SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Results usually aren’t important at the Rookie Faceoff, where player development is prioritized. But for an organization that prides itself on a winning culture, leaving the tournament winless wasn’t acceptable for the Golden Knights.
With their experienced players leading the way, the Knights held off Los Angeles 3-2 on Monday at Ice Den in the tournament finale.
“That’s something we talked about before the game is we’ve played two good games, but we’re in a win business,” said Silver Knights coach Manny Viveiros, who was behind the bench for the event. “The organization wanted to see how these kids respond. I thought they played really well. The goal was for us to get better every game we played here. I thought it was a our best effort.”
Free agent Kaleb Pearson scored the winning goal at 5:34 of the third period after Jonas Rondbjerg and Jack Dugan scored 40 seconds apart in the second period to put the Knights ahead 2-0.
Here are five takeaways from rookie camp:
1. Krebs makes statement
It took top prospect Peyton Krebs about 20 seconds to show he was ready to challenge for an NHL roster spot. On the opening shift Friday, the 2019 first-round pick put the puck between the legs of an Arizona player and saucered a pass across the ice to set up a scoring chance.
Krebs didn’t have a goal during the two games he appeared, but he helped set up Dugan’s goal Monday against the Kings and was buzzing all over the ice.
“The first game was just kind of getting your legs back under you, getting your timing,” Krebs said. “I’ve been working hard and I felt strong on my skates … It was a good starting point for the season.”
2. Dugan delivers
There was a point during the second period Sunday against San Jose when Dugan seemed to say “no more messing around” and that carried over into Monday.
The 23-year-old drove much of the offense for the Knights in the final two games and had two goals to show for it, including a booming one-timer on the power play in the loss to the Sharks.
Viveiros said Dugan needs to keep improving his pace of play, but he got better as the tournament went along.
3. Goalies earn praise
The Knights gave each of their three goaltenders a full game at the tournament, and the scores didn’t reflect their overall performance.
Jiri Patera and Jesper Vikman each made notable saves in their outings but were hung out to dry by the team’s struggles on the penalty kill and having to play from behind.
Carl Lindbom, a seventh-round pick in the most recent draft, earned the start Monday and rose to the occasion against the Kings after he noticeably struggled early in camp while adjusting to the North American rink.
“He made some really big saves for us at the right time,” Viveiros said.
4. Primeau’s stock improves
Mason Primeau dropped the gloves Monday with Cade McNelly of the Kings early in the first period and held his own in the fight before absorbing a right hand after the bell from the defenseman. McNelly was given an extra two minutes for the late punch, while Primeau needed stitches.
“Little cheap shot there,” Krebs said.
Primeau’s 6-foot-5-inch frame was noticeable throughout the tournament, and the forward made a nice dish to 2021 first-round pick Zach Dean for the first goal in Friday’s loss to Arizona.
“I’m really starting to realize that there’s not many guys in the game nowadays who are big and play heavy,” Primeau said. “If I can play that way every night, I think it gives me a good opportunity to find a niche for myself.”
5. Free agents contribute
Early in camp, forward Daniel D’Amato caught Viveiros’ eye, while Pearson was given a look on the second line Monday against the Kings. Those two unsigned hopefuls were rewarded for their hard work in camp when D’Amato worked behind the net and fed Pearson in the slot after he entered the play late for the winning goal.
In addition, Lynden McCallum tied for the team lead at the tournament with two goals.
“I don’t think anybody did anything to hurt their chances to get invited to the main camp,” Viveiros said. “I think they all did a remarkable job.”