Lucas Elvenes was rarely mentioned among the Golden Knights’ top prospects a year ago.
Now, any list that doesn’t include his name is considered incomplete.
The 19-year-old forward generated a buzz in scouting circles with a breakout season in his native Sweden and will be closely watched by the Knights’ brass during the Vegas Rookie Faceoff.
Elvenes had an assist in the Knights’ 7-6 victory over Colorado on Saturday at City National Arena.
“I’ve seen a lot of writings about me and all that, but I don’t think I should think about that so much,” Elvenes said. “Of course, it gets a little more pressure that I’ve signed now.”
Elvenes was ranked as the No. 18 European skater entering the 2017 draft but fell to the Knights in the fifth round (No. 127 overall). That slide served as motivation.
“I wasn’t happy about being a fifth-rounder,” he said. “But it was good for me, too, because I didn’t have so much pressure when I came here.”
Elvenes was one of the youngest players in his class and would have been eligible for the 2018 draft had he been born about one month later. (His birthday is Aug. 18, and the cutoff is Sept. 15.)
The 6-foot-1-inch, 172-pounder worked on his conditioning and strength last summer before being loaned to IK Oskarshamn in the Swedish second division, and his improvement was noticeable.
“He loves to make passes and score. I really like those type of players,” said defenseman Erik Brannstrom, who faced Elvenes multiple times in Sweden. “He’s getting bigger and stronger. He’s more strong on the puck. It’s fun to see him out there.”
Elvenes produced 21 points (four goals, 17 assists) in 22 games with IK Oskarshamn and was one of the final cuts from the Swedish world junior championship team that went on to capture the silver medal.
Elvenes was recalled in December to the Swedish Hockey League, the top league in Sweden, and posted five goals and 16 points in 28 games for Rogle BK.
He ranked third in the league in points per game (.571) among under-20 players behind top-10 NHL draft picks Elias Pettersson and Lias Andersson.
The Knights signed Elvenes to a three-year, entry-level contract in June.
“He’s really had a nice year in terms of development. You can see he’s got confidence, and he’s playing well,” said Wil Nichol, the Knights’ director of player development. “Lucas has become, but will still need to become, a 200-foot player. But I think he’s had some buy-in there. He’s understood that he needs to do that, and his skating and his pace has improved.”
Elvenes, a fan of American rap music, hails from a noted Swedish hockey family.
His father, Stefan, was a fourth-round pick by Chicago in 1988, and his grandfather and two uncles also played hockey professionally.
Elvenes skated on a line with center Jake Leschyshyn and winger Matt Weis against the Avalanche on Saturday and also was part of the top power-play unit.
Elvenes is expected to play this season in Sweden, unless he continues his stunning rise and makes the Knights out of training camp. His contract with Rogle BK runs through the 2018-19 season.
“I want to be here, of course. Do as good as I can,” Elvenes said. “I don’t think I have that huge of a chance to get a spot with the NHL team, but you don’t know. If I do good, maybe eyes open, so I hope so.”
Golden Knights 7, Avalanche 6
Defenseman Nicolas Hague scored twice on the power play, and winger Gage Quinney added a goal and two assists in the Knights’ victory.
Erik Brannstrom and Reid Duke each had a goal and an assist, and Cody Glass notched two assists for the Knights, who led 5-0 after the first period.
The Knights went 4-for-6 on the power play.
“We played really well in the first 20 minutes and took advantage of the power plays that we had,” coach Rocky Thompson said. “It was a good learning experience for our guys.”
David Schoen Review-Journal