Hockey

Vegas Golden Knights Season Preview

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To preview the Vegas Golden Knights for the upcoming season and not first mention the elephant in the room would be a disservice. The biggest news has been the departure of face-of-the-franchise and fan-favorite, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. The surprise NHL trade-of-the-season happened at the end of July, and it caused a ripple of controversy that spread throughout the entirety of the NHL. Fleury was dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks for minor league forward Mikael Hakkarainen. The appearance of a reigning Vezina Trophy-winner being traded for a minor leaguer without much of a future is not a good one for Vegas.

2020-2021 Vegas Golden Knights: Season Recap

First of all, it must be noted that the 2020-2021 NHL Season was a bit strange. Once again, the season was understandably affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The League did not begin regular season play until January of 2021, thus shortening the season.

There were also not the traditional divisions; Canada did not allow travel in and out of the country without time in quarantine, forcing a one-season divisional realignment. Instead of playing in their usual Pacific Division, the Golden Knights were a part of the Honda West Division.

Vegas finished second in their division, with the division title coming down to the last regular season game. They finished the season with a record of 40-14-2. In the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3. Then Vegas faced the winner of the West division in the second round, the Colorado Avalanche, and vanquished them in six games. In the Stanley Cup Semifinals, the Golden Knights lost 4-2 to the Montreal Canadiens.

Vegas Golden Knights: Lines

Forward Alex Tuch required offseason shoulder surgery that will likely keep him out the first four months of the regular season. With this being the case, it has changed the way the lines will be played for the first half of the season. The Golden Knights did acquire several forwards in the offseason to help offset Tuch’s absence.

As a result of the Fleury trade, goalie Robin Lehner will no longer be sharing daily netminder duties. The Lehner-Fleury duo combined to win the Jennings Trophy, the annual award given to the goalie or goalies who have “played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it” during the regular season.

Projected Lines, Offense

First LineMax PaciorettyChandler StephensonMark Stone
Second LineJonathan MarchessaultWilliam KarlssonReilly Smith
Third LineMattias JanmarkNolan PatrickEvgenii Dadonov
Fourth LineWilliam CarrierBrett HowdenNicolas Roy

Projected Lines, Defense

First LineAlec MartinezAlex Pietrangelo
Second LineBrayden McNabbShea Theodore
Third LineNicolas HagueZach Whitecloud
GoaltenderRobin LehnerLaurent Brossoit

Vegas Golden Knights: Offseason Moves

This offseason was a bit different. The Stanley Cup was again awarded at a strange time, July 7, 2021. The Seattle Kraken held their Expansion Draft on July 21, followed by the Entry Draft on July 23-24. Finally, the business of wheeling-and-dealing began July 28, with free agency opening. Consequently, the compressed time-frame changed the usual way that offseason business took place.

Kelly McCrimmon, the GM of the Vegas Golden Knights, is generally pleased with how the offseason has gone. He had this to say about the offseason moves:

“As an overview, I’m really pleased with how this period of time has gone for our team. We’re in a good spot. We’ve used the money that we’ve had available to us, we’ve addressed the needs that we identified going into this time frame, and we’re anxious to get ready for training camp as we move into the next season.”

Kelly McCrimmon, Vegas Golden Knights GM

Consequential Departures

While it is true that the departure of Marc-Andre Fleury was the most noteworthy one, there were several others that are worth mentioning.

Ryan Reaves, a physical 4th line forward, was traded to the New York Rangers in late July. As an original member of the Vegas Golden Knights, Reaves played in 209 games, scoring 42 points and racking up 158 penalty minutes.

The first draft pick in Vegas Golden Knights history, the #6 pick of the 2017 draft, was traded this offseason. Forward Cody Glass was traded to the Nashville Predators in part of a three-team deal that netted Vegas the Philadelphia Flyers center, Nolan Patrick.

Noteworthy Arrivals

Vegas added three forwards to the team this offseason. This is a good thing, because they lost several, too. In a trade with the Ottawa Senators, Evgenii Dadenov jetted to Vegas in exchange for defenseman Nick Holden and the 3rd Round pick in the 2022 Draft.

Nolan Patrick, a 22-year-old forward coming from Philadelphia, was the #2 pick in the 2017 Draft. Patrick has scored 70 points in 197 games over three seasons with the Flyers. Most significantly, Patrick was coached by current Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon from 2014-2016, at Brandon of the Western Hockey League. I’m inclined to believe that if a former coach and current GM trades for you, he probably sees something in you.

Forward Brett Howden was acquired from the New York Rangers for Nick DeSimone, a defensive prospect, and a 2022 4th Round Draft pick. In 178 games with the Rangers over three seasons, Howden has scored 49 points.

Finally, Laurent Brossoit was signed on the first day of free agency to a 2-year contract. Last season, Brossoit, a goaltender, recorded a record of 6-6-0 with a .918 save percentage and a 2.42 goals against average in 14 games (11 starts) for the Winnipeg Jets. Brossoit will help to fill the void as backup goalie, now that Lehner will usually be the starter.

Vegas Golden Knights: Needs

The biggest need of the Golden Knights is the first center position. However, McCrimmon disagrees, saying that the team is pleased with their centers after adding two, Patrick and Howden, this offseason. Patrick is also slated for the bottom six, but he would benefit from moving up. It would not be surprising if, eventually, Patrick is playing in the same line as Stone.

Parting Thoughts

In short, Vegas will continue to be the preeminent team of the Pacific Division. Above all, the change to Lehner as #1 goalie will not effect their dominance of the division. Over the past four seasons, Lehner’s save percentage (.918) shows nothing but consistency. Therefore, the Golden Knights are in good hands.

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