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Golden Knights set to compete for spots on opening-night roster

Updated September 14, 2017 - 10:37 pm

Erik Haula wasn’t nervous. Neither was Shea Theodore nor Clayton Stoner.

The trio of NHL veterans know it’s going to be a battle to earn a spot on the Golden Knights’ roster. But they also know they’ve got the ability to make the team and that they can control their own fate — to a point.

“I don’t feel any pressure,” Haula, 26, said Thursday at City National Arena as the players went through their physicals, off-ice testing and photo sessions. “We all know we’re good players. You just want to make a good impression.”

They’ll get their first opportunity on the ice Friday morning. Sixty players are in the camp, and only a third of them will be in Dallas when the Knights open their inaugural season on Oct. 6 against the Stars.

Haula, a four-year NHL veteran forward who had 15 goals and 26 points last season with the Minnesota Wild, was an expansion pick by the Knights on June 21. He’s trying to get comfortable with his new environs.

“It’s really nice,” said Haula, who is living in Summerlin. “But I’m still learning the area. Everything is flowing.”

For Stoner, 32, a defenseman whose 2016-17 season with Anaheim was limited to just 15 games because of an abdominal injury that required surgery, it’s an opportunity to get his career back on track.

“I know if I’m healthy I know I can still can play in this league,” said Stoner, who has spent eight NHL seasons with the Wild and the Ducks before being an expansion selection from Anaheim. “I’m looking at this opportunity as a fresh start.”

Theodore, 22, a defenseman who had been Stoner’s teammate in Anaheim the past two seasons and was acquired in a trade with the Ducks on the night of the expansion draft, said he expects camp to be competitive.

“I think we’re all looking forward to camp starting,” Theodore said. “I think everyone here sees an opportunity to play and be part of something new and exciting.”

For Theodore, who’s in the final year of his three-year entry-level contract, he could be on the outside looking in if the Knights decide to send him to Chicago of the American Hockey League at the start of the season while making room for someone else.

“I know I have options,” said Theodore, who has spent time in the AHL with the San Diego Gulls, the Ducks’ affiliate. “But my goal is to make this team and be here in Vegas. That’s what I’ve worked all summer to get ready for this camp.”

Stoner said he is impressed by the talent level throughout.

“I see some talented guys who can really skate and are real shifty,” Stoner said. “There’s a lot of good players here.”

Coach Gerard Gallant said everyone will get a fair shot to play in the preseason’s seven-game schedule and show what they can do.

“There’s no expectations other than to work hard and get better every day,” Gallant said. “There’s a lot of guys fighting for a few spots so it’ll be interesting.”

General manager George McPhee said he’s curious to see what his assembled group ultimately yields.

“Our job is to be analytical and not emotional,” McPhee said. “We’ve got three weeks to make decisions and set our roster.

“The beauty of this camp is it’s still a blank canvas. In my mind, other than the goaltending (Marc-Andre Fleury and Calvin Pickard), there’s a lot of openings.”

Contact Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow @stevecarprj on Twitter.

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