Vegas Golden Knights training camp looking bright

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It couldn’t have gone better for Peter DeBoer had he scripted it. 

Actually, he did draw it up.

The first week of the Vegas Golden Knights’ Training Camp 2.0 wrapped up Sunday and as the team prepares to resume its season in Edmonton Aug. 3, DeBoer, the coach who took over for Gerard Gallant in mid-January, has use the time effectively.

He has thrown some new things at his players, stuff he couldn’t get to when he first got the job and that he was likely saving for a normal training camp in September. The Knights have spent considerable time on their special teams, particularly their penalty kill, which DeBoer admitted was a concern of his when the NHL hit the pause button on its season March 12 due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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DeBoer has his two goaltenders — Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner — on the ice and looking sharp. If the Knights hope to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup and have an extended stay in Canada, it will be with their goalies.

Best of all, everyone has managed to stay healthy so far. No one has been injured or tested positive for COVID-19. The team has taken extraordinary precautions to ensure the latter, closing its swank and spacious locker room and having the players use the dressing rooms at City National Arena usually assigned to pee-wee teams and adult hockey players. In addition, the expansive weight room remains off limits. Players can run on a treadmill or lift free weights in the practice facility’s lobby. 

Every possible precaution is being taken to keep the environment COVID-free. The last thing the team needs at this point is an outbreak, especially when it and its players have done such a good job of being smart and following the health and safety protocols the last four months.

“We had laid out a couple of scenarios,” DeBoer said after Sunday’s practice when asked where he thought the Knights were at this point of camp. “One if our group was in really good shape and dialed in, a secondary one if this things were moderate and a third one if we were behind a little bit.

“I can tell you we’ve been at the first schedule the whole way through here. They came to camp in great shape and they allowed us to scrimmage quickly and allowed us to get into special teams quickly. So the way these guys have worked prior to getting to camp has allowed us to stay on that track. 

“For me, it’s been the best-case scenario from Day One.” 

The intensity in the practices and scrimmages have picked up with each day. The level of physicality has increased though nobody is trying to run anyone through the boards. As you would expect, the team looks sharper with each passing day.

DeBoer said that was by design and there will likely be even more contact when the team scrimmages Monday.

“The last thing you want is injuries,” he said. “But you have to have a level of physicality in your practices. You’re walking a fine line there. But when you’ve ben off for four months and you haven’t been doing that bumping and grinding, I guess it’s a necessary evil.”

The Knights will depart for Edmonton at the end of next week. They’ll face the Arizona Coyotes in an exhibition game July 30, then start the first of there round-robin games Aug. 3 against Dallas. Only 30 players will be on the traveling squad and currently, there are 33 in camp. So these next few days will determine who remains in Las Vegas and who needs their passport.

DeBoer’s four lines appear set as are his three defensive pairings. He has William Karlsson centering for Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone; Paul Stastny is skating with Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith; Nic Roy centers the third line with Alex Tuch and Chandler Stephenson and Nick Cousins is in the middle of the fourth line with Ryan Reaves and Will Carrier.

The defensive pairings have Nate Schmidt and Brayden McNabb, Shea Theodore skating with Alec Martinez and Nick Holden is paired with Zach Whitecloud.

That means several veterans are on the outside looking in but will still be on the roster. Defensemen Deryk Engelland and Jon Merrill and center Tomas Nosek are the most notable. 

So that leaves seven spots. Oscar Dansk will travel as the third goalie behind Fleury and Lehner. As for the other six spots, it’s going to be a group of Henderson Silver Knights that will vie for a seat on the plane. Forwards Patrick Brown, Gage Quinney, Reid Duke, Keegan Kolesar and defensemen Nic Hague, Dylan Coghlan, Jimmy Schulte and Jake Bischoff are in that mix.

Perhaps Peyton Krebs, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2019, gets some consideration as well. He has gotten a long look in the first week of camp and has acquitted himself nicely. Whether it’s good enough for him to grab one of the last of the 30 spots will be general manager Kelly McCrimmon’s call along with DeBoer.

It should make for some serious competition this coming week.

About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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