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How Does A Season Without Games Impact Hockey Ops?

Director of Player Development Wil Nichol touches on how roles have been altered during the 2016-17 season.

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights /

It's kind of like a puzzle.

When piecing together an NHL team's hockey operations department, personnel fits into various, at times very specific roles. From the outside, this may seem confusing.

What's the difference between a director of scouting and a director of player personnel? What's does a director of hockey operations do that an assistant general manager doesn't?

If not already familiar with the inner workings of how a team functions, the amount of people in a hockey operations department seems like a logjam. Especially when you take into account that the Golden Knights' hockey operations department has 28 members employed by the organization under general manager George McPhee.

In a recent interview with the U-Show (a weekly podcast hosted by the United States Hockey League), the Golden Knights' director of player development, Wil Nichol, shed some light into how this system works for Vegas.

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 "This first year, it's pretty much all hands on deck," Nichol said. "We currently don't have any draft picks. We just signed our first player, so we have one player right now in the cupboard. So really, right now it's scouting, for everybody, in our organization. We're trying to prepare for an expansion draft, we're trying to prepare for an amateur draft and we're trying to prepare for free agency."


Video: A look at the 2017 Expansion Draft rules


Nichol then detailed how his role, as well as others in the organization, will evolve once the team has assembled the level of infrastructure that the league's other 30 teams currently enjoy.

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"Once we get our draft picks and our prospects, that's when my job will begin with the player development," Nichol said. "The simplest way I can describe it (my job) is, I will try to get each prospect to their ceiling. It's my job to help them to be at their best, not just on the ice but off the ice. Help them with nutrition, help them with their strength and conditioning. Help them become a pro. That's my A, No. 1 responsibility. That will start to kick in after the draft June."

In a wide-ranging interview with the U-Show, Nichol touched on a variety of other topics.

RELATED: How do the Expansion Draft rules allow Vegas to build a deep team?

These topics include his include anecdotes on his own personal history in the USHL. That as he has seen the league evolve, dating back to when he was a player in the 1990s to the league's coach of the year in 2004, how he sees that league becoming an increasingly important part of the development of NHL players.

To listen to the full interview, CLICK HERE.

In one of the more interesting parts of the interview, Nichol detailed his scouting philosophy and how player performances during the playoffs factor into the larger picture.



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It should be noted that the NCAA, CHL and USHL playoffs all start in the next few weeks, about a month in advance of the NHL's playoffs.

RELATED: What positions must the Golden Knights select in the Expansion Draft?

"Maybe if a young man hasn't performed well in the playoffs, but you liked him prior, maybe you need to do some digging," Nichol said. "Maybe there's an injury? Maybe someone in his family has been ill?

"If you're asking me if all things are equal and a kid doesn't show up in the playoffs? Yeah, I think you have to take a hard look at that. Because you want people that are competitive, right? You want people who want to win championships, who at the very least are going to bring effort in those big game situations."

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