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Golden Knights rookie has ‘awesome week’ scoring at 2 levels

Paul Cotter walked into T-Mobile Arena wearing a fedora for his NHL debut Nov. 9 against the Seattle Kraken.

Left wing Jonathan Marchessault started roasting him two seconds after he entered the Golden Knights’ locker room, but it showed that the rookie forward brings plenty of confidence to the rink. Confidence that doesn’t go away after puck drop.

Cotter has been the latest unexpected contributor for the Knights after taking advantage of an opportunity that didn’t seem likely at the beginning of training camp. He has two highlight-reel goals in four games, and he and his fashion sense seem to be fitting in.

“Not too many words can describe the week,” Cotter said. “Scoring a goal in the NHL is obviously pretty crazy, and I didn’t learn how to not celly (celebrate) like an animal on my second one. Hopefully one of these times I can kind of be calm, but such an awesome week.”

No one can blame Cotter for being excited. He’s worked a long time for a stretch like this.

The 22-year-old was a fourth-round draft pick by the Knights in 2018 and took an unusual path to the NHL. He played American and Canadian junior hockey. He briefly played college hockey at Western Michigan. Then he spent parts of three seasons in the American Hockey League refining his game based around his speed, skill and work ethic.

“For Paul to stick full time up there, it’s about his play without the puck,” Silver Knights coach Manny Viveiros said. “That’s something, for the year and a half that I’ve had him here, he’s really working on.”

Cotter’s improvement still didn’t have him near the top of the organization’s depth chart entering training camp after he had nine goals and 25 points in 94 games in his past two AHL seasons. But his confidence, the fedora-wearing kind, caught coach Pete DeBoer’s eye in the preseason.

“He wasn’t standing watching,” DeBoer said. “He was trying to dictate, which is rare for a young guy.”

That performance made Cotter an option when the Knights started dealing with injuries and players going into the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. He found out he was making his NHL debut the morning of the Kraken game, after his family had been told so it could make travel plans.

The next game, he scored his first goal against the Minnesota Wild on what he calls his “default move.” Skating down the right circle in the offensive zone, Cotter went backhand-forehand and fired a shot past goaltender Cam Talbot.

He hasn’t slowed down since. Cotter played for the Silver Knights the next two days after scoring against the Wild and got a goal in each game. Then the Canton, Michigan, native was called back up Tuesday and scored his second NHL goal Thursday against his hometown Detroit Red Wings.

In total, Cotter has four goals in his past five games and five in his past seven.

“He’s still in our group chat down here, and we’re so happy for him,” Silver Knights defenseman Ian McCoshen said. “He seems to amaze us every goal that he gets. … He’s making the most of his opportunity with Vegas.”

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

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