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Close friends to battle for Golden Knights’ goaltending job

Updated September 23, 2022 - 1:43 pm

The teal helmet and stick clashing with Adin Hill’s fresh gold pads made one thing clear the first day of Golden Knights training camp Thursday.

Things are going to be different in net this season.

Hill is still waiting for some of his new equipment to arrive after being traded from the San Jose Sharks to the Knights on Aug. 30. His likely goalie partner to start this season, 25-year-old rookie Logan Thompson, has 20 NHL appearances and 17 starts to his name.

The two have plenty to prove this season. But, with Robin Lehner out for the season and Laurent Brossoit expected to miss camp as he recovers from offseason hip surgery, Hill and Thompson are fighting to be the Knights’ opening-night starter.

What makes it even more interesting is the two go back to their youth hockey days in Calgary.

“I’ve known him forever,” Hill said. “We’re friends off the ice, so it’s fun to have that healthy competition on the ice.”

Hill, 26, was always a year ahead of Thompson, but they played in the same organizations.

Hill played for the Calgary Bisons U15 team, and Thompson did so a year later. Hill was on the Calgary Buffaloes’ U18 squad, as was Thompson. It was easy for them to follow each other.

“He was quite the athlete,” Thompson said. “I remember I couldn’t keep up with him.”

No one would have guessed years later they would be reunited in the NHL. Hill was a third-round pick in 2015 and is still looking to establish himself. He has played 74 games in five seasons with a 29-32-5 record, 2.74 goals-against average and .908 save percentage.

His size stands out at 6 feet 6 inches tall, and he is athletic enough to make impressive saves.

“Big boy,” center William Karlsson said. “You don’t see a lot of net.”

Thompson’s rise has been incredible from undrafted goaltender to potential NHL starter. He was the first U Sports — the national governing body of college athletics in Canada — goaltender to play in the league since 1994.

His first extended stint with the Knights showed he’s not out of his league. He was 10-5-3 with a 2.66 goals-against average and .914 save percentage last season.

“He was thrust into a pretty difficult situation last year, especially as a young guy, and he handled it really well,” defenseman Alec Martinez said. “He played really good hockey for us. He gave us an opportunity every night he was in.”

The question in camp is how many chances the Knights will give Thompson vs. how many they will give Hill. General manager Kelly McCrimmon and coach Bruce Cassidy said the two goaltenders will play often this preseason to give them more chances to evaluate them.

The competition probably won’t end with the Oct. 11 opener, either, as the two will fight for starts throughout the regular season.

The Knights hope the friendly battles bring out the best in both. Neither goaltender is as proven as previous opening-night starters Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury.

The two do have talent, however, and Cassidy’s goalie-friendly defensive system could help the Knights improve their 20th-place finish in team save percentage last season.

They just have to decide who gets the first turn in net.

“That’s going to answer itself,” McCrimmon said. “We want those players to help us make our decisions. You let them play long enough, they make the decision for you.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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