In five short years, the NHL Rookie Faceoff tournament has gone through several swerves and unexpected turns. For the 2023 edition coming up in September, Mayor’s Manor has confirmed the event will now be heading back to Las Vegas — not coming to Los Angeles, as previously reported.
For some brief history, the inaugural Rookie Faceoff was hosted by the Golden Knights in 2018. It received universal praise from players, scouts, and management who attended.
It's not just the typical, Vegas is Vegas.
Golden Knights training facility is brand new and checks off all the boxes. Great facility with two rinks, six locker rooms, easy sight lines and other amenities. Facility is also in a nice area of Summerlin, away from the strip
— The Mayor | Team MM (@mayorNHL) September 11, 2018
That first gathering of six teams — the LA Kings, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, and Vegas Golden Knights — was supposed to take place in Phoenix. However, hotel rooms were said to be largely unavailable in the area that weekend because the Arizona Cardinals were home for week 1 of the 2018 NFL season. No problem, though, organizers pivoted to Vegas. The following season, Anaheim hosted at their brand-new facility in Irvine, and then things were finally set to move to Arizona in the fall of 2020. However, the pandemic shut that idea down. One year later, the Coyotes were eventually able to host. LA had been next in the running, yet they had to wait a year as everything was being delayed and it was only right that Arizona wasn’t skipped over. With things apparently back on track, the Kings were slotted to host in 2022. They even began renovations at their training facility in El Segundo to prepare for the Rookie Faceoff.
Not so fast.
As we reported at the time, the Sharks essentially called Kings President Luc Robitaille and asked to host at their just completed 4,000 seat AHL arena, which is connected to their training facility. LA obliged, thinking it was the right thing to do.
With the Sharks then hosting in 2022, the Kings were penciled in for 2023.
Well, time to get out the eraser.
While the exact reason is likely a myriad of things converging, two such factors in moving the event to Vegas for 2023 are likely the ongoing renovations at Crypto Arena and the Kings now being scheduled to host part of their training camp (and play two games) in Australia. Their downtown arena probably entered the conversation, as even with two NHL-sized rinks now at Toyota Sports Performance Center, locker room availability was still being questioned. Hosting six teams was going to be a challenge in any scenario. Thus, there had been talks about using the Kings gameday home as a second facility — where most likely the Kings rookie squad would have played their three tournament games, similar to how the Coyotes used their NHL arena when they hosted the tournament a few years ago.
So back to Vegas we go.
While unconfirmed at the moment, tentative dates floated to us indicate the 2023 NHL Rookie Faceoff will be played around September 15-18. As in the past, each team will play a total of three games. One of the Kings opponents will almost surely be the Golden Knights. If they also play the Coyotes, that will be interesting, considering the same two clubs will faceoff in Australia less than two weeks later. Overall, the rookie tournament is expected to consist of all six teams in action each day (comprised of three games daily), providing three full days of action spread over a four-day period. Teams will either practice and/or hold a player bonding event on the day without any games, which usually comes on Day 3 of the event; meaning, games will be played on Days 1, 2, and 4.
Which Kings prospects will participate in the tournament? That’s always a topic for much discussion. Each year, prior to the NHL Rookie Faceoff, teams try to agree on the rules of eligibility. To the best of our knowledge, it’s never been more than a sort of ‘handshake deal’ regarding the rules. Much of the debate seems to center around what constitutes a rookie for the purposes of the tournament. There are apparently a loose set of rules and sub-rules, similar to roster details in place for NHL pre-season games. For example, it is believed the Kings needed an exemption (or some sort of approval) to have Quinton Byfield participate last year. Yet, on the surface, he should have been eligible — at least according to what we had heard previously about the guidelines, which were players with less than three years of pro experience and less than 50 NHL games played (Byfield had two pro seasons and 46 NHL games played at the time).
Things will become clearer in the months ahead. For now, we’re expecting many of the Kings top prospects to play in the event, including: Brandt Clarke, Francisco Pinelli, Martin Chromiak, Alex Laferriere, and Erik Portillo.
Look for an official announcement of the 2023 NHL Rookie Faceoff in the coming weeks. Ticket information and further details will be released at a later date.
For a look back at the previous Rookie Faceoff tournaments, see links below.
Lead photo by Daniel Stopani
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