Hockey may be on hiatus but the Vegas Golden Knights are still busy preparing and planning for the future.
Although it is still unclear as to when the NHL and sports in general will exactly return, the Vegas Golden Knights are still hard at work behind the scenes.
It was announced on Tuesday that the Knights had signed free agent defenseman Jake McLaughlin to an AHL contract for the 2020-21 season.
As a result, McLaughlin became one of the first players to be signed specifically for the Golden Knights’ new AHL team, which will play at Orleans Arena in 2020-21 before moving to a purpose-built facility in Henderson.
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And McLaughlin will add to an already deep and rich pool of defensive prospects in the Golden Knights system.
The 23-year-old just finished his collegiate career with UMass, where he tallied 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) in 34 games, along with 27 penalty minutes.
McLaughlin also recorded 42 points (10 goals, 32 assists) and 81 penalty minutes in 138 games throughout his NCAA career from 2016-20, while he was named to the Hockey East All-Star Third Team in 2019-20.
In addition to the above, McLaughlin also helped to lead UMass to an NCAA National Championship appearance and a Hockey East regular-season Title during the 2018-19 season.
Standing at 6’2″ and 190 pounds, the Hinsdale native is a good size and boasts all the intangibles needed to try and cut it at the NHL level.
Wearing an ‘A’ on his chest, McLaughlin was a real leader for UMass and that leadership will be important for his development within the Golden Knights organization.
This is an interesting addition by the front office given that the Knights already boast a bevy of high-end defensive prospects, which we’ve listed below:
Whitecloud, also an undrafted free agent, really took the bull by the horns this year and flourished in 16 games under Head Coach Peter DeBoer, ranking high in a number of metrics that led to a two-year contract extension on Sunday.
Hague began the year as the leader in the clubhouse when it came to rookie defensemen battling for a roster spot in the NHL, showcasing his bomb of a release before being ousted by Whitecloud.
Bischoff, Coghlan and Schuldt all spent the year in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves, while Korczak was drafted 41st overall by the Golden Knights in the 2019 NHL Expansion Draft and has just completed a monster year in the WHL for the Kelowna Rockets, putting up 11 goals and 38 assists for 49 points in 60 games.
Korczak is seemingly on a fast track to becoming one of Vegas’ most prized prospects, and he could play a major role for the Henderson franchise next year.
As such, McLaughlin will need to try and stand out when he reports to Training Camp, given that the competition on the blueline at the AHL level will be intense to say the least.
But, with the Golden Knights going through a slight changing of the guard with Deryk Engelland and Jon Merrill both likely to leave in free agency, they are ensuring that they have a rich pipeline of stud defensemen waiting in the wings.
Zach Whitecloud took his opportunity and ran with it when given the chance to shine, and Jake McLaughlin will look to do the same in order to become the latest high-end blueliner to make the leap to the NHL from the Vegas Golden Knights’ farm system.