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Golden Knights may begin season without captain

GM McPhee says there isn't much time left to get to know players

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

SUMMERLIN, Nevada -- The Vegas Golden Knights may not have a captain when the expansion team opens the regular season Oct. 6 at the Dallas Stars.

"We may be better off just having a leadership group than naming one guy captain," general manager George McPhee said Thursday, when rookie camp opened at the Golden Knights practice facility. "We really don't want to put a 'C' on a guy unless this is going to be the person that's going to lead us for a long time. We'd like to get to know these players a lot better than we know them right now."

McPhee said there may not be enough time to accomplish that goal before the season. The rookies will begin on-ice work Friday, training camp opens Sept. 14 and the first preseason game is Sept. 17 at the Vancouver Canucks.

"Do you know a player well enough after a month -- I'm not sure -- to put a 'C' on them?" McPhee said. "So we'll see how it goes.

"Again, in this entire process in expansion, there's some uncertainty. We don't have all the answers. We've tried to prepare for everything. But we've embraced the uncertainty. That's what makes this fun."

The rookies had medical testing Thursday. One of them, center Jake Leschyshyn, said he is continuing to progress from the torn ACL that ended his junior season with Regina of the Western Hockey League. Leschyshyn, selected by the Golden Knights in the second round (No. 62) of the 2017 NHL Draft, was injured Feb. 3.

"I've got to start to do more contact stuff," he said. "I'll try to be more involved in that part. I'll see what the trainers want to do, as for games and whatnot."

As for injured veterans, McPhee said defenseman Nate Schmidt (sprained ankle) is expected to be ready for the start of training camp, and that forward James Neal (broken hand) "is probably a couple of weeks behind everybody else."

"I talked to [Schmidt] yesterday and everything seems to be going fine," McPhee said. "Ankle sprains can be a real nuisance. You've got to be careful with them."

Neal, then with the Nashville Predators, broke his hand during Game 1 of the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks on May 12. He continued to play with the injury through the Predators' six-game loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final and had surgery in the offseason.

McPhee, asked if he knows what his roster will look like on opening night, said, "Not necessarily. The neat thing about the process, and I've tried to explain this to a number of people, [is] it's still a blank canvas. … We're completely open-minded about what might develop. We're hoping for some unknown surprises. It's wide open and it should be."

McPhee said the buzz of training-camp anticipation hit him Wednesday night. That's one thing that never changes, even for a hockey lifer. 

"Other than [Wednesday] night, I've been sleeping pretty well," McPhee said. "The night before camp is still ... not necessarily butterflies, but you're anxious about it. You want to get there. It's the first day of camp. It's like Christmas for a lot of us in hockey. 

"It's another new season and we'll see where the season goes and what develops and what great things happen with our team and our game. We've prepared as well as we possibly can for this whole experience and I think it served us well throughout the entire year."

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