Normally, the Vegas Golden Knights would be well into their season and they’d be trying to ascertain their postseason future in early January.
But this has been anything but a normal time and the Knights are going to open their training camp Monday at City National Arena in preparation for their 2021 regular season opener Jan. 14 against Anaheim at T-Mobile Arena which will be played without fans in the building.
Forty players will be participating in what will be head coach Peter DeBoer’s first full season after taking over for Gerard Gallant Jan. 15, 2020. There will be no preseason games and the evaluation process regarding who makes the opening night roster will be determined in the daily scrimmages at City National Arena.
Fortunately for DeBoer, the roster is fairly familiar. The one new face, and it’s a biggie, is all-star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who signed a seven-year deal with $61.6 million.
“There’s always different areas you’re excited to see,” general manager Kelly McCrimmon said Sunday afternoon. “The one area that always excites me is the growth of the young players. How much progress have they made? Are they ready to take that next step?”
Most noticeably, is Cody Glass ready to center a line and stay healthy doing it? Glass injured his knee a year ago and while he has put on additional weight and muscle, he still has to prove to DeBoer he can be trusted long-term.
Defensively, the Knights will need a seventh defenseman. Deryk Engelland retired and Jon Merrill is in Detroit. So, will Nic Hague get that spot? Or will Dylan Coghlan or Jimmy Schuldt be the guy?
The goaltending is set with Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury, giving Vegas one of the best tandems in the league. And with a condensed 56-game schedule, expect both to play plenty.
Still to be determined is whether the Knights will have a captain for the first time. They did not in any of their first three seasons and McCrimmon said Sunday the discussion is ongoing. Pietrangelo was captain in St. Louis. Max Pacioretty wore the ‘C’ in Montreal. Mark Stone was an assistant captain in Ottawa.
“We’ve had good discussions and we’ll make a decision by the 14th,” McCrimmon said.
Also to be determined is when the official announcement from the NHL that the Knights will participate in one of a pair of outdoor games in Lake Tahoe Feb. 20-21. Vegas is scheduled to play Colorado on the 20th with Philadelphia facing Boston on the 21st.
“I really can’t speak much to it,” McCrimmon said. “We’re hopeful the NHL will confirm everything and it would be an honor to participate.”
Expect the training camp for 2021 to closely resemble that of the return to play in July which saw Vegas ultimately advance to the Western Conference Finals. The 40 players will take part in daily scrimmages and everyone will get plenty of ice time to show what they can do.
“I thought it worked out well last summer,” McCrimmon sad. “I’m personally excited about camp beginning tomorrow. We’re anxious to get on the ice.”