The National Hockey League’s newest franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights, acquired T-Birds right wing Keegan Kolesar from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for one of Vegas’ three second-round picks, no. 45 overall. The Blue Jackets used the pick to select Alexandre Texier from France.
Kolesar, 20, was instrumental in helping the Thunderbirds win their first WHL Championship in 2017. The power forward from Brandon, Man. had 60 points in 54 regular season games, then led the WHL in playoff scoring with 31 points on 12 goals and 19 assists in 19 postseason contests.
While he’s still eligible to return for one more season in Seattle, it’s unlikely he’ll don the T-Birds sweater again as a 20-year-old who has signed an entry-level contract. Instead, he’ll likely be sent to Vegas’ AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.
Originally selected with pick no. 69 in the 2015 draft, Kolesar’s stock has risen as he’s continued to improve every year. The biggest knock on him early in his career was his skating, but he’s since become one of the fastest players on a Seattle team that has won back-to-back Western Conference Championships. Combined with his strength and shot, Kolesar figures to be a tough player for opposing defenses to handle when he does make it to the National Hockey League.
The no. 45 pick, which would have already been Vegas’ fifth in the draft, initially belonged to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning sent the pick to the Golden Knights in exchange for the Knights taking Jason Garrison in the expansion draft earlier this week. Vegas’ first pick in the draft, no. 6 overall, was used to take Portland’s Cody Glass.