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Better Find A Center, Otherwise The Struggles Will Start And Never End

It’s not hard to see George McPhee believes in strength down the middle. He made that clear by drafting five centers in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. Unfortunately, that talent is undeveloped and unavailable. As for 2017-18, the unit will contain five centers, Vadim Shipachyov, Oscar Lindberg, William Karlsson, Cody Eakin and Jonathan Marchessault. The Golden Knights aren’t expecting much success this season, but for the future, one of those five needs to turn into a top line center.

Shipachov will likely start the year as the top center but currently, he has no NHL experience, and like most KHL imports, is a great unknown. The other possibility is Lindberg. He skates in with 134 games played and just over 850 face-off attempts. The 25-year-old Swede will have the chance to make a serious impact with Vegas.

Oscar loves New York and he loves winning, but he also loves ice time… He’s going to have a great opportunity to play major minutes and a major role in Vegas. Claude Lemieux, Lindberg’s agent

Lindberg’s career TOI average will certainly increase from 11:30 minutes per game. His effectiveness in all three zones will prove his value.

Karlsson’s impressive flow and off-the-puck play could help him climb the charts too.

The concern for Vegas is their center depth long term. The team is hoping Lindberg, Shipachyov and Karlsson break out, but if one doesn’t go from unknown to a legit top line center, the cupboard is a bit dry of potential game-changing guys for at least the next three years. Again, this year isn’t terribly important, but McPhee knows only teams with game-changing centers have a realistic chance of winning. Check out the last 12 Stanley Cup winners. Each champion had an elite center.

2006 – Staal
2007 – Getzlaf
2008 – Datsyuk
2009 – Crosby
2010 – Toews
2011 – Bergeron
2012 – Kopitar
2013 – Toews
2014 – Kopitar
2015 – Toews
2016- Crosby
2017- Crosby

In 3-5 years the future will rely heavily on center development. Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, and future prospects will determine if McPhee’s pledge came true. Maybe when Vegas makes a run, their centers will be Glass, Suzuki and top prospects McPhee picked up after dealing James Neal… or David Perron… or Vadim Shi… I’ll stop, it’s a sensitive subject.

But the fact of the matter remains, there’s likely not an elite center on this roster, and until there is, the Golden Knights may as well keep hoarding picks.

(Oh, and by the way, for those still complaining, Marcus Kruger was not going to solve this problem.)

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6 Comments

  1. James

    Vadim Shipachyov is a dark horse. I wouldn’t be surprised if he costs us ping-pong balls. Unfortunately, he’s not the long-term answer due to his age — Cody Glass is the future. He could be the next Mark Scheifele. Anything less than a number-two center would be a disappointment

  2. James

    @Jason Pothier
    ‘Check out the last 12 Stanley Cup winners. Each champion had an elite center.’

    This isn’t the NBA – Good luck finding a true number-one center in free agency – The number-two centers of the last 12 Stanley Cup winners were not too shabby. Here’s hoping we struck gold by drafting Glass and Suzuki.

    The draft will either make or break McPhee.

  3. jgapp2005

    To add to James’s point. Take a look at the list of top centers on the Cup winning teams and notice one thing. They were all drafted by the team they won with (granted there was some luck and tanking involved with getting those picks).

  4. Willy702

    Maybe it’s good education for the newbies but this point is kind of obvious. Few teams that have any success go without this position loaded. Maybe the Canadiens and Senators at the moment are the closest contenders without one. Elite wingers don’t exist without one either, part of the reason Bobby Ryan could have been a Knight. Thus we are talking hockey 101 here, you build a team around you top two center men and your top and second pair defensemen. The rest you can fill with quality players and things will be good. Amazing how this gets lost in free agency and trade deadline where the fools searching for anything forget this simple lesson.

  5. todd little

    not sure what Vegas’plans are but Marchessault scored his 30 goals as a winger for the Panthers last season. Didn’t play any center while he was here.

  6. Bent

    I was hoping for GM GM to take Sisson over Neal. Sisson had a better SC run then Neal. I know Neal is a 30+ goal scorer and looks great on paper. There is a reason both the pens and preds got tried of him. The thing is he is going to lose as many games as win. Sisson is 23 years old so he would be in his prime when new guys are ready to go. I think he would develop into a solid #2 or maybe even a #1 center. I think GM GM was too caught up on draft picks and over looked some good young talent that would of developed into vet leaders for when the young guys come up. It is so hard to pick the guy from the draft that is going to make it into the NHL. Just look at teams like Buffalo.

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