The Golden Knights’ defense appears to be set.
Coach Gerard Gallant said Thursday that top defenseman prospect Erik Brannstrom was assigned to the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves, leaving the team with eight defensemen eligible to start the regular season. General manager George McPhee said Monday that the Knights planned to keep eight, so 24-year-old Jake Bischoff is in line to make the roster.
“He’s been really steady and solid,” Gallant said of Bischoff. “He’s done a great job.”
Brannstrom, 19, opened eyes in training camp and the preseason with his flashy offensive skills, but he has plenty of room to grow defensively. So the Knights opted to keep a more experienced prospect in Bischoff instead of the 15th overall pick in the 2017 draft, allowing Brannstrom to play every night for Chicago.
“We love where his development is going. Just now is not the right time,” Gallant said. “He’ll get some real good seasoning down there in Chicago, and hopefully things will go real well for them.”
Veteran defenseman Deryk Engelland called Brannstrom “extremely gifted.”
“His offensive instincts are right up there with the best guys,” Engelland said. “And defensively, he’s a lot better than what you would expect. I’m sure we’ll see him soon.”
Knights kick back in Montana
The Knights’ players and training staff sneaked a quick getaway into training camp, spending Tuesday and Wednesday at owner Bill Foley’s ranch in Montana.
Defenseman Shea Theodore signed his new contract just in time to make the trip, and Brannstrom went before being reassigned.
“It’s a beautiful spot up there,” Engelland said. “(We did) some fishing and stuff like that. It was a lot of fun.”
Engelland said he went horseback riding but not fishing.
Odds and ends
■ Gallant said he needed to check with goaltender coach David Prior, but he thought Marc-Andre Fleury would start Friday’s preseason game against the Los Angeles Kings at T-Mobile Arena. Fleury has yet to play this preseason.
■ Gallant said forward Curtis McKenzie is close to 100 percent after suffering an undisclosed injury but probably won’t play against the Kings.
■ Center Cody Eakin didn’t practice because of a lower-body injury. He is day to day.