Golden Knights’ Top Prospect Jack Dugan Is NHL Ready

Golden Knights Prospects, Jack Dugan, Providence College

With an important offseason coming up for the Vegas Golden Knights, the front office will be looking to their pool of prospects for potential options moving forward. One player that they have shown particular interest in is Jack Dugan out of Providence College.

The 22-year-old forward from Rochester, NY was drafted 142nd overall by the Golden Knights in the fifth round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. After playing a season in the USHL for the Chicago Steel (31 goals, 35 assists in 54 games played), Dugan joined Providence and has turned into an NCAA superstar in his sophomore year.

Jack Dugan Providence College Friars
Golden Knights’ prospect Jack Dugan. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

Dugan has excelled at Providence while playing against tough competition in the Hockey East conference. He finished his sophomore season leading the NCAA in points with 52 (10 goals, 42 assists), seven more than the next closest player.

In his career at Providence, Dugan has recorded 91 points in 75 games played, the most of any player in the NCAA over that span. He was named a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award this season, given to the best player in college hockey.

Related: Top 10 Hobey Baker Award Winners of All-Time

It was announced on Thursday that Dugan was not voted into the top three finalists for the award. He seems to be using the Hobey snub as motivation though, tweeting this out Thursday afternoon:

With five Knights forwards set to become free agents at the end of the 2019-20 season, Dugan could make an impact in the lineup for the Golden Knights should he choose to leave school and sign with the club.

When Will Dugan Sign With the Golden Knights?

The Vegas front office has expressed the desire to sign Dugan to an entry-level contract. (from ‘Golden Knights await decision from prospect Jack Dugan,’ Las Vegas Review-Journal, 03/31/2020) When he will make his debut for the Knights is less clear. He certainly seems ready to make the jump into an NHL lineup, but the season being put on pause has complicated the process of signing prospects, especially those out of college.

Many college players choose to sign with their respective NHL teams after the NCAA season is over and play out the latter part of the NHL season. In that scenario, the player also uses up the first year of his rookie contract.

Related: 2020 Hobey Baker Award Hat Trick Finalists

Last season, we saw Cale Makar make his NHL debut in Game 3 of the first round of the playoffs for the Colorado Avalanche. Makar scored in the first period, two days after losing in the National Championship game with the University of Massachusetts.

Cale Makar Colorado Avalanche
Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If it is decided that the season should resume, the Knights would have the ability to sign Dugan for the remainder of the 2019-20 season. What a resumed season would look like though is still unknown.

While Dugan would provide an offensive boost for a playoff run, the Knights will not rush to insert him into the lineup. It is more likely that Vegas will attempt to lock Dugan down for 2020-21 on a two-year, entry-level contract beginning next season, with a max average annual value of $995,000.

“We’ll have discussions with his representatives here at an appropriate point. It hasn’t been pressing because there’s no hockey being played. But those are conversations we’ll have here as we move along.”

Knights’ GM Kelly McCrimmon via David Schoen of the Las Vegas Review Journal

Of course, Dugan also has the option to return to Providence for his junior season.

With the NCAA making the decision to end all winter sports early, along with Dugan just missing out on the Hobey, it is possible that he will want to return to school to make another run at a National Championship, and the prestigious Hobey Baker Award.

In Dugan’s freshman season, his Providence Friars fell to Minnesota in the semifinals of the NCAA Frozen Four. He is no doubt itching to lead his team to another National Championship run after that opportunity was taken from him this year.

Knights In Need of Bottom-Six Help

At the end of the 2019-20 season, two Knights forwards will be unrestricted free agents (Ryan Reaves, and Tomas Nosek), and three will be restricted free agents (Chandler Stephenson, Nick Cousins, and Nicolas Roy). Four of those five players (all but Stephenson) were consistently playing in a bottom-six role for the Knights before the league was put on pause.

Ryan Reaves Vegas Golden Knights
Ryan Reaves, Vegas Golden Knights (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Cap space this offseason will be tight, especially if general manager Kelly McCrimmon chooses to re-sign goaltender Robin Lehner who will also be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.

McCrimmon will look to the Vegas prospect pool to potentially fill those bottom-six voids. Dugan is a great option for McCrimmon to slide into a third or fourth-line role, without using up too much of the Knights’ available cap space.

Expect to see Dugan earn one of those spots next season, should he decide to leave Providence and sign a professional contract. It is possible (if the NHL chooses to resume play for 2019-20), that we see him with the Knights this season, but it is more likely that he will sign his entry-level deal to begin next fall for 2020-21.

“He’s got some things that you can’t teach, some things he does naturally.”

Knights’ director of player development Wil Nichol via David Schoen of the RJ

While he may begin his career in a bottom-six role, Dugan has certainly shown that he has the skill and playmaking ability to occupy a first or second-line spot. The future is bright for Jack Dugan, and Knights fans should be excited for his arrival.

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