Looking at Lucas Van Vliet's profile

Lucan Van Vliet was the last pick for the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Draft. What must he do to have staying power in the lineup?
U18 Five Nations Tournament
U18 Five Nations Tournament / Michael Miller/ISI Photos/GettyImages

When it comes to seventh-round picks from the NHL Draft, they're often the most forgotten pieces from their class. They're not as lucrative as their early-round counterparts, who have a more viable path to the NHL. However, there are outliers to this point, serving as the opposite of Alexandre Daigle.

One example of this is Calgary Flames defenseman, MacKenzie Weegar. The former seventh-round pick (206th overall) scored 20 goals and 32 assists this season, providing bite for an otherwise lackluster Flames offense. The adaptable defenseman has become reliable in any situation, making him a late-round draft steal for Calgary.

The Vegas Golden Knights might have that in Lucas Van Vliet, a young forward from Michigan State University. Picked with the 197th overall pick in the draft, the Golden Knights see the right winger as a potential depth piece for a prospect-starved team. That's the aftereffect of acquiring key pieces for another Stanley Cup run.

While Van Vliet doesn't have a viable path to the NHL yet, he can develop into a key piece later. The 18-year-old from Livonia, Michigan, has a nice hockey pedigree that can help Vegas down the road. With that, he can add more depth and be part of another Stanley Cup run.

That's how Vegas won their first Stanley Cup in 2023. Behind balanced offensive talent, they conquered the NHL and completed their incredible story. So how can Lucas Van Vliet be another piece to the puzzle? What must he do to make the roster and be a productive teammate?

Lucas Van Vliet must find a specialty

When it comes to Van Vliet's game, there's nothing that stands out. The forward is balanced in all aspects and has talent in every area. For example, he's a heavy winger that plays a two-way game. He can handle being on the forecheck and has enough offense to contribute.

However, he doesn't specialize in a particular talent on the ice. While he can provide goal-scoring, he's not the most prolific offensive piece. His best season during his amateur career was with the U.S. National U17 Team in 2022-23. Here, he scored 12 goals and 22 assists in 57 games.

While that's decent offensive numbers for a prospect, that pales compared to a prospect like Trevor Connelly. The first-round pick scored 31 goals and 47 assists in 52 games with the USHL's Tri-City Storm last season. He's also shown this consistently throughout his amateur career. There's a reason why he was a first-round pick despite his problematic past.

The seventh-round draft pick in this year's NHL Draft must hone in on a particular specialty. Will it be shooting from the point and growing into a sniper? Is it building on being a reliable two-way forward? Whatever the case, Van Vliet must find a niche and develop into that role.

Getting into the dirty areas

One thing that makes the Michigan State University star stand out is his ability to get dirty. He's not afraid to make plays for the team and compete for every puck. That work ethic can make him a reliable prospect later, with his energizing personality helping the Vegas Golden Knights.

But one thing that can improve is his confidence. He might be the most hard-working player on the ice. However, he's still raw in specific areas. One example is when he watches the puck from time to time, leaving opposing offenses to dictate the play. If he can develop his confidence and get more involved, he can grow one of those specific areas and have a niche.

Vegas isn't particularly known for growing their first-round draft picks. They prefer NHL-ready talent who've established themselves in the league. While that's not the case with Van Vliet, he can be a viable NHL Draft pick who can impact the third line, at best. He needs more time to grow and add another skill or two to develop into that NHL-ready player.