The Golden Knights have hit a bit of a rough patch injury-wise, especially when it comes to the third and fourth lines. Over the course of the last month or so we’ve seen pretty much everyone play with everyone else.
Now, Tomas Nosek is set to return, which means for the first time in a while All Star head coach Gerrard Gallant will have to make decisions along the bottom six.
The plan for tonight is to run out the lines of Alex Tuch/Cody Eakin/Oscar Lindberg and Ryan Carpenter/Pierre-Edouard Bellemare/Tomas Nosek. Thus breaking up the recently successful Tuch/Bellemare/Carpenter line.
Everyone has their own opinions on who should be playing with whom, so we decided it’s time to put some numbers to the opinions. Have fun with this one…
13 w/ 21
13 w/ 24
13 w/ 40
13 w/ 41
13 w/ 92
21 w/ 24
21 w/ 40
21 w/ 41
21 w/ 92
24 w/ 40
24 w/ 41
24 w/ 92
40 w/ 41
40 w/ 92
41 w/ 92
13 w/ 21 w/ 89
13 w/ 21 w/ 24
40 w/ 41 w/ 89
21 w/ 24 w/ 89
24 w/ 41 w/ 92
Numerically, the most successful line offensively is the Tuch/Bellemare/Carpenter line, but the sample size is rather small. That being said, the line Gallant is going with, Tuch/Eakin/Lindberg has been very good in possession, but the scoring has yet to come (just one goal in 104:36).
This will be the first time Nosek, Carpenter, and Bellemare have been together, but any time Nosek and Bellemare have been very good, especially considering a majority of their zone starts are in the neutral or defensive zone.
Play around with that chart, and see what you can find. Personally, I’d like to see Tuch/Bellemare/Carpenter and Lindberg/Eakin/Nosek, but what do I know, I’m not the front-runner for the Jack Adams award.
Due to a rash of injuries to “fourth” line players like William Carrier and Tomas Nosek, coupled with injuries in the AHL to Tomas Hyka and Brandon Pirri, the Golden Knights were forced to create some abnormal lines for last night’s game in Pittsburgh.
With six available forwards to fill out the bottom two lines, All Star head coach Gerard Gallant chose to play Cody Eakin with Oscar Lindberg and Brendan Leipsic. That left Pierre-Edouard Bellemare with wingers Ryan Carpenter and Alex Tuch.
He may not be finding the net, but at least he’s been creating chances with Tuch. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
The Bellemare line fared just fine against the Penguins, but the supposed third line which racked up a total of 6:28 of ice time as a unit, was nothing short of a disaster.
First off, the Leipsic-Eakin-Lindberg line took five draws as a group, three in the offensive zone, one in the neutral zone, and one in the defensive zone. This is an indicator that Gallant saw the line as more of an attacking threat.
In the seven shifts over those six and a half minutes, the Golden Knights gave up one goal (and another mid-change), were outshot 8-2, and gave up seven scoring chances (four “high danger”) while creating just one of their own. They spent a majority of their time on ice inside of their own zone and were usually forced to change when they finally exited the zone creating a defensive zone start for whichever line followed them.
The worst part of their shifts together is that a majority of them took place with the Penguins fourth line on the ice against them. More than 50% of the time Leipsic, Eakin, and Lindberg were on the ice together, Ryan Reaves and Zachary Aston-Reese were on the ice with them. Aston-Reese is a rookie who was playing in his second career NHL game, and Reaves is an enforcer who’s career possession metrics are among the lowest in the NHL. Between the two of them (who were playing with a mixed third player due to in-game injuries) they have a career 30 goals in 473 games, yet Reaves scored with the Golden Knights third line on the ice.
It just didn’t work together, but it’s no fault of any one of the pieces. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Now, it’s not time to start throwing around hyperbole asking for all three players to be waived tomorrow. A lot of this comes down to chemistry and fit between the styles of play of each individual guy. They just don’t mesh together. If anyone should understand this concept, it should be Golden Knights fans who have watched numerous players bud into stars due to being placed in different circumstances in Vegas than with their former team.
The line of Eakin, Leipsic, and Lindberg isn’t particularly adept at any one skill, but even worse, it really doesn’t fit with the style of play the Golden Knights employ. They are not particularly good in transition, their forechecking is average, and their ability to break out of their own zone is not great… when playing together.
Simply put, that group of three did not work, at all, and Gallant need to recognize it and make the adjustment heading into tomorrow night’s game in San Jose. Offensively a bit will likely be lost taking Tuch away from Carpenter and Bellemare, but two balanced lines outweighs an okay one and a nightmare. Tuch, Eakin, and Leipsic on one line, and Carpenter, Bellemare, and Lindberg on the other, it’s really the only option.
When the Expansion Draft ended there was a lot to look at. There were well-known veteran names, there were up-and-coming goal scorers, there were puck-moving defensemen, and there was a heaping pile of bonus draft picks.
Then there was Alex Tuch.
Give me Leipsic or give me death! (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
One of just two players the Golden Knights gave up an asset to acquire (the other was Reilly Smith), and a prospect that was unlike anything else in the Golden Knights system. A big strong forward with good speed and an innate ability to put the puck in the net. Oh, and he’s 21-years-old, an age that was difficult for the Golden Knights to find players due to the expansion draft rules.
Despite not participating in any previous NHL Entry Drafts, Alex Tuch became a Golden Knights first round pick. Having given up a pick and letting the Wild “escape” the Expansion Draft (didn’t really work for Minnesota), George McPhee put a lot of stock in Tuch. Unlike Shea Theodore, who had just finished up dominating the NHL playoffs, Tuch was unproven at the NHL level. He was a true prospect, and he had/has to be good.
Showing his commitment, Tuch showed up to Development Camp, he came back early for Rookie Camp, and he was always one of the last guys on the ice during full Training Camp. He was putting in the work, his talent was showing, and he appeared to have a spot on the Golden Knights roster.
Due to what was called “a numbers decision” Tuch was sent to the AHL to begin the year. Four games later a pair of injuries opened the door and Tuch was ready to make his Golden Knights debut. In his first game, he scored and tallied an assist, and Vegas won. Since his recall, the Golden Knights have not lost a game at home.
But when the team went on the road, and Tuch wasn’t playing nearly as well. There was a change in his line as Erik Haula was moved away and Cody Eakin came in with Tuch and Oscar Lindberg.
I think with Lindberg we had a good line, we just weren’t finding the right chemistry. I don’t think I was playing well. -Alex Tuch
Recently, Brendan Leipsic was added to the line to replace Lindberg, and since, the results have been astounding.
Last night while playing together that line created 17 shot attempts while allowing just five. They were also on the ice together for two of the Golden Knights four goals. But more importantly than just the statistics, Leipsic’s addition to the line has brought back the Tuch we got used to in his first few appearances and the preseason.
October 3rd is right around the corner. That’s the day NHL teams are required to cut their roster down to the 23-man squad that will begin the regular season. The Golden Knights now have 30 players remaining in camp who are eligible to make the final 23.
It’s not as simple as picking seven guys to send down to the minor leagues though. In the NHL, if you want to “re-assign” a player to the AHL, the player must go through a process called waivers. In short, every team has the option to buy the player’s contract off the Golden Knights and place them on their NHL roster. Unless… the player is waiver exempt, like Shea Theodore, Tomas Hyka, and Alex Tuch.
To this point, 91 players have been placed on waivers in the NHL, including Chris Casto, Paul Thompson, and T.J. Tynan of the Golden Knights. A total of 1 player was claimed (Jordan Nolan LA -> BUF). Over the past three years, more than 1,000 players were placed on waivers prior to the season, only 15 were claimed. It’s not terribly common, but it does happen.
Are Hyka and Tuch worth the risk to try and sneak Nosek through waivers? (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
So, who are the guys Vegas may have to consider trying to slip through the process? Starting with forwards, Brendan Leipsic, Tomas Nosek, Teemu Pulkkinen, and William Carrier are the four players who have 2-way contracts. Assuming the Golden Knights get James Neal back to start the year, which now seems probable, there are four spots available to go to those four players plus Hyka and Tuch. Send the waiver exempt players to the AHL and there’s no risk of losing anyone, but if George McPhee wants to keep Hyka and/or Tuch, he’ll have to roll the dice to try to get someone through.
As the roster continues to thin out with at least five more players being cut (more on this later today), it’s time we start to look at what it’s going to take to put the finishing touches on the final roster the Golden Knights will take to Dallas.
We’ve known since the Expansion Draft ended that there must be a solution to the glut of defensemen in the system, and looking through George McPhee’s preseason roster transaction history, it appears the answer could come soon.
According to Sportstrac.com, the Washington Capitals have only claimed one player (Aaron Volpatti 2/28/13) off waivers in team history, including the 17 years McPhee was at the helm. So we can pretty much rule out a player being added that way. However, don’t mistake a man with an $800 haircut for being content with his roster. I’m guessing, but I’m telling you, it’s a sharp, maintained corporate cut. Sorry, back to hockey. McPhee may not claim players before the opener, but he’ll gladly make trades.
Get healthy man, your roster spot relies on it. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
When you look at the back end of the roster for the Golden Knights there is a group of about seven forwards all vying for a one, possibly two, spots. Of the players in the running to leave camp with that 12th or 13th forward spot, one of them has been absent recently.
That man is Brendan Leipsic, the diminutive forward the Golden Knights selected from the Maple Leafs in the Expansion Draft. He was not skating during the most recent session of practice at City National Arena due to an injury that dates back to Thursday.
He had a minor injury last game in the warm up. He’s going to be five or seven days, no more than that. So it’s nothing major. -Gerard Gallant
That kept Leipsic out of the third preseason game in San Jose, and he was also not in the lineup for the game in Colorado. The injury will certainly keep him out of today’s game in Anaheim, and very well could see him miss Tuesday and Thursday’s preseason games at T-Mobile Arena.
Gallant has made it clear that he wants his roster to be nearly fully formed by the final two preseason games, and with Leipsic not having a chance to perform in a game, his spot on the roster is in serious jeopardy, no matter than his coach is saying in press conferences.
We never cut guys because of injuries. It’s nothing serious, so he’ll do some off-ice stuff the next few days and then he’ll get back on the ice. It won’t eliminate his chances for sure. -Gallant
However, the play of Tomas Hyka and Tyler Wong should have Geroge McPhee and Gallant thinking. All three of forwards play a similar style of game based on speed and scoring. It’s unlikely the Golden Knights will be willing to keep more than one player like these three, so Leipsic’s absence isn’t easily overlooked.
See ya in 5 to 7 days my friend. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Wong scored a hat trick in the preseason opener and Hyka has scored in every game in which he’s dressed for the Golden Knights (including a pair of rookie games in El Segundo).
Coach may not cut players because of injuries, but he’s also probably not in the business of taking jobs from guys playing well in favor of ones who haven’t been able to get on the ice. We have no idea where each player stands, but if it’s close, which we believe it probably is, Leipsic needs to get back out there by Thursday, and needs to perform when he does.
I remember it like yesterday, writing articles about meetings The Creator was having with the league making presentations in conjunction with Quebecor trying to sell the idea of expanding the league. Now, I’m about to take a shot at picking the 23 players who are going to make the roster when the Vegas Golden Knights play the first regular season game in franchise history. Crazy.
Due to the fact that the Golden Knights are expected to keep eight defensemen, there are some tough decisions on the back end of this list. The first nine are pretty well set in stone, the final four will be selected from a pool of seven.
The first who makes the list is Pulkkinen, and that has a lot to do with this skill set. His shooting ability is borderline elite in the NHL and he’s never really had a lot of time to prove himself in the league. However, the reasoning for his inclusion is more in the fact that he sticks out as a different style of player than the rest of the group. There are fast guys, there are big guys, but there’s no one else quite like him.
Next is Tuch. This one has a lot to do with the way he’s been playing on the ice, but it has even more to do with the fact that he’s one of the very few Golden Knights George McPhee paid to bring in. McPhee gave up a 3rd round pick to get Tuch from the Wild and he’s done everything in his power (including attending Development Camp) to make the roster. Wouldn’t be completely stunning if he’s sent to Chicago, but it would be a bit of a surprise.
Congrats Will Carrier, you made the team! Well, SinBin’s idea of the team. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
That brings us to the final two spots. I selected Hyka and Carrier out of the group including Brendan Leipsic, Tomas Nosek, and Tyler Wong. Hyka has been playing great hockey both in game action as well as in practice. It seems like every time the puck is near him he’s making things happen. That was also the case for Wong in the preseason game, and in rookie camp, but hasn’t been quite as apparent since the veterans showed up. Leipsic is an incredibly similar player to both Hyka and Wong, but simply hasn’t flashed throughout camp or in the one preseason game in which he played. For smaller speedy players, they should stick out like a sore thumb on the ice, skating by people and scoring goals. One of these three did that better than the other two. Hyka has also never played an NHL game, which represents massive upside for a guy who’s had this much success in camp and was singled out by the Golden Knights prior to the Expansion Draft. It’s a risky move considering McPhee would have to hope Leipsic can sneak through waivers without losing him, but Hyka deserves the spot more than Leipsic at this point, so it’s worth the risk.