The Vegas Golden Knights are three games away from completing the preseason. The team's broadcasters have weighed in on what they've seen throughout the exhibition games as well as what they expect to see in days leading up to the home opener on Oct. 2.
Gary Lawless (VGK Insider)
Line combos: Vegas has experimented with Mark Stone on a line with William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault, Cody Glass between Max Pacioretty and Alex Tuch as well as Cody Eakin between Reilly Smith and Valentin Zykov.
The Golden Knights hope to be a Stanley Cup contender this season and having three lines which can score is key to such a goal. Depth and balance makes a team a matchup nightmare. How head coach Gerard Gallant fills out the lineup card over the next three preseason games will be something to watch.
The 4th line: The departure of center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare this offseason opens up some interesting possibilities for Vegas on the fourth line this season. Head coach Gerard Gallant could simply plug Nicholas Roy or Tomas Nosek in the middle between William Carrier and Ryan Reaves and be done with it. But with a passel of forwards, Zykov, Glass, Brandon Pirri, along with Roy and Nosek, still pushing for jobs there are other options.
Blueline battle: Brayden McNabb, Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore make up three quarters of the VGK top four. Who the final piece in that equation will be remains to be scene. Jon Merrill, Nick Holden and Deryk Engelland are all returning pieces who could figure into the top four and also log time with the third pairing. Then there's the kids; Dylan Coghlan, Nic Hague, Zach Whitecloud, Jimmy Schuldt and Jake Bischoff. Who management keeps and how the coaching staff elects to deploy them will likely begin to be revealed over the next week and it's very compelling storyline in Vegas.
Dan D'Uva (Radio Play-by-Play)
The race to claim a spot on the Vegas blueline remains tight. Just as one young defenseman gallops into the lead, another seems to surge ahead. Ultimately, it comes down to need, and with Dylan Coghlan having performed to expectations - and at times ahead of pace - he's got to be a favorite to claim the job. Vegas lost an offensive-minded, righty-shooting defenseman when it traded Colin Miller in June. Coghlan's attributes (a righthander who posted 40 points in 66 games last year) are best suited to fill that void. That, combined with his year of AHL experience and strong showing in camp, makes him the man to catch.
Nicolas Roy, the 22-year-old forward acquired from Carolina in the Erik Haula trade, seems poised to wrest the fourth line center position away from the usual suspects. Tomas Nosek, 27, says he's most comfortable at center, but it wouldn't surprise me if both see time on Vegas' fourth line this year. Both have demonstrated scoring finesse at the AHL level on championship teams and defensive toughness prized in depth players. Roy has skated with six different wingers in his three preseason games, showing off his versatility. The Golden Knights' fourth line will surely feel different without Pierre-Edouard Bellemare as its anchor, but Roy is suited to give it an entirely new complexion.
Without discounting the observations made here over four preseason games, let's remember these are exhibitions. Like the Golden Knights, Vegas' opponents have hardly filled out lineups with bona fide NHLers. If we don't read too much into a team's preseason success, let's also temper our individual evaluations. The signals that a young player is ready for the NHL or that a line combination has dynamic synergy cannot be found definitively in a box score. As Ryan McGill told us on Saturday's pregame show, the preseason is like the regular season: Play jumps incrementally as veterans get their game in order. The final few preseason games should be a more revealing test than the first four.
Shane Hnidy (TV Analyst)
I've noticed the play of each defenseman competing for a spot. All have played well and improved with each game. They all have different intangibles which gives options when evaluating.
Glass has shown confidence offensively and his elite vision. Like most young players, he needs to continue to learn right decisions defensively.
Veteran players have set the pace of play right from beginning of camp through practice and into games. Can see their excitement for upcoming season.
Dave Goucher (TV Play-by-Play)
Valentin Zykov continues to impress. Had a strong game in Colorado (1-1-2) and followed it up by going to the next and scoring on the rebound of a Max Pacioretty chance for the first goal in San Jose. If you ask me (and nobody has!), I'd have him penciled in on the third line playing alongside Cody Eakin.
Cody Glass's vision continues to come through. Showed great patience and made a real nice pass from the half wall for a good power play chance in Colorado and put one in Pacioretty's wheelhouse for a goal against the Sharks. The question remains, where does he play if he makes the team? He's obviously more comfortable at center (never really played wing) but the team seems pretty set down the middle. Oh, and Pacioretty seems more than ready to go with seven points in two preseason games.
Things that bear watching as we head into the final week of exhibitions…it's pretty obvious who the top 8 forwards are but what's the mix beyond that? Where do Brandon Pirri, Nic Roy and Keegan Kolesar fit in? What will the fourth line look like? Not sure it's as simple as William Carrier-Tomas Nosek-Ryan Reaves. Who makes the team on defense? I've liked Dylan Coghlan a lot. The VGK have three more games to sort it out.
Stormy Buonantony (Rinkside Reporter)
It's just the preseason so lines and pairings are changing every practice and every game… But regardless of who's played with who, this team has yet to really disappoint. Through four preseason games, the Golden Knights have outscored opponents 16-5, killed off 17-of-18 penalties and shown poise every time they've been challenged (albeit limited instances). Even when trailing LA 2-0 in 3rd period last Thursday while seemingly getting beat at their own game, we saw the vets take charge, their conditioning kick in and Vegas tied things up late to win it in OT, 3-2. Rightfully so, Gerard Gallant and co. won't put much stock in an undefeated preseason if things continue, but even he admitted winning games that way (and winning games no matter the time of year) builds confidence.
Hopefully Max Pacioretty is saving some points for the regular season. He's only played 2-of-the-4 preseason games so far and in that time leads the league in goals (4) and points (7). Pacioretty said the other day he felt like he hadn't been practicing as sharp as he'd like and wants to peak at the right time come the regular season… If this is him not at his best, it should be a fun season for the 2nd year Golden Knight.
Everyone wants to know which young players will win jobs this season and Cody Glass is among those who's impressed. The team's first-ever draft pick has been linemates with the aforementioned Pacioretty in two of the three games he's played posting three assists so far. He's picked up things fast, shown versatility at both the center and wing positions, and put his vision and "hockey sense" on display every time he's hit the ice (those no-look passes have been pretty sweet). Glass, as well as the FIVE young D-men trying to crack the roster, are making things particularly tough for those making decisions ahead of the 2019-2020 regular season.
The preseason is a time for sunshine, rainbows and more optimism than ever. Every team thinks "this is the year!" and 30 of them are wrong come June… But for whatever reason, teams with something to prove are more believable and we see that in spades throughout the VGK organization. Players have a bad taste in their mouth from an early playoff exit, came to camp this year in the best shape of their lives and are built for success. As the preseason slate continues, we will get a better look at the lines come opening night and I for one can't wait! This is a team with depth, options, confidence and motivation. October 2nd, everything counts and the fun really starts.
Mike McKenna (TV Studio Host)
Goaltending depth has been on full display. All four Golden Knights goaltenders that have seen pre-season action have turned in outstanding performances. Having to travel day-of for road games is never an easy task, and the Golden Knights looks accordingly sluggish to start each road game. Thankfully goaltending held the fort long enough for the team to get their legs going and win games.
It's well documented, but there is quite a battle among defensemen to make the team. Among the final candidates, Dylan Coghlan and Nicolas Hague have stood out with their offensive ability, but Jimmy Schuldt continues to improve every game and shown flashes of high-end ability. And don't sleep on Zach Whitecloud and Jake Bischoff: both have shown well the full length of the ice and especially on the penalty kill. This decision may come down to who best fits a particular role. All five are young and the depth is striking.
Can Cody Glass continue to build chemistry? His vision is outstanding and it's readily apparent his level of comfort is improving each game. He and Max Pacioretty have been fantastic together. Can he bring that same level of cohesion with other teammates up and down the lineup? Is he as useful playing wing as he is center? The answer to these questions may determine whether he makes the Golden Knights out of camp.