Fleming attended the Golden Knights’ development camp in July and had been at the team’s training camp until Tuesday when he was cut from the training camp roster.
Fleming’s performance in both development camp and training camp has seemingly impressed Golden Knights management enough for Fleming to earn this entry-level deal. Fleming will play the 2022-23 season in the QMJHL with the Sherbrooke Phoenix and spent last season playing at the USHL level for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. There, the 19-year-old blueliner scored 16 points in 60 games and spent a whopping 202 minutes in the penalty box.
Those penalty minutes are a bit of a tell as to Fleming’s play style, as well as why he is an appealing prospect to the Golden Knights management. Fleming stands six feet tall and weighs over 200 pounds, and uses that size to play a bruising physical game. He’s a handful for opposing players to deal with whenever they’re on the ice against him, and he’ll bring that imposing style to Sherbrooke.
One element to this signing that is notable is the similarities between Fleming and Montreal Canadiens prospect Arber Xhekaj. Fleming, like Xhekaj, is an undrafted blueliner who plays a physical, bruising style. As Xhekaj continues to get attention (and notoriety) this preseason for his “throwback” style of play, it’s possible that other teams could look to try to find their own versions of Xhekaj, which could be a factor at play with this signing.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported yesterday on Sportsnet’s broadcast of the Canadiens’ loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs that “a number” of NHL clubs share the attitude that they wish they had found and signed Xhekaj before the Canadiens did. So, with that in mind, it could be that this signing of Fleming signals a coming trend of teams looking to acquire the sort of physical, “throwback” defenseman that had gone out of style in recent years.