Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon knew the question on many people’s minds Wednesday and provided the answer posthaste.
“Our team is fully vaccinated. I can share that with you,” McCrimmon said.
With that out of the way, the Knights opened training camp for their fifth season and feature a new No. 1 goaltender, new faces at forward and the same Stanley Cup aspirations they’ve had since the team started.
The first practice takes place at 10 a.m. Thursday at City National Arena and is open to the public before Sunday’s preseason opener against San Jose at T-Mobile Arena.
The roster features 62 players, including defenseman Ian McCoshen on a professional tryout. McCrimmon announced six players will not participate because of injuries, mostly notably winger Alex Tuch (shoulder surgery). Defensemen Layton Ahac, Jake Bischoff and Connor Corcoran and forwards Reid Duke and Alan Quine also are out.
“We’re one of a handful of teams that have what it takes to play deep into the playoffs, and that’ll be our goal,” McCrimmon said. “Last year was a challenge for a lot of people and for a lot of different reasons. It definitely impacted the sports world and the National Hockey League. We’re really optimistic that this is going to feel a lot more like a normal NHL season.”
In his first media availability of the new season, McCrimmon touched on several topics facing the Knights before the opener against Seattle on Oct. 12 at T-Mobile:
— On what he’ll be watching in camp: “I always get excited about the evolution of young players, so I’m excited to see Keegan Kolesar, Dylan Coghlan, Nic Hague, Nic Roy (and Zach Whitecloud). That group of young players I may have missed, with (Nolan) Patrick and (Brett) Howden in that group as well. I’m excited to see their progression because that’s a big part of how your team improves.”
— On the return of preseason games: “I think there’s real value in that, not only for your veteran players, but it’s a great opportunity for young players to get in games and the organization to assess how far away they are from being NHL players on a regular basis and for the players themselves to see what good NHL players look like.”
— On slimmed-down goalie Robin Lehner: “Robin looks good. We’re really encouraged with his preparation for the season.”
— On who will handle the enforcer role with Ryan Reaves no longer on the team: “I think last year we were the tallest team in the NHL, the heaviest team in the NHL. I’m not overly concerned about it. I think as some of these younger players that I talked about gain more confidence, work their way into the lineup, I think you’ll see that they’ll have more physical presence here as they mature as players.”
— On the debut of the Kraken: “I remember how we felt that week going into the opening of the season, the excitement, the anticipation. Seattle looks to have a really competitive team. I think there’s a lot of people who feel they’ll be a real contender to be a playoff team in the Pacific Division.”
— On the complexion of the fourth line: “I believe our forwards as a group are better than they’ve been at any point in our existence. I think there’s some first-year players that are going to challenge and show that they’re ready to play. … Over a couple of months, that’s one of the things I’m really interested to see how it plays out.”
Golden Knights preseason schedule
Sunday: vs. San Jose, 7 p.m., KTNV-13
Tuesday: vs. Colorado, 7 p.m., KTNV-13
Sept. 30: vs. Los Angeles (in Salt Lake City), 6 p.m., KTNV-13
Oct. 1: vs. Los Angeles, 7 p.m., KTNV-13
Oct. 5: at Colorado, 6 p.m., KTNV-13
Oct. 7: vs. Arizona, 7 p.m., KTNV-13
Oct. 9: at San Jose, 5 p.m., TV TBA