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Camp Provides Opportunity for Future Golden Knights

by Gary Lawless /

Draft and develop takes time but this week's sessions at City National Arena will provide a telling look into the progress the Vegas Golden Knights have made in terms of organizational depth over one short year.

Draft picks Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, Erik Brannstrom and Nic Hague are all back for their second development camp.

Free agents Reid Duke and Dylan Coghlan are also back again and joined by Zach Whitecloud who was signed this winter.

Whitecloud has already played in a regular season game for the Golden Knights as has returning goalie Dylan Ferguson, and Keegan Kolesar has a season of pro hockey under his belt at both the AHL and ECHL levels.

Last year's development camp was all about introductions. This year's will clearly have an element of competition as prospects in the VGK organization begin to jostle for position as they get closer to turning pro.

For Golden Knights director of player development Wil Nichol, this year's camp will be different in a variety of ways.

"City National Arena... What a difference it's going to make, for the players for coaches, staff, fans. We're grateful and thankful for the use of Las Vegas Ice Center last year, Bishop Gorman, and what all those people did to help us last year, but having our own facility this year and, arguably one of the best in the world, it's just going to make a huge difference," said Nichol. "Obviously, from a player standpoint, we just have more guys that are coming. We have last year's draft picks, we've got some guys that we signed like Dylan Coghlan and Zach Whitecloud, and then we've got this year's draft picks so you can see the coverage starting to grow which is fun, it's exciting."

Depending on how things shape out between now and the start of next season there is potential for Whitecloud, Hague, Brannstrom and Coghlan to all be on the blue line in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves and pushing for work with the Golden Knights. That's a huge step forward for Vegas.

Glass and Suzuki still have junior eligibility and must return to their CHL clubs if they don't crack the roster in Vegas.

For GM George McPhee, getting the opportunity to see the growth and progression the players have made in a year is critical. For fans, it's a chance to see how close the future of their team is to reaching its potential.

"From a fan standpoint, I think it's going to be fun because there'll be a lot of fans that were there last year. They saw Nic Hague, for example, last year and now they get to see him a year later. They get to see him when he's in Chicago. I just think from all aspects there's growth and it's a lot of fun," said Nichol.

The opportunity to play for the Golden Knights is also a year closer for these players. They know, that in a matter of time, they'll be trying to convince McPhee to keep them on the big club's roster.

"I don't want to speak for the boys, but I think any time you have an opportunity to skate on a sheet of ice in front of George McPhee, Kelly McCrimmon, Gerard Gallant and his whole staff, you have an opportunity to make an impression and I would be surprised if it wasn't a very competitive camp," said Nichol.

GOLDEN KNIGHTS 2018 DEVELOPMENT CAMP ROSTER AS OF JUNE 24: (Players are listed in alphabetical order by last name)

Forwards (24): Matt Baker, Tarek Baker, Luke Burghardt, Nick Campoli, Ryan Chyzowski, Paul Cotter, Dawson DiPietro, Jack Dugan, Reid Duke, Lucas Elvenes, Cody Glass, Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Ben Jones, Brett Kemp, Keegan Kolesar, Brandon Kruse, Jake Leschyshyn, Steve Owre, Gage Quinney, Jonas Rondbjerg, Jake Slaker, Nick Suzuki, Ryan Wagner, Tyler Wong.

Defensemen (14): Martin Bodak, Erik Brannstrom, Xavier Bouchard, Dylan Coghlan, Connor Corcoran, Charlie Curti, Peter Diliberatore, Wyatt Ege, Reece Harsch, Nicolas Hague, Bobby Nardella, Corey Schueneman, Jimmy Schuldt, Zach Whitecloud.

Goaltenders (4): Jordan Kooy, Jiri Patera, Dylan Ferguson, Maksim Zhukov.

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