After a long offseason, defenseman Brayden Pachal is just as eager as fans are to have returned to games. Entering his second season wearing the “C” for the Silver Knights, he hopes to lead the team on the ice and off of it to a successful season.
Pachal, who was named captain at just 22 years old, is one of the youngest captains in the AHL. But despite his age, he already has important experience in the role. Pachal led the team to a Calder Cup playoff berth in 2021-22, and he hopes to build on that this season.
“I think it’s obviously really exciting [to be chosen as captain]. For it being my second year I feel there’s a little more comfort,” he said.
Pachal also feels that he benefits as captain from having a solid team culture, supported at all levels of the organization. The strong leadership present throughout the Silver Knights team as a whole is key to their future success.
“I think that this year we got a lot of support in the room. Obviously [defenseman Jake] Bischoff being back from his injury, he’s a great leader, and we brought over Byron Froese who was Stockton’s captain. There’s a lot of guys that could wear that letter. So just like last year, it’s a huge honor.”
“I think just the whole year we’re going to be a better team. Hopefully we’ll see that with a little better results this year. That’s why I think it’s really exciting coming to the rink every day.”
What gives the team an edge compared to last season? The Knights benefit not only from young prospects that will play their first full season with the Silver Knights and solid veteran additions, but also strong coaching and new systems trickling down from Bruce Cassidy’s staff at the NHL level.
These improvements are goals that the front office balanced throughout this year’s offseason, and Pachal already sees the positive impact that Cassidy’s coaching has had on the organization.
“I think starting with VGK – obviously with the new coaches and stuff there it kind of filters down all of Bruce’s systems. So it’s just kind of learning those new systems, same thing that we did the last week up in CNA, we’re doing down here. Same type of drills, and with this fast pace everybody trying different line combinations and getting accustomed to the new systems.”
Head Coach Manny Viveiros noted that Cassidy’s systems and style of hockey suit Pachal’s game well early in training camp. They’re hoping to be a team where all five players on the ice are attacking the opposing net while maintaining a strong defensive presence.
This has already paid dividends for Pachal, who finished Saturday’s game against the Roadrunners with a goal and a plus-2 rating. His goal, a high-velocity shot from the point, both extended the team’s lead and shifted the momentum of the game. Scored just seconds after Tucson had pulled within one, it was the first of three unanswered goals to secure a Silver Knights victory.
Pachal’s leadership and feel for the new systems will only further help him in his efforts to achieve another individual goal this year – returning to the NHL.
“I want to keep improving. Obviously the Golden Knights are really good so you really want to push yourself to make that team and make an impression to hopefully get called up at some point during the season.”
Leading up to Opening Day, Pachal stuck by his tried-and-true preparation methods to get ready for the season.
“I think the important thing about camp is just getting back into that hockey routine; not playing hockey for a while, you kind of just have to mentally prepare each day to get through these busy times of camp.”
“It’s definitely mentally tiring, you have to get your rest. Make sure you’re taking care of your body.”
That routine carries through into the season, as well, whether it’s camp or gameday.
“It’s just that routine type thing. I do stretches and stuff the night before. Make sure I’m preparing my body so I can play my best. Then the day of, it’s just relaxing, trying to keep your mind off of the game for myself personally. And then as soon as I get to the rink, it’s business from there.”
But even approaching gameday through a business lens doesn’t change Pachal’s excitement at playing in front of Silver Knights fans. Home ice advantage is crucial during prolonged series against one team, and the atmosphere that fans provide is an important part of that.
“It’s amazing. Those last few games towards the end of last year when we were playing there, we were playing our best hockey. I think a lot of that has to do with us feeding off the fans and the building,” Pachal said.
“It’s super exciting. Any time a road team comes in there, it’s a tough building to play in.”