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Zach Dean flashes 1st-round talent at Golden Knights rookie camp

Updated September 18, 2021 - 5:38 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Manny Viveiros’ eyes dart all over the rink during rookie camp, with the Silver Knights’ coach observing as much as he can.

Even though he’s not concentrating on one player, some are more noticeable than others.

Forward Peyton Krebs, for instance, stands out to Viveiros for his work rate in practice and games. And center Zach Dean also has been hard to miss, flashing the quickness, vision and soft hands that made him a first-round pick in July.

Dean scored a nifty backhand goal in a 5-2 loss Friday night against the Arizona Coyotes and was bumped up to the top line during practice Saturday at Ice Den Scottsdale.

The Knights meet San Jose in the Rookie Faceoff Tournament at 2 p.m. Sunday.

“There’s some kids that you just look at right away and you go, ‘There’s something there.’ They show you right away,” Viveiros said. “I’ve been really impressed with the (time) that I’ve seen him.”

Dean, 18, battled through injuries during his draft year with Gatineau in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, including a broken wrist he sustained in the preseason.

That limited his offensive production (20 points in 23 regular-season games), but his play without the puck continued to improve, according to Gatineau coach Louis Robitaille.

“He is a guy that always was a point producer, but we wanted him to become a complete player,” Robitaille said. “That’s one of the first things I said to him. ‘Let’s not worry about the points. Let’s worry about the way you play and the points will come after.’ ”

Dean, selected 30th overall, showed his skill in the tournament opener when he started the scoring for the Knights with less than five minutes remaining in the first period.

Winger Mason Primeau found Dean cutting toward the net after their line forced a turnover in the offensive zone, and Dean tucked a backhand between the legs of Arizona goalie Anson Thornton.

“It’s still just a showcase, and it’s with the rookies, but putting on the Vegas jersey for the first time and scoring, it’s something pretty special and I’ll remember that,” Dean said. “Mason picked it up, and he made a move, and I just thought, ‘OK, I’ll drive backdoor.’ He made a really nice play and got it over to me. I just decided to make one quick move.”

Dean quickly made a positive impression on Viveiros and didn’t look out of place skating between wingers Pavel Dorofeyev and Maxim Marushev, who each played in the American Hockey League last season.

After main training camp, the 6-foot, 176-pound Dean is expected to return to his junior team in Gatineau, where Robitaille expects him to be one of the leading scorers.

“Coming up with these guys, it just pushes you a little more, and I think overall it just brings out me as a player even more,” Dean said. “I know that I can play with these guys, and I’m looking forward to the tournament and everything.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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