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Golden Knights’ Bruce Cassidy plans to experiment in camp

Updated September 1, 2022 - 6:11 am

Bruce Cassidy — between figuring out school uniforms for his two kids, securing hockey equipment for them and settling into a work-parenting routine — hasn’t had much time to explore his new city three weeks before his first Golden Knights training camp.

The one notable thing the third coach in franchise history did was throw out the first pitch at an Aviators game Aug. 21, which left an impression on his son Cole. He asked his dad to tag along to his sister Shannon’s hockey practice at City National Arena the next day. When he got there, he went to the building’s gym and watched the Aviators’ game at Las Vegas Ballpark next door.

“Good for him,” Cassidy said. “He had one of the best seats in the house.”

The Knights have been active in August while Cassidy adjusts. They’ve re-signed four restricted free agents, signed right wing Phil Kessel, traded for goaltender Adin Hill and announced that goaltender Robin Lehner is expected to miss the season because of double hip surgery.

That gives Cassidy plenty to sort out before the first full day of on-ice workouts Sept. 22.

“We are going to experiment,” said Cassidy, who previously indicated the “Misfit line” of left wing Jonathan Marchessault, center William Karlsson and right wing Reilly Smith might start camp apart. “There will be moving some pieces around a little bit.”

Kessel was the Knights’ one notable addition up front on a one-year, $1.5 million contract. The 34-year-old has 399 career goals and 956 points in 1,204 games. He should provide offense at five-on-five and on the power play.

Cassidy will have options for how to use Kessel. He could put him on the top power-play unit with center Jack Eichel. Or, because Kessel and Eichel are right-shot forwards who typically play the left half-wall position on the man advantage, Kessel could be a primary weapon on the second unit.

“Either way he’s going to help us,” Cassidy said. “It’s nice to have some options on the power play so we can give some teams a different look.”

Hill’s addition also gives the Knights choices in net.

The 26-year-old joins a goaltending group that includes promising 25-year-old rookie Logan Thompson and 29-year-old backup Laurent Brossoit. Cassidy said the opening-night gig is likely Thompson’s “job to lose” because he ended last season as the starter.

But that could change. Hill could have a strong performance in camp. Brossoit, who is recovering from offseason hip surgery and might not be ready for the Oct. 11 opener, could return sooner than expected.

“They’ve all got NHL experience, but I don’t know if they’ve ever been a true No. 1,” Cassidy said. “I’ve always said internal competition, it can really drive your team as long as they all take it in the right way.”

The Knights will have battles at the bottom of the roster, too. Center Jake Leschyshyn, right wing Jonas Rondbjerg and left wing Paul Cotter will fight for spots after appearing in 41, 30 and seven NHL games last season, respectively. All three would need to go on waivers if they don’t make the team, according to the website CapFriendly.

That means the Knights are likely to give each a long look before deciding to possibly expose them to other clubs.

“We have to be careful with those guys,” Cassidy said. “They’re all kind of hopefully ready to take the next step.”

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

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