It’s been nearly a month since the Silver Knights last took the ice at T-Mobile Arena on May 29th. While most of the team moved on to off-season plans, a select few alumni from the inaugural season remained in Vegas with one responsibility – stay ready.
Eight players who finished the season with Henderson remain in Vegas to make up the Golden Knights taxi squad in the Stanley Cup Playoffs – Dylan Sikura, Logan Thompson, Jimmy Schuldt, Cody Glass, Carl Dahlstrom, Jonas Rondbjerg, Jack Dugan, and Kaedan Korczak. Jiri Patera, who finished the season on the taxi squad but spent most of the regular season with the Silver Knights, is also still skating with the group.
While much of their time is devoted to practice and preparedness, Golden Knights Head Coach Pete Deboer has already used his reserves in the playoffs on a couple of occasions. Sikura has appeared in his first two NHL playoff games in the second round against the Colorado Avalanche, and Logan Thompson dressed as a backup to Marc-Andre Fleury in the same series.
For rookies and veterans alike, riding shotgun on a ride through the Stanley Cup Playoffs is a valuable experience.
“The guys have been really good to include us and make us feel like part of the team,” said Thompson. “Traveling with the guys every day and getting to know them, I’m way more comfortable than I was at the start of the year and able to joke around. I’m definitely starting to feel more like a part of the team. I’m really happy and very privileged to be here.”
For the players not skating with the NHL group, their day usually includes breakfast, and off-ice workout, and an on-ice practice with Silver Knights head coach Manny Viveiros, all finished by 11am.
“It’s made a world of difference so far. I can already tell with my confidence,” said Korczak, who finished a rookie season in which he saw time in the WHL, AHL, and at the World Juniors. “Finishing the year in Henderson, I was pretty confident in my game and I was playing pretty well. I think this will just add to that.”
“It’s been fun so far. It’s definitely a pretty cool experience being up with such a world-class organization, being a part of that and feeling that vibe around the rink. It’s pretty cool.”
Thompson has had an opportunity to spend more time on the ice with the NHL group, where he has a front-row seat to learn from Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner.
“For me, it’s more of a workout off ice. When I get on the ice, I’m waiting for Lehner or Fleury to need a break and then I jump in there and get as many reps as I can to stay game-ready,” said Thompson, who was the AHL’s Outstanding Goaltender this past season.
“Obviously, they are two elite guys who both want the net, so I just have to stay ready and engaged to work as hard as I can.”
The players have not only had the benefit of being around the practice rink for the playoffs, but also being at T-Mobile Arena to witness an electric playoff atmosphere. As Coach Viveiros mentioned throughout the season on several occasions, a benefit of the Golden Knights moving their AHL affiliate to Henderson and having the team playing some games at T-Mobile Arena this season was to constantly see their career goals within reach.
Witnessing and contributing to a Stanley Cup effort makes that dream even more attainable, and the players even more motivated.
“I think I can speak or everyone here in saying that we all want to play in the NHL one day,” said Thompson. “Learning from Lehner and Fleury, I feel very lucky and I’m very happy to be around this group of guys. I’m learning a lot as I go and soaking it all in to be ready whenever my time comes, whether it’s in the near future or in five years.”