are ready to move up.
So the opening night lineup won’t necessarily be the same lineup they are using by the Christmas break. To a certain extent this may be a smart move as well, since some of the guys they would need to waive to make room may have an easier time clearing a month from now when teams are already developing chemistry rather than during camp when the players are still fighting for positions.
We could also see some trades during the season, there are quite a few players with just a year left on their contracts and a number of young guys coming up who would benefit by opening up more holes in the roster. For example if Glass performs exceptionally well and forces them to give him the 3 C slot they may consider moving Eakin rather than worrying about trying to re-sign him next summer.
The roster is pretty much set as it is, but it isn’t set in stone and there are a number of roster battles to keep an eye on in camp. It will be quite interesting not only to see what the opening night roster looks like but also what kind of moves they make during the season.