Golden Knights Need To Give Jack Dugan A Chance

The Vegas Golden Knights haven’t exactly been smitten enough with their first-round draft selections to begin serious, longterm relationships with them. Let’s see, Nick Suzuki, Erik Brannstrom, Peyton Krebs and Cody Glass, all players who were selected in the first-round by Vegas, are playing elsewhere now. Impactful players within the young organization have always been imported commodities. But is that about to change?

One would think that by trading a slew of first-rounders away, the prospect pipeline in Vegas would by drier than the arid city surroundings. However, the Golden Knights’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Henderson Silver Knights, are certainly not deprived of talent. In fact, Jack Dugan, who the Knights drafted 142nd overall in the 2017 draft, may be the franchise’s first ever selection who becomes a prominent National Hockey League (NHL) player – and it may happen soon.

Jack Dugan’s Rising Stock

A great indication of future success is a resume of past accomplishments. Sure, continued success is not guaranteed, but accomplishments are monuments that convey consistent work ethic and discipline, an ability to adjust, and a desire to be better. By looking at Dugan’s resume with these ideas in mind, one thing becomes apparent very quickly, the 23-year old Rochester, New York native is a man on a mission.

In 2017-18, Dugan played in the United States Hockey League (USHL) for the Chicago Steel, wreaking havoc on opposing teams. He claimed First All-Star Team status that season and finished 3rd in league scoring with 66 points in 54 games – current New Jersey Devils forward and 2019 first-overall pick, Jack Hughes finished 12th in USHL scoring that year. Dugan proved he was an offensive juggernaut that season and the onslaught would continue in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Vegas Golden Knights Prospects Reports
Vegas Golden Knights Prospects Reports (The Hockey Writers)

During the 2018-19 season, Dugan played in the NCAA for Providence College. The league featured several players who are now household NHL names, such as Cale Makar and Adam Fox. The competition was grueling, but Dugan still led all NCAA freshmen in assists that season, and his output continued to soar the following campaign. In 2019-20, he led the entire NCAA league in points, with 52 in only 34 games played. He became a First-Team All-American and a finalist for the prestigious Hobey Baker Award in 2020, which recognizes hockey attributes such as outstanding sportsmanship, community leadership, commitment and coachability.

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Dugan’s success is growing. A steady upward trajectory is beginning to turn into a steep vertical line, and it is pointing to the sky. His first season in the AHL can be used as further evidence to corroborate his case for imminent NHL arrival – and impact. In 2020-21, his first year of professional hockey, he ranked second in rookie assists and points. Every time that the level of competition and difficulty increased, Dugan has elevated his game to meet those challenges. His play-making ability and consistency on the scoresheet will make it difficult for Golden Knights GM, Kelly McCrimmon, to keep him with their minor league affiliate for much longer.

Golden Knights Need Dugan’s Services

When it comes to Dugan’s potential promotion, there are several reasons for it that demand serious consideration from Vegas management.

The Golden Knights have battled the injury bug all season. Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson, Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Nolan Patrick, Zach Whitecloud and others have all been sidelined. While most of these players have since been re-activated, others remain unable to play. Introducing the young 6’2, 185 lbs forward into the lineup would provide missing scoring depth. It may take Dugan time to acclimate to the NHL level, but don’t expect him to take too long, as he shown to adjust seamlessly to the increased rigours of the new leagues in which he finds himself.

Teams in the NHL love big, play-making forwards as they can create space and scoring opportunities for their teammates. However, sometimes these special players aren’t identified early enough. In this regard, there is a certain NHL player who Dugan strikes comparisons to – that player is Jamie Benn. Ten years before Dugan was drafted in the fifth-round to the Golden Knights, Benn was also drafted in the fifth-round to the Dallas Stars. Like Dugan, Benn was a 6’2 play-making left-winger who wasn’t on the radars of most teams. Benn slipped, and slid and then slipped some more. Eventually, Benn was taken 129th overall, but became one of the most elite players in the league in the years that followed his draft. Dugan could soon follow in Benn’s footsteps, and considering what he can offer to the Golden Knights, why delay his promotion any longer?

Indeed, the Golden Knights have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to offensive talent. With snipers like Pacioretty, Eichel and Karlsson ready to take their posts, it wouldn’t hurt to have an extra facilitator to dish the puck around. Dugan has raised his level of play with every upward step. In fact, he has been a reliable star at every level.

It’s time that he is given the opportunity to swap out the silver for gold.

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