The Vegas Golden Knights are one of the best teams in the NHL, reaching the conference finals in three of the past four seasons. During this run they’ve shown a willingness to be aggressive in acquiring players, often trading away draft picks and prospects to do so. While this has affected the quality of their prospect pool, they still have some intriguing players in the system that will contend for roster spots in the near future.
- Vegas Golden Knights trade: Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, two conditional draft picks in exchange for Jack Eichel and a conditional draft pick
With their focus firmly on the present, drafting and developing players has suffered as a result. While it’s been hard to argue with the results, every team in the league wants to have players ready to join the team and contribute on an entry-level contract. Looking at the other teams that will be contending with the Golden Knights in May, many are taking advantage of quality players on cheap, entry-level contracts.
With that as a backdrop, here are three of the Vegas Golden Knights’ top prospects that could be wearing the gold jersey sooner than later.
Ivan Morozov looks to move state-side from Russia
Ivan Morozov was drafted by the Golden Knights in the late second round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. He’s a center that stands 6-foot-1 and weighs around 180 pounds. Morozov is currently playing in Russia and has bounced around between the KHL and the VHL. Russia is known as being a tough place for prospects to develop but Morozov has still impressed, scoring at a 0.5 point per game pace this year despite being just 21-years-old.
- Ivan Morozov 2021-22 KHL stats: 22 GP, 5 G, 6 A, 11 PTS
Because Morozov has expressed a desire to get to North America, his development has not been a priority for his KHL teams. He makes an impact on the ice, both offensively and defensively and has been used in a variety of situations, including on the penalty kill and with the man-advantage.
The Golden Knights have made center a position of strength with the Jack Eichel acquisition and Chandler Stephenson’s continued development. However, because the Vegas Golden Knights are facing a cap crunch they’re going to have to trade a player — likely a forward — and that could open a position for Morozov in the bottom-six next season.
Vegas Golden Knights 2020 first-round pick: Brendan Brisson
Brendan Brisson was the Golden Knights’ first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft as they selected him with the 29th selection. Brisson is currently playing for the University of Michigan in the NCAA on one of the most stacked teams in the country that is filled with blue-chip NHL prospects.
- Brendan Brisson 2021-22 NCAA stats: 29 GP, 17 G, 15 A, 32 PTS
Brisson has the highest ceiling of any prospect on this list. He’s a gifted offensive player who uses his smarts in the offensive zone to find soft spots and get to the puck first. He pairs that hockey IQ with a willingness to find the open man, a combination that makes him a great playmaker.
Brisson isn’t ready for the NHL, but with a few more seasons of development could push for a top-six role. Golden Knights’ fans should be excited to see this kid on the team as he can help take their offense to the next level. Brisson will be representing the United States at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, a great opportunity for fans to start to get familiar with his game.
Jack Dugan could join Vegas Golden Knights lineup sooner rather than later
Last but not least, Jack Dugan is a former fifth-round draft pick by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017. He’s a powerful player that likes to go to the dirty areas of the ice, perfect for a bottom-six role. He’s been an efficient player ever since joining the professional ranks, scoring at just shy of a point-per-game pace as an AHL rookie in 2020-21.
- Jack Dugan 2021-22 AHL stats: 16 GP, 3 G, 7 A, 10 PTS
While Dugan can throw the body, he’s far from just a physical presence. He is a gifted passer and a skilled playmaker, a great combination with his physicality that makes up for his lack of elite foot speed. Dugan is another player that the Golden Knights will rely upon to be a cheap fourth liner in the near future.
Dugan was not heralded heading into the NHL draft and slipped to the fifth-round. However, today all those NHL franchises that passed on him are kicking themselves. Dugan has blossomed since being drafted and the Golden Knights look forward to having him in the lineup.