Revisiting Golden Knights’ First-Round Draft Picks

As the Vegas Golden Knights find themselves in the midst of a string of five make-up games to be played over two weeks, the organization will also have an eye on Team USA’s journey through the Olympic men’s hockey tournament going on in Beijing. That journey started in winning fashion, with the team’s 2020 first-round pick Brendan Brisson tallying a goal in an 8-0 blowout against the host Chinese team.

For the Golden Knights, Brisson, one of 15 collegiate players to crack the US Olympic team, represents something of a rarity. Not only is he the only member of the Vegas organization set to compete in Beijing, but he is only of just six first-round picks made by the franchise, including one of just three since amassing three first’s in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

In light of the 20-year-old’s standout play at Michigan this season and his Olympic pursuit of gold, it seems like a good time to check in on Vegas’ past first rounders:

Cody Glass – No. 6 Overall, 2017

As the franchise’s first-ever draft pick, Cody Glass will always be a part of Golden Knights’ history. Although these days, he seems more likely to be the answer to a trivia question about an obscure player.

Things haven’t panned out for the one-time Portland Winterhawks star, having been traded by the team that drafted him this past summer in exchange for Nolan Patrick. Patrick (two goals and six points in 17 games) hasn’t exactly thrived amidst new surroundings in Vegas, but Glass has been worse since joining the Nashville Predators’ organization, going pointless in four games in a season mostly spent in the American Hockey League (AHL).

Cody Glass Golden Vegas Knights
Cody Glass, Golden Vegas Knights (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

All told, Glass now has nine goals and 22 points in 70 NHL games spread across three seasons. The Winnipeg-born center is still only 22, but the “bust” label looms. After all, he has played in fewer games than anyone else taken in the top 10 of the 2017 draft, a group that includes Cale Makar, Miro Heiskanen and Elias Pettersson.

Nick Suzuki – No. 13 Overall, 2017

Continuing with the theme of former first-rounders that promptly went elsewhere (spoiler alert: it doesn’t stop here), Vegas used the second of their three top-15 picks in 2017 to go big name-hunting. After a little over a year in their system, Nick Suzuki was packaged with Tomas Tatar and a 2019 second-rounder for long-time Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty.

This off-discussed deal came to the forefront of fan discussion when the two clubs met in the Stanley Cup Semifinals last season, with Suzuki’s ascent to foundational young center tilting the trade-in Montreal’s favor.

Nick Suzuki Montreal Canadiens
Nick Suzuki, Montreal Canadiens (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While Pacioretty has been great as a first-line offensive threat for the Golden Knights, the 22-year-old Suzuki appears poised to be a No. 1 center with the Habs for years to come. And based on how poorly the season is going with the NHL’s most decorated franchise, he could have another young building block to develop alongside next season.

Erik Brännström – No. 15 Overall, 2017

While the Golden Knights may have gotten a bit too trigger-happy in offering Suzuki up as trade bait in pursuit of Pacioretty, it certainly appears – for now, at least – that they got the better of a similar prospect-for-established-star trade involving Erik Brännström. During his first season state-side in the AHL, the Swedish blueliner taken two spots after Suzuki was included in the package to land Mark Stone.

Erik Brännström Ottawa Senators
Erik Brännström, Ottawa Senators 2019 development camp (Courtesy Ottawa Senators)

Slowed by a frustrating, pandemic-influenced 2020-21 season and a development-stunting broken left hand back in November, Brännström has yet to secure a full-time NHL role with the Ottawa Senators. Encouragingly, he has looked increasingly comfortable since making his way back into the Ottawa lineup on New Year’s Day.

That said, Vegas will happily stick with their captain, thank you.

Peyton Krebs – No. 17 Overall, 2019

Here we go again: in what has become an increasingly familiar trend with regards to the Golden Knights front office, Peyton Krebs was the organization’s top prospect when he was dangled to land Jack Eichel – yet another marquee, big name star – earlier this season. The move has been beneficial for the recently-turned-21-year-old, who has already notched his first three career goals in Buffalo.

Peyton Krebs Buffalo Sabres
Peyton Krebs, Buffalo Sabres (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

It goes without saying that any evaluation on Krebs – whether examining his lofty draft status or value in the Eichel blockbuster – is extremely premature. That said, only a handful of 2019 draftees have achieved a full-time place on an NHL roster to date, and the former Kootenay Ice star looks to be among the more promising members of the class, especially considering he was snatched up in the bottom half of the first round.

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Brendan Brisson – No. 29 Overall, 2020

With apologies to Pacioretty, who was part of the 2014 US team that finished fourth, Brisson might be poised to join Alex Pietrangelo (won gold with Canada in 2014) as the only Olympic medalists in the Golden Knights’ organization. Brisson opened the scoring against China with a first period power-play marker off a one-timer from Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect Matthew Knies. He registered five shots in the game while earning first-line and second power-play unit minutes.

Closer to home, the son of agent Pat Brisson has displayed considerable promise during a productive sophomore season with the Michigan Wolverines. The 20-year-old has 17 goals and 15 assists in 29 games for a loaded Wolverines team that is ranked fourth in the country and also features Owen Power, Matty Beniers and Kent Johnson.

It’s easy to envision Brisson getting a long look as early as next year, seeing as how Vegas will be eagerly seeking productive players on cheap deals.

Zach Dean – No. 30 Overall, 2021

A season that began encouragingly with a preseason goal in a Golden Knights’ rookie game quickly turned bumpy for 2021 first-rounder Zach Dean. The 19-year-old winger suffered an injury in training camp, causing him to miss the first seven weeks of the QMJHL season, where he plays for the Gatineau Olympiques.

Zach Dean Gatineau Olympiques
Zach Dean of the Gatineau Olympiques (Steve Philippe)

To his credit, however, Dean has bounced back nicely. The Mount Pearl, Newfoundland native now has six goals and 14 points in 13 games with Gatineau. He was also invited to Team Canada‘s selection camp ahead of the ill-fated 2022 World Junior Championships, although he failed to make the team. Staying healthy in the season’s second half should provide Dean with plenty of time to continue pushing his development forward.

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