This weekend marked the first NHL entry draft in the history of the Knights, in a week of firsts for the franchise…first players picked, first players traded…soon will be first training camp, first game and first win. First loss won’t come until 2024 at the earliest.
Knights’ GM George McPhee made sure he wouldn’t be bored this weekend, as he wouldn’t listen to any trade offer that didn’t include draft picks. So the Knights entered Draft Weekend with 13 picks, including 3 on the first round. One of the picks would get traded, more on that below.
So let’s meet the Knights’ first foray into organizational depth:
CODY GLASS – F, 6’3 195 1st round, 6th overall – For the first pick in Knights’ history (6th overall), they picked a center with a name that sounds like a 90s teen heartthrob. Glass is a guy whose size and 200 foot game could very easily make him the centerpiece upon which the team can be built. He racked up 94 points in 64 games in the Western League, not exactly known for their scoring juggernauts. If the Knights are smart, they give him a little more time in Juniors. His father said seeing him get drafted was a dream come true. From here on out, every father will go to sleep dreaming of his son being a Golden Knight.
NICK SUZUKI – F 5’11 195 1st round, 13th overall – They used Winnipeg’s pick to pick the least Winnipeggy player available. Suzuki was ranked pretty highly, Top 10 depending on who you listened to. But his slight frame allowed him to still be there when the Knights made their second pick. He racked up 96 points in 65 games for Owen Sound in the OHL. He also only had 10 penalty minutes, so here’s a guy who can maybe get a Lady Byng or two if he pans out. He’s absolutely going back to Owen Sound to keep developing, and hopefully beefing up a bit.
ERIK BRANNSTROM – D 5’10 172 1st round, 15th overall – Another little guy with huge skill. Brannstrom is a guy who makes smooth transitions from defense to offense and can drive the puck up the ice. He was impressive in international play this year, particularly in the Five Nations tourney. He’ll spend another year or two in Sweden. I can’t imagine the Knights wanting him to skate in the AHL this fall. Hopefully he learns more about Las Vegas than what he said he saw in “The Hangover”.
NICHOLAS HAGUE – D 6’6 210 2nd round, 34th overall – Now we’re talking. This hulk can actually generate some offense, 45 points in 65 games in Mississauga of the OHL. He actually moves pretty well for a guy his size. He might actually be closer to NHL ready than the guys picked ahead of him. He’ll probably still get another year in the OHL so he can keep growing into his body. Yes, he’s still doing that.
At this point the Knights dealt their other second round pick to Columbus for Keegan Kolesar, a 20-year-old 2-way forward with pretty good size (6’2, 223) who has spent the past couple years racking up about a point a game with Seattke of the WHL and over 100 penalty minutes each year as well. He might be shuttling between the Wolves of the AHL and the Knights this year.
JAKE LESCHYSHYN – F 5’10 190 2nd round, 62nd overall – That name sound familiar? His dad Curtis played for the Colorado Avalanche during their glory days, even getting his name spelled correctly on the Stanley Cup. Young Jake represents a roll of the dice, as he tore his ACL this spring, and might not even be ready for training camp. He skated for the Regina Pats in the WHL (Lots of Western League kids getting picked here), he had 40 points in 47 games before getting hurt. Look for him to eventually be a bottom 6 energy guy.
JONAS RONDBJERG – D 6’0 176 3rd round, 63rd overall – The second of two consecutive Knights picks, Rondbjerg is a Danish born D-man who played with the grown men in Sweden…dare we say Danish Bjorn? Anyway, he makes offense happen, racking up a respectable 31 points in 40 games in the Swedish 20-and-under league before skating with the big boys for 5 games without a point. Lots of puck skill and skating, he’s another guy who along with Brannstrom can someday be guys who carry the mail here.
MAXIM ZHUKOV – G 6’3 187 4th round, 97th overall – This is around the time in every draft where fans of teams wonder when the goalie is getting picked. Fortunately for the Knights, drafting a goaltender wasn’t imperative, as they have Fleury between the pipes for the foreseeable future. He’s Russian, but came over to play with the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL last season. So he’s already got a year of playing in North America under his belt. He’ll undoubtedly stick in Juniors for at least the next season so he can be Russia’s goalie in the World Juniors in December.
LUCAS ELVENES – F 6’0 174 5th round, 127th overall – If you don’t think I already have a million jokes like “Elvenes Has Left The Building”… Elvenes took care of business in Sweden, getting 45 points in 41 games in Sweden’s 20-and-under league. Look for him to stay near home for a year or two before he comes over to be your teddy bear.
You were warned.
JONATHAN DUGAN – F 6’2 185 5th round, 142nd overall – He likes being called Jack. Jack Fucking Dugan. No shit, he’s getting 30 points a year just for having such an awesome name. Jack’s a high school kid who is already committed to playing college hockey for Providence. Hi neighbor, have a ‘Gansett.
NICK CAMPOLI – F 5’11 174 6th round, 158th overall – The Knights are really picking up their names here. Nick Campoli sounds like a guy who would have wound up in Vegas anyway, warming up for Paul Anka. You better believe Nick Campoli would know where Joe was. Another kid committed to collegiate hockey, he’ll be skating for Clarkson. Drafting some collegiate players, for those of you who may be hockey plebiscites, means teams don’t have to give them contracts until their class graduates. So while a kid who is developing quickly might get offered a contract sooner, the Knights have 4 years to let guys like Dugan and Campoli develop before they have to decide whether they’re worth the investment.
JIRI PATERA – G 6’2 209 6th round, 161st overall – Sadly, no word on whether he’s related to Ken Patera. Young Jiri still hsa a lot of developing to do before he can even be considered for North American pro hockey. Kids like this usually opt for the KHL. Not a big deal, teams don’t usually spend a lot of time looking at the clock wondering when 6th rounders will be ready. But keep an eye on him, he’ll probably be the Czech Republic’s goalie at the World Juniors.
BEN JONES F 6’0 187 7th round, 189th overall – The last guy to don a Draft Day sweater for the Golden Knights until next year. He had a solid second year for the Niagara Ice Dogs in the OHL, getting 50 points in 63 games. If he ever graduates to the pro game, look for him to be a bottom six grinder.
There you have it, the first dozen guys to be drafted by the Knights. As this season goes on, look for McPhee to walk into the draft next year with at least another dozen picks.
Fro is the worst.