The Golden Knights came into the league as the people’s team, a group of misfits who were one of the league’s best squads. But in the four years since then, Vegas has become an easy team to despise. They have ditched loyalty to go for every star possible, and have been to salary cap hell and back. Even though they spoke a big game, they failed to make the playoffs in the weakest division in years. Injuries decimated the roster last season. Sadly for Vegas, the bug has already struck, before the year even starts.
Offseason additions: F Phil Kessel, G Adin Hill.
Offseason subtractions: F Max Pacioretty, F Evgenii Dadonov, D Dylan Coghlan, F Mattias Janmark.
This team is not the same when Mark Stone isn’t on it. Their captain was limited to just 37 games last year, in which his 30 points were disappointing on its own. That isn’t to say that Stone didn’t produce when he played; his 3.43 goals for per 60 at even strength led the team. Even though Stone was out for the majority of the season, it didn’t stop Chandler Stephenson from having a career season. Stephenson’s 21 goals and 64 points were easily the most of his career. While he was a bottom-six player before coming to Vegas, he has always had a good shot, as Stephenson’s career shooting percentage is 15.9 percent. Stephenson was the team’s top center last year, but there is the enticing opportunity to move him to the wing, so he and Stone could play with Jack Eichel. After finally getting out of Buffalo and his desired neck surgery, Eichel returned to play 34 games for Vegas. While he did have 14 goals, Eichel had just 25 total points. Maybe he can return to his point-per-game pace in a fully healthy season.
The team leader for goals and points was Jonathan Marchessault, as he tied his career-high 30 goals, while adding 36 assists. Marchessault had a GA/60 that was better than any regular Golden Knight defender, as did center William Karlsson. The offensive production from Karlsson has predictably gone down since he scored 43 goals, as he scored just 12 goals with 35 points in 67 games last season. Karlsson still has a big role on the team, and has gotten Lady Byng votes in all five seasons as a Golden Knight. Amidst all of the salary cap problems the Golden Knights have dealt with, they were still able to extend Reilly Smith for three seasons. Smith struggled in 2020-21, but rebounded with 38 points in 56 games in 2021-22. His 3.08 xGF/60 was the best among top-six forwards on the team.
Another player who was extended by Vegas this offseason was Nicolas Roy, who will get $15 million over the next five seasons. Roy played all around the lineup and scored 15 goals with 39 points in 78 games. In 85 career games prior to last season, he had just 25 points. The Golden Knights didn’t have a ton of positive moves this offseason, but they were able to bring in Phil Kessel. He brings a ton of fun to the lineup, and can still contribute offensively. Kessel has historically been a sniper, but had just a 4.6 shooting percentage and eight goals for the Coyotes last season. He made up for it with 44 assists, for a total of 52 points on a terrible Arizona squad. Of course, defense will be an issue for Kessel. After failing to keep a spot with the Rangers, Brett Howden came over last offseason in a minor trade. Playing in 47 games, Howden had 20 points with a 57 GF%.
The Golden Knights made a very solid waiver claim midseason when they acquired Michael Amadio from the Maple Leafs. Amadio played in 53 games, scoring 11 goals with a team-leading 57.8 xGF%. He could have gotten a lot for recognition if not for an unlucky 97.4 PDO. After trading away Ryan Reaves, the team’s physicality came from Keegan Kolesar last year. His 246 hits led the team by nearly 90, and he chipped in 24 points. The team’s leader in xGF/60 last year was… William Carrier? He only had 20 points in 63 games, but a 3.24 xGF/60. It wasn’t just one-way, as Carrier has a GF% and an xGF% above fifty-seven. A third-round pick in 2017, Jonas Rondbjerg played in his first 30 NHL games last season, with six points. He broke out in the AHL, scoring 14 goals with 13 assists in 39 games. Another depth forward who got into a ton of games was Jake Leschyshyn, who had six points in 41 games. At the AHL level, he had 27 points in 34 games.
The underlying results from Alex Pietrangelo have not been good since he left St. Louis for Vegas. He did have 44 points in 80 games last year and somehow got a Norris vote, but Pietrangelo had the second-worst GF% and xGF% among returning Vegas defenders. The only guy worse than him was his most common defensive partner. Sure, he was playing without Alec Martinez for a majority of the season, but Pietrangelo shouldn’t have to rely on his partner to carry his numbers. He is twentieth all-time in blocked shots, which have been recorded since 2005-06, and another 100 this year would move him up at least five spots. Martinez only played in 26 games in 2021-22, and still managed to block 68 shots.
Shea Theodore’s offensive talent continues to improve, as he set new career-highs with 14 goals and 52 points last season. Theodore hits a surprisingly low amount for a guy averaging over 23 minutes a game, but he makes up for it with a 2.88 xGF/60. The physicality comes from his partner, Brayden McNabb, whose 18 points were his most in five seasons as a Golden Knight. McNabb played in 69 games, blocking 179 shots with 154 hits.
The Vegas defender who should have gotten more recognition last season was Zach Whitecloud, who excelled in a bottom-pairing role. Whitecloud had a 2.2 xGA/60 and a 55.9 xGF%, which were both the best on the team’s defensive core. The six-foot-six Nic Hague got to play with Pietrangelo last season when Martinez was out, but he should return back to the bottom-pair now. Hague had a 48.4 GF%, and the only other regular defender on the team below fifty was Dylan Coghlan, who was traded away. Vegas signed Ben Hutton to be extra insurance, but he ended up playing in 58 games, albeit in a small role. Hutton recorded 13 points, with 72 blocked shots.
The news that Robin Lehner would miss the entirety of the 2022-23 season came way too late in the offseason for Vegas to still have options. His backup from last year, Laurent Brossoit, is also dealing with an injury. The best option right now is Logan Thompson, who was solid in 19 starts last year, posting a .914 save percentage and a 2.68 GAA. The Golden Knights got another option in Adin Hill, who between the Coyotes and Sharks, has spent his entire career in the Pacific Division. Hill had a .906 save percentage and a 2.66 GAA in 25 games last season.
Chandler Stephenson – Jack Eichel – Mark Stone
Reilly Smith – William Karlsson – Jonathan Marchessault
Brett Howden – Nicolas Roy – Phil Kessel
William Carrier – Keegan Kolesar – Michael Amadio
Scratched: Jonas Rondbjerg, Jake Leschyshyn
Alec Martinez – Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb – Shea Theodore
Nic Hague – Zach Whitecloud
Scratched: Ben Hutton