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3 players who could take a step forward for the Knights next season

Updated May 16, 2024 - 9:56 pm

Fans have wondered the past few years when some of the Golden Knights’ top prospects would get their chance to stick in the NHL.

The time may be approaching. The Knights face some tough roster decisions before free agency begins July 1, which could open up more spots for their homegrown talent.

“You’re going to miss the guys that are gone, because no team stays the same from year to year,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I don’t know how it’s going to look.”

The Knights have $80.1 million committed to their top nine forwards, top seven defensemen and top two goaltenders next season and the NHL’s salary cap is expected to rise to $87.7 million. They have six pending unrestricted free agents — including right wing Jonathan Marchessault — and don’t have enough money to bring everyone back.

The Knights may turn more of those jobs over to young, inexpensive players from within the organization as a result. They’ve done so in the past, with 2017 second-round pick Nic Hague forming part of their Stanley Cup-winning lineup.

“We want to infuse youth into our lineup, but we’re not putting them in if they’re not ready,” Cassidy said. “I think every good organization, that’s how it happens. You push guys and it opens the door.”

Here’s an early look at players who could push for a full-time role next season:

Defenseman Kaedan Korczak

No one may benefit more from a new-look blue line than the 23-year-old from Yorkton, Saskatchewan.

Korczak made a strong impression in 26 games this year. The 2019 second-round pick scored nine points and was plus-11 at five-on-five.

His issue is the Knights still have plenty of competition on the blue line. Defenseman Alec Martinez is a pending free agent, but the rest of the team’s top seven is set to return as things stand. Seventh defenseman Ben Hutton signed a two-year extension Dec. 22.

Korczak, a pending restricted free agent, should still get more of an opportunity next season. He will no longer be waivers exempt and will need to stick on the NHL roster.

Left wing Pavel Dorofeyev

Dorofeyev didn’t outright win the Knights’ training camp battle to be the opening-night third-line left wing. That went to Paul Cotter.

Dorofeyev more than made up for it by showing he can be a productive NHL player.

The 23-year-old scored 24 points in 47 games this season while proving he can play anywhere in the lineup. His offensive gifts are obvious. He’s also improved his defensive play and his ability to get to the front of the net.

“He’s that natural goal scorer,” center Chandler Stephenson said. “I think he’s solidified himself as an everyday NHLer.”

It wasn’t all perfect for Dorofeyev. He was a healthy scratch the first four games of the playoffs against Dallas before making his postseason debut in Game 5.

He played just 7:11 before being benched in the second period.

Dorofeyev is a restricted free agent and will need a new contract this summer. He can then return to camp and compete for even more playing time than he received last season.

Right wing Brendan Brisson

If not now, when?

The Knights’ 2020 first-round pick got his first look at NHL action this season with eight points in 15 games. There were some flashes in his limited playing time.

Brisson, 22, got into the lineup due to injuries but made the most of it with two goals. He had a shot on goal in all but one of his appearances.

Cassidy said he liked Brisson’s second effort in stints and thought that’s where he grew the most.

“Got better every time he was up,” Cassidy said.

Brisson will have to improve his strength to fight for inside ice in the offensive zone and win more board battles, Cassidy said.

Brisson finished with 38 points in 52 games with the Silver Knights, an uptick from 37 points in 58 games the last season. The timing appears right for him to take the next step with some forward spots available in the Golden Knights’ lineup.

Contact Danny Webster at dwebster@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DannyWebster21 on X.

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