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Race heats up for bottom-six forward spots with Golden Knights

Updated September 20, 2019 - 7:14 pm

Like any good race, the one being staged for jobs as bottom-six forwards with the Golden Knights has early favorites along with at least one long shot.

As they reach the half-mile pole of training camp, no one has been able to separate from the pack.

“There’s lot of guys who can fill in those spots,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “It’s going to be a battle, and that’s a good thing. … We’ll see where it shakes down at the end, but there’s some good options.”

The Knights have 10 forwards locked into the lineup, with room for at least three more on their final 23-man roster.

The third line needs a wing to play with Cody Eakin and Alex Tuch, and the fourth line has an opening at center, leaving a hole for one extra forward.

If they carry seven defensemen rather than eight, then an additional roster spot for a forward opens up.

Let’s handicap the competition:

Tomas Nosek

What position he plays — fourth-line center or third-line wing — is the key puzzle piece. Nosek’s preference is center, and he has experience playing between bruising fourth-line wingers William Carrier and Ryan Reaves.

Nosek is responsible defensively and surprisingly good on faceoffs — he won 62.1 percent (82-50) of his draws. He also is one of the team’s top penalty killers. Sounds a lot like the departed Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.

In his lone preseason appearance, Nosek played center and contributed two assists in the 5-0 victory at Colorado.

”Obviously everybody wants to play more, even if it’s on the wing or center. Doesn’t matter,” Nosek said. “This is the biggest week of the camp, and the last couple preseason games. We have a great group of guys who want a spot, so they want us to fight for it.”

Odds to make the team: 1 to 2

Brandon Pirri

Pirri seized on his opportunity last season and was in the lineup for Game 7 against San Jose in the Western Conference quarterfinals skating with … hey, look at that, Eakin and Tuch!

At the very least, Gallant made it clear Friday that Pirri would be on the roster. He scored two goals and added an assist in the 5-0 victory at Colorado on Tuesday, and all signs point to him being on the third line for opening night.

“I certainly feel a lot more comfortable now,” Pirri said.

Odds: 2 to 1

Valentin Zykov

The Knights invested an entire offseason in the 24-year-old, and it’s unlikely they would want to expose him on waivers. Especially since he improved his conditioning and has performed well in training camp.

Zykov was credited with the opening goal against the Avalanche and stickhandled through the Colorado defense before setting up Pirri for the final goal.

Odds: 4 to 1

Nicolas Roy

This is where the number crunch begins. The 22-year-old center could be a fit on the fourth line.

But to keep Nosek, Pirri and Zykov in that scenario, the Knights would have to carry seven defensemen. They’ve opened each of the past two seasons with eight defensemen on the roster.

Roy is waiver exempt, which also could be a factor in whether he starts in the American Hockey League.

“I’ve been really good defensively, but I know I can bring more offense,” Roy said.

Odds: 8 to 1

Cody Glass

The top prospect was given his chance to play right wing Thursday and created a handful of scoring chances after a shaky start.

Glass hasn’t hurt himself in his quest to make the team, but he has yet to produce something spectacular, either.

There’s still time. Barring injury, though, it’s more likely he starts out with the Chicago Wolves in the AHL.

Odds: 10 to 1

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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