Wolves general manager Wendell Young sat in his office this week staring at an empty whiteboard normally filled with magnets containing the names of players who will factor into the upcoming season.
But as the team begins a five-year affiliation deal with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, Young will spend the next couple of weeks waiting for the Wolves to take shape. As of Wednesday, when Knights general manager George McPhee submitted a list of 30 names for the NHL expansion draft, the Wolves had one player from last year under contract — center Bryce Gervais.
The Wolves also have rookie right wing Tyler Wong under contract after he led the Western Hockey League with 51 goals in 68 games for the Lethbridge Hurricanes. But with more than 20 roster spots to fill before training camp, Young finds himself navigating unchartered waters.
“It’s a strange feeling sitting here not knowing,” Young said. “There’s a million scenarios of things that can go on in expansion and who [the Golden Knights] have targeted. It’s 100 percent a different feeling.
“It’s both unsettling and exciting at the same time.”
Young has met with Vegas team officials not only to get to know them, but to convey his wish list for the talent he’d like to see land with the Wolves. Vegas coach Gerard Gallant told reporters that the Knights will invite 44 players to development camp next week, which will help determine what’s in store for the Wolves.
Because the Knights are an expansion team, the Wolves will continue to draw some younger talent from the St. Louis Blues, their affiliate for the last four seasons.
Most years, Young would be looking to assemble anywhere from a quarter to half of his roster during the offseason. Now, with recently hired coach Rocky Thompson in place, Young will work with the Knights and the Blues to fill out the 24-man roster that will start training camp.
With Vegas looking to fill 20 NHL spots, Young is in a holding pattern. Without knowing what the parent club will look like, Young must be patient as he tries to build on a season in which the Wolves captured the AHL’s Central Division title. The Wolves’ season ended with a playoff loss to the eventual Calder Cup champion.
“I’m usually talking to coaches about the players and what spots we’ve got to fill,” Young said. “Now, I’m talking to Rocky about where he’s going to live and what school his kids are going to go to, and so it’s a more personal conversation than the team than about the players.
“But that will all come in a flurry over the next couple of weeks.”
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