Thursday, July 20, 2017

31 Teams in 31 Days - Vegas Golden Knights

The team responsible for the renaming of this segment! The Vegas Golden Knights make their debut on the blog.

1. Nick Suzuki - Owen Sound Attack
Great pick-up by the Golden Knights in the 1st round this year. I think that in the future, they're going to be very happy with this selection. Suzuki gives it his all, every shift and every game. His work ethic is fantastic. And when you combine it with his great hockey sense, vision, and playmaking ability, you've got a great hockey player. The progression he has shown every year since minor midget has been incredible and there's no reason to believe that he can't continue to get better. This offseason, he'll likely focus on getting stronger, like every OHL player. But more specifically, his leg strength to increase the power in his stride to make him a more explosive and dynamic skater (a weakness of his). Next year, Owen Sound should be one of the top teams in the OHL's Western Conference (so long as they can get a starting goaltender). They return the majority of their star players. As such, I don't think it's outside of the realm of possibility for Suzuki to lead the OHL in scoring next year. A lot of the guys he'll be competing with will also likely lose time to the WJC's, and a 105+ point season (even with missed time during the holidays) is very likely. Of course, I've seen some on social media recently suggesting that they think Suzuki could steal a spot on Vegas' roster next year. I think that's a long shot given his need to get a little quicker. One more year in the OHL and he should be ready, given his already great head for the game. Physical skills just need to catch up.

2. Nic Hague - Mississauga Steelheads
Another great selection where the Golden Knights took him in the second round. Gigantic blueliner is a very solid prospect. His season had some ups and downs, but he finished very strong with a great performance in the playoffs for Mississauga. A late '98, Hague is still only a two year OHL veteran and will need that third (and likely final) year to continue to develop. His footwork in the defensive zone will need some refinement so that he's better suited to handle the forecheck and defend off the rush. But he really took a step forward in using his size to make himself tough to play against this year. By the playoffs, he was tossing guys around with regularity. Offensively, he's got that heavy point shot and he's great at picking his spots to jump up. But I do want to continue to see his overall vision with the puck improve, as well as his confidence in leading the rush (using his size and decent forward mobility). Mississauga will likely be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference next year and Hague will be a big factor for them once again. They're losing Saarijarvi and Leblanc, their two best offensive defenders outside of Hague, which means he'll have to take on an increased role offensively. I think he hits 20 goals next year and finishes with close to 60 points.

3. Ben Jones - Niagara IceDogs
Was really happy to see Jones get drafted this year as he was one of my favourite under the radar prospects heading into June. Hard nosed forward who's only scratching the surface of his ability as a pest. Jones is also a talented playmaker who's going to be a big part of very talented young IceDogs team moving forward. Like most prospects, Jones just needs to get quicker and stronger; with an emphasis on the last one. As he gains strength, I really expect him to start throwing his body around and becoming a tough player to match up against at both ends. The smarts are definitely there. Would also love to see Jones shoot the puck more and gain confidence in his ability to carve up the neutral zone. I fully expect him to take a nice step forward next year (along with the rest of his teammates). I'd be shocked if he wasn't a point per game player with a chance for a much bigger breakout in his 19/20 year old season.

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