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Younger Golden Knights Taking Steps Towards Stardom

by Gary Lawless @GoldenKnights /

Did they get better?

It's one of the biggest questions surrounding the Vegas Golden Knights this summer but it can't be answered on paper. The additions and subtractions to the roster are only one fact. Far bigger is the internal evolution of the roster and the focus is on the development of key young players.

Having veterans such as James Neal and David Perron move on while Paul Stastny signed on will impact the roster and in turn the team's performance. Some will point to Neal's 23 goals and Perron's 50 assists and suggest the loss of offense will diminish the Golden Knights.

Others will see the openings in the top six for players such as Alex Tuch and Tomas Tatar and wonder if there isn't more upside now in Vegas.

Sometimes you have to clear out the tall trees to allow the smaller ones to get some sun and flourish could be an applicable phrase in Vegas this season.

Opportunity was the buzzword around Vegas last season and many players got their first chance to be everyday players. Having gained experience and having had a measure of success - could these players now take even bigger steps?

This will be the story in Vegas as camp breaks an young players take bigger bites. Here's some to keep an eye on:

Alex Tuch: The big winger began the season in the AHL and shuffled up and down the lineup all season. Tuch had moments where he looked like a dominant power forward and scored 15 goals and 37 points. Can he nail down a top-six role and convert on dishes from Paul Stastny and become a more prolific and consistent producer?

Tomas Nosek: He played on the wing for the first time in his career as he got his first full NHL season under his belt. A smart player with keen defensive skills. Is there more offense here? Could a move to center see him bloom even more?

Tomas Tatar: He is different than the rest of this group in that he has four 20-goal seasons in the NHL on his resume. But he never got on track in Vegas last season. Steady linemates and consistent power play time will be just what Tatar requires to grow.

Ryan Carpenter: He is a competitor with some offensive instincts. He'll have the opportunity to earn full-time NHL work.

Will Carrier: Carrier can skate and is willing to go to the net. All the time. He's young and hungry. Can he be a 10-goal man on the fourth line?

Oscar Lindberg: Lindberg struggled to find regular work last season. Expect him to return determined and to attempt to push his way into the lineup. There's a glut at center ice but that doesn't mean there's opportunity.

Nate Schmidt: Finally given the opportunity to play big minutes, Schmidt developed into a strong 5-on-5 player. Another year and more confidence and there's a chance for this player to bloom in special teams as well.

Shea Theodore: Theodore is of the best skaters in the NHL. The question most asked about Theodore last season was why didn't he score more? He can build on six goals and climb up the ladder among offensive defensemen.

Colin Miller: He is strong skater with a great shot. Miller could be the perfect shooter on the power play. Experience and confidence went a long way for this player last season but there's still lots of upside here.

Malcolm Subban: More time with goalie coach Dave Prior and playing understudy to Marc-Andre Fleury can only benefit Subban as he strives to prove he can be the heir apparent in Vegas.

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