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November 15, 2018

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What the Golden Knights coaches will be watching for in tonight’s Rookie Faceoff

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Steve Marcus

Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant, center, and assistant coach Ryan McGill, right, talk to players during the Vegas Golden Knights’ Development Camp at City National Arena in Summerlin Wednesday, June 27, 2018.

2018 VGK Development Camp

Goaltender Maksim Zhukov (31) works out during the Vegas Golden Knights' Development Camp at City National Arena in Summerlin Wednesday, June 27, 2018. Launch slideshow »

Coaches often watch NHL preseason games and scrimmages through a different lens.

The “win at all costs” mentality that teams have in real games is absent, as coaches and scouts are looking for different things.

When the Vegas Rookie Faceoff begins today at City National Arena, Golden Knights officials will be eager to see whether the rookies “play like the Golden Knights.”

Vegas was one of the most up-tempo teams in the NHL last season, scoring a high percentage of its goals in transition. Now the coaches want to see the same thing from their prospects.

Rookies from six NHL teams — including the Golden Knights — will play in a nine-game tournament with games today, Sunday and Tuesday. Vegas will play its opener at 7 p.m. against the Colorado Avalanche.

Make no mistake, the players want to win, but ultimately the final scores of these games are meaningless. The next four days are about preparing the rookies in case they find their way onto the Golden Knights’ NHL roster this season.

“I think they want us to learn to play like Vegas does,” Vegas forward Gage Quinney said. “That quick game that they played all year was so successful and I think we are trying to learn as fast we can to play like them.”

Coaches are far more worried about the process than the results at this stage of the season.

“They’re looking for us to play fast, play together and show our speed and skill out there,” said Nick Suzuki, the Golden Knights’ 2017 first-round pick. “Development camp was more skills-based, but this camp is more how they want us to play within the team and all the systems the NHL team plays. That way if we get the opportunity to play with them we are ready and we’ve seen it before.”

If you’re attending a game this weekend, watch the flow of the game and ask yourself if it reminds you of a Golden Knights game from a season ago. If it does, and the players are executing it well, that’s more important than the final score.

“That’s part of the culture,” Vegas director of player development Wil Nichol said. “We want our guys to play a certain way and that starts with (head coach Gerard Gallant). He sent that message to (Chicago Wolves coach Rocky Thompson) and he sent that message to the guys today.”

The Golden Knights will face off with the Avalanche tonight, the San Jose Sharks at 7 p.m. Sunday at 7 p.m. and the Los Angeles Kings at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“We’re going to see three different teams with different styles, and with a short turnaround,” Nichol said. “That goes along with the pro game. Sometimes you play on back-to-back nights against different teams.”

The rookies should come out of this tournament better hockey players, and closer to being ready for the NHL. That’s what the coaches hope to get out of the next four days. Tickets are sold out.

“This is playing for keeps,” Nichol said. “Development camp is about educating the kids and this is more about being a pro. We want them to play their game and play it well. You want to win. This is a tournament.”

Jesse Granger can be reached at 702-259-8814 or [email protected]. Follow Jesse on Twitter at twitter.com/JesseGranger_.

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