From Rock Creek Cattle Company in Deer Lodge, Montana, the Golden Knights staff find themselves in the midst of a busy week which likely will involve some tough decisions about who to bring into the organization through the draft and as well as dealing with the free agency period and salary cap issues.
First, the NHL draft, held virtually and later than normal of course because of the pandemic with the Golden Knights coming into the draft with five picks, starting with pick #29 in the first round.
With that pick, VGK elected to draft Brendan Brisson, who plays Center and hails from Manhattan Beach, CA.
His Father is well known in the hockey community, Pat Brisson is an NHL agent who represents various players such as Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, and even Golden Knights players Jonathan Marchessault and Nic Roy.
Brendan Brisson, currently attending the University of Michigan, spent the last season playing in the USHL with the Chicago Steel. During the forty-five games with the Steel last season, Brisson ended up with 24 goals and 35 assists for 59 points in 45 games played, an 1.3 points per game average, which ranked fourth in the USHL.
He describes himself as a 2-way center-man who is driven by his hockey sense. He also says he has been working on his skating and on his one-timer and his shot since being at Michigan.
Finding out you got selected #29 while sitting in the Michigan Football locker room at the “Big House” isn’t a bad thing either.
“When I heard my name selected by Vegas, I don’t even know the words to describe how I felt. My whole body went numb,” says Brisson. Who went on to say he is excited to wake up the next morning, work on getting better and hopes he will be able to put on the Golden Knights uniform soon.
Moving on to day two of the draft, the Golden Knights ended up with five selections. And we will give you a little breakdown of each one.
3rd Round: #68, Lukas Cormier, Defenseman, 5’10’’ 176 lbs, Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
During his interview on the Golden Knights Draft show, Cormier compared his game to NHL players Samuel Girard and Torey Krug.
According to the Elite Prospects draft guide, he is projected as an offensive defenseman. They go on to say, “His shooting ability and his propensity for backdoor plays separate him from his counterparts. He can catch a cross-ice pass and fire the puck before the goalie can react.”
Last season with Charlottetown he played in 44 games, lighting the lamp six times with 30 assists to go along with that for 36 points. As far as for this season, in two games with his QMJHL team, he has already recorded six points (2 G, 4 A)
In his interview with the media when asked abut his thoughts on the Golden Knights organization, he had this to say.
“It’s a great city, a great organization for the small time that they’ve been in the league. I’m just extremely excited to join Vegas. It’s a huge honor and to hear my name called was a huge relief. I was proud that it was with Vegas.”
3rd Round, #81, Jackson Hallum, Forward, 6’0” 170 lbs, St. Thomas Academy (Minnesota)
The Eagan, MN kid found out he was being drafted as he was walking to his economics class. He describes himself as a fast skater, as well as flashy.
Last season with St. Thomas Academy, he recorded 35 points in 25 games, with 18 goals and 17 assists. This season, he is planning on playing with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL if they are able to during these COVID-19 times. After high school, he is committed to attend the University of Michigan, where he would likely be joining fellow Golden Knights 2020 draftee, Brendan Brisson.
When asked who he models his game after, he said, “Connor McDavid is probably the player that I model my game the most. I think I play a lot like him. The speed, the hands and the agility are three aspects that relate to his game.“
5th round, #125, Jesper Vikman, Goaltender, 6’3”, 176 lbs.
Hometown: Stockholm, Sweden,
The Golden Knights traded up to get this pick, and elected to select to a goaltender out of Sweden. The last couple seasons Vikman recorded over .900 save percentage, including being awarded the TV-Pucken Best Save Percentage (.953) for the 2017-18 season. We do not have much more info on him at this time. So stay tuned as we follow his development with the rest of this draft class.
Assistant Director of Player Development for Golden Knights Bob Lowes likes the development path he is on. “He was picked by Portland in the Western League, which means he is not coming over this year. He will stay and play junior, then he will come over the following year. We just like the development path. His athleticism. His ability to move. His size,” says Lowes
6th Round: #148, Noah Ellis, Defenseman, 6’2”, 192 lbs, Des Moines (USHL)
The 18-yr-old defenseman from Urbandale, Iowa, spent all of last season and portion of the 2018-2019 season manning the blue line for Des Moines Buccaneers, where he recorded 11 points in 47 games last season.
He is committed to attend University of Massachusetts for the 2021-2022 season.
He strives to model his game after fellow Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore, which should get the VGK fan base excited, considering how well Theodore has performed on the ice for Vegas in the last season, especially during this most recent playoff run.
He also, as you might imagine, has nice things to say about Las Vegas when he was asked about being drafted by Vegas.
“It was pretty crazy. My family and I actually took a trip to Vegas this summer. We wanted to take a vacation and that was somewhere my sister and I wanted to go. We had never been and I thought it was definitely a very cool spot. I kind of fell in love with the city and it’s really exciting.”
7th Round, #215 Maxim Marushev, Center, 6’1”, Bars Kazan (KHL)
Birthplace: Saratov, Russia
Golden Knights seem to like giving Russian players a chance, this time, it’s Marushev, who had his best season with Bars Kazan during the 2019-20 season, where he recorded 23 goals and 17 assists (40 pts) in 35 games. So, we’ll have to see how he works out for the Golden Knights.
As Rounds 2-7 of the draft were going on, The Golden Knights were able to extend the contract of Chandler Stephenson, who found himself in Las Vegas back in December as part of a trade with Washington, to four more years with an average annual value of 2.75 million dollars cap hit. Golden Knights also re-signed Vegas native Gage Quinney for one more year at $700,000 and will be mainly with the Henderson Silver Knights AHL club according to GM Kelly McCrimmon.
The team has also made qualifying offers to Jimmy Schult, Reid Duke, and Keegan Kolesar as free agency period begins Friday. With Schult and Duke both locking up one-year, $700,000 deals on Thursday.
What’s next? The 7 million dollar question. What happens with Fleury? After the signing of Robin Lenher to a 5 million dollar-a-year contract, the Golden Knights face a cap issue. With that, it is hard to imagine that they will be able to retain Fleury and also be able to keep other players or go out and try to sign others on the free agent market.
Trading the face of the franchise won’t be easy as Fleury has a no-trade clause and will another team want to take on that high salary.
That will be an interesting story line to follow as the free agency period begins Friday.
But, for now, we celebrate the six new draft picks by the Golden Knights organization and look forward to see where their journey ends up, which could very well be eventually in Henderson with the goal of wearing the VGK sweater.
Final word goes to Golden Knights General Manager Kelly McCrimmon. “The organization got better over the last two days, these are two of the more important days of the year. Maybe the most important days of the year for any of the NHL teams. I was really pleased that we were able to come away with the players that we did.”