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NHL Draft

Golden Knights see NHL Draft as chance to establish own culture

Selection process gives Vegas opportunity to define direction of organization

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

The Vegas Golden Knights see the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas as more than just a chance to add some players to the organization.

It's a chance to define what the franchise is going to be.

"It's a blank canvas, is the best way to put it," Golden Knights assistant director of player personnel Bob Lowes said. "I think a big part of the draft for us is the type of player we draft, not just skills and hockey-wise but their personality and their demeanor … to set our culture with the type of person we want. That's huge. If you're already on a team that's established, you've already established that culture [and] the players coming in are absorbed by that culture. We're trying to establish a culture."

That process beging for the Golden Knights with seven picks at the draft. They have the No. 6 choice in the first round and the third pick in each subsequent round.

The first round of the 2017 Draft presented by adidas is at United Center in Chicago on June 23 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN). Rounds 2-7 will be June 24 (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN).

"You're going to go and take the best players," Golden Knights general manager George McPhee said. "Sometimes I guess if you're an established club you might be influenced by position, maybe weak at center or weak on the blue line and you're going to try to take some players … sometimes that influences what you're going to do and we don't have that influence. We'll just go out there and take whoever we think the best players are."

After Brandon center Nolan Patrick and Halifax center Nico Hischier, who are expected to be the top two selections, there is a group of about 10 players who could go anywhere between the third and seventh spots.

Among the possibilities are Windsor center Gabriel Vilardi, Eden Prairie (Minnesota) High School center Casey Mittelstadt, Portland center Cody Glass, Tri-City center Michael Rasmussen, Mississauga right wing Owen Tippett, Brooks defenseman Cale Makar and HIFK (Finland) defenseman Miro Heiskanen.

"I think in other years you've seen the levels," Lowes said. "In this one, it's not as definitive, is what I'd say. It's an interesting draft that way. Yet I think there's some value that goes a little longer than we initially thought. … Usually in drafts if you've got the top five kind of established, then there's less guys for [the sixth pick], less guys involved. But this one is an interesting one because it ends at two and then there's … I call it mixed-up candy.

"There's a lot of guys that are interchangeable. To get the right guy in that group of interchangeable guys is important."

Whoever the Golden Knights select, it's doubtful that player will be in the lineup for their first regular-season game.

"The likelihood of that happening is not real high," Lowes said. "The other thing we have to do is be patient. If we want to try to rush the process or do it to say, 'This is our first guy, he's got to play right away,' I think that's not fair to the player and it's also not good business. I think that we have to have a development model that's strong and we have to stick with it and stick to the plan, and not be influenced by that type of outside stuff."

The history of the sixth pick works in the Golden Knights' favor. In the past 30 years, every player picked at No. 6 has reached the NHL. It includes Hockey Hall of Fame member Peter Forsberg and two-time Stanley Cup winner Cory Stillman, as well as current top-end players Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Arizona Coyotes and Sean Monahan of the Calgary Flames.

"I'm confident we'll get a good player to build around and be part of the puzzle," Lowes said.

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