That’s right Las Vegas, stick your chest out!!!
Your Vegas Golden Knights are playing as well as any other NHL franchise, so it’s okay to have a little swagger in your step today. And to think, with the amount of young hockey players neatly tucked away in the minor league system, the Golden Knights future looks bright.
Knights general manager George McPhee is building a team for the future by blending experienced NHL players with young talent that hasn’t quite found its identity on the ice yet. The preseason schedule gave us a brief glimpse of the future with the league debut of Nic Hague, Cody Glass and Tyler Wong, who left fans wanting more. One player that didn’t dress was Jake Leschyshyn, but don’t sleep on him, because his skill level translates well to the NHL.
Don’t Expect to See Jake Leschyshyn in 2017-18
Leschyshyn is still rehabilitating from surgery after tearing a ligament in his left knee last February, which ended his WHL season with the Regina Pats. The main objective right now is to regain strength in the leg, so the Golden Knights limited his on-ice participation in training camp only to skating in warmups and non-contact drills. Leschyshyn also has worked feverishly on regaining his lateral movement during workout sessions inside the weight room.
The youngster’s biggest supporter throughout the rehabilitation process has been his father, Curtis, who played over 1,000 games in a 16-year NHL career. He was the third overall pick in the 1988 NHL Draft by the Quebec Nordiques and won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996. Curtis has been a guiding voice to his son in helping him to understand the basic workings of the NHL and patiently wait for his chance to make a name for himself.
The Knights won’t push him or accelerate his timeline to debut in the NHL. It will take at least 18-24 months before Leschyshyn becomes an option for the Knights’ lineup. The wait for the anticipated debut of a young prospect can be excruciatingly painful at times, but this “wait-and-see” approach seems to be the smartest for long-term success.
What Type of Player is Leschyshyn?
Jake Leschyshyn is a solid two-way player that has an excellent chance to become a top-six forward in the NHL. His natural instincts in the offensive zone make him a perfect fit on the power play as a screener in front of the net. Leschyshyn’s ability to distract the goaltender will give him ample opportunities to put rebounds in for goals. This type of versatility on the ice allows Knights coach Gerard Gallant to put Leschyshyn into any role in the lineup.
The Golden Knights sent Leschyshyn back to Regina to play his final junior season. It’s important for him to get re-acclimated with the sport. He can achieve this by playing another year in familiar surroundings and without the pressures that come along with being a high draft pick. Leschyshyn can work off the rustiness from his long layoff while continuing to develop his overall game at the same time.
You don’t have to be a nuclear scientist to figure out the odds are high that not every Golden Knights young prospect will spend time in the NHL, but McPhee is hoping a few can make an impact on the sport. It’s all a part of the process of laying down the foundation for a successful future.
Knight fans have to remember that patience isn’t a dirty word.
Thomas Conroy covers the Vegas Golden Knights for The Hockey Writers Network He has been writing about sports since 2007, first as a contributor for Bleacher Report and Football Nation. Recently, Conroy was a co-editor for the Bolts Beat website on Fansided. To read more his work, please him on Twitter @tsconroy