The Golden Knights know what they want to see from their prospects who are playing in the Vegas Rookie Faceoff at City National Arena.
Players want to show the franchise they deserve a chance to make the main roster and know the front office wants to see how much they have developed in the past year.
There will be plenty of focus on individual play. But once the puck drops, it’s impossible not to focus on the scoreboard.
“You always want to win,” Las Vegas native Gage Quinney said before Saturday night’s first game against the Colorado Avalanche. “That’s what we’re here for. We have a great team, and we’ll certainly do our best out there to stick to our game plan and what we want to do.”
Knights director of player development Wil Nichol said winning is always important as the team continues to build a positive culture.
“We want them to play their game and show what they can do, but of course you want to win,” he said. “This is a tournament, and it’s part of the process. This is about playing for keeps. Development camp (in June) is about educating the kids and now this is about being a pro.”
It’s a belief shared by Rocky Thompson, the coach of the Knights’ American Hockey League affiliate in Chicago, who is running the team in the Vegas Rookie Faceoff, which runs through Tuesday.
Last year, Knights rookies played a two-game series against the Los Angeles Kings instead of participating in a tournament and went 1-1.
“We want to be successful,” Thompson said. “Last year, as an example, we went into our first game with Los Angeles and we got pushed around by those guys and weren’t happy about it. Our guys knew that, and they came out and wanted to set the record straight, so to speak. We played very well in the second game and won it handily. The wins and losses aren’t the end of the world, but you want to compete.”
Thompson had help from the scouting department and Knights personnel in putting together the lines and defensive pairings to maximize skill sets and foster familiarity between the players.
Thompson might be coaching 2017 first-round pick Erik Brannstrom beyond this week.
He said the Swedish defenseman, who turned 19 last week, looks ready for the AHL — if he doesn’t make the NHL roster.
“He looks excellent out there,” Thompson said. “We’re going to have him running our first unit. The way he skates, he’s very evasive and looks very comfortable.”
Thompson didn’t have to look far for a comparable player.
“I was able to work with Shea Theodore last year for a bit in Chicago, and there are similarities there from a power-play perspective,” he said. “The way he can move like Shea does, being evasive and being able to execute using his speed, but he has this great vision, too. I’m pretty excited to watch him.”
Brannstrom played for HV71 in the Swedish Hockey League last season.