Golden Knights Bolster Pipeline with 6 New Draft Prospects

After a quiet Thursday night without a first-round draft pick, Kelly McCrimmon and the Vegas Golden Knights front office decided that they weren’t going to sit idly by two days in a row. The club added six new prospects into the fold on the second day of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, retooling their draft positioning with two trades and adding to their pipeline, particularly at the center position.

No, Vegas didn’t take part in the player movement side of things despite rival teams addressing their own goaltending needs, as Ville Husso landed with the Detroit Red Wings and Vitek Vanecek was traded to the New Jersey Devils. But while the newest members of the Golden Knights organization will likely have zero impact on the team’s 2022-23 fortunes, Friday nonetheless represented a crucial step in the long-term health of what is a talented, but aging club.

So, who are these guys?

Center Matyas Sapovaliv (Second Round, 48th Overall)

A Czech teen currently plying his trade for the Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit, Matyas Sapovaliv seems to be a walking contradiction.

Matyas Sapovaliv Saginaw Spirit
Matyas Sapovaliv, Saginaw Spirit (Photo by Natalie Shaver/OHL Images)

On one hand, his massive 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame and powerful shot would seem to define him as a hulking brute type of player. Yet, as he demonstrated with an 18-goal, 52-point season in Saginaw, Sapovaliv is most comfortable in the role of playmaker, deploying his soft hands to distribute and create for his linemates.

Center Jordan Gustafson (Third Round, 79th Overall)

Vegas surrendered a fifth-round pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in order to move up 16 spots and nab Jordan Gustafson from the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Seattle Thunderbirds. That urgency might have stemmed from Gustafson’s rising stock after a 2021-22 WHL season that saw him post 23 goals and 52 points in 58 games. His first full season with the T-Birds highlighted his explosive skating abilities and physical edge, which could eventually see him develop into a dangerous top-nine contributor and power play threat.

Goaltender Cameron Whitehead (Fourth Round, 128th Overall)

Well, it can’t be said that the Golden Knights didn’t add goaltending on Friday. With their third selection, a pick acquired from the Montreal Canadiens for a fourth-rounder in 2023, Vegas provided a much-needed boost to the farm system’s netminding ranks with 6-foot-3 Cameron Whitehead of the United States Hockey League’s Lincoln Stars. Undrafted in 2021, he re-classified for 2022 and made a strong impression by going 16-8-4 with a 3.19 goals-against average and .892 save percentage for the Stars. He’s expected to return to Lincoln next season before joining Northeastern University in 2023-24.

Center Patrick Guay (Fifth Round, 145th Overall)

In what was arguably their biggest swing of the whole draft, the Golden Knights took a flyer on Patrick Guay, one of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s leading scorers. So why did a 55-goal (and 104-point) man with NHL bloodlines represent a risky proposition? Guay is listed at just 5-foot-9 and is already 20 years of age. If the son of former Buffalo Sabre François Guay was a couple of inches taller and a year younger, he’d likely be a first-round target. Still, Vegas felt he was worth a low-risk fifth-round bet.

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Right Wing Ben Hemmerling (Sixth Round, 177th Overall)

An early candidate for a player who fans will be feeling pretty excited about in a year’s time, winger Ben Hemmerling managed 47 points in 57 games on a deep Everett Silvertips squad last season.

Kelly McCrimmon
Kelly McCrimmon went back to his WHL roots in adding Jordan Gustafson (Seattle Thunderbirds) and Ben Hemmerling (Everett Silvertips). (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

This season, Hemmerling figures to have a bigger role, and with it a serious opportunity to put up numbers. Though a bit undersized at 5-foot-10, there’s hope that Hemmerling’s high hockey IQ and heady, creative play have a place in the NHL someday.

Defenseman Abram Wiebe (Seventh Round, 209th Overall)

Something of an unknown heading into the year, defenseman Abram Wiebe found his way onto the radar of many scouts with 31 points in 54 games (and nine assists in 11 playoff games) for the Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Hockey League. Of course, what scouts really noticed was Wiebe’s 6-foot-3 frame. Questions remain about his mobility and how he’ll react to a stronger level of competition (he’s slated to attend the University of North Dakota after this season) but represented a worthy seventh-round gamble.

The Golden Knights made the most of their six Day 2 picks, taking some calculated risks on potential high-upside prospects and running the size gamut from 5-foot-9 to 6-foot-3. Most of all, Friday’s draft work was all about starting to replenish a thin farm system and bringing in players that fit the Vegas mold. Of course, we won’t know how successful they were in their efforts for at least half a decade, if not longer.


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