The nameplates at press box seats at T-Mobile Arena and around the NHL make one thing clear.
Seattle is coming.
The league’s 32nd franchise doesn’t begin play until 2021-22, but its front office already has begun preparations for its inaugural season. That means getting out to games, whether that’s in Las Vegas, Chicago or anywhere in North America the NHL is.
The team’s goal is to get as much information as it can now so it can be ready for the 2021 expansion draft, from which the Golden Knights are exempt. It will hard for Seattle to match the remarkable success the Knights achieved there, but the organization isn’t focused on comparisons.
“It was remarkable. Historic, actually, what they accomplished,” assistant general manager Ricky Olczyk said. “The way we’re approaching it, I think inevitably people are going to make the comparison every game probably to the minute detail, but at the end of the day, we’re going to be concerned and focused with Seattle. We’re not going to compare ourselves to Vegas or what they accomplished.”
The Seattle organization doesn’t have a name yet (it’s expected to get one early in 2020), but it has started to build its hockey operations staff since being approved by the NHL Board of Governors on Dec. 4, 2018. There’s general manager Ron Francis, a Hall of Fame player and former Carolina Hurricanes executive; Olczyk; director of hockey administration Alexandra Mandrycky; and five pro scouts.
One of them is Hall of Fame player Cammi Granato, the NHL’s first female pro scout.
“Her resume speaks for itself,” Olczyk said. “She’s got a good eye for talent assessment and evaluation. She understands the game. She brings that insight that we expect our scouts to bring. She’s been a real good addition.”
Those scouts have spread across the U.S. and Canada early this season looking for talent. Olczyk said he was attending games from Tuesday through Sunday this week, including the Knights’ clash with the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center.
All to get ready for 2021. Olczyk said he can already feel a “buzz” building up to opening night.
“I’ve always lived by the motto patience is a virtue, but, boy, it’s hard,” Olczyk said. “This is the kid going to bed Christmas Eve waiting for Christmas morning. It’s hard. It’s very difficult to wait for it to be here, but there is a lot of work to do. It’s a daunting task, but it’s exhilarating and exciting all in the same breath as well.”
Avs going by committee
The red-hot Colorado Avalanche (8-1-1 entering Saturday) received bad news when star right wing Mikko Rantanen sustained a lower-body injury Monday. He’s considered week to week.
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said the team will have to replace Rantanen’s production “by committee,” something it’s more equipped to do after supplementing its roster this offseason.
“You lose one of your top guys and a guy that plays as big of a role as Mikko does, you can’t fill it with one player,” Bednar said. “We do like the depth of our hockey team here this year, especially in our forward group.”
The NHL’s points leader entering Saturday? Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson.
The 29-year-old has 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) through 13 games, and the other Capitals have already began his Norris Trophy campaign. Captain Alexander Ovechkin referred to his teammate as “John Norris” on Thursday.
RJ’s best and worst
Review-Journal hockey writer Ben Gotz gives his best and worst NHL teams each week (Record and goal differential are through Friday):
1. Colorado Avalanche (8-1-1, +17)
Right wing Mikko Rantanen’s injury may cause them to slip. But so far, they’ve been great.
2. Boston Bruins (6-1-2, +6)
Right wing David Pastrnak continues to dazzle. But he needs secondary scoring help.
3. Buffalo Sabres (9-2-1, +12)
They’re too hot to ignore any longer. New coach Ralph Krueger appears to be making an impact.
4. Nashville Predators (6-3-1, +10)
They look good, but also seven of their 10 games have been at home.
5. Edmonton Oilers (8-2-1, +8)
Superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are almost playing too much, but it’s hard to fault new coach Dave Tippett for keeping them out there.
27. Los Angeles Kings (4-6-0, -10)
They’re allowing almost four goals per game (3.9). That’s the worst mark since the 1995-96 San Jose Sharks (4.35).
28. New Jersey Devils (2-5-2, -14)
They won their second game, then had five days off to lose any momentum they might have had.
29. Minnesota Wild (3-7-0, -15)
The defensive breakdowns they had in a loss to the Predators were peewee-level.
30. Ottawa Senators (2-7-1, -11)
They beat Detroit this week so they rise above them.
31. Detroit Red Wings (3-8-0, -17)
It’s looking like this will be another rough year for a proud franchise.