They were the biggest stories coming into Golden Knights training training camp and they remain so. Could Cody Glass force his way onto the opening night roster and which of the blue line prospects could do the same?
So far Glass has been impressive in a number of circumstances and has clearly shown the ability to make plays at the NHL level. And all five of the emergent D have had their moments to shine.
With four preseason games in the books there are lots of decisions to be made by management in terms of which players will fill out the roster. The coaching staff must then determine how to deploy these players.
Here's a snapshot of camp so far:
Vegas has won all four preseason games so far. Last season the club went 6-1. We're often told not to read too much into preseason games as the lineups can be uneven. One team might dress an NHL veteran heavy club while the other could start a lineup littered with prospects. The playing field can be uneven. Still, winning is always more fun than losing.
Rookie Jake Leschyshyn had his best camp to date with the Golden Knights and played well enough to get another game but got caught in a numbers squeeze and has been assigned to the AHL. He showed hockey sense, pace and bite. It will be interesting to see what his growth curve is like under Chicago Wolves coach Rocky Thompson.
Be my Valentin
Valentin Zykov arrived in Vegas last winter as a broken hockey player. Claimed off waivers and joining his third organization in one season, both his mental and physical condition had been strained. He wasn't confident or comfortable on the ice and he wasn't fit. But the Golden Knights saw something in him and determined they would give him both opportunity and time. Zykov responded by investing in the chance. He spent the summer in Vegas and got right under the watchful eye of the team's strength and conditioning staff.
The result is he now looks like an entirely different player. Through three preseason games he's produced two goals and added an assist. He's been physical, aggressive and effective. Zykov has a hammer of a shot, soft hands around the net and is strong on the puck. He's making a strong case to be the opening night left winger on the third line.
What to do with Cody Glass is going to be a major question for VGK management. He's picked up three assists in three preseason games and continues to thrive when played with top end players. Glass sees the ice at an elite level and consistently puts line mates in scoring positions.
Glass said after Saturday's win in San Jose that he gave the puck away a few times and was given instruction on the bench from the coaching staff. He's learning. The NHL is a big jump from the WHL and AHL where he played last season.
Glass needs to play with top end players and get lots of minutes in all situations. When the Vegas lineup is healthy that may be difficult to accommodate.
There was a time when NHL clubs kept their No. 1 goalie with the big club and their No. 2 goalie with an affiliate club. The backup in the NHL was the team's No. 3 goalie on the depth chart. The thinking was, keep the No. 2 busy in a lower level league and in a rhythm in case of an injury up top.
One way to manage Glass's development this season would be to send him to Chicago in the AHL and give him all the work a No. 1 center can take with lots of power play time and heavy 5v5 work as well. In the event of an injury down the middle among the top nine in Vegas, recall Glass and put him in a position to succeed with talented and polished wingers.
Glass is arguably ready to play in the NHL and would make a number of big league rosters better. Vegas, however, is a Stanley Cup contender and has its own unique set of priorities. The organization must figure out what's best for the player's development so he can reach his highest ceiling. Management will use that lens to guide its decision making process.
Max Pacioretty now has four goals and seven points in two preseason games. He's been fantastic. He's moving well, he's been engaged and physical. And he's finished his chances. Pacioretty has scored 30 goals on five occasions in his NHL career and hit 39 back in the 2013-14 season and 37 the very next campaign. Vegas has the potential to ice three lines with scoring punch this season. They're going to be a difficult matchup for teams. Pacioretty seems settled and at ease in Vegas without any of the turmoil which surrounds a player in a season which includes a trade. Pacioretty was the captain of the Montreal Canadiens and had spent parts of 10 seasons with the franchise that drafted him. Moving to Vegas was a massing change for him both professionally and personally but that appears to be in his rearview mirror. The regular season can't start fast enough for Patches.
Training camp opened with five prospect defensemen vying for one spot on the VGK blue line. They're all still in the race. Each players has shown something to further their own case.
Dylan Coghlan has perhaps the hardest slap shot in camp and he's proven he has the ability to jump up and join the play on the attack.
He's got huge offensive upside.
Jake Bischoff looks like he's been in the NHL for some time despite having never played in a regular season game. He's got all the details down. His game might be touch more quiet than his counterparts but it's effective. He's a safe player which is something coaches love.
Nic Hague scored a goal in Denver in a win over the Avs last week which put a number of his talents on display. He's got an aggressive approach to charging into the play and despite being 6-6, Hague has hands more akin to a violin player than a brick layer. He's a rarity in that he's so long and so skilled. If he can learn to use his stick to cut down the ice and passing lanes for the opposition - he could be a capable defender with offensive punch.
Jimmy Schuldt brings a lot to the table. He's cerebral and confident. His mind moves fast and he has the feet and hands to keep up. He needs reps. He's the only one of these players not to have played some games in the AHL last season and the jump from college to pro is huge. He might be the type of player who can get handle the pace of the NHL game while he's learning on the job. The NHL can swallow up a young defender but at 24, Schuldt might have the maturity required to handle the emotional strain of playing against the best players in the world. The Conor McDavid's of the world are going to beat a player. How that player handles those defeats and carries himself when next stepping on to the ice is key.
Zach Whitecloud does everything he can to make himself better. He studies the game, works on his body and takes stock of his work on the ice on a regular basis. Whitecloud plays a direct and simple game. He takes the first open pass available to him and moves the puck. But it would be a mistake to think he doesn't have the ability to do more. He is the best skater among the group and has good vision. The more comfortable he gets, the more that offensive side of his game will show.
It's too close to handicap right now and the next three games will be an opportunity for these players to make the decision for management.