Sunday, July 1, 2018 | 2 a.m.
The Golden Knights’ 2018 rookie development camp wrapped up Saturday morning at City National Arena, and throughout the week the usual suspects shined as expected.
The first-round picks from 2017 — Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom — showed why they were so highly touted, and college free agent signing Zach Whitecloud showed he is one of the most mature players at the camp.
Here’s a look at a few of the under-the-radar players who stood out during the five days of practices and scrimmages.
Dugan was selected by the Golden Knights in the fifth round of the 2017 draft and didn’t show promise in his first development camp last summer.
The 20-year-old returned to Las Vegas this summer vastly improved and looked like one of the best players on the ice throughout the week.
“I’ve worked really hard over the last year and that’s not going to stop,” Dugan said. “I’m going to Providence this year and am going to work even harder. I think I’ve come a long way.”
Dugan will play for Providence College this season after registering an impressive 31 goals and 35 assists with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League last year.
“He had an outstanding year in the USHL and that’s a great developmental league,” Golden Knights director of player development Wil Nichol said. “Jack has some things that you can’t teach. What I like is he has become a 200-foot player. Like a lot of kids his age he still has some things to work on, but I saw a lot of progress with him.”
Dugan saved his best performance for last, scoring a goal and adding four assists in the final scrimmage of the camp on Saturday.
Cotter stood above all of the Golden Knights’ 2018 draftees in camp, showing tremendous skating ability and a good shot.
“I think one of the biggest parts of my game is speed, and I really worked on that through the course of this week and thought I portrayed it pretty well,” Cotter said. “It’s pretty easy when you have really good guys playing with you, feeding you pucks and stuff. It went really well on the ice.”
Cotter used imagination and skill to deke around defenders with regularity, and had the finishing ability around the net to make it count.
“We’re really excited about him. He can play heavy but has good hands,” assistant director of player personnel Bob Lowes said. “He can play with power but also play a skilled game. I think he’s playing with a lot of confidence and he’s been very noticeable.”
The 6-foot, 190-pound center said he wants to make strides on the defensive side of the ice this year. He will play for Western Michigan University.
Baker is an undrafted college player at the University of Wisconsin who was invited to the Golden Knights development camp. He is not part of the organization as of now but could be signed at any point if Vegas chose to do so.
The 21-year-old winger showed some of the best hands in the camp with dazzling dekes around the goal during drills.
“It went pretty well,” Baker said. “This was my first development camp, but I thought I played my game pretty well. I felt fast out there and thought I was able to keep up with the pace, which was something I wanted to see if I could do.”
Multiple coaches pointed to Baker as one of the players who caught their eye during the week, and his performance translated into production during the team’s three scrimmages where he scored several times.
“I like to play low in the corners, control the puck and protect it,” Baker said. “Working in the dirty areas and trying to get it to the (skilled guys), plus shooting the puck whenever I get the opportunity.”
Baker had 10 goals and 11 assists as a freshman at Wisconsin and said he plans on returning there to play out his final three years of NCAA eligibility.
Of all the non-Golden Knights invitees at the camp, Schuldt certainly has the highest-profile.
Schuldt decided to return to St. Cloud State University for his senior year of college instead of going pro despite having interest from multiple NHL teams including the Montreal Canadiens and Golden Knights.
The 23-year-old defenseman was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award given to the best player in all of college hockey, and showed why in camp.
“I thought he was real, real consistent with his play,” said Golden Knights assistant coach Ryan McGill. “He didn’t do anything spectacular but he was real solid. When he had a chance to pinch guys off on the wall he did a good job and moved the puck up really well. He’s a real efficient player.”
Schuldt will play at St. Cloud State again this season and will finally make the leap to the pros in the spring, when he will be in demand. He said he enjoyed his time in Las Vegas and loved the way the Golden Knights ran the camp and treated the players.