Jeff Chiu / AP
Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019 | 2 a.m.
Opinions vary on which young Golden Knights defenseman has stood out most at camp. But one thing should unify all observers: Dylan Coghlan has a heck of a shot.
Coghlan hopes that howitzer of a slapshot will secure him a roster spot when the Golden Knights open the regular season a week from today.
“I worked on it a lot when I was younger and now that it’s finally paying off, it’s awesome to have that behind you, a heavy shot,” Coghlan said. “Keep ripping the puck and see where it goes.”
Coghlan’s journey has been unorthodox. He was undrafted in 2017 but earned an invite to Golden Knights camp. He impressed enough to earn an entry-level contract, then was a standout his last year in the Western Hockey League. He made the jump to the American Hockey League last season and led Chicago defensemen in goals, assists and points.
Like many young players in camp, the last two years were about impressing for the future. This year, Coghlan’s shot at the roster is as good as anyone’s. He’s competing with four other defensemen for one spot: Nicolas Hague, Jimmy Schuldt, Zach Whitecloud and Jake Bischoff, a quintet that assistant coach Mike Kelly gave a snappy nickname at practice Tuesday.
“He’s been good, but I think all those young defensemen, the Group of Five if you want to call it that, have all been good in their own way,” Kelly said. “Some guys are a little bit more subtle with their game than other guys, where Dylan maybe has a little bit more of an offensive component to his game, so he’s easier to see.”
Coghlan has played three of the four preseason games, rotating among Jon Merrill, Nate Schmidt and Brayden McNabb as defensive partners. He’s been good with each. Coghlan leads team defensemen with a 62.3 expected goals percentage and is second with a 55.6 Corsi percentage. The team has had nine high-danger scoring chances with him on the ice at 5-on-5 and only allowed four for a team-best 69.2% advantage.
“He’s one of those guys who hits the puck real clean every time, he’s got his hands in a good place and he’s not afraid to let it go, too,” Merrill said. “He’s got good instincts offensively, too — he puts himself in good spots to get that shot off.”
If the season started today, Coghlan would have the inside track at the roster spot. But there’s still three preseason games left, including tonight at 7 p.m. against the Colorado Avalanche, in which one of the other Group of Five defensemen could shine.
Regardless, Coghlan has shown he’s ready to play in the NHL. The Golden Knights still have a choice to make, and he’s doing everything possible to make his case.
“Hopefully it’s me, but if it’s not I’ll be super happy for whoever it is,” Coghlan said.