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Zach Whitecloud Signs Extension With The Vegas Golden Knights

On Thursday, October 28, Zach Whitecloud signed a contract extension for six years with an AAV of $2.75 million. Whitecloud, who has been nothing short of reliable for Vegas, truly earned this extension.

Where Whitecloud’s time in Vegas started

After going undrafted, Whitecloud spent two seasons in the NCAA, playing for Bemidji State University. In early 2018, the Vegas Golden Knights signed him to an entry-level contract.

At the start of the 2018-2019 season, Whitecloud was assigned to Vegas’ AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. He would go on to have a great season in the AHL, tallying 28 points and a plus 39 rating in 74 games. Given the strong defensive play he had been known for, his offensive output was a pleasant surprise. He would also go on to have a strong playoff performance with the Wolves, putting up 15 points in 22 games.

Vegas called him back up to the NHL during the 2019-2020 season after he had already played 35 AHL games. Playing in 16 regular-season games as well as accompanying them in the bubble for the Stanley Cup playoffs. He performed very well in the bubble, with three points and a +1 rating in 20 games played.

The 2020-2021 season is where Whitecloud really started to show his full capabilities.  He proved to be the rock on the back end that Vegas had needed so desperately. Technically being his rookie campaign, Whitecloud had an exceptional debut season with decent offensive output for a defensive-minded defenseman. He tallied 12 points and a plus-nine rating in 51 regular-season games.  In the playoffs, he continued his good form with four points and a plus-three rating in 19 games.

How the 2021-2022 season has gone for Whitecloud so far

Whitecloud started the 2021-2022 season on the third defensive pairing with Nic Hague. He and Hague had grown quite accustomed to each other as a result of them being partnered together in the AHL on the Chicago Wolves.

Despite Vegas struggling in the early stages of the season with injuries and performance, certain players were beginning to show signs of returning to form. Whitecloud was one such player. In a game on Oct. 22 against the Edmonton Oilers, Whitecloud had played a decent game, even chipping in offensively with an assist. During the second period however, Whitecloud left the game after apparently sustaining an injury while blocking a shot. He did not return to the game after that.

When the game ended, it was announced that he had sustained an upper-body injury and would be out on a week-to-week basis. He was just another addition to the growing list of players Vegas has lost to injury so far this season.

Despite this injury, the 24-year old was able to negotiate a contract extension with Vegas management that would see him stay in Vegas until he turns 30. Showing that Vegas management has faith in Whitecloud’s abilities.

What Whitecloud’s extension means for the Golden Knights

Unless Whitecloud’s play falls off within the next few years, this contract is a work of genius by George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon. He has shown in his albeit short time in the league that his defensive instincts are at the NHL level.

Whitecloud is the type of reliable player on the blueline that Vegas, frankly, needs more of.  He is the ideal player to facilitate the play of other Vegas defensemen, such as Shea Theodore and Nic Hague. Both of whom like to partake in the offensive aspects of their position.

As a highly proficient defensive-minded player, Whitecloud allows his more offensively capable partners to engage in the attacking play. This is why he is such a valuable asset to the Vegas Golden Knights, a team in possession of a plethora of offensively minded defensemen.

His A.A.V is very team friendly at $2.75m. With a team like Vegas, who has been struggling to balance their cap for the past couple seasons, this comes as a breath of fresh air. This is the ideal extension for both party’s.

 

Featured image courtesy of the NHL

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