With no postseason hockey to feast on right now, all eyes are starting to drift towards the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and what the Vegas Golden Knights might do with the picks at their disposal.
It has been a month since the NHL and the rest of the sporting world went on lockdown due to COVID-19, although it feels a lifetime since we last saw the Vegas Golden Knights in action.
While the NHL continues to explore every single possible option when it comes to hockey returning this year, there is no guarantee that we will see a Stanley Cup Champion crowned in 2019-20.
As a result, more and more attention is starting to be paid towards the 2020 NHL Entry Draft which will still take place despite being postponed.
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Originally set to take place in Montreal, the Draft will still happen but will almost certainly take on a whole new look.
It is likely that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will wait until the end of the month to assess how the NFL Draft unfolds before making a final decision on the fate of the NHL Draft.
After all, the NFL is ploughing on and will conduct a full-on virtual Draft next weekend, and the success of that experiment, or lack thereof, will no doubt determine how the NHL and the NBA approach their respective Drafts.
Whatever form the 2020 NHL Draft takes, however, the Golden Knights will still have an important job to do when it comes to stockpiling the farm system with more talent.
This is going to be an important Draft for the Knights who will need to start the search for a blue chip prospect after giving up huge pieces of their future in the trades for Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone respectively.
However, they won’t have a boatload of capital with which to play with at this year’s Draft, meaning that General Manager Kelly McCrimmon, the rest of the Front Office and the Scouting Team will need to ensure that they have really done their homework in order to hit on the picks they do have.
Moving On Up
Given some of the high-end talent that will be available in the top-half of the First Round, could the Vegas Golden Knights move up?
As of now, and keeping in mind that this could change if the 2019-20 season does resume, the Golden Knights are projected to have the 24th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
Having given up a second-round selection as part of the Robin Lehner trade, the Knights only have two third-round picks and then selections in the sixth and seventh round.
So, with five picks overall, there isn’t much room for error from the Golden Knights when it comes to trying to bolster their pipeline this summer.
And, given some of their needs, you could make the case that they would be wise to go all in and try to trade up.
For instance, it is no secret that the Golden Knights are in real need of unearthing their future goaltender of the franchise and a long-term heir to Marc-Andre Fleury.
While they are reportedly in on Russian stud Alexei Melnichuk, a possibility we’ve covered here, there is arguably a blue chip Russian goalie available in the Draft this year.
Yaroslav Askarov is attracting a lot of buzz right now and he could become the first goalie drafted in the top 10 since Carey Price was selected with the No. 5 overall pick by the Montreal Canadiens in 2005.
Having absolutely dominated the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, helping Russia to win Gold with a 1.25 Goals Against Average and a .960 Save Percentage, Askarov is a lock to go in the First Round and he boasts all the intangibles needed to eventually morph into an elite NHL goalie.
Considered the best goalie prospect to emerge since Price back in 2005, Askarov could be the eventual new King in Sin City but the Golden Knights would have to jump up in order to grab Fleury’s heir.
They would also have to move up in order to grab one of the high-end defensemen that will be available in the First Draft, including right-shot defenseman Braden Schneider of the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL.
Recording his best year stastically for the Wheat Kings with 42 points (seven goals, 35 assists) in 60 games, Schneider became a potent weapon on the power play but he’s also an absolute beast on the penalty kill.
Plus, the 18-year-old, who is also an Alternate Captain for the Wheat Kings, is a shutdown specialist and his elite two-way play would be a perfect fit for the Golden Knights.
There is also a connection with current Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon, who has deep ties with the Wheat Kings and will therefore be well aware of Schneider’s talents and high ceiling.
What It Would Take
As already mentioned, if the Golden Knights fell in full bloom love (to borrow a much-maligned phrase from New York Giants GM Dave Gettleman) with either Yaroslav Askarov or Braden Schneider, they would have to move up.
In order to do so, they will need to package their First Round pick (No. 24), one of their third-round selections and maybe even their pick in the sixth round just to sweeten the deal.
Given that they only have five picks in total in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, they could send a role player or prospect as part of any package in order to ensure they have capital to try and unearth an unpolished gem in the later rounds.
But, given their need for a future franchise goalie and a real blue chip prospect, be it a defenseman or a forward, it makes perfect sense for the Golden Knights to throw their chips in the middle of the table.
And, with the later rounds of the Draft set to become more of a crapshoot given that the cancellation of a number of crucial events due to COVID-19 will impact scouts’ knowledge of certain players, this year is the perfect time to go all out and try to move up in order to hit the jackpot.
We will be delving a lot deeper into certain prospects the Golden Knights could target over the coming weeks, but it is clear already that jumping up could be the best approach.
After all, fortune favors the brave and there are some real intriguing prospects with insane upside littered throughout the First Round.
If the Vegas Golden Knights can package together an attractive trade for a team that has a pick near the top 10, then they could well be walking away with a blue chip talent that could change the course of the franchise.
And that is a risk well worth taking for the Golden Knights.