Dissecting the 2023-24 NHL Prospect Pool of the Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights achieved a remarkable feat in just six seasons by clinching their first Stanley Cup. This accomplishment was even more impressive given that, during the 2017 NHL expansion draft, the team had assembled a seemingly unimpressive roster.
Subsequently, the Golden Knights adopted an assertive approach in the trading realm, relinquishing all but a solitary first-round pick in preparation for their 2023 Stanley Cup campaign. Interestingly, in the most recent draft, they managed to secure David Edstrom, a player who scouts believed was significantly underrated for a first-round choice.
A noticeable pattern emerges: the Golden Knights are poised to experience significant setbacks when they do falter. The team’s prospect pool is somewhat deficient in top-tier talent, as most prospects currently appear more suitable for providing depth. While there’s no shortage of industrious players, it appears that Edstrom stands out as the sole individual with the potential to develop into a top-six forward in the near future.
The Vegas Golden Knights’ Dominant Strength
Edstrom, Brendan Brisson, and Matyas Sapovaliv are the top three centers in the Golden Knights’ depth chart. Even though it’s fairly guaranteed that some will shift to the wings, having that option is useful. Brisson and Sapovaliv could transition into wings if necessary, while Edstrom, with his two-way dependability, can potentially be a No. 2/3 at the NHL level. Also fascinating are Mathieu Cataford and Jakub Brabenec.
Pivotal Area for Improvement: Vegas Golden Knights’ Main Weakness
The chances of the vast bulk of these guys becoming regular contributors are quite modest. Although there are enough issues with the rest of the system for me to be concerned about the future, I am currently confident in Edstrom. If the Golden Knights are forced to tear everything down in two to three years, there isn’t a core of guys to build around.
Vegas Golden Knights Top Prospects
1. David Edstrom, C, 18 (Frolunda, SHL)
Drafted: No. 32, first round in 2023
Following a successful finish to the season with Sweden’s U-18 squad, Edstrom was chosen by the Golden Knights as the 32nd overall pick. The team won a silver medal after losing to the USA in the gold medal match thanks to the pairing of Otto Stenberg and one of the greatest players at the U-18 World Hockey Championship. Edstrom is renowned for having a high hockey IQ and being a great skater. He is an excellent dual-threat shooter and passer and is a fantastic stature for a power big at 6-foot-3. It’s anticipated that Edstrom will spend the entire season playing for Frolunda’s senior squad, which will be an excellent test of his skills.
2. Lukas Cormier, D, 21 (Henderson, AHL)
Drafted: No. 68, third round in 2020
While the QMJHL produces a considerable number of offensive defensemen known for their high-scoring abilities, only a select few manage to sustain this trend upon transitioning to professional play. Cormier, however, achieved this feat by amassing an impressive 35 points during his time in Henderson last year. He boasts a remarkable shot and superior skating skills and excels when the game maintains a rapid tempo. Despite his relatively modest height of 5-foot-10 and lack of physicality, he might encounter challenges in his defensive zone. Nevertheless, his prowess with the puck presents numerous favorable qualities.
3. Brendan Brisson, C, 20 (Henderson, AHL)
Drafted: No. 29, first round in 2020
One of just two first-round selections in team history that wasn’t moved. Brisson’s first season playing pro hockey was uneven. Although he has scored 18 goals in 58 games, he is a below-average skater who spends much too much time observing the game. Brisson is intelligent and has a fantastic release, but his slow feet damage him much too frequently. However, Brisson excels on the power play, which may offer him a shot.
4. Matyas Sapovaliv, C, 19 (Saginaw, OHL)
Drafted: No. 48, second round in 2022
During the world juniors, Sapovaliv came to life and contributed seven assists to Czechia’s silver medal. In a year in which he didn’t burst offensively with Saginaw until the playoffs, it was a welcome improvement to his game. Although his skating may occasionally be nasty, he possesses terrific hands and excels in his own zone. Sapovaliv could become a long-term option for the Golden Knights as a bottom-six defensive center. As one of Saginaw’s more seasoned players going into the 2024 Memorial Cup, he will have an opportunity to impress.
5. Pavel Dorofeyev, LW, 22 (Vegas Golden Knights)
Drafted: No. 79, third round in 2019
With seven assists to help Czechia earn silver, Sapovaliv really came alive at the World Juniors. In a season where his Saginaw offensive explosion didn’t happen until the playoffs, it was a welcome improvement to his game. Even though his skating can sometimes be nasty, he has outstanding hands and is excellent in his own zone. Sapovaliv, a bottom-six defensive center, maybe a long-term choice for the Golden Knights. He will be able to excel as one of Saginaw’s more seasoned players going into the 2024 Memorial Cup.
6. Carl Lindbom, G, 20 (Färjestad, SHL)
Drafted: No. 222, seventh round in 2021
Lindbom, one of the final players selected in 2021, rapidly established himself as one of the top goaltender prospects in the league. With Djurgardens in Sweden’s second-best professional league, he enjoyed an exceptional season, going 25-11-0 with seven shutouts and a 0.930 save percentage. Defensive zone protection in front of Lindbom was a problem, but he was also the foundation of Sweden’s world junior attempt. Despite being only 6-foot-1, he is speedy, agile, and adept at finding the puck via screens. Although moving up to the SHL would be a significant step, he will be able to rely on former Golden Knights goaltender Max Lagace for assistance in Färjestad.
7. Kaedan Korczak, D, 22 (Henderson, AHL)
Drafted: No. 41, second round in 2019
Korczak played in 10 NHL games this year, and it didn’t take him long to log 19 minutes of action. Even though he only had four goals and 14 points in the AHL, he competes fiercely and is physically aggressive. When he is in the right frame of mind, he can take upwards of five shots on goal each game. At best, Korczak is a defender who plays in the third pairing, but he should play in more games this year.
8. Mathieu Cataford, C, 18 (Halifax, QMJHL)
Drafted: No. 77, third round in 2023
There was much to admire about Cataford’s performance from the previous season, including his assurance, improved two-way play, and strong physical edge. He has to work on his skating, and part of that is due to conditioning. But given how hard he works independently, there’s a decent chance he will be a steal in the 2023 selection.
9. Arttu Karki, D, 18 (Tappara, Liiga)
Drafted: No. 96, third round in 2023
According to a few scouts, the Golden Knights might snag Karki in the third round. He moves well for a 6-foot-2 defenseman, has a great release, and is highly skillful with the puck. Karki led Tappara to the U-20 league victory in Finland with 39 points in 36 games. His lethargic play in front of his own crease, where he frequently waits for the action to come to him, is a major worry. NHL forwards won’t let you watch attentively, but I believe there is enough undeveloped talent here to pique your interest.
10. Jakub Brabenec, C, 19 (Henderson, AHL)
Drafted: No. 102, fourth round in 2021
One Czech scout reportedly referred to Brabenec’s hockey sense as having a “spidey sense,” During the past two years, his skating has advanced significantly to match his high level of competition. He enjoys playing in front of the net, but there are doubts about his ability to finish for an NHL goal. However, because of the way he pursues pucks and halts moves, he may be useful as a bottom-six player.