How did the Knights fare in the Rookie Face-Off 2022 tournament?

MONTREAL, QUEBEC - JULY 08: Artur Cholach of the Vegas Golden Knights attends Round Three of the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bell Centre on July 08, 2022 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QUEBEC - JULY 08: Artur Cholach of the Vegas Golden Knights attends Round Three of the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bell Centre on July 08, 2022 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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The Vegas Golden Knights were featured in this year’s Rookie Face-Off 2022, with several prospects showing out in a major way.

With training camp underway, that can only mean two things – hockey is back and the regular season is right around the corner. And while many veterans are hitting the ice for the first time this year, some prospects have already showcased their skills at the Rookie Face-Off 2022.

The annual tournament took place in San Jose this year, running from September 16-19 and featuring prospects from six NHL teams – the Vegas Golden Knights, San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche, and Los Angeles Kings.

The Knights were matched up with the Coyotes, Kings, and Ducks – winning their first game and losing the next two. While they were 1-2 in the tourney, one of those losses came in a shootout and the other loss came down to the wire. Here’s a recap of the scores:

  • 9/16 – Vegas Golden Knights vs. Arizona Coyotes [W, 3-2]
  • 9/17 – Vegas Golden Knights vs. Los Angeles Kings [L, 4-5 (SO)]
  • 9/18 – Vegas Golden Knights vs. Anaheim Ducks [L, 3-4]

The boys received a lot of valuable experience during this three-game trip. They successfully protected their 3-2 lead in Game 1, despite a lot of resistance from the Coyotes.

They also had a rough Game 2 where they allowed two goals in the third period and lost in a shootout – but they didn’t give up a goal in overtime, despite being on a five-minute penalty kill.

There were high moments and low moments, which is okay in an exhibition tournament – no matter how high or low the moment, it’s a moment that can be learned from.

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Several Golden Knights’ players stood out – including Brendan Brisson, Lukas Cormier, Layton Ahac, Kaedan Korczak, and Isaiah Saville. This is good news, considering the team’s prospect pool is fairly weak and they aren’t exactly in a favorable cap situation.

Let’s take a closer look at how those players performed at the Rookie Face-Off 2022:

Brendan Brisson

Age: 20 / Height: 6’0’’ / Weight: 180 lbs. / Position: Center

Brendan Brisson was the Golden Knights’ No. 29th overall pick (first round) in the 2020 draft. He had a great showing in the Rookie Face-Off tournament, scoring two goals in two games – both goals coming in their Game 1 victory vs. Arizona, including the game-winner.

The problem-solving forward has shown a great ability to work under pressure and on the move. He signed his three-year entry level contract on April 30th and worked out with several NHL players at Michigan this offseason. I’m excited to see what he brings in the future.

Last year with Michigan (NCAA): 21 goals, 21 assists, 42 points in 38 games

Last year with Henderson (AHL): 3 goals, 5 assists, 8 points in 7 games

Lukas Cormier

Age: 20 / Height: 5’10’’ / Weight: 176 lbs. / Position: Defense

Lukas Cormier was the Golden Knights’ No. 68th overall pick (third round) in the 2020 draft. He played in two games at the Rookie Face-Off Tournament and while his defense was good, it was his playmaking that stood out – dishing three assists.

Cormier is known more as an offensive defenseman. He has a great shot that continues to evolve – and he’s strategic with it too, often creating easy rebounds, deflection opportunities, and backdoor plays. Oh yeah, and he’s been absolutely lighting it up in the QMJHL.

Past three years in the QMJHL: 55 goals, 116 assists, 171 points in 145 games

**He also won the Emile Bouchard Trophy (best defenseman) and was named a First All-Star two years in a row**

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Layton Ahac

Age: 21 / Height: 6’2’’ / Weight: 187 lbs. / Position: Defense

Layton Ahac was the Golden Knights’ No. 86th overall pick (third round) in the 2019 draft. He played two games at the Rookie Face-Off and was paired with Kaedan Korczak – a pairing that continues to dominate any opponent thrown at them, whether it be 5-on-5 or the penalty kill.

Ahac finished the tourney with one goal and one assist, both coming in the team’s Game 2 SO loss. His defense is elite, but I also believe there’s a lot of untapped potential offensively, making him quite the intriguing prospect. In 2021, he was Ohio State’s best defensive player.

Last two seasons with Henderson (AHL): 0 goals, 8 assists, 8 points in 45 games

**Ahac didn’t score in the regular season, but he did score a playoff goal with Henderson in 2021**

Kaedan Korczak

Age: 21 / Height: 6’4’’ / Weight: 192 lbs. / Position: Defense

Kaedan Korczak was the Golden Knights’ No. 41st overall pick (second round) in the 2019 draft. He was paired with Ahac for two games and, like I said before, this pairing is as dominant as any young pairing I’ve ever seen. Korczak finished with two assists, both coming in Game 2.

Ahac and Korczak complement each other well. Ahac is more of the offensive player, while Korczak is the big-bodied bruiser who isn’t afraid of contact. He plays a physical brand of hockey and doesn’t mind big minutes, but also has good speed and puck control for a big man.

Between 2016 and 2021 in the WHL: 18 goals, 80 assists, 98 points in 199 games

Since 2020 with Henderson (AHL): 2 goals, 14 assists, 16 points in 58 games

**Korczak scored a playoff goal for Henderson in 2021 and made his NHL debut with Vegas on February 1, 2022**

Isaiah Saville

Age: 21 / Height: 6’1’’ / Weight: 196 lbs. / Position: Goalie

Isaiah Saville was the Golden Knights’ No. 135th overall pick (fifth round) in the 2019 draft. He was behind the net for Game 1 vs. the Coyotes and looked crisp – stopping 24 of 26 shots en route to a 3-2 victory. He also played half of Game 3, stopping 16 of 17 shots in the third period.

Saville is turning into a golden prospect for the Knights, though he still has a way to go before being NHL ready. His lateral motion from post to post is great and he plays with his angles well – limiting the amount of options shooters have. I’m excited to see him continue to grow.

In three years w/ Nebraska-Omaha (NCAA): 38-36-5 record, .907 save percentage in 82 games

Last season w/ Henderson (AHL): 6-1-0 record, 2.05 GAA, .929 save percentage in 8 games

What else did we learn from the tournament?

The Knights’ have a lot to look forward to with the five players listed above – they have a potential future starting netminder in Saville, a dominant defensive pairing in Ahac and Korczak, another developing defenseman in Cormier, and a playmaking center in Brisson.

Here are some other things we learned from the Rookie Face-Off 2022:

  • Again, it’s time to get excited about the Ahac-Korczak pairing
  • Brisson scored twice, but he needs to work on his patience and timing
  • Ivan Morozov is excellent at face-offs, but he’s still adjusting to North American hockey (needs to improve decision-making and puck control)
  • Artur Cholach has a lot of the same traits as Korczak and displayed it during the tourney
  • Ben Hemmerling loves to play hockey and has the motor to one day succeed in the NHL
  • Mason Primeau is starting to come into his own as a physical forechecker
  • Speaking of forecheck, Matyas Sapovaliv is another name to watch – he also has a good backcheck
  • Zach Dean has incredible speed, but we need to see more from him
  • Connor Corcoran looks good offensively, but not on defense (too many penalties, out of position often, losing stick battles)

The Golden Knights are in an interesting spot – they have a team that’s built to win now (if the goalies can step up), but they don’t have the prospect pool or salary cap space to sustain it. We’ll see if they do anything to address it, but I trust ownership to do what they need to do.

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