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Message Is Simple For Prospects Who Want To Make Team: 'Dominate'

Golden Knights prospects begin Rookie Camp on September 7

by Gary Lawless @GoldenKnights /

It's a simple formula but one which will be adhered to within the Golden Knights organization. Dominate at one level before moving on to the next.

Players drafted and injected into the Golden Knights system won't be given a pass to the NHL and the chance to learn on the job.

For any of this year's draft picks to make the NHL roster - they'll have to convince GM George McPhee and his staff they are not only better than others in the organization at their position - but also ready to swim with the rest of the NHL.

There's a distinction there. Vegas is an expansion team and admittedly has some holes in the roster. So, for instance, it's not a stretch to think a rookie could be among the team's top 12 forwards or eight D. But that won't be enough for McPhee to elevate that player to the NHL. 

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This is a blank canvas and the opportunity to get the development curve right. Rushing a player and forcing him into the wrong situation isn't necessary. It won't happen under McPhee. Expect players to over-ripen rather than be green upon NHL arrival.

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Could a Cody Glass or Nicolas Hague or any other draft pick make this team? Absolutely. But they'd have to come into camp and dominate. To be the best at their position and to prove they can continue to excel once the regular season begins. And to stay at that level when the pace increases at Christmas and then again down the stretch as it does in the NHL every season.

McPhee won't want to burn a year of a player's entry level contract only to have him fade by December or to have the coaching staff wondering what to do with him.

If the player is on the top of Gerard Gallant's mind all the time and is constantly being sent over the boards regardless of situation - then McPhee might have a decision to make.


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The other piece of this equation is the defensive side of the game. Maybe a rookie shows offensive prowess out of the gate but he'll have to possess a complete game before he's told to secure a home Vegas.

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Trust is the biggest thing an NHL coach wants in a player. If a coach, who is hired to win and eventually gets fired because of too much of losing, can't trust a player - he doesn't call his name. Having a rookie sit in the middle of the bench for long stretches of games isn't good for the player or the organization.

So expect McPhee to be overly cautious. Expect his development default position to be set on slow.

Having a draft pick show up at camp and prove he's NHL ready would be a welcome problem if not an unlikely one. Gallant isn't afraid to play kids. They just have to be ready.

Perhaps the best example of McPhee's vision on this front is Erik Brannstrom, who will not attend Golden Knights training camp. Brannstrom's season in Sweden has already begun and rather than interrupt that learning curve for a few weeks of training camp - the first-round pick will stay at home. Development is taking precedence with Brannstrom as it will with all of McPhee's prospects. Actions, as always, speak louder than words.

McPhee can afford to be patient. He should be. It's the true path to success in today's NHL.

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