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Rookie forward shines again as Knights get first preseason win

Updated September 28, 2022 - 11:39 pm

Paul Cotter’s entire face lit up almost halfway through Wednesday’s game at T-Mobile Arena.

He could hardly be blamed after scoring his second goal in three preseason games. The Golden Knights left wing might make the opening-night roster. He might not. But he’ll at least be able to walk away from training camp able to say he gave it his best shot, and had a lot of fun while doing so.

Cotter put together another impressive performance in the Knights’ 7-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche in front of an announced crowd of 17,169. He had a primary assist in addition to his goal and was tied for second on the team with three shots.

The 22-year-old is waivers exempt for the first time this season, meaning the other 31 teams will get a chance to claim him if he doesn’t break camp with the Knights. He’s giving coach Bruce Cassidy and general manager Kelly McCrimmon plenty of reasons to keep him around.

“More games, obviously you get more comfortable,” Cotter said. “It feels good. When production happens, it’s a good sign.”

Cotter was one of many standout performers for the Knights as they improved to 1-2 this preseason with four games to go. Here are three more takeaways from the win:

1. Roomie pair produces

Defense partners Zach Whitecloud and Lukas Cormier started building their chemistry well before Wednesday.

Cormier, a Knights’ 2020 third-round pick, stayed with Whitecloud over the summer before winning gold with Team Canada at the World Junior Championship. Whitecloud remembered how much former Knights defenseman Nick Holden helped him out when he was getting started as a professional. He wanted to pay it forward.

“Just trying to help as much as I can,” Whitecloud said. “I know if I had those resources where I was able to come down in the summer I would’ve jumped on those.”

The time together off the ice sure seemed to help on it. Cormier, who is starting his first professional season after winning back-to-back Quebec Major Junior Hockey League defenseman of the year awards, finished with two assists.

Whitecloud had four to lead the team in points.

2. Thompson looks steady again

Cassidy said before training camp the opening-night starting gig was rookie goaltender Logan Thompson’s “job to lose” because he ended last season in net for the team.

So far, he’s not losing it.

Thompson has been nearly perfect through 90:13 this preseason after making 24 saves Wednesday. He’s given up one goal on 34 shots faced. He didn’t crack until 4:47 into the third period against Colorado when right wing Alex Beaucage scored on a rebound.

It helped that the 25-year-old wasn’t tested much. The Avalanche mustered two high-danger scoring chances the whole game, according to the website Natural Stat Trick.

Colorado’s limited opportunities are evidence the Knights are taking to Cassidy’s defensive system quickly. That should make it easy on whoever starts the season in net, whether it’s Thompson or childhood friend-turned-goalie partner Adin Hill.

“I think our D and forwards were good all game,” Thompson said. “I’ll take responsibility for that goal against. Overall, pretty happy.”

3. Parade of positives

There wasn’t much for the Knights to complain about Wednesday.

In addition to Cotter and Cormier, left wing Gage Quinney, center William Karlsson and right wing Keegan Kolesar had two points. Center Chandler Stephenson, right wing Michael Amadio and defenseman Kaedan Korczak joined Cotter, Quinney, Karlsson and Kolesar as the Knights’ goal scorers.

The offensive onslaught — the team scored six goals on its first 18 shots — led Colorado to pull starting goaltender Alexander Georgiev after two periods. It was quite a statement after the Knights scored two goals combined their first two preseason games.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.