Vegas Golden Knights 2021-22 Season Preview

After another playoff disappointment, we all waited for the upcoming explosion of an offseason that the Golden Knights would have. Instead, it was a bit of a dud. They brought some guys back and made minor adds. Of course, Jack Eichel could still be on the table. But this Vegas team will be very similar to the one that Montreal just upset. Oh right, except for their Vezina winning goalie.

Offseason additions: F Evgenii Dadonov, F Nolan Patrick, F Brett Howden, G Laurent Brossoit.

Offseason subtractions: G Marc-Andre Fleury, F Ryan Reaves, F Tomas Nosek, F Cody Glass, D Nick Holden.

Forwards

Arguably the best defensive winger in hockey, Mark Stone is no slouch on offense, either. He scored 21 goals with 40 assists for 61 points in 55 games. The first captain in team history also finished third in Selke voting. He has been in the top-five for the award in each of the past three seasons. As Max Pacioretty has progressed into his 30s, his goal scoring ability has not gone anywhere. He scored 24 times with 27 assists in 48 games last season, leading the team in the former. Next to Stone, he was one of two Golden Knights to average over a point-per-game. The center depth is not great in Vegas, but Chandler Stephenson has found a home as their top line center. A great penalty killer, Stephenson scored a career-high 14 goals with 35 points in 51 games. In his 260 career games, Stephenson has sustained a 15.5 percent shooting percentage. For example, that is almost three percent more than his former teammate, Alex Ovechkin. Jonathan Marchessault put up another good season, as he scored 18 times with 44 points, finishing third on the team. While he was on an 82-game pace of 28 goals, this goes down as the first year since 2015-16 where Marchessault did not score twenty goals. After a career-high 27 goals in 2019-20, Reilly Smith fell down to 14, his lowest since 2014-15. His 25 points were also his lowest since he was with the Stars. Down the middle from the two former Panthers is William Karlsson, who has never come close to his insane first season in Vegas. He still scored a respectable 14 goals with 25 assists for 39 points in 56 games. Karlsson was the only Golden Knight to play in every single regular season contest. With goal scoring winger Alex Tuch out after shoulder surgery, the main scorer on the third line will be newcomer Evgenii Dadonov, who was Florida’s replacement for Marchessault and Smith following the expansion draft. He was a consistent scorer for three seasons with the team, but struggled after signing with the Senators. In one season for Ottawa, Dadonov scored just 13 goals with seven assists. Defensive winger Mattias Janmark returns after coming over at the trade deadline. He scored just once with four assists in the 15 regular season games, although he did make up for that with four goals in the postseason. The second overall pick in 2017, Nolan Patrick is now onto a new team as the Golden Knights scooped him up. He has been injured often in his young NHL career, but was still disappointing while mostly healthy last year. In 52 games, Patrick scored just nine points, four of which were goals. A product of the Erik Haula trade, Nicolas Roy became a regular for Vegas last season, with 15 points in 50 games. He averaged exactly one hit-per-game. Patrick and Roy are fighting for the third and fourth line center jobs. While he averaged just nine-and-a-half minutes a night over 44 games, Keegan Kolesar had 107 hits with 13 points. The 227 pound right-wing added 64 hits in the postseason. Speaking of hits, only Ryan Reaves had more on the team than William Carrier last season. The fourth liner had 131, with 15 points. He has played in 214 games for the Golden Knights over the past four seasons, but Carrier has averaged under ten minutes a game during them, with 2020-21 being his first season averaging more than that. A former first-round pick, Brett Howden was very, very bad in New York. In 42 games for the Rangers last year, he had just seven points while struggling on both ends of the ice. Howden is just 23, and has the chance to fix himself in Vegas. Peyton Krebs made his NHL debut last season, playing in four games while also having five points in five AHL games. In his final WHL season, Krebs scored 13 goals with 43 points in 24 games.

Defensemen

The Golden Knights have one of, if not the league’s top offensive defensemen in Shea Theodore. For the second consecutive season, Theodore finished sixth in Norris voting, as this year he had 42 points in 53 games. Of his 34 assists, 15 came on the power play. Karlsson, Marchessault, and Smith get a lot of attention, but of the expansion draft acquisitions on the team, Theodore is the best. Veteran Alex Pietrangelo’s first year under a huge contract was underwhelming, as he did not receive a Norris vote a year after coming in fourth place. Pietrangelo was limited to 41 games, scoring seven times with 16 assists. The good news is that he carried his weight in the playoffs, with twelve points and a league-leading 76 shots. Shot-blocking superstar Alec Martinez had 168 of those in 2020-21, even though he only played in 53 games. Martinez coupled that with 32 points, his most since 2016-17. The best left-handed free agent defender returned to the Golden Knights on a three year deal with a $5.25 million AAV. Six-foot-six Nicolas Hague was productive in his first full season, with 17 points in 52 games. He imposed the physicality that you would expect from someone of his height, with 65 blocks and 94 hits. Veteran Brayden McNabb reached the 200 hit mark in each of his first three seasons with the team, but he had to settle for 98 last year. The defensive specialist also had eight points in 41 games. The Golden Knights balanced Zach Whitecloud between the AHL and NHL for two seasons after signing him out of Bemidji State, but he took on a full-time role last year. The 24-year-old Manitoban had 12 points in 51 games. Dylan Coghlan has showed off his goal scoring talent in the AHL, as he had 11 goals in 60 games in 2019-20. He spent all of last year with the big club, getting into 29 games as a rookie. A sixth-rounder back in 2018, Peter Diliberatore went right to the AHL out of Quinnipiac last season. He had 20 points in 29 collegiate games.

Goalies

With Marc-Andre Fleury abruptly disposed of, Robin Lehner will be a full-time starter really for the first time since his Buffalo days, as he split with Fleury in Vegas, Corey Crawford in Chicago, and Thomas Greiss with the Islanders. He only got into 19 games last year, but his .913 save percentage and 2.29 GAA were impressive. The new backup in town is Laurent Brossoit, who did not get much work playing that role behind Connor Hellebuyck for the past three seasons. In 14 outings, 11 of which were starts, he had a .918 save percentage with a 2.42 GAA.

Projected Lines

Max Pacioretty – Chandler Stephenson – Mark Stone

Jonathan Marchessault – William Karlsson – Reilly Smith

Mattias Janmark – Nicolas Roy – Evgenii Dadonov

William Carrier – Nolan Patrick – Keegan Kolesar

Extras: Brett Howden, Peyton Krebs

Shea Theodore – Alex Pietrangelo

Alec Martinez – Nicolas Hague

Brayden McNabb – Zach Whitecloud

Extras: Dylan Coghlan, Peter Diliberatore

Robin Lehner

Laurent Brossoit

Prediction

The Golden Knights being a good team is not the deciding factor on whether or not they will reach the playoffs. That factor is that the rest of the Pacific Division is awful. There’s the Oilers and… the Kraken? Flames? Canucks? If the Golden Knights were to somehow miss the playoffs, then that explosive offseason will happen. But, they will not be skipping the postseason, so don’t worry.

Published by carterhud

Carterhud.com. SI Kids Kid Reporter, Prime Time Sports Talk writer

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