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July 21, 2018

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Golden Knights pick up 8 prospects in NHL Draft

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AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth

League and team officials attend the NHL hockey draft in Dallas, Friday, June 22, 2018.

Updated Saturday, June 23, 2018 | 5:58 p.m.

The Golden Knights added eight prospects to their organization this morning at the NHL Draft in Dallas.

Vegas was without a pick in the first round of the draft, which took place Friday night, after trading it to the Detroit Red Wings in a deal that brought Tomas Tatar to Las Vegas. But the Golden Knights continued to build their prospect base with seven picks on the second day of selections.

The first selection to throw on a steel gray and gold sweater was Russian center Ivan Morozov. The 18-year-old from Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, scored 11 goals and had 12 assists in 30 games with Mamonty Yugry in Russia last season.

Morozov was the No. 19 ranked European skater in the draft class, according to NHL Central Scouting, and represented Russia in the World Junior Championships with three goals and two assists in five games. He has a two-year contract with SKA-1946 St. Petersburg in Russia and could come to the NHL after that.

The Golden Knights then took a pair of American players in the fourth round, selecting Slava Demin with the No. 99 pick and Paul Cotter with the No. 114 pick.

Demin, a 6-foot-2 defenseman, put up nine goals and 36 assists this season with the Wenatchee Wild of the British Columbia Hockey League and has committed to play his college hockey at the University of Denver.

"It’s an unbelievable experience," Demin said. "You only get this experience once in your life. So, it’s pretty cool to go through it. Going to Vegas, it’s a new organization and they had an unbelievable season. They were up there in the Stanley Cup Final, so it’s just super cool to be part of an organization that has done so well right from the get go. Seeing their players from the expansion draft and what they want in their players. It’s unbelievable."

Cotter racked up 18 goals and 21 assists at center for the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League and has committed to play at Western Michigan University.

"I think just overall the NHL is getting bigger, faster and stronger," Cotter said, of what he hopes to accomplish in college. "I know Western Michigan will be a great stepping stone and it should be a great opportunity for me. I think I definitely rely on my skill and speed to have success at Western and as I continue to progress. I think just using that physicality that has been a problem in my game and keeping leadership. I think those are good traits to help me move forward."

In the firth round, Golden Knights general manager George McPhee went back to his alma mater to draft Bowling Green forward Brandon Kruse. The 19-year-old winger scored eight goals and 25 assists for the Falcons this past season and was teammates with Cotter the year before with the Brookings Blizzard of the North American Hockey League.

"I was just out actually getting a bite to eat with one of my buddies," Kruse said. "I was watching the draft there, I saw my name pop up, he was kind of freaking out and my stomach kind of dropped. Then just seeing Vegas and what they’ve done this year, I couldn’t be any happier."

Later in the round, Vegas selected Connor Corcoran with the No. 154 overall pick. The 17-year-old defenseman played for Chicago Wolves coach Rocky Thompson with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League. There, he had three goals and 21 assists in 63 games.

"It’s something you dream of as a little kid and this moment will stick with me forever," Corcoran said. "Especially having my family here, it’s just awesome having them by my side and them getting to experience it as well."

In the sixth round the Golden Knights added two defensemen of juxtaposing size. Peter Diliberatore — pick No. 180 — is only 5-feet-11, 160 pounds, while Xavier Bouchard — pick No. 185 — is a hulking 6-feet-4, 190 pounds.

"I think by biggest strength is my hockey sense," Bouchard said. "I’m a good two-way defenseman, great passer, smart player and I like to join the rush as well. I still need to improve my game a lot because the NHL is really fast-paced but I’m sure I can bring a lot of great things to Vegas."

Finally, Vegas traded into the seventh round to select goaltender Jordan Kooy of the London Knights in the OHL. The 18-year-old netminder had a 3.11 goals against average and a .904 save percentage for the Knights this season.

Seven rounds and eight selections later, the Golden Knights have a new class of prospects. They are all expected to join the team for rookie development camp June 26-30 and will be joined by last year’s draft picks.

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