Published Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019 | 11 a.m.
Updated Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019 | 1:56 p.m.
For the second time in two years, a Golden Knights player has been suspended for violating the NHL’s performance-enhancing substances policy.
This time, however, the team’s reaction was less supportive of the player.
The NHL announced today that forward Valentin Zykov has been suspended for 20 games without pay for violating the policy agreed on between the NHL and NHL Players’ Association. It comes 13 months after defenseman Nate Schmidt was suspended for the same thing.
While Vegas stood by Schmidt last year, the team was less inclined to back Zykov. A statement released by the Golden Knights said Zykov “knowingly used a banned substance without the consent, recommendation or knowledge of our team” and that they supported the decision.
The statement is in sharp contrast to the team’s defense of Schmidt. The Golden Knights publicly stated then that they believed the substance use in his case was unintentional.
“Nate is an honest person with high moral character and great integrity,” the statement said. “We will stand by him and support him during this time.”
President of hockey operations George McPhee said the two cases involved “completely different circumstances. One we defended vigorously, the other is pretty black and white.”
In a statement released through the players’ association, Zykov said he’s been unable to “discover how I tested positive.”
McPhee said the team was unaware of Zykov’s situation until Wednesday. They then discovered Zykov had been using the substance — no specifics were made public — for the last four years.
“It makes our organization look not so good,” forward Jonathan Marchessault said. “It’s sad for (Zykov), but we don’t want that in our game. We don’t want anyone to cheat, and it’s unfortunate.”
Since the league instituted a new substance policy in 2013, six players have been flagged and two have been Golden Knights. Since the Golden Knights joined the league in 2017, the only two cases have been Las Vegas players.
McPhee said he didn’t see these cases as part of any bigger problem.
Neither did Marchessault.
“We are so much more than just one player that makes a bad decision,” Marchessault said. “I’m proud to be a Golden Knight and everyone in that locker room is too.”
While Schmidt was assured of his roster spot post-suspension, Zykov’s future with the team isn’t as clear. McPhee said he wants to wee where the team is on Nov. 29 when Zykov is eligible to return.
Forward Mark Stone said the situation was disappointing for Zykov and the team. “It’s unfortunate, but we support everyone in this dressing room, so when the time comes we’ll deal with it,” he said.
Coach Gerard Gallant said Brandon Pirri will slide into Zykov’s spot on the third-line left wing and the power play, starting with tonight’s game against Ottawa. Zykov has had two assists in each game this season.