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Category: Personnel (Page 2 of 8)

Right Handed Defensemen Lacking On Roster Full Of Defensemen

Much has been made about the total number of defensemen under Vegas Golden Knights control and how it may affect trades, waivers, scratches, and more. But there’s an elephant in the room, and it’s time we point it out.

The Golden Knights have 14 defensemen under contract (including Nate Schmidt). One of them is Erik Brannstrom, who we expect to head back to Sweden rather than stay with in Vegas with the NHL club. Of the 13 who are staying in Vegas or Chicago, a whopping three shoot right handed.

Now, don’t go freaking out too much, teams have utilized defensive pairings of two left handers before, but the handedness (that a word?) of the players on the roster may be able to give us some hints on what may happen in the future.

Colin Miller, Deryk Engelland, and Chris Casto are the three right handed blueliners. Miller was likely to be among the top two pairings no matter what, but this basically confirms it. It’s Engelland and Casto that make things a bit more interesting.

We’ve always assumed Engelland would be either a third line defenseman or even a healthy scratch as his strongest talents lie in checking, fighting, and general badassery. However, being right handed may be his ticket to significant minutes at least early on in the season for the Golden Knights.

That brings us to Casto, a player initially expected to have a guaranteed ticket to Chicago. He’s spent the last three seasons in the AHL with the Providence Bruins including last year when he played in all 16 playoff games. An undrafted free agent signed by Boston in 2013, he’s yet to appear in an NHL game. He’ll be competing with the likes of Luca Sbisa, Jason Garrison, Clayton Stoner, Jon Merrill, and Griffin Reinhart, but the fact remains he’s got a “hand” up on the competition.

Finally, remember the name Matt Dumba? The 22-year-old budding superstar from  Minnesota the Golden Knights passed over for Alex Tuch and Erik Haula? Yeah, you guessed it, he’s right handed too. Whoops?

Camp is still about a month and a half out, and roster movement is likely before we reach October 6th, but the fact remains, one side of the boat is a bit heavier than the other, and it may be an issue down the stream.

Marc-Andre Fleury’s Day With The Stanley Cup

It’s a long standing tradition in the NHL, each player on the Stanley Cup willing team gets a day to do whatever he pleases with the world’s best trophy. Today, new Vegas Golden Knight Marc-Andre Fleury has his day with the Cup.

https://twitter.com/keeperofthecup/status/888828556192731136

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Advanced Stats For VGK Dummies: First Assist

Time for episode three of Advanced Stats for Dummies (see Corsi For Percentage and Zone Starts). Today we are diving deeper into the word assist to explain the meaning and importance of the stat “First Assist.”

Quite simply, the First Assist (FirstA) is awarded to the player who last touched the puck before the player who scored. In other sports, like basketball or soccer, this is the only player to record an assist, but in hockey, multiple assists are awarded for every goal. Only one First Assist is awarded per goal.

Example time! The Golden Knights have the puck in their defensive zone, Nate Schmidt zips the puck up the boards to Reilly Smith, Smith takes it and passes it to Vadim Shipachyov, Shipachyov shoots and scores.

Goal (G) – Shipachyov
Assists (A) – Smith, Schmidt
First Assist (FirstA) – Smith

The reason First Assist is measured is because it’s often an indicator of actual impact on the play. Often times in hockey, a player makes a simple pass and ends up getting an assist out of it. Goalies accounted for 35 assists last season, only five of them were First Assists (14.3%). On the flip side, Connor McDavid recorded 70 assists and 44 of them were First Assists (62.9%).

First Assist is a good measure of playmaking impact on the ice, ability to generate offense, and puck focus. Not every time, but in most cases, the final pass before the goal was more important than the pass that led to the pass before the goal. In other words, First Assist is a validation of the total assist number.

Let’s take a look at how the Golden Knights roster fares in the First Assist category.

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Diversification Of Potential Talent Was Key In Building Golden Knights

Ask any financial advisor, the best way to build wealth is to diversify your portfolio. With money, that means a 401k, IRA, stocks, bonds, and whatever else that will make money over time. The same rings true in the world of sports, especially when we are talking about a team built from scratch.

The Golden Knights were granted with 30 Expansion Draft selections and seven Entry Draft picks for each season starting in 2017. The task was to build a hockey team that will eventually become the champion of the world’s best league.

There were actually rules set up forcing the Golden Knights to diversify by position (must select 14F, 11D, 3G), by contract status (20 players under contract), and by total dollars spent (at least 60% of the salary cap).

George McPhee made it clear from the get go the goal of the Expansion Draft was to accumulate assets, something he did a lot of both on June 21st and in the weeks following. Now it’s time to take a look at what he actually got, and how diversified the talent on the roster turned out.

Draft Picks

The league gives each team a pick in each round of the draft every year. So over the first four years of the organization the Golden Knights were given 28 picks. In 2017, Vegas ended up selecting 12 times in the Entry Draft, including three times in the first round and six times in the top 65. All 12 players currently stand as completely unproven assets with massive potential upside, especially Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, Erik Brannstrom, and Nic Hague.

They also acquired a bundle of picks for the next three drafts. As of this moment, the Golden Knights have 27 picks in between 2018-2020 including their original three 1st rounders, seven 2nd round picks, and four 3rd round picks.

Non-NHL Ready Talent Prospects

Here we are talking about players like Keegan Kolesar, Jake Bischoff, Reid Duke, Tomas Hyka, and the other free agent signings. These players are essentially Golden Knights draft picks from 2013-2016, drafts they did not participate in… because they weren’t a team yet. They are low risk players than can offer high reward, but the probability of massive success is incredibly slim.

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Blue Line Numbers Game Could Land Shea Theodore In AHL To Open Season

When all was said and done with the Expansion Draft, Entry Draft, and free agency the Golden Knights were left with a total of 42 players under contract. When ranking them by importance for the future of the franchise, 21-year-old defenseman Shea Theodore is either at the top or within the top two or three.

With the team not expected to compete for a Stanley Cup in 2017-18, or likely any of the first few years, the focus is obviously going to be on developing players, Theodore being at the very top of that list. But, like everything in professional sports, it’s not that cut and dry.

McPhee has done well to cut down on the surplus of defenseman, but there’s still a bit of a logjam. The Golden Knights have 14 defenseman on the roster. According to CapFriendly.com, nine of them are one one way contracts, and Nate Schmidt will likely take that number to 10.

Shea Theodore is not one of those 10. Jason Garrison, Luca Sbisa, Clayton Stoner, Deryk Engelland, Colin Miller, Griffin Reinhart, Brayden McNabb, Nate Schmidt, Jon Merrill, and Brad Hunt.

The NHL allows teams to have 23 active players on their roster, but only 20 are allowed to play in a game. Normally, teams use a lineup of 12 forwards, six defensemen, and two goalies. Some teams choose to drop a forward for a defenseman, allowing them seven active defensemen.

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Advanced Stats For VGK Dummies: Zone Starts

Next up in our series of Advanced Stats for Dummies (last was Corsi For Percentage) we are taking on a stat that helps to understand what a player does best. It’s called “Zone Starts” and it measures the number of faceoffs a player is on the ice for in the offensive or defensive zone.

Zone Starts are calculated using a very simple procedure. Any time a player is on the ice for a faceoff in the offensive or defensive zone he is scored with a Zone Start. (Neutral zone faceoffs are ignored). If the player is on the ice for a faceoff in the offensive zone, it goes for an offensive Zone Start, if his team is in the defensive zone, he gets a defensive zone start. Zone Starts are then measured by percentage.

Offensive Zone Start Percentage (oZS%) = Offensive Zone Starts / Total Zone Starts
Defensive Zone Start Percentage (dZS%) = Defensive Zone Starts / Total Zone Starts

Example time! Let’s use David Perron because he tweeted at us one time and it made us blush. Perron starts the game on the ice, the opening faceoff is taken (no Zone Start scored). The puck is iced and the Golden Knights get a faceoff in the offensive zone (+1 oZS). Shot goes into the netting, another offensive zone faceoff (+1 oZS). Play continues, the puck goes out of play in the Golden Knights zone, Perron stays on the ice for the faceoff in the defensive zone (+1 dZS).

Offensive Zone Starts (oZS) – 2
Defensive Zone Starts (dZS) – 1
Offensive Zone Start Percentage (oZS%) – 2/(2+1) = 2/3 = 66.6%
Defensive Zone Start Percentage (dZS%) – 1/(2+1) = 1/3 = 33.3%

Perron had an oZS% of 43.9% last season and a dZS% of 56.1. The two years he played in Pittsburgh though, his oZS% was 60% and his dZS% was 40%.

As you can see, you really only need to focus on one side or the other as oZS% and dZS% offset. (43.9+56.1=100 / 60+40=100)

Here’s a look at the Golden Knights top oZS% players. First forwards.

PlayerOffensive Zone Start Percentage (oZS%)
James Neal59.6%
Jonathan Marchessault53.1%
David Perron53.1%
Oscar Lindberg52.3%
William Carrier51.5%

Now defensemen.

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Golden Knights Sitting Pretty In Possible Age Of Offer Sheet Free Agency

If the Vegas Golden Knights are to keep the promise of making the playoffs by year three and winning the Stanley Cup in year six a lot is going to have to go right.

They’ll have to draft incredibly well, starting with the three first round picks they selected in Chicago in late June. They’ll have to have found a few diamonds in the rough in the Expansion Draft, and they’ll probably have to make a few shrew moves in free agency and/or fleece a team or two in trades.

It’s a lot to ask, and it’s understandable for Golden Knights fans to be skeptical. Any person can look down the list of free agents, take a look at recent trade history, and even look at the Entry Draft outside of the top pick and say, there’s just not enough there to take a team from good to great, and certainly not anything on the market to take a team from great to elite. So it’s going to take something special to make the mantra a reality.

But there is one way that George McPhee could strike it rich without using the draft, unrestricted free agency, or fleecing someone in a trade, and it’s something that’s been widely unused in the NHL over the past decade.

One thing a few different NHL executives agree on: Offer sheets are coming. Cam Fowler, Martin Jones, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and (Carey) Price are gone from next year’s unrestricted class. “There simply are not enough impact players available in free agency,” one said. “If you need to improve your team — and fast — it’s going to be your best option.” –Elliotte Friedman, Sportsnet.ca

Offer sheets means, restricted free agency, a market untapped since 2013, and one that hasn’t seen a player change teams since 2007. First, let’s explain how it works, and why teams have been so reluctant in the past.

Most fans are used to unrestricted free agency (UFA), where a player is free to sign wherever he wishes. Teams make offers, he picks the best one for him, and he becomes a member of the new team. The old team gets nothing in return.

Restricted free agency is much different. When a player is an RFA his rights are still technically owned by his current team. There are plenty of options of how the players next contract will be agreed upon, but that’s for another day. In restricted free agency, other teams are able to make an offer to a player, and essentially steal him away. Let me explain using a current example in RFA from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Connor Brown. (He’s good, and young, and the Golden Knights would love to have him, but don’t worry about that right now)

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Advanced Stats For VGK Dummies: Corsi For Percentage

Now that the Golden Knights have players, and will soon begin playing actual games and accruing statistics, we felt like now was a good time to learn the roster, by dumbing down different advanced statistics in the NHL.

Everyone understands goals, assists, points, penalty minutes, and time on ice, but for many hockey fans words like Corsi, Fenwick, PDO, and zone starts send off the instant “too much info, ignore and move on” signal. Since the Golden Knights are probably going to be bad, and the standard stats are likely to all have asterisks next to them with people saying “well someone has to score the goals,” we think it’s best if we use the downtime of July and August to take the stigma away from advanced stats, and get a feel for who the Golden Knights actual have on the roster.

Up first, Corsi and Corsi For Percentage.

Corsi is a statistic that measures the true number of shots a player takes during a game. It was created by an Edmonton Oilers blogger when he heard a GM mention the term “shot differential” but not have concrete numbers to back it up. So, like any good Internet user, he put in the research, came up with the numbers, and created a stat that’s now widely used in the NHL. So what is it exactly?

Corsi = Shots on Goal + Missed Shots + Blocked Shots Against 

It’s fairly simple, it’s just all shot attempts. Corsi can be measured for a team or for an individual. For a team, it’s simply all shot attempts. For an individual, it’s all shot attempts by the team while that player is on the ice. So, for every shot, the team gets +1 on their Corsi rating, and five players get +1 on their individual Corsi rating.

Obviously that stat means nothing if not put in context with what the other team is doing. So, each player has a “Corsi For” and a “Corsi Against” rating. Corsi Against is simply a Corsi rating for the other team while a player is on the ice.

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Whose Name Should Be On The Back Of Your Golden Knights Jersey

Right now if you head down to The Armory at T-Mobile Arena, you can become one of the first to pre-order a Golden Knights jersey. The tough part is deciding which name to choose to put on the back. We’re here to help aid in that process.

The Safe Picks
Marc-Andre Fleury and Deryk Engelland

The Flower is already the fan favorite in Vegas, and will almost certainly be starting in net on Opening Night. Engelland is the hometown hero who is the only free agent that decided to join the Golden Knights (I know there were others, but c’mon). Both are safe because we are pretty darn sure neither are going to be traded before the season begins. Short term, these are safe and good options. Long term might be a bit riskier.

Fleury has two years left on his contract and the Golden Knights are already lining up options to take over behind him. Odd are Fleury will be around for the entire inaugural season, but his second season and beyond gets tough. He’s going to be a candidate for a deadline deal in 2019 and will likely not remain with the Golden Knights after he hits free agency. Similarly, Engelland will be in Vegas for this season, but the future beyond 2018 is a major question mark. Really can’t go wrong with either, but chances are, you’ll be needing a replacement sooner than later if you go this route.

The Names You Know
James Neal, David Perron, and Brayden McNabb

You can expect every guy on this list to be on the first 23 man roster the Golden Knights release, but they are all going to be dangled to other teams as the season progresses. Here’s the biggest problem with having a jersey with any of these names on the back of it, the better he plays, the more likely he is to be shipped out. So, you are either stuck with a jersey of a guy playing poorly or a guy playing great (for a bad team) who is probably getting traded. Not exactly ideal for your first Golden Knights jersey.

The OGs
Reid Duke and Vadim Shipachyov

Both are great options but come with major concerns. With Duke, the concern is right away in the fact that he’s probably not going to make the team out of camp (and possibly ever). But, he’ll always be the first Golden Knight, he’s an awesome guy , and everybody loves a good underdog story.

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Tangible Evidence Of Cody Eakin’s Intangibles

It’s the intangibles of size, strength, hockey sense, winning battles versus losing battles. That encompasses it. It’s not one thing, it’s everything. -Bruce Boudreau, Capitals Head Coach

That was Boudreau back in 2011 when he was the Capitals head coach under George McPhee. The coach spoke with D.C. media about the type of player the organization wanted. One of the players mentioned was then Caps rookie Cody Eakin. The intangible skills scouts reported could’ve been the reason he was drafted by McPhee in 2009 and then again via Expansion in 2017. Believe in intangibles or not, it’s an aspect that is strongly researched in the NHL. With help from an article in the Toronto Star, here’s an attempt to measure the unmeasurables in Cody Eakin’s game.

Grit

To me, that means there’s a loose puck, and they work like crazy to try and get it back. And if they fall down, they get right back up and try it again. -Ray Ferraro, TSN Hockey Analyst

Back in the WHL, Eakin was labeled as a gritty two-way player. He quickly won over NHL coaches with his aggressive fore-checking, special teams play, and shot-blocking ability. All three skills are in the definition of a gritty player. Eakin will likely anchor the Golden Knights penalty kill while playing an average of 16+ minutes a game. It could increase with the responsibility Coach Gerard Gallant will inevitably put on him. Not known for fighting, the Red Knight is willing to answer the call if necessary. C’mon, Cody knew he wasn’t leaving the ice unscathed after his brutal hit on Handsome Hank.

Hockey Sense

Somebody with good hockey sense can sense what’s going to happen on a certain play. The puck is coming around the boards, a guy with hockey sense will know, ‘the puck is going there, so I’m going here.’ -Larry Robinson, Hall of Fame defenseman

Eakin has been a reliable, versatile center since coming into the league in 2011. Being able to play multiple positions and log heavy minutes is crucial to Gallant. He’ll trust the 25-year-old center in many high-pressure, high-risk, game situations. Even-strength, down a man, or defensive zone face-offs, nothing is too much for Eakin. Labeled a calm player that won’t panic, it’s no wonder he scored eleven game-winning goals. Eakin’s awareness set him up for two playoff game-winning gems. 

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