featured image photo – courtesy of Jesse Granger/The Athletic
Recently, I spoke with Jesse Granger, who covers Vegas Golden Knights at The Athletic.
We spoke on Tuesday, prior to the Vegas Golden Knights development camp. I asked Granger several questions about William Karlsson‘s new contract, the draft, Cody Glass’ development and more.
Let’s take a look at what Granger had to say.
Josh: What are your thoughts on the William Karlsson deal?
Jesse: Yeah, so I think it was I think it was good deal for both sides. The Golden Knights obviously want to lock up Karlsson long term. He’s one of their best players and super important to the team obviously. Karlsson plays all three phases of the game. He’s one of their best five on five players, on the top power-play unit and he’s the best penalty killer on the team. In fact, he’s one of the best penalty killers in the league.
Past him, they have Paul Stastny and then after that the centre position isn’t nailed down. So, they got him locked up for a long term eight year deal at a very reasonable price and 5.9 million it’s probably a lot less than he should have got. But, it’s also good for Karlsson because the guy wanted to live in Vegas and that was his number one priority.
I have a story that came out today. I talked to him and basically he chose living in Vegas and being with his teammates over trying to get more money. He could have easily played hardball with the team and forced his way to arbitration and became a UFA and could have gotten paid a lot more by some team out there, but that’s not what he wanted. He wanted to be in Vegas. He wanted to stay with his team and just really good friends with Jonathan Marchessault. And Alex Tuch is going to be in William Karlsson’s weeding this weekend.
So, it was a good deal for both sides and they got it done quick enough to allow the Golden Knights to have plenty of time in the offseason to work out other things. So it was good for everyone.
Josh: Since the expansion draft and coming over from the Blue Jackets, Karlsson has improved significantly. What do you think has helped?
Jesse: Well, it’s definitely who he’s playing with and the minutes that he’s getting. When he was with Columbus, they saw him as a fourth line checking center with the sense of responsibility and to be honest, they didn’t really give him much of a chance to play offense. I mean, he was stuck with fourth line players that chipped the puck into the zone and weren’t offensively creative.
If you look at his stats winners in Sweden, before he was drafted, he was an offensive player like he is in Vegas, and he just didn’t produce in Columbus. So, he comes over to Vegas. A couple of crazy things worked out in Vegas for Karlsson. So he ends up getting that first line center role. And he took it and ran with it. He plays with two really offensive minded players in Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith. Those guys helped him along. They helped him use that offensive ability that he had from Sweden and his offensive numbers exploded.
He took a little bit of a step back this year, but he was still really productive and I believe that he’ll improve on those numbers next year.
Josh: How do you think the Vegas Golden Knights did at the draft in Vancouver?
Jesse: So, I think the Golden Knights did a great job at the draft. They got a lot of value especially with their pick of Peyton Krebs. He’s the guy that was projected to go top five/top 10. If you look at every draft prospect expert including our guys at The Athletic, Corey Pronman had him in the top ten. The only reason he fell was because of his Achilles tendon injury that happened ten days prior to the draft and skate blade cut through his socks. The blade cut his tendon in half and that led to major surgery. But, he’s a guy that’s not gonna have to play in the NHL for two or three years at earliest. So, the Golden Knights didn’t really mind and so they took him at 17. I think that he’s a player that’s much better than a normal 17th overall pick.
He’s a great two-way forward. He was a captain as a 17 year old in junior. He was on a really bad team in junior, but he led him team to some wins.
And then you look at the later draft picks and they did the same thing. A lot of value pics that they got later than they were projected to go, so I think it was a good overall weekend to draft. They got a goalie after letting Malcolm Subban‘s contract expire. So, it was a very successful weekend.
Josh: Do you believe that Krebs is better than Cody Glass?
Jesse: I don’t think he’s better than Cody Glass. Right now at this point, obviously, Cody Glass is a lot better than him as he’s a lot further along in his development. Cody Glass really showed how far along he is when he stepped into the AHL at the end of the season and he was dominant.
Sometimes the players from junior can go to the AHL like that and then it takes some some time to adjust for him. For him, it was pretty much instant. He scored two goals in his first game and helped lead the Chicago Wolves to the Calder Cup final. He had three game winning goals in the playoffs including two in overtime. He’s just been really dominant. I just spoke with him an hour ago. He’s here for development camp. He’s absolutely looking to make this roster. I think he’s ready to make that jump to the NHL. Now, the Golden Knights have a really talented lineup, so it’s going to be tough for them to break into that. But, I think Cody Glass is an NHL player at this point.
It’s just a matter of time before he’s ready to make the jump. On the other hand, I think Peyton Krebs has the potential to be an NHL player and I think he’s really good, but its just tough to compare him to Cody, who is years in his development and is ready to make the jump.
Josh: Due to the Vegas Golden Knights cap space being quite small and with several free agents that need to get signed, do you see the Golden Knights potentially trading some of their assets? For example, maybe Colin Miller.
Jesse: Yeah, they definitely have to make some moves. It’s pretty obvious. If you look at the contracts and the numbers, they are already above the salary cap with the William Karlsson deal and they still have to sign their restricted free agents like Nikita Gusev, Tomas Nosek, Malcolm Subban. They still have a few UFAs like Deryk Engelland and Pierre-Marc Bellemare. It’s going to be interesting to see how they get down under that cap.
They definitely have to make some moves. Like you mentioned Colin Miller. That’s the one that’s been floated around and that’s because he’s got a ton of value. He’s a young right handed defenseman. He’s got a big shot and he’s good on the power-play.
I think that a move is coming soon. We just have no idea which player they’re going to move. I could see Miller. I could see Cody Eakin. I could see Ryan Reaves. If they have to, they could move Gusev. I know that a lot of teams have been calling about Gusev and trying to get him. So, I know there are lot of options on the table.
Josh: If the Golden Knights were to move Colin Miller, what do you expect that the Golden Knights want back for Miller?
Jesse: Well, I mean, we’ve seen some deals this offseason, Justin Braun got traded and I think Colin Miller is comparable to him. They (San Jose Sharks) got a second and a third, which I could see the Golden Knights getting a second and maybe a third for Colin Miller. It’s the biggest thing that we don’t know and what we can’t know is how much leverage the Golden Knights have, because other teams realize that they are in this cap problem.
So, teams understand that they have to make a deal. So maybe they’re not going to get as good of value as they normally would, under regular circumstances because teams know that they’re in a bind.
Josh: Looking into next season, do you believe that Malcolm Subban is the backup goaltender or do you believe that Vegas will bring in someone else?
Jesse: I think it’s Subban’s job to lose. I don’t fully expect him to be the backup. His stats weren’t great last year and it took him a while to get his first win. But, he was playing really well. The losses weren’t because of him, it was more due to the team in front of him that was playing terrible. And he was being put in a lot of really bad spots on the second night of back to backs against really good teams where this team in front of them was worn down. So, I talked to Dave Prior, the goalie coach for Vegas quite a bit and he has a lot of confidence in Malcolm Subban. He thinks that he can eventually be a starting goalie in this league. So, I fully expect Malcolm Subban to be back. But, Fleury is the man and he’ll start the majority of games. Yet, I do believe that Subban has a pretty good lock on the backup position.
Josh: In terms of the Vegas farm system, what prospects have caught your eye over the development camp and throughout their time in the system?
Jesse: The development camp starts this week, so I haven’t gotten to see them on the ice yet. But, I was down in San Diego for the Calder Cup Conference Final. In the Western Conference finals, the Chicago Wolves played the San Diego Gulls and I was extremely impressed with Zach Whitecloud. You hear about Nick Hague, who was a top pick and he is obviously going to be really good and Dylan Coghlan is another young kid. But, I don’t think that Whitecloud gets enough credit.
He’s probably the most complete defenseman down there. He’s probably the most NHL ready. He never makes a mistake and he’s always making the smart right play. He may not make the flashiest plays, but he doesn’t make mistakes and that’s what Gerard Gallant really values at the NHL level. So, I was impressed by Zach Whitecloud. I was also impressed by Dylan Coghlan. They’ve got a great group of defense. And we didn’t even mention Jimmy Schuldt, who was a finalist for the Hobey Baker award. He was one of the best college players in the country this year. So I haven’t gotten to see him much, because he was up with the big club. They’ve got a ton of good defenseman, but the forwards are where they really need to improve. They have Cody Glass and now you bring in a Peyton Krebs and that looks a lot better. So, the forward prospect pool need to be built up a little bit more, but the defensive prospect pool is phenomenal.
Josh: If the Vegas Golden Knights can get some cap space back, who do you believe that they’ll target in free agency?
Jesse: To be honest, I don’t think they’re going to be very active in free agency. This team already doesn’t have enough space to sign its own players. So, if they do sign free agents, I don’t think it’s going to be any one well-known, it’s gonna be a fringe player that maybe is an AHL guy. They are set to lose a lot of their AHL players this year to free agency. Daniel Carr, who won the MVP in the AHL is a free agent, so he’s going to leave. Brandon Pirri, who’s the guy who was back and forth, he just went over to Russia. They’re losing a lot of those type of players. So, the free agents they sign are most likely going to be playing in Chicago and not Vegas. If they do sign free agents, I honestly believe it’ll be their own. Deryk Engelland wants to come back and Pierre-Marc Bellemare is a guy who wants to come back to Vegas. If they can make room, I believe that they’ll bring back their own guys, but they aren’t likely to go out and sign someone else.
Josh: Do you see any Chicago Wolves making the Vegas Golden Knights opening night roster?
Jesse: I think the guys that have the best chance are Nick Hague, Zach Whitecloud and Cody Glass. Obviously all three of them have a chance. The only issue is that the Golden Knights roster is so full, that they may have to send them down to start the season because they are waiver exempt and they don’t want to risk losing them. So, I think that maybe one of those guys can make it out of camp. But for the most part, they’re going to start the year in the AHL. And then if there are injuries or things that happen throughout the year, then they’re going to have a chance to come up.
Thank You Jesse
Thank you Jesse for taking the time to speak with me. I look forward to interviewing you again in the future!
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featured image photo – courtesy of Jesse Granger/The Athletic