DALLAS — After spending Friday watching the NHL draft, the Golden Knights will join the fun Saturday.
The Knights, who had no first-round picks, have seven selections from the second to sixth rounds at American Airlines Center, beginning with the 61st overall pick.
General manager George McPhee said this draft isn’t about addressing needs but rather finding good hockey players to develop.
“Good hockey players come in all shapes and sizes,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking for — good hockey players.”
Craig Button, a former NHL general manager and now an analyst for a Canadian TV network, said the Knights will have plenty of good players from which to choose.
“In this draft, after the first 11, 12 players, it’s who do you like and who do you want?” Button said. “I can’t tell the difference between 15 and 50. It’s not that the players aren’t good; it’s just that they’re similar.”
Button said McPhee was smart not to trade into the first round, especially since Buffalo wasn’t going to deal the No. 1 pick, defenseman Rasmus Dahlin of Sweden.
Detroit, which had the Knights’ pick at No. 30 after the Feb. 26 trade for left wing Tomas Tatar, took Joe Veleno, a center from Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“There’s no player worthy of trading back into the first round for,” Button said. “I can guarantee you George McPhee is going to take a kid they liked that was still on the board in the second round.”
The Knights are rumored to be involved in two trades. One might involve moving prospects in a possible deal for Ottawa Senators all-star defenseman Erik Karlsson. McPhee and Senators general manager Pierre Dorion spent several minutes chatting by the Knights’ table before the draft.
“We did that on purpose to throw you guys off the track,” was all McPhee would say about his conversation with Dorion.
The other rumor has the Knights pursing free agent Ilya Kovalchuk, a 35-year-old forward who has played in Russia for the past five years. He last played in the NHL in the 2012-13 season.
McPhee reportedly talked with Kovalchuk’s agent, J.P. Barry, on Friday, though the general manager denied it. San Jose, Los Angeles and Boston also reportedly talked with the agent.
Only three trades were made Friday. The biggest one saw Washington send goaltender Philipp Grubauer and defenseman Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a 2018 second-round pick, No. 47 overall.
The lack of trades didn’t shock McPhee.
“There’s fewer trades, and it seems to be trending that way,” he said. “To move up high in the draft, it’s hard to do.”
McPhee said he didn’t know if the Knights would make any trades Saturday.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “It’s pretty quiet right now.”
The players the Knights covet with the 61st pick remain on the board, McPhee said.
“We’re in good shape,” he said.
NHL entry draft
When: 8 a.m. Saturday
Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas
Format: Rounds 2-7
TV: NHL Network
The Golden Knights have seven selections in the NHL entry draft, one in the second round and two in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds. Here’s a look at players the team might draft Saturday:
Kody Clark, Forward, Ottawa 67’s (OHL) — The son of former NHL player Wendell Clark improved a lot offensively this past season.
Lukas Dostal, Goaltender, Trebic (Czech Republic) — Some say he’s the top European goaltender prospect in the draft. He has good hands and is quick with his lateral movement in his crease.
Aidan Dudas, Forward, Owen Sound Attack (OHL) — A teammate of Knights prospect Nick Suzuki, he had 65 points in 68 games this past season.
Ty Emberson, Defenseman, USA National U-18 — He’s a right-handed shot — a nice commodity — and a skilled penalty killer with good size. Expected to attend Wisconsin.
Cam Hillis, Center, Guelph Storm (OHL) — Smart, shifty playmaker who has grown physically in the past year. Strong with the puck.
Niklas Nordgen, Forward, HIFK (Finland) — He’s undersized at 5 feet 9 inches but has played against older players.
Sampo Ranta, Forward, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL) — The Finland native is a strong skater who has committed to Wisconsin.
Oliver Rodrigue, Goaltender, Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL) — Quick and athletic. He can cover the net and is fundamentally sound.
Jonathan Tychonick, Defenseman, Penticon Vees (BCHL) — A mobile defenseman who is adept at joining the rush. Can quarterback a team’s power play. Plans to play at North Dakota.
Jett Woo, Defenseman, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL) — A physical player who has old-school hockey sensibilities. He missed 28 games this past season with an injury.
Steve Carp Review-Journal