On the surface, it seems like an unwieldy number — 60 players vying for 23 spots.
But as Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant likes to say, the players, not the coaches, will decide who plays.
The NHL expansion team’s inaugural training camp begins Thursday with medical exams and off-ice testing. Friday, the 60 players hit the ice at City National Arena as season-ticket holders will be among those getting a peek at veterans Marc-Andre Fleury, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith and Deryk Engelland, NHL newcomer Vadim Shipachyov and top draft picks Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, Nic Hague who participated in rookie camp earlier in the week.
“I’m looking forward to seeing all of them,” Gallant said. “There’s a lot of talent here.”
The plan is to break the 60 players into four teams that will work together as smaller units and scrimmage each other beginning Friday. Sunday, the Knights open preseason when they travel to Vancouver to face the Canucks at Rogers Arena at 2 p.m.
Obviously, not everyone will need their passport. The majority of players will remain in Las Vegas and continue to practice. More than likely, it will be a younger group that goes to Vancouver as the Canucks prepare for their upcoming trip to China, where they’ll face the Los Angeles Kings in Beijing and Shanghai next week in the NHL’s first games in that country.
To that end, Gallant said the plan is to keep things simple early and not get too hung up on what system to run.
“The players know how to play,” Gallant said. “People make a big deal out of systems. But we’ll put in some structure for the players and they’ll take it from there.”
For more than a week, Knights veterans came to the rink and worked out on their own in a so-called “Captain’s practice.” The players were under no obligation to participate but virtually everyone took at least one spin on the City National Arena ice.
“Guys got a chance to know each other a little before camp,” said Engelland, who was the de facto captain. “Everyone’s trying to settle in and being on the ice together, get some of the rust off and work out was really good.”
Goaltender Calvin Pickard said there already is a chemistry developing among the veterans.
“Everyone knows each other and some have played together before,” he said. “But I think you’re going to see a lot of intensity on the ice when camp starts. Nobody’s job is guaranteed.”
Well, maybe Pickard’s and Fleury’s; the two will be the Knights’ goaltending tandem barring any injuries. But there’s a lot of question marks on the eve of the inaugural fall camp.
For starters, there’s that glut of 13 defensemen to sort out and Gallant and his staff have to figure out what lines to put together. Who will play with Shipachyov, the talented Russian center who is making his NHL debut at 30? Will the former Florida Panthers coach play Smith and Marchessault, two guys he coached in Florida, together? How quickly will center James Neal find his groove after recovering from surgery on his broken right hand?
“We want to play a fast style,” Gallant said. “I want players who are ready to compete and battle.”
Contact Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow @stevecarprj on Twitter.
Golden Knights training camp schedule
NOTE: All practices open to the public. Fans must RSVP to attend by registering through team’s website, www.vegasgoldenknights.com to be admitted. Times and events subject to change.
Thursday — Off-ice testing, City National Arena (closed to public)
Friday — Practice (Teams A & B), 9:45 a.m., scrimmage, 10:45 a.m.; Practice (Teams C & D), noon, scrimmage 1:15 p.m., City National Arena (Open to season ticket holders only)
Saturday — Practice (Teams C & D), 9:30 a.m., scrimmage 10:45 a.m.; Practice (Teams A & B) noon, scrimmage 1:15 p.m., City National Arena (Open to season ticket holders only)
Sunday — Preseason game at Vancouver Canucks, Rogers Arena, 2 p.m.; Non-game players practice 9:30 a.m., City National Arena
Monday — Practice 11 a.m., scrimmage 12:15 p.m., City National Arena
Tuesday — Preseason game at Colorado Avalanche, Pepsi Center, 7 p.m.; Non-game players practice, 9:30 a.m., City National Arena
Wednesday — Practice (Team A) noon; Practice (Team B) 1:45 p.m., City National Arena
Thursday —Preseason game at San Jose Sharks, SAP Center, 7:30 p.m.; Non-game players practice, 8:30 a.m., City National Arena
Sept. 23 — Practice (Team A) 9 a.m., (Team B) 10:45 a.m., City National Arena
Sept. 24 — Preseason game at Anaheim Ducks, Honda Center, 5 p.m.; Non-game players practice, 9 a.m., City National Arena
Sept. 25 — Practice, 11 a.m., City National Arena
Sept. 26 — Preseason game vs. Los Angeles Kings, T-Mobile Arena, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 — Practice, 11:30 a.m., City National Arena
Sept. 28 — Preseason game vs. Colorado Avalanche, T-Mobile Arena, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 — Practice, 11:30 a.m., City National Arena
Sept. 30 — Practice, 11 a.m., City National Arena
Oct. 1 — Preseason game vs. San Jose Sharks, T-Mobile Arena, 5 p.m.