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MCKEEN’S 2023-24 NHL YEARBOOK – VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS – Top 20 Prospect Profiles – Organizational Rank #25

Top 20 Vegas Golden Knights Prospects

1. Lukas Cormier

Cormier torched the QMJHL throughout his four years with Charlottetown, and has since transitioned admirably to the AHL, including quarterbacking Henderson's top power-play unit as a rookie. His understanding of how to generate offense from the offensive blueline is exceptional, spotting opportunities as they open up through the flow of play or activating his feet to create them himself. He loves to buzz around with or without the puck, and after enough constant prodding he usually finds a weak spot. He has a knack for elevating his play at important times. Cormier's small stature is always going to be a limitation to varying degrees, and breaking up rushes or cycles going against his net will never be one of his strengths, but he's so effective offensively that coaches will shelter him if they have to, just keep his niche contributions on the roster.

2. Pavel Dorofyev

Some prospects leave their mark when they get called up to the NHL from the AHL, while others struggle to make the most of those opportunities. Dorofeyev undeniably falls into the former category. Vegas needed someone to provide a scoring spark towards the end of their regular season, and he rose to the occasion with aplomb. He has a natural knack for reading the play in the offensive zone, and when he's not anticipating scoring opportunities, he creates them himself reasonably well, both through his skating and his puck protection. He's more of a shooter than a playmaker, but he can keep opposing defenses and goalies on their toes either way. Further gains can still be made physically. Dorofeyev eventually developing into a top-line winger isn't out of the question, but it seems more likely that he will eventually settle into a comfortable middle six spot.

3. Brendan Brisson

Brisson had access to two of the best developmental programs in all of amateur hockey, first with the Chicago Steel and then the University of Michigan, so it's easy to understand why his game advanced so much over the past few seasons. That also begs the question though, whether he might have rushed things a bit by turning pro after only two collegiate seasons, as his skating, strength, and conditioning all still need to improve. He is an exceptional student of the game, and when you combine that with his elite ability to manipulate and move the puck you get a potential offensive focal point. His best work, unsurprisingly, comes on the power play. Brisson is the only first-rounder in the organization's history (prior to the 2023 draft) who hasn't been traded yet, so the need for him to pan out is high.

4. David Edstrom

Edstrom’s transformation from relative depth player and secondary offensive option to primary offensive weapon and first line center within the Swedish U18 program, all within the 2022-23 hocke calendar, was impressive and led to his first round selection by Vegas. With a strong athletic profile and a drastically improving game, Edstrom was one of our favourites heading into the draft. His skill, creativity, and overall playmaking ability improved drastically over the course of the season, which shifted the perception of his overall ceiling. At worst, with his size, improving skating ability, improving physical play, and effectiveness as a defensive forward, he could become a very good shutdown center at the NHL level even if his offensive development stagnates. On the other side of the coin, Edstrom could continue to progress and become much more than that. He has both a high ceiling and a high floor. He should continue to build up confidence playing in the SHL with Frolunda and will probably only need another year or two overseas before he is ready for AHL duty.

5. Daniil Miromanov

To say that Miromanov's career thus far has been a whirlwind would be an understatement. Not only did he bounce around North America and Eastern Europe chaotically for a number of years, but he was also originally a winger and only recently switched fulltime to defence. Despite some expected growing pains, the returns to date have been very impressive overall, and you can tell that he's still just scratching the surface of how good he can become once he fully adjusts to his new position. His heavy shot is a serious weapon, especially with the offensive instincts that carried over from his time as a forward, and he uses his strength and reach well to win defensive battles. Miromanov has an abundance of remaining unmined upside, and it's exciting to think of how good the final product could be after a few more years of stable, focused growth within the same organization.

6. Mathieu Cataford

An allrounder with exciting offensive possibilities, Cataford can rightfully be considered one of the most enticing 3rd round draft picks from the 2023 draft. After kicking off his season with Team Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, picking up one assist in his five games en route to a gold medal, he ended up taking on a huge role for his QMJHL club, the Halifax Mooseheads, scoring at over a PPG pace in the regular season, only to add another 13 points in 21 postseason games. Offensively aware, Cataford possesses strong instincts when it comes to positioning in the offensive zone and an ability to find the open ice. Always working hard to create space and get open, he’s shown himself to be an extraordinary complimentary player and dependable forechecker. Physicality, a strong, hard shot, and well-roundedness without the puck fill out a solid player package. Without that one outstanding trait and featuring generally average size, Cataford’s trek to the NHL will be one of hard work, which has never been a problem for him, and a need to overcome the inconsistency that was seen throughout his draft year. Continued development is key.

7. Kaeden Korczak

Korczak's game is about as simple and straightforward as it gets, and while it's not necessarily a bad thing to be a specialist, success is dependent on how good a player is at that special niche. A defensive defenseman who plays with sandpaper and makes a competent first pass out of his zone, he does a good job under forechecking pressure by being sturdy on his feet and keeping his head up to scan the play in front of him and assess his options. The challenge is figuring out whether he can be effective enough in the NHL in that kind of role. None of his physicality, reach, or mobility are especially high-end, which makes it questionable how well he will be able to shut down the biggest, strongest, and fastest players in the sport. A ceiling higher than a third-pair defender seems unlikely.

8. Matyas Sapovaliv

Sapovaliv is highly effective even though he's not particularly exciting to watch. He's strong as an ox and a sharp, methodical thinker, and it's almost funny watching him play because you can see opponents recognize his intentions but still fail miserably at trying to stop him. There is a near inevitability to how he drives pucks to the net in the offensive zone, slowly but powerfully. While he's good across all 200 feet of ice, he is most effective defensively, utilizing his best attributes to be a masterful defensive pivot and penalty killer. He can hold his own in matchups against the top opposing centers in his age group, even the ones who hold a significant skating advantage, and he should continue being able to handle that usage as he moves up levels.

9. Jiri Patera

Patera is the type of goaltender that teams draft because they like his tools, even if they know that it's going to take him a while to learn how to use them all in a cohesive way. The good parts of his game, which have always been there, include his quickness, flexibility, and bravado. The bad parts of his game are his leaky form, excessive crease movement, and frustrating inconsistency. But just like the Golden Knights hoped, those issues have been largely smoothed over and he is now on the cusp of the NHL. He even won his first two starts in the league. Vegas likely prefers that Patera cook for at least one more season in the AHL, but if they decide to promote a goalie from within their system any time soon, he is the obvious candidate.

10. Jakub Brabenec

Brabanec is one of the most underrated prospects out there. He is a lanky, smooth, multifaceted forward who can play both wing and at center, slot up or down a lineup, and fill a role on the power play as well as the penalty kill. He displays an impressive proficiency for transporting the puck across zones, keeping it out in front of him in stride while also using his frame and reach to fend off backcheckers. While he hasn't produced a ton of points anywhere, all he needs to do to be a contributor at the NHL level is to keep leaning on his tools to routinely drive pucks to the net with momentum. He projects better as a specialized support player than a true focal point.

11. Jonas Rondbjerg

The big Danish winger has been solid thus far as a pro but has yet to solidify a roster spot with the Golden Knights. If he can improve the consistency of his physical game, he could become a permanent fourth line option for Vegas this year.

12. Carl Lindbom

2022-23 was a breakout year for Lindbom as he was named the Allsvenskan’s (Sweden’s second division) goaltender of the year as a 20-year-old. This year he is moving to the SHL with Farjestad, where he will look to continue his positive development.

13. Daniil Chayka

A former high pick of the Golden Knights, Chayka’s development since being drafted appears to have stalled. His first pro year with Henderson was proof of that. Does Chayka skate well enough or think the game well enough to be an NHL defender?

14. Arttu Karki

A recent draft pick, Karki is an exciting offensive defender with significant upside. His play in the defensive end will need to improve, but he can be a difference maker as a transitional leader. Look for him to suit up for OHL Sault Ste. Marie this season.

15. Ivan Morozov

Vegas isn’t closing the book on Morozov yet. After a disappointing first year in the AHL, he’s headed back to the KHL this season to help develop his offensive tools. What the future holds remains a mystery, but it’s too early to give up on the big center.

16. Jordan Gustafson

Injury issues forced Gustafson down the lineup for a tremendous Seattle team in his post draft year. He should take on a much larger role this year, but the focus will be on improving his skating to help increase his consistency.

17. Isaiah Saville

Saville has a good chance of playing in the AHL full time this year after splitting last season between the AHL and ECHL in his first pro season. The former UNO product isn’t the biggest netminder, but his quickness gives him an edge in the crease.

18. Jackson Hallum

A highly skilled offensive player, Hallum is also tenacious and aggressive in looking to drive to the middle. Despite playing more of a depth role for Michigan as a freshman, his production was still solid. He will be an interesting player to track over his NCAA career with a strong program.

19. Cameron Whitehead

Whitehead has big shoes to fill at Northeastern this season as he sets his sights on replacing Devon Levi as the team’s starter. Whitehead is a solid play tracker who squares to shooters well. His play with USHL Lincoln last year was probably better than the stats indicate.

20. Christoffer Sedoff

One of the top undrafted free agents coming out of the WHL last year, Sedoff was signed by Vegas over the summer. A mobile puck mover, his offensive upside for the pro level is solid. The question is, can Sedoff defend well enough to be an NHL player? He’s likely a long-term project at the pro level.