Golden Knights’ junior free agents skating for attention

Updated June 30, 2017 - 7:40 pm

Golden Knights players and coaches probably wish they had more time at the team’s first development camp.

But the weeklong camp ends Saturday with a scrimmage at 10 a.m. at the Las Vegas Ice Center.

For the players, it’s one final chance to make a positive impression and maybe get an invitation to training camp in September. For the coaching staff, it’s one final opportunity to gauge whether a player is a fit for the organization.

High draft picks such as Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, Erik Brannstrom and Nicolas Hague know they will be back in Las Vegas testing the ice at the team’s new practice facility in Summerlin. For others, there’s no guarantee.

Alex Barre-Boulet, Logan Thompson and Jayden Halbgewachs are here on a strictly tryout basis. They know every shift counts in trying to catch the eye of general manager George McPhee, Knights coach Gerard Gallant and Rocky Thompson, the coach of the Chicago Wolves, Vegas’ American Hockey League affiliate.

McPhee said Friday the camp is more about orientation to the professional life than evaluation.

Try telling that to Barre-Boulet, Halbgewachs and Thompson. All three are 20 and have the option of returning to their junior teams this fall. But they would prefer to wear the Golden Knights’ gear.

Barre-Boulet has been playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He hopes his scoring touch — two goals for Team White on Thursday and two assists Friday — got him some high marks.

‘I think my experience has helped me here,” Barre-Boulet said. “Last year, I was in Los Angeles’ rookie camp, and I had a taste of what it’s like to play against older players. This year, I’ve been more comfortable and more confident. I’m just going out there relaxed and playing.”

Halbgewachs, the smallest player in camp at 5 feet 8 inches and 161 pounds, has tried to play big with his skating and scoring ability. The 20-year-old center scored 51 goals and had 101 points in 71 games for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League last season.

“I’m trying to play physical and win every battle to prove that my size isn’t an issue,” Halbgewachs said after registering points in the first two scrimmages.

Thompson, a goaltender who played for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, is getting a look because of Kelly McCrimmon, the Knights’ assistant general manager and the owner of the Wheat Kings. He’s one of six goalies in camp.

“You want to make a good impression,” Thompson said. “A lot of the guys are pushing us, and we’re trying to push them. But they can really shoot the puck here.”

All three said they would seriously consider turning pro instead of returning to juniors if the Knights offered them a contract.

“Because it’s a new team, there’s not as much competition,” Barre-Boulet said. “If they make me an offer, I’m probably taking it.”

Halbgewachs said: “If Vegas believes in me, it might make sense to take advantage of the opportunity. There’s more opportunity here than with the other NHL teams. But I still have to prove myself every day. Everyone’s trying for the same thing, a chance to play in the NHL.”

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

Contact Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-913. Follow @stevecarprj on Twitter.

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