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Schmidt ready to 'dial in' with Golden Knights

Defenseman eager for training camp after suspension, early playoff exit

by Jessi Pierce / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

EDINA, Minn. -- Nate Schmidt didn't enjoy the beginning or ending of last season, but the Vegas Golden Knights defenseman said he'll be raring to go when training camp opens in September.

The 28-year-old was suspended for the first 20 games for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program and had 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) in 61 regular-season games. The Golden Knights were 35-20-6 with Schmidt in the lineup after going 8-11-1 in the 20 games wthout him.

Schmidt played 27:08 in a 5-4 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks in Game 7 of the Western Conference First Round. Vegas had a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series before losing three straight.

 

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"To be with our guys all year, especially with a lot to prove, I know the way it ended last year left a lot of sour tastes in our mouth, and that's not just for the playoffs but that's the whole year," Schmidt said between games at Da Beauty League, a 3-on-3 summer league for players with ties to Minnesota. "To be able to begin camp knowing I'm not going away for a month and a half is going to be really nice for us to dial in.

"We come back hungrier each year, and this year is no different. I'm excited to get it going and see where we can go, because I think it will be far."

The first-round loss was a step back for the Golden Knights after they reached the 2018 Stanley Cup Final in their first NHL season, losing to the Washington Capitals in five games. But Schmidt, who attended the University of Minnesota from 2010-13, said he's hopeful there are bigger things ahead.

Video: VGK@VAN: Schmidt has shot go in off defender

"It's not going to be just like we had the first year, or even last year," he said. "Things are going to happen. A lot of things went right for us our first two years, and sometimes things don't go the right way, but it's how you respond. The best teams are able to put those types of things behind them and use it as fuel for the next year or the next game, the next playoff series."

The Golden Knights signed center William Karlsson to an eight-year contract June 24 and defenseman Deryk Engelland to a one-year contract July 23, but haven't made any substantial additions since the trade for forward Mark Stone from the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 25. Vegas traded forward Erik Haula to the Carolina Hurricanes for forward prospect Nicolas Roy and a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft on June 26, and acquired a second-round pick in 2021 and a fifth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft from the Buffalo Sabres for defenseman Colin Miller on June 28. Forward Nikita Gusev was traded to the New Jersey Devils on July 29 for a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in 2021. Forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (Colorado Avalanche) and Ryan Carpenter (Chicago Blackhawks) left as an unrestricted free agent.

Stone signed an eight-year contract extension with the Golden Knights on March 8.

"We lost some guys, and that's part of the business, but I think we have all the right pieces when you really look at it," Schmidt said. "We have the guys in the room, we have the personalities to be able to overcome what happened. It's a brand new year, a brand new champion team (St. Louis Blues) that needs to be knocked off and that's the mentality going into next season.

"I think that our guys understand what it means from our first year. I know we've moved on from some guys, but the core values of the team and foundation of the team, it doesn't matter who on the team gets it done, as long as we collectively get it done as a group. That's our mentality. … When you have that with the culture we have in the locker room, it makes it successful on the ice."

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