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Golden Knights’ ideal draft pick could be goalie Spencer Knight

Updated June 15, 2019 - 4:57 pm

His last name is Knight, for criminy sakes. It’s perfect!

Spencer Knight is a match made in marketing heaven for the Golden Knights, with all kinds of promotional possibilities.

He’s also the top-ranked goaltender entering the NHL draft and could be available for the club with the 17th overall selection when the first round takes place Friday in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“I’m not really worried about where I go,” Knight said at the NHL Combine. “At the end of the day, there’s nothing different about you regardless of where you go. For me, I just want to take it all in. There’s obviously a lot of good players, and people ask them about the draft after a couple years of being in the NHL, and they say they wished they enjoyed it more. So, for me, I just really want to do that.”

Knight, 18, set the U.S. National Team Development Program record for career victories (59) and went 32-4-1 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .918 save percentage for a loaded NTDP squad this past season.

His 32 wins matched the single-season program record held by Vancouver Canucks prospect Thatcher Demko.

But similar to the NFL and running backs, NHL teams often are reluctant to invest a first-round pick on a goaltender.

Since 2012, when Andrei Vasilevskiy and Malcolm Subban went 19th and 24th, respectively, two goaltenders have been taken in the first round — Washington’s Ilya Samsonov (22nd in 2015) and Dallas’ Jake Oettinger (No. 26 in 2017).

The last netminder selected in the top 10 of the draft was Carey Price, who went fifth overall to Montreal in 2005.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 193-pound Knight appears to be one of the rare first-round exceptions, as he impressed scouts during the physical testing at the combine and is regarded as an elite athlete at the position.

The Knights eventually need to find the heir apparent to Marc-Andre Fleury, who turns 35 in November and is at the start of a three-year contract. Knight is headed to Boston College and won’t be ready for the NHL anytime soon.

If the Knights look elsewhere in the first round, here are seven skaters (in alphabetical order) worth watching:

Thomas Harley, D, Mississauga (OHL) — The native of Syracuse, New York, was named best offensive defenseman and most improved player in the Ontario Hockey League Eastern Conference coaches’ poll after he posted 58 points (11 goals, 47 assists) for the Steelheads.

Harley, 17, finished No. 11 among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting Bureau rankings, and as one of the youngest prospects in this draft class, he is projected to fill out his 6-3, 193-pound frame.

Peyton Krebs, C, Kootenay (WHL) — The touted playmaker was projected as a possible top-10 pick until he suffered a partial Achilles tear during training this month and underwent surgery. He is expected to make a full recovery, but the Knights could benefit if he slips.

Krebs (5-11½, 183 pounds) had 19 goals and 48 assists while playing for one of the worst teams in the Western Hockey League, which made it difficult for scouts to evaluate him. He was 10th in the final CSB rankings for North American skaters.

Raphael Lavoie, F, Halifax (QMJHL) — Opinions vary on the 6-4, 199-pounder, who pumped in 20 goals in 23 postseason games to help the Mooseheads reach the Memorial Cup final. Lavoie is regarded as a good skater for his size and was named the best pro prospect in the Quebec junior league.

But he also is one of the oldest players in this class — he turns 19 on Sept. 25 and was 10 days shy of being eligible for the 2018 draft — and a modest regular season (32 goals, 41 assists in 62 games) turned off some scouts.

Alex Newhook, C, Victoria (BCHL) — A native of Newfoundland, Newhook played in the Junior A British Columbia Hockey League rather than major junior to maintain his college eligibility. The Boston College commit had a league-leading 102 points in 53 games — 18 more points than the next closest player.

Newhook (5-10½, 192) is an explosive skater and tied with Krebs as Team Canada’s leading scorer at the Under-18 World Championships with 10 points in seven games, but he needs to improve his shot.

Victor Soderstrom, D, Brynäs IF (Sweden) — There’s no consensus on the next-best defenseman after projected top-five pick Bowen Byram, with some draft boards preferring the 6-foot, 182-pound puck mover and others liking fellow Swede Philip Broberg, Harley, Moritz Seider of Germany or American Cam York.

Soderstrom was the No. 3 European skater in the final CSB rankings and is a right shot, which is coveted by scouts. He posted four goals and seven points in 44 games as a 17-year-old in the Swedish pro league.

Ryan Suzuki, C, Barrie (OHL) — Yes, he’s the younger brother of Nick Suzuki, which would make them some sort of hockey Eskimo brothers if he’s also selected by the Knights in the first round.

Ryan Suzuki (6-0¾, 180) had 25 goals and 75 points in 65 games and is regarded as an elite playmaker. But he dropped from 10th among North American skaters in the CSB midterm rankings to 18th, and his tendency to drift on the perimeter is a concern.

Cam York, D, U.S. National Team Development Program — The Southern California native set a USNTDP record for defensemen with 65 points (14 goals, 51 assists), and his playing style has drawn comparisons to Toronto’s Morgan Rielly. He is the No. 12 skater in the CSB North American rankings.

The knock against York is his lack of size (5-11¼, 172 lbs) and whether the Michigan commit will hold up against stronger opponents in the defensive zone.

More Golden Knights: Follow at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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