The NHL suspended Vegas Golden Knights forward Valentin Zykov for 20 games on Thursday for violating the league’s performance enhancing substance policy. Zykov is suspended without pay and will not be eligible to play until November 29 against the Arizona Coyotes.
It’s the second time in as many seasons that a Vegas player was suspended for testing positive for a banned substance. Defenseman Nate Schmidt was suspended last September for the first 20 games of the 2018-19 season. While the team disputed the claim against Schmidt, it’s worth noting the Golden Knights are taking an entirely different stance for the Zykov suspension.
At the time of Schmidt’s suspension, the team released a statement saying “while we respect the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program, we strongly dispute the suspension. We firmly believe that the presence of a trace of the banned substance was accidental and unintentional. Based on our conversations with Nate, analysis from independent medical experts and sworn testimony from the parties involved, we believe it is clear Nate was not able to reasonably ascertain how the substance entered his body.”
Contrast that to today’s statement regarding Zykov, and it’s clear the team isn’t as supportive of him. The statement reads, “we monitor the nutrition, supplement intake, and overall diet of our athletes on a continual basis throughout our entire season. Valentin knowingly used a banned substance without the consent, recommendation or knowledge of our team. We support the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program and respect the decision here.”
Zykov seems to dispute the claim that he knowingly ingested the substance, saying “while I haven’t been able to discover how I tested positive, I understand that I am responsible for what is in my body and will accept this penalty.”
Schmidt is a much more integral piece of the organization, which could explain the team’s softer stance on the Zykov suspension. Zykov has no goals and four assists in 17 games with the Golden Knights over the last two seasons. Brandon Pirri is expected to be called up in Zykov’s place, though it’s unclear if he’ll be available for tonight’s game against the Senators.