The ice is gone from The Dollar Loan Center. Fans won’t return to Silver Knights games until October. But for general manager Tim Speltz and the organization’s young prospects, there’s no such thing as a true “off-season.” Their minds are already fixed on the 2023-24 season, ensuring that it will be a success for the team – on and off the ice.
First order of business: roster construction and a coaching hire.
“Our number one priority in Henderson with the Silver Knights is development. I mean, that is what we’re here for. I think that development encompasses a few areas, one of which is making sure players get better,” Speltz said.
“But we also think winning is a big part of development. So we want to put a roster together that is a combination of players that not only will give us future Golden Knights players, but also gives us an opportunity to win at the American League level.”
The Silver Knights also saw plenty of Savannah products that hope to make a leap next year. The team enjoyed the contributions of forwards like Daniel D’Amato and Patrick Guay, who both spent extended stretches with the Silver Knights this year. The team also looks forward to reinforcements coming from VGK prospects that have signed ELCs, as well as those making the leap from their junior teams, as goaltender Jesper Vikman did late in the 2022-23 season.
The impact of these players will help inform the front office about what changes might be ahead for the roster of the Silver Knights.
“We need to probably look at what players are ready to take the step next year. We’ll do that over the next coming months, looking in our organization at players that are already drafted. And then we’ll say ‘how do we fill that roster?’ after that. So that’s what we’ll be working on with our amateur scouts and our pro scouts over the next weeks and months,” Speltz added.
The chance to take that step and contribute meaningfully at the NHL level is anything but distant. Throughout the 2022-23 season, several regular Silver Knights players were relied on in big moments for the NHL franchise.
Nine HSK players were called up to the VGK this season: forwards Sheldon Rempal, Jonas Rondbjerg, Byron Froese, and Pavel Dorofeyev; defensemen Kaedan Korczak, Brayden Pachal, Daniil Miromanov; and goaltenders Laurent Brossoit and Jiri Patera.
“For me, any successes that we have are organizational,” said Speltz.
“We know how close the race was right to the end for the Golden Knights for them to win the division. It took every single point, every single win that they got. And there’s no question for me that every one of the Silver Knights players that went up contributed.”
“There’s times that there were minor contributions, and there were times – talk about Jiri Patera, he got two big wins for the Golden Knights. Pavel Dorofeyev had game winning goals for the Golden Knights. The d-men that went up all had an impact on the games, look at Pachal and Korczak, right now.”
In development, per Speltz, there is no substitute for this kind of experience. That’s part of why he’s eager to tackle this off-season, to build a team that’s going to get players the postseason experience that is so important to their careers.
But it also serves to educate players about the reality of professional hockey, and the way that it differs from their junior careers.
“I think most young players have an expectation, or they think they know what the American Hockey League looks like before they get here. And yet once they are here, then they’re not trying to think what it looks like. They know what it looks like,” added Speltz.
“I’d say probably for me, I feel like in pro hockey, the details are so much more important than they were in the past. You could get away with more, like, in college or juniors. Now it’s more, like, attention to detail. I feel like that was the biggest difference for me this year,” added forward Brendan Brisson.
“If I had a bad game or a bad period, it’s such a quick turnaround in pro hockey. You’ve gotta move on and learn from it really quick. Sometimes I was surprised with the outcome and stuff, but instead of sulking on it, you just have to adapt. Figure out a way to win and play better.”
It’s straightforward to draw the connection between their statements and their play: they needed to figure out a way to play better, and they did. Brisson finished the season with seven points, five of them goals, in the team’s last ten games. Both he and Lukas Cormier, first-year players, finished top-five in points for the Silver Knights. Brisson tied for third overall in goals.
But equally important, from a player’s perspective, is the development time courtesy of the team’s more experienced veterans. Their influence in helping players adjust not only to the intensity and speed of the professional game, but also their day-to-day life, is priceless.
“For me and Corms, being rookies, a lot of the veteran guys really helped us out adapting to the league and making the change to pro hockey. Fro, Bisch, Pickle [Byron Froese, Jake Bischoff, and captain Brayden Pachal] – they helped us out even though the season wasn’t going well for us as a team. Everyone was really close individually,” said Brisson.
Speltz will also be looking to add a fresh voice of guidance in the locker room with this summer’s coaching hire.
“The coaching change, that will be the most difficult. Just because with the Golden Knights playoffs, we really haven’t had a chance to sit down and discuss that process a whole bunch yet. It’s still very vague,” he said.
Regardless of who will take on that role for the 2023-24 season, Speltz’s objectives remain the same: to create homegrown Vegas Golden Knights players and develop a winning culture here in Henderson.
“It’s what the system is for, it’s why the Silver Knights are here. And to see [those contributions] is very rewarding.”