While the NHL could still return at some point this year, there is no doubt that the Vegas Golden Knights will be putting together their off-season plans and they should be watching current events in Vancouver with a close eye.
It has been two months since the Vegas Golden Knights and the rest of the sporting world went on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the NHL are busy coming up with a bevy of ideas to try and salvage the 2019-20 season.
Whether they are successful in that particular mission remains to be seen but, whether hockey returns this year or not, the Golden Knights will already be gearing towards the 2020-21 season.
From putting the finishing touches to their 2020 NHL Entry Draft homework to evaluating players ahead of free agency, the front office won’t be short of work to get on with during this current hiatus.
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And they should now be attempting to win the off-season by raiding their Pacific Division rivals the Vancouver Canucks.
Like all Canadian franchises, the Canucks fans are incredibly passionate about their franchise and Canucks social media has been hot over the last few days.
Don’t know what we are talking about?
Let us fill you in.
According to multiple reports, Judd Brackett, the Head of Amateur Scouting for the Canucks, is on the cusp of parting ways with Vancouver.
The same reports suggest that tensions have reached boiling point between Brackett and Canucks GM Jim Benning, leading many to predict that the former will walk when his current contract expires in the summer.
Now, a lot of you may be wondering why we are even talking about a Canucks employee, particularly one that doesn’t keep the puck out of the net or light the lamp.
But, if you are a hockey savant or just up-to-date on your Canucks news, then you will know just how significant a figure Brackett is for Vancouver and why his pending free agency would be huge news in the NHL.
In a nutshell, Brackett is responsible for discovering the likes of Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, the dynamic trio who have formed the bedrock of a Canucks core that could recapture the glory days for that franchise.
Brackett also helped Vancouver to snag some late-round gems in 2015 Fifth-Round selection Adam Gaudette, and Tyler Madden who was selected in the Third-Round of the 2018 Draft before the forward’s rights were dealt to the LA Kings as part of the Tyler Toffoli trade at the Trade Deadline.
In addition to unearthing a bevy of bluechip talents for the Canucks, and some diamond-in-the-rough picks in the later rounds, Brackett was also responsible for transforming the Indiana Ice into a juggernaut in the USHL, a fine job that saw the scout fast-tracked into an NHL job.
His meteoric rise didn’t sit well with other scouts according to reports, while Benning comes from a scouting background which is said to have sparked the tension between GM and the Head of Amateur Scouting.
The Hockey News have done a deep dive into the reported strained relationship, which you can read here, but it does seem feasible that Brackett’s contract negotiations continue to stall and he becomes a free agent in the off-season.
And the Golden Knights should absolutely pounce.
While they have a Director of Amateur Scouting in Scott Luce, who certainly has an outstanding resume, the Knights could try to fit Brackett into their current setup without ruffling any feathers.
After all, the very best teams are always looking for that extra edge and Brackett’s hugely impressive track record speaks for itself.
He and Luce could work together in perfect harmony and Brackett’s arrival would strengthen what is already a potent weapon for the Golden Knights.
Luce would have been partly responsible for pinpointing Cody Glass as the player to take in the 2017 NHL Draft, the first player selected in franchise history, while he would have had a large say in selecting Jack Dugan with the 142nd overall pick in 2017 too.
So, partnering up Luce with the man who persuaded the Canucks to take Elias Pettersson No. 5 overall in 2017 and potential franchise defenseman Quinn Hughes with the seventh overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft could be a masterstroke.
Both Pettersson and Hughes, along with Boeser, look set to be superstars for the Canucks for a long time and, if they go on to win a Stanley Cup at some point in the future with the current core, then that championship will have Brackett’s fingertips all over it.
Of course, if Brackett and the Canucks can’t salvage their relationship then a bevy of teams will no doubt be circling, including the new Seattle franchise who will need an experienced and established figure to help build the team from the ground floor up.
But, while the likes of Taylor Hall, Alex Pietrangelo, Torey Krug and Braden Holtby could be free agency game-changers on the ice, Judd Brackett has the credentials to suggest that he could be the true steal of the off-season.
And the Vegas Golden Knights should strongly consider being the franchise that secures the signature of a man who may well have set the Vancouver Canucks on a glory-laden path because of his scouting expertise.