5 Golden Knights Standouts From 2022 Rookie Faceoff Tournament

With the NHL’s training camp opening on Sept. 21, six of the league’s Western Conference teams sent their best rookies to play each other in San Jose last weekend in preparation for the upcoming season.

The Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche, Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Vegas Golden Knights, and the host San Jose Sharks participated in the weekend festivities. This gave fans a great opportunity to see the next generation of NHL stars face off, and the players had the chance to showcase their growth and hard work that they’ve put in throughout the summer.

The Golden Knights finished with a 1-1-1 record, including a win over Arizona on Friday, a shootout loss to Los Angeles on Saturday, and a loss to Anaheim in regulation on Monday to close out the tournament. After watching all three games, here are some of the best performers from Vegas’ 28-man roster of rookies.

Daniil Chayka

Daniil Chayka was the most impressive defenseman for Vegas this past weekend. He is physically dominant and looks for contact on plays in the defensive zone, and his rush defense is one of his best qualities, using his stick very effectively to ward off opponents moving through the neutral zone. Chayka also can break out on his own with speed on multiple occasions, but he seemed to delegate to his teammates or dump the puck in too often. Moving forward, he needs to be more creative and confident offensively to fill out his game and be more of a threat at both ends of the ice.

Daniil Chayka Guelph Storm
Daniil Chayka of the Guelph Storm (Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

Chayka has had a very puzzling trajectory in his young career. In 2019-20 with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the season before he was drafted, he had 34 points in 56 games and was projected as a high first-round draft pick. In the 2020-21 season, he was loaned to the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with CSKA Moskva, where he was almost unrecognizable, recording just seven points in 26 games. It’s common for players to have their draft stock drop, but his stock fell off a cliff, and he was eventually drafted 38th overall by Vegas. Despite all of this, he seems to be back on track after returning to Guelph this past season with 39 points in 53 games. But it’s unclear if he will ever reach that top-pairing defenseman potential that he had heading into his draft year. 

Ivan Morozov

Ivan Morozov’s skating has improved a lot. He also has a strong sense of spatial awareness and can get out of tight areas with strong use of his inside edges. He had a couple of good sequences where he had a burst of speed out of crossovers along the boards and was actually able to fly by a few defenders.

Ivan Morozov Golden Knights
Ivan Morozov, Vegas Golden Knights, 2018 NHL Draft, Dallas, TX, June 22, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In general, Morozov showed a lot more offensive confidence, trying high-risk high-reward moves on the rush and elected to shoot more often than handing it off to a teammate. He’s beginning to show some maturity, and I look forward to seeing how it translates to the American Hockey League (AHL) this season with the Henderson Silver Knights. 

Jesper Vikman

Jesper Vikman surprisingly had what I believe to have been a very impressive showing throughout the Rookie Faceoff Tournament. He hasn’t performed very well over the past two seasons, most notably finishing the 2020-21 season with a .877 save percentage (SV%) and a 3.50 goals-against average (GAA). However, he earned himself a starting job with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League (WHL) last season, where he played significantly better. 

Related: Vegas Golden Knights Top 5 Prospects Heading Into 2022-23

Vikman started Vegas’ second game of the tournament against Los Angeles, which resulted in a 5-4 shootout loss on Saturday. Despite the loss, he displayed an incredible amount of poise and always looked calm under the extreme pressure that the Kings had put on him at even strength and on the power play. This, unfortunately, happened to be the Golden Knights’ worst game of the tournament, where they looked a step behind, and Vikman managed to keep them in the game. He still remains pretty low on the depth chart for goaltending, most notably behind Isaiah Seville, who was the other goaltender in attendance this weekend. But I think this was a great performance overall, and it proves that he has a lot of good things to build on.

Zach Dean 

Zach Dean did a great job of dictating the pace of the game, and it made his linemates better. Despite being the primary puck retriever on his line, alongside Brendan Brisson and Ivan Morozov, he was still able to show off his passing and playmaking skills as opposed to being taken out of offensive attempts with his forechecking.

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

Dean was also a bright spot on the Golden Knights power play, which underperformed. His first point of the tournament came on the opening goal against Arizona from Brisson. His vision continues to improve with each game, and if someone is open, he will find them. Even when he was separated from Morozov and Brisson to center his own line in the third game against the Ducks, he still managed to keep the pace of play high and put defenders on their heels consistently. This was a great overall showing from him, and he seems primed for a huge season with Gatineau of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).

Justin Lies

Justin Lies was undrafted last summer after an underwhelming season with the Giants of the WHL, but the Golden Knights have since shown interest in him. He was invited to their prospect camp shortly after the 2022 Draft and earned a shot to play in San Jose this past weekend. Lies has made the most of every opportunity he’s been given thus far, and this tournament was no exception. 

Lies stood out in both games he played in, which were against the Coyotes and Kings, and managed to show off his game. He’s incredibly strong, has a great release (above NHL-average), and constantly puts pressure on the opposing puck carrier. There were many instances where he caused some chaos in the neutral zone when the Kings were regrouping because of his relentless forecheck. He also showed that he can play multiple roles in the offensive zone, whether it be as the primary puck carrier, as a net-front presence, or as a shooter. He’s an adequate defender as well, as his line was rarely stuck in the defensive zone.

It’s unclear what the future holds for Lies within the Golden Knights organization, but I think he could earn himself an NHL contract by the end of the season if he performs well.

As training camp gets underway, it will become clearer if any of the players invited to play in San Jose this past weekend will have a shot at earning a bigger opportunity with the organization this season.

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