According to sources that are close to this story it appears that there are 20 NHL teams in the mix at scoring defenseman Neal Pionk with the Vegas Golden Knights as one of the teams interested in signing him.
Several weeks ago I wrote a piece on the top available college free agents on the market a Pionk was on that list.
For Pionk he was given the pass in the year he was draft eligible due to his size. He is rated at 5’11” and 181 pounds. In Pionk’s case he took what he was given and used to the impress the critics during his sophomore with the Bulldogs.
In his sophomore campaign with the Bulldogs Pionk scored 7 goals, 27 assists at 34 points in 42 games this season.
Previously in the 2015 season was Pionk was invited to and participated with the Washington Capitals developmental program. There along with other potential NHL hopeful had the chance to show the Capitals who he brings to the table.
The experts have Pionk rated at a good two-way defenesemen with great skating sense and the ability to get out of jam on the ice. His bags of tricks also include his speed and can handle his himself at his position very well.
His game can closely be represented by current Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Connor Carrick due to being similar in size. For Carrick he doesn’t let his lack influence the way he plays the game.
According to Dave Starman who plays double duty with the Canadiéns as part of their scouting team and College Hockey Analyst for EPSN he made mentioned to what Pionk has to offer NHL teams when looking for qualities in a defenseman.
“He’s good in his own zone. But when you watch him, what stands out is how good his shot is, and he can score with it. He’s got a Shea Weber quality to him with the shot. Just got a missile.” – Dave Starman, Montréal Canadiéns Scout and ESPN College Hockey analyst
For the Vegas Golden Knights scouting staff they remain hot on the trail in locating and potentially acquiring talent from the college free agent pool.
However according to Assistant General Manager Kelly McCrimmon their target list of college free agents appears to be a short one at best.
The Golden Knights organization at current time are more focused and gear towards the expansion draft that is coming up down the road in June.
With Pionk electing to go pro for the 2017-2018 to the journey for him to go the NHL begin now as he kicks off talks with teams interested in his services. ABC 10/13 Eyewitness News in Duluth, MN broke the news yesterday that Pionk wants to get going in speaking with those organization starting this week.
“It will be process,” Pionk said. “It will take a few days,” Pionk said when asked how soon he expected to sign.
Much like the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes were a while back in teams wanting him to be on their rosters for Neal Pionk it will be not different. Those seriously interested its going to be tough for Vegas given that they are an expansion team with very little history and no legacy to use as leverage in getting the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs defenseman.
For McPhee he will have to sell the Vegas Golden Knights brand hard if in fact Pionk does come to the table and become the second knight in franchise history.