Youngsters struggle in Knights’ loss

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If you thought you were attending an NHL game Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena, you were sort of duped.

The Golden Knights are trying to ascertain whether or not several of their young players are worthy of being on the roster in a week when the team’s regular season begins. To that end, the roster that fell 4-1 to the Colorado Avalanche more resembled that of the Chicago Wolves, the Knights’ American Hockey League affiliate.

But that’s what the preseason is for. You’re trying to determine who is good enough to play for you, who fills what need and who you can depend upon when the games count.

For general manger Kelly McCrimmon and president George McPhee, more questions likely remained than answers fulfilled following Vegas’ first loss in five games of the 2019 preseason. There weren’t any standout performances from the young players trying to make the final roster. Five rookie defensemen dressed for the Knights and of the five, Zach Whitecloud and Nic Hague were the steadiest, though Whitecloud was injured in the second period and did not return. Ditto for veteran defenseman Shea Theodore. Both were listed as day-to-day.

Dylan Coughlan had some good moments and Jake Bischoff did some decent things. But it would be a stretch to say anyone distinguished themselves enough to find a place to live in Las Vegas.

“We all know what’s on the table at this point and we’re all trying to do the best we can,” Coughlan said. “You try not to focus on tomorrow and just focus on today.”

Even Patrick Brown’s goal with 18 seconds remaining to spoil the shutout bid by Colorado’s Pavel Francouz wasn’t enough to offset a lethargic overall performance.

Coach Gerard Gallant said it’s a cumulative dossier, not one game, that determines a young player’s NHL fate.

“It hasn’t changed,” Gallant said. “I’d like to say it has, but it hasn’t changed. Everybody had a bad game tonight. It was a tough game tonight obviously, so it was a team loss. Just like when we win it’s a team win.

“It was a tough game to watch, and it was hard. It’s going to be tough and we’re down to the last three or four days and we have to make tough decisions. I can’t tell you who it is right now anyways.”

Up front, it wasn’t much different. Center Cody Glass, the team’s No. 1 draft pick in 2017, played with Valentin Zykov and Brandon Pirri rather than with Mark Stone and Jonathan Marchessault and the difference was noticeable. Glass was more tentative than in previous games and his line just didn’t click.

Compounding the problem for the youngsters is the Knights (4-1) have only two preseason games remaining, Friday against Los Angeles and Sunday vs. San Jose. Gallant had said he wanted to use the final two exhibitions as dress rehearsals for the Oct. 2 regular season opener against the Sharks. So for several of the young players and others on the fence, this was likely their last chance to make a positive impression.

“I think you’ll see a lot of our regular guys the last two games,” Gallant said.

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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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