Golden Knights Top Prospect Rankings: #8 Zach Whitecloud

Golden Knights Top Prospect Rankings: #8 Zach Whitecloud

Name: Zach Whitecloud

Position: RHD

Age: 21

Place of Birth: Brandon, Manitoba, Canada

Height: 6’2’’

Weight: 209 lbs

Shoots: Right

Picked: N/A (Signed from Bemidji University)

2017/18 Season:

Bemidji University Beavers – 36 Games, 4 Goals, 15 Assists, 19 Points, Plus/Minus: -4

This story is for everyone out there who’s been told you’re not good enough. You’re not strong enough. You’re not like us. 

Zach Whitecloud heard that often throughout his life and every step of the way, he has faced challenges and outright contempt.

The Brandon, Manitoba native was cut from AAA teams twice, was on 4 separate teams in 2 years and faced discrimination for being a Canadian Aboriginal. Not many players with NHL contracts can say they were undrafted in both the Bantam and the NHL draft, but Whitecloud can. Instead of giving up or giving in, Zach joined the Virden Oil Capitals and after two years joined the Bemidji State University Beavers. His performances in his college career started turning heads and by year 3. Whitecloud had gone from a nobody that no team wanted– as misfit– to one of the hottest college free agents.

So McPhee (with the aid of Assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon, who has known Whitecloud for years) signed the free agent to the team late into this season. Now, this story on its own is a wonderful tale of how hard work gets you places and triumphing against all odds and expectations, but what about the player attached to it? Is Zach Whitecloud worth the hype? In a word: yes.

Whitecloud was invited to the Los Angeles Kings development camp after his freshman campaign and Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman went as far as to go to Bemidji to watch him play. Not his scouts, Steve Yzerman himself. It is not hard to see why.

Right handed Defensemen with good size and speed are like gold-dust. They are incredibly rare and of them, the ones who can properly translate their skills to the NHL are even rarer. Whitecloud has all the right skills for the NHL, he’s got a good, balanced skillset with good depth to his game, good puck skills, shoots the puck extremely well and can play excellent defense. Perhaps the best illustration of how important Whitecloud is to Bemidji State’s defensive corps came when he was in Europe playing for Team Canada last November. The Beavers gave up 13 goals in a two-game series against Minnesota State-Mankato and got swept.

With Whitecloud in the lineup this season, the Beavers were allowing two goals per game. Without him, they were giving up 6.5. Admittedly, these numbers come from a small sample size, but the point stands. Whitecloud keeps the puck out of the net.

Now this is where we would usually talk about a prospect’s weaknesses, but with Zach there really isn’t much to talk about. Whitecloud’s biggest strength, the main reason why he was such a hot free agent, is the fact that he has no major deficiencies in his game. He’s a balanced player in every area and can do every job with no complaints. The only real thing we can say about him for his development is that he needs more time at the NHL level, more time around Head Coach Gallant and the other players before he makes a true impact. It’s not hard to see why many think he could play top-4 minutes as early as next year. McPhee has been quoted as saying:

“He’s a mobile defenseman. He moves the puck real well and he’s a safe player right now. We think he plays conservatively and we believe he can give us a lot more offensively. He has lots of room for growth. He’s good and safe and conservative. He’ll build the offensive end of his game.”

Without giving away too many spoilers, Whitecloud is the Vegas prospect with the best chance of cracking the 2018/19 roster. While there are other players with more fanfare and pedigree, none are as ready to play against the world’s best players. However, if Vegas finds that its blue line is too crowded, Whitecloud will be playing in Chicago as one of the first call-ups.

While McCrimmon’s long-time association with the Whitecloud family likely helped get him to Vegas, its something of a modern miracle that McPhee and co. managed to get Whitecloud to sign on the dotted line. Vegas beat out at least 4 other teams to get Whitecloud into the system, but the more we look into him, the more Vegas should praise our architect GM for getting the job done. Whitecloud started off with nothing, being told he would never make the NHL. Now he starts the next chapter of his life as a Golden Misfit, which is just his style.

Vegas’ Full Prospect Rankings:

#1 Cody Glass

#2 Nick Suzuki

#3 Erik Brannstrom

#4 Nic Hague

#5 Lucas Elvenes

#6 Maxim Zhukov

#7 Ben Jones

#8 Zach Whitecloud

#9 Jake Leschyshyn

#10 Jack Dugan

#11 Dylan Coghlan

#12 Jonas Rondbjerg

Game Calendar

September 2018