Weekend notebook: Silver Knights getting back on the horse

Photo: Zak Krill

📝 by Patrick Williams

Vegas Golden Knights prospects quickly grew accustomed to a winning environment after the National Hockey League club began play in the 2017-18 season.

Vegas’s first AHL affiliate was the Chicago Wolves, who won two division titles and reached the 2019 Calder Cup Finals during their three-year partnership.

From there the Golden Knights brought their prospects closer to home – much closer – when they established the Henderson Silver Knights in 2020. The Silver Knights went 25-13-0-1 (.654) to finish first in the Pacific Division during the abbreviated 2020-21 season and reached the final of the Pacific Division playoff.

Last season, the Silver Knights had to contend with extended medical absences for head coach Manny Viveiros as he dealt with prostate cancer, and an April move into the Dollar Loan Center, their new home in the bedroom community of Henderson located just a 20-minute drive from their temporary home at Orleans Arena just off the Las Vegas Strip. Still, the club finished 35-28-4-1 and qualified for the Calder Cup Playoffs.

So a 1-5-0-0 start is not what the Silver Knights had envisioned for year three.

“We certainly haven’t gotten off to the start that we imagined or like,” Viveiros said earlier this week.

But the Silver Knights can begin to mitigate some of that early damage as they welcome the Colorado Eagles for a two-game weekend set, beginning with a Nevada Day matinee today (2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT) in the AHLTV Free Game of the Week.

Viveiros’s club has had to navigate a challenging schedule to open their season, including four games in six days last week including trips to Ontario and San Jose.

“Would you rather practice more than play at the beginning?” Viveiros asked rhetorically. “Absolutely. But it is what it is, and so a lot of times our practices are done through video sessions with a group because we’ve been playing so many games back-to-back here.

“But on the other side, we’re still teaching, and our guys are learning on the fly what we need to be doing to be successful here. But I still like a lot of stuff that we’ve done.”

One area of priority is the power play, which is just 2-for-27 through the first two weeks of the season. The Silver Knights have the personnel for a dangerous power play, including newcomers Sheldon Rempal, Byron Froese, Sakari Manninen and rookie Brendan Brisson, and they believe that time will improve it.


“Any time that you put a new team together, new personnel,” Viveiros said, “the power play’s usually the last thing to come together, and that’s something we’re not surprised by. With the group that we have and the skill set that we have, we’ll get better at it.”

Helping to shoulder some of the early difficulties has been second-year captain Brayden Pachal. Along with not having to chase missed standings points down the stretch, the Silver Knights want to establish the proper winning environment as soon as possible.

“It is difficult,” Pachal acknowledged. “I think there’s a little bit of adversity to start the year here, but that’s always a good thing. Every team’s in the same boat, so you can use the [roster changes] as a little bit of an excuse, but at the end of the day that’s all it is, and we know we need to be better.

“I think we’re close, but right now close isn’t good enough.”


🏒 It would appear that the Chicago Blackhawks woke up Wednesday with some extra energy. In an early-season roster reworking for the Rockford IceHogs, Chicago spun off a pair of deals Wednesday before lunch had even arrived.

First the Blackhawks swapped defenseman Nicolas Beaudin, the 27th pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, to the Montreal Canadiens for forward Cam Hillis. Beaudin, 23, was beginning his fourth pro season and had been a fixture in the Rockford lineup with 137 career AHL contests (along with 22 games in the NHL). He is the second first-round defense prospect acquired by the Habs in recent months after Justin Barron came over in an NHL deadline deal from Colorado last spring.

For the 22-year-old Hillis, the move represents a fresh opportunity in a new organization. A third-round pick by Montreal in 2018, Hillis has played 42 games over two seasons with the Rocket but a crowded Laval roster had pushed him to Trois-Rivieres (ECHL) to begin this season.

Next the Chicago organization turned to the Philadelphia Flyers and acquired defenseman Cooper Zech for forward Evan Barratt. Zech, 23, recorded a goal and 10 assists with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms last season but like Hillis was caught in a numbers game this fall.

Barratt, 23, had 28 points (14 goals, 14 assists) in 63 games last season in Rockford, his second as a pro. Chicago had taken him in the third round of the 2017 NHL Draft.

🏒 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward Sam Poulin became the fifth AHL player this season to make his NHL debut. The 2019 Pittsburgh Penguins first-rounder, who collected 37 points (16 goals, 21 assists) as an AHL rookie last season, picked up an assist on Tuesday night at Calgary.

🏒 The Charlotte Checkers (4-0-0-0) are the last remaining unbeaten team in the AHL as they open their first road trip of the season in Providence tonight. Mack Guzda, a 21-year-old rookie, has stopped 57 of 60 shots in his first two pro starts, and Finnish forward Anton Levtchi has six points through his first four North American games.

🏒 Youth and experience are leading the way for the 4-1-0-0 Bridgeport Islanders in the early going. On Sunday against Hartford, first-year forward Ruslan Iskhakov contributed two assists while veteran Cory Schneider turned in 34 saves in a 5-2 victory. The 22-year-old Iskhakov went to the parent New York Islanders in the second round of the 2018 NHL Draft and is starting his first pro season in North America following stops in Finland and Germany.

🏒 The Cleveland Monsters will be without 18-year-old defenseman David Jiricek after he was recalled by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday. Jiricek, who went sixth overall in the 2022 NHL Draft, had grabbed four assists in five games with the Monsters, and is expected to make his NHL debut tonight.

🏒 Texas Stars forward Matej Blumel is off to the parent Dallas Stars after an impressive AHL start. Signed this summer to a two-year entry level deal following three seasons in the Czech Extraliga, the 22-year-old forward had eight points (five goals, three assists) in five games with Texas. In a related move, Texas received forward Jacob Peterson from Dallas; the 23-year-old Peterson played 65 NHL games last season and tallied 12 goals and 17 points.

🏒 The Seattle Kraken bolstered their goaltending depth by signing Christopher Gibson to a one-year contract on Thursday. Gibson, who had been with the Coachella Valley Firebirds on a tryout, is a 10th-year pro with 225 AHL games to his name. Joey Daccord, who started the Firebirds’ first three games this season, was recalled by Seattle on Sunday.

Coachella Valley completed the Seattle portion of its home schedule this weekend when they host the Calgary Wranglers tonight in Everett, Wash., and Saturday at the Kraken Community Iceplex. After road games next weekend at Abbotsford, the Firebirds will head to the Palm Springs area to begin to set up their off-ice arrangements in their new home; they open the new Acrisure Arena on Dec. 18 against the Tucson Roadrunners.

🏒 Grand Rapids Griffins forward Matt Luff is off to the Detroit Red Wings, who recalled him Thursday. Signed by Detroit in the offseason, the 25-year-old Luff’s seven points (three goals, four assists) tie him for the team lead.

🏒 The Milwaukee Admirals dented veteran netminder Anton Khudobin for five goals on Wednesday night to take a back-and-forth 6-5 shootout win against the Texas Stars. Milwaukee overcame a 2-0 Texas lead in the game’s first 1:14 to eventually go ahead 5-3 before the Stars battled back with a pair of third-period goals 30 seconds apart. Offseason addition Mark Jankowski led the way with two goals and an assist for Milwaukee while Devin Cooley fended off 35 shots.

🏒 It was a winner for the San Jose Barracuda in their debut game at Tech CU Arena last Saturday night, as Aaron Dell shut down Henderson in a 4-0 win and rookie Tristen Robins, a second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, scored the building’s first goal.

The following afternoon, it was Eetu Makiniemi’s turn in net, and his 34 saves carried San Jose to a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Silver Knights. With the experienced Dell and Makiniemi in net, the parent Sharks opted to send Strauss Mann to the ECHL on Thursday.

🏒 Packed with a deep group of Los Angeles Kings prospects and a strong mix of veterans, the Ontario Reign were expected to be contenders this season. So far, they are living up to that. They became the first team to knock off San Jose this season on Wednesday night, improving to 5-1-0-0 with a 2-1 road victory at Tech CU Arena. Kings 2018 first-rounder Rasmus Kupari, who played 57 games last season with Los Angeles, scored in the win and is up to six points (three goals, three assists) in six games.

🏒 The Rochester Americans got good news this week when injured goaltender Malcolm Subban returned to practice. Subban, who was injured during the preseason, is looking to come back after his 2021-22 season ended in January with an injury sustained while with the parent Buffalo Sabres.

🏒 San Diego Gulls defenseman Nikolas Brouillard continues to impress. The undrafted blueliner already has three multi-point outings this season, the latest coming on Wednesday with a goal and an assist that helped San Diego to a 4-3 win against Colorado. Brouillard’s eight points (three goals, five assists) lead all AHL defensemen and put him in a tie for fourth in overall AHL scoring.

🏒 The Tampa Bay Lightning have long been known for finding late bloomers, and they may have their next one in Felix Robert. Playing on an AHL contract last season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Robert finished with 16 goals, prompting the Lightning to sign him to a two-year entry-level NHL contract. The 23-year-old has paid off so far in Syracuse with a league-leading 10 points (six goals, four assists) after five games, and he burned visiting Rochester with a hat trick in a 6-2 win last Saturday.

🏒 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton continued an impressive start on Wednesday with a 5-1 win over Cleveland, the team’s fourth in a row after sweeping a three-in-three set last weekend. Drew O’Connor’s two goals and an assist led the Penguins’ offense in the victory.