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Comparing Current & Former VGK Rookie Seasons

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Cody Glass and Nic Hague were drafted together in 2017 as the first homegrown generation of Golden Knights. The two rookies were selected alongside Nick Suzuki and Eric Brannstrom potentially in what appeared to be the Golden Knights future core. Obviously, things changed and Suzuki and Brannstrom were traded to other organizations. However, Golden Knights fans will always keep an eye on the two former prospects.

In Montreal, fans are frustrated with the Canadiens dim playoff chances but Suzuki is pleasantly surprising Habs nation.

His hockey IQ certainly stands out… he knows where to go instinctively. He knows who to take, he knows the area to cover. The puck seems to follow him. Players with good IQ’s, that’s what happens.- Dan Robertson, TSN Montreal PxP

The 20-year-old is 7th on Montreal’s roster in goals and overall points. He began the year in a bottom-six role, averaging 13 minutes per game, but now he’s a second-line winger. He’s making an impact on the Canadiens power play, chipping in seven PP points. His playing time went up and so did his production. In 40 games, the 13th overall pick in 2017 has three multi-point games, one in which he registered three assists. Currently, Suzuki is in the top five in NHL rookie scoring along with Olafsson, Makar, Q.Hughes, and Mikheyev.

In comparison, Cody Glass has pitched in as well as a Golden Knight, but not quite to the level of Suzuki in Montreal.  In 35 games, the Golden Knights rookie has played mostly on the third line but he’s added 6 power play points. Unfortunately, Glass missed a handful of games due to injury but many Golden Knights fans are still impatient and hoping for more. It becomes increasingly difficult to calm folks down when Suzuki is having such success in Montreal.

 Cody GlassNick Suzuki
Games3540
Goals47
Assists716
Points1123
Points Per Game0.330.58
Rating-7-3
Power Play Points67
Shots4766
Shooting Percentage8.5%10.6%
Time On Ice13:2915:05

The story changes a bit when you look at the defensive rookies side-by-side. Vegas fans have nothing to be disappointed about in that respect. Hague has played in 30 of VGK’s 42 games and has shown a lot in his time on ice. Whereas Brannstrom is still trying to figure out his role.

In Vegas, the 6’6″, 21-year-old rearguard worked his way from beginning the season paired with a Deryk Engelland, to now skating consistently with Shea Theodore. It shows the coaching staff trusts him more with tougher assignments and keeping up with the high-level Theodore brings. Although Hague is without his first NHL goal, the rookie defender is releasing 1.13 shots per game and eventually his laser slapshot will hit the back of the net.

Up in Ottawa, the Senators sent Brannstrom down to the AHL in early December. According to the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch, the Swedish defenseman needed to rebuild his confidence.

A healthy scratch for only the second time this season as the Senators faced the Oilers, the decision was made by general manager Pierre Dorion, coach D.J. Smith and the rest of the staff that the time had come to send Brannstrom down because he wasn’t playing up to his capabilities in the NHL… Not only was Brannstrom struggling to contribute offensively — he is still looking for his first NHL goal — while getting lots of opportunities in those situations, his game had taken a turn for the worse defensively because he was taking gambles, trying to get points. –Bruce Garioch, 12/05/19

What drew the Golden Knights scouting staff to draft Brannstrom was his offense and creativity with the puck. However, the Senators were concerned he wasn’t progressing properly and felt the risky, young d-man needed some more time in the AHL. Garioch speculated that there could’ve been a bit pressure on the 20-year-old, after all, Brannstrom was the centerpiece of the Mark Stone trade. In mid-December, Ottawa recalled the undersized rookie and he’s since been averaging 17+ minutes per game.

 Nic HagueErik Brannstrom
Games3030
Goals00
Assists74
Points Per Game0.230.13
Rating-2-9
Shots3434
On Ice Goals For2716
On Ice Goals Against2524
Time On Ice16:1014:43

While the comparisons are still premature, considering these players have lengthy careers ahead of them, their rookie seasons won’t determine anything in regards to their success. Glass and Suzuki will always be compared throughout their hockey lives because of their positions, but mostly because Vegas traded one of them for Max Pacioretty. Hague and Brannstrom don’t compare much at all. Either way, if all four rookies turn out to be successful NHL players, Vegas fans should feel confident about the organization’s scouting department, and the prospects they draft in the future.

An Idea On How To Deploy The Bottom Six When Cody Eakin Returns

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s not the way anyone envisioned it coming to be, but the 3rd line of William Carrier, Cody Glass, and Alex Tuch was formed three games ago. In those three games, the Golden Knights have earned points in each and won two on the road.

They’ve also received three goals and five assists from that line. They’ve created eight scoring chances in 26 minutes of play and have a 54% Corsi.

But where they’ve been best is in the eye test. Since the Golden Knights have been a franchise, they’ve never had a 3rd line look as good as Carrier, Glass, and Tuch have looked over the past three games. Tuch is driving offense, Glass is controlling the defensive end, and Carrier is winning puck battles helping set up the cycle to spend time in the offensive zone.

Tuch has returned to the right-wing, Glass to his natural center position, and Carrier is playing with the most offensive talent since he’s been a Golden Knight. It’s not the perfect line, but it’s certainly an upgrade on what they’ve gotten throughout this season with Cody Eakin as the center.

Tuch scored just one goal in 10 games with Eakin. He has three with Glass and Carrier. Glass has just three assists in 23 games playing with Eakin. He has two in three games with Tuch and Carrier.

However, the fourth line hasn’t looked quite the same without Carrier. Ryan Reaves has struggled without Carrier recording just five hits in three games while Carrier was on the 3rd line. Tomas Nosek still appears to play better as a center than a winger. And Stephenson scored the goal, but doesn’t quite seem a match for Nosek and Reaves.

Eakin remains out week-to-week with an upper body injury, so the decision on where to put him when he returns is not imminent, but after just three games on the road, it might be time to start considering where else he might fit.

The key question moving forward will become usage. Eakin has averaged about 15 minutes of ice time each season with the Golden Knights. That’s normal for a 3rd line center with penalty-killing duties. But, if he finds himself relegated to the 4th line, his TOI will likely drop under 10 minutes per game as has been the case for Reaves in 66% of games this season. That also means relying more heavily on Glass, something Gerard Gallant has not shown a willingness to do. (He’s played more than 14 minutes in less than half his NHL appearances.)

Vegas has never used an interchanging line system throughout an entire game, but they may want to consider it when Eakin is ready to return. With Glass, Eakin, Carrier, Reaves (or Nosek), Tuch, and Stephenson, there are multiple combinations that can be deployed depending on the situation.

Rather than lay out the standard two lines and roll them over, they could be mixed and matched depending on draw location, score, matchup, and stamina. Here are just a few of the logical trios that could be made out of that group.

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3rd Line Desperately Needs A Shakeup

The Golden Knights 3rd line this season has been an absolute disaster.

And that’s putting it politely.

Six games with Pirri-Eakin-Glass. Four games with Pirri-Stastny-Zykov. Three games with Zykov-Eakin-Glass. Three games with Nosek-Eakin-Glass. One game with Pirri-Eakin-Stone.

That’s 17 games, and those 3rd lines amassed a total of one goal. A single goal scored by Cody Glass against the Calgary Flames, which if this were soccer, would have been an own goal credited to Mark Giordano.

Individually, it doesn’t look much better.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Cody Glass – 18 games, 3 goals, 7 points*
Tomas Nosek – 17 games, 3 goals, 4 points**
Cody Eakin – 14 games, 0 goals, 3 points
Brandon Pirri – 10 games, 0 goals, 1 point
Valentin Zykov – 7 games, 0 goals, 2 points

*Glass played four games on the 2nd line. He scored one goal and had two assists in those games
**All three of Nosek’s goals were scored shorthanded or with the 4th line

But they aren’t supposed to be an offensive line. Right? That’s the bill of goods that’s been sold since the Golden Knights installed Eakin as the 3rd line center midway through the 2017-18 season.

Well, they aren’t good defensively either.

Eakin ranks as one of the 15 worst forwards with at least 100 minutes played this season with a 41.3% Corsi. He’s the 21st worst skater in the NHL at shot percentage at 40.8%, and he ranks in at least the 200th worst of 292 NHL forwards in goals against per 60, expected goals against per 60, and scoring chances against per 60. He’s been less than stellar in the faceoff circle winning at just a 46.4% clip, the worst of any Golden Knight with at least 100 draws. He has a -7 +/- rating, the worst of any Golden Knight. He’s one of four VGK skaters with a 0.0 defensive point shares number (the other three are Tuch, Roy and Bischoff who have played a combined 10 games). And, he’s registered just three takeaways, the least of any player with at least eight games played.

Pirri is right there with Eakin in all of the advanced stat numbers with a Corsi of 42.2%, shot percentage of 36.4%, and an expected goals for percentage of 41.8%. He’s been on the ice for just two goals while allowing five, and that’s including his 28:16 of power play time. He’s a -3, and has a -0.2 point share number which means if you simply subtracted Pirri and Eakin from the roster completely stats say they’d be almost half a point better in the standings.

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Golden Knights Award Campaigns

I was watching TV last night when I saw an ad for a candidate running for President in 2020.  That got me thinking. We’re already a month into the NHL season, should we start the campaign for Golden Knights to win individual awards?

I was still lukewarm on the idea, seeing as Vegas has only played 13 games and the awards show is seven months away. But then, my mind was instantly changed.

A second ad for Tom Steyer!

I figured if Tom is already trying to get my vote in November of 2020, it’s fair for me to start talking/writing about Mark Stone winning the Hart, Cody Glass for Calder, or Valentin Zykov for Masterton (he’s got about as much a chance as Tom 2020, right?)

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Hart Trophy – Most Valuable Player
VGK Candidate: Mark Stone

Stone currently sits in 9th place in both goals and points through the first month of the season. Of course, in order to win the Hart, he’ll need to jump into the top five at the very least, but a 100+ point effort from one of the league’s best defensive forwards would definitely warrant consideration. If Stone can keep on this pace, he’ll be pushing the century mark and he’ll likely be doing it for a team that’s running away with the Pacific Division by March. Honestly, it will probably take an injury or two to a few of the main candidates, but the longer Stone stays in the top 10 in points, the stronger the candidacy will get.

Vezina Trophy – Top Goaltender
VGK Candidate: Marc-Andre Fleury

Fleury currently leads the league in wins, minutes, saves, and point shares for goalies. He’s posted a .928 save percentage and 2.30 goals against average, both of which are better than the numbers Andrei Vasilevskiy put up en route to his Vezina last year. Fleury has made a countless number of incredible saves and is the main reason the Golden Knights are 8-5-0 rather than 5-8-0. Vegas seems once again primed to run him out there 60+ times this season which means he should be at or near the top in every statistical category for goalies when the season is over. It’s literally the only thing he hasn’t done in his career. Hopefully this is the year.

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Unless The Third Line Produces Cody Glass Should Be The Center

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

During the four games Cody Eakin was out to start the year the Golden Knights experimented with centers Cody Glass on the second line and Paul Stastny on the third. However, it was obvious based on Gerard Gallant’s answers that very little, if any, thought was necessary in figuring out where Eakin would play when he was ready to return. The moment he was ready to go, Eakin found his normal role as the third line center. This moved Stastny up to the second line and pushed 20-year-old rookie Glass to the wing.

Vegas is comfortable with Eakin as the third line center, and they should be as they’ve won 100 of their first 173 games with Eakin in that position for a majority of them. But, after five games of lackluster performance, the time has come for reconsideration from the Vegas coaching staff.

In five games with Eakin as the center between Glass and either Brandon Pirri or Valentin Zykov, the third line has scored just one goal in 42:39 of even-strength ice time. They’ve managed just 22 shots on goal and have created only five high-danger scoring chances. To make matters worse, the one goal came on a puck that was deflected by a Flames defenseman into his own net and happened with less than three minutes left in a three-goal game. Aside from it padding the stats, it really was meaningless.

In other words, the third line with Cody Eakin as the center has created absolutely nothing offensively over five games and 42+ minutes of ice time.

Just look at how they compare to the other three lines.

 G/60S/60SC/60HDSC/60
1st Line3.635.436.114.2
2nd Line2.136.027.59.5
3rd Line1.430.125.37.0
4th Line1.829.828.012.1

The third line is the worst in every single category except shots on goal, in which they are just one shot better than the fourth line.

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New Wrinkle On Power Play Providing Extra Element

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights power play was much maligned last year. They finished the season 25th in the NHL, converting on just 16.8% of their chances.

To make matters worse, it didn’t improve with the addition of one of the most dangerous power play weapons in team history, Mark Stone. After the deadline, Vegas hit on just 7 of 45 power-play opportunities or 15.6%. They picked it up dramatically in the postseason, running at a 27.5% clip, but it was all against the same team, and it fell off a cliff in Games 6 and 7 when they went 0 for 5 and gave up a shorthanded game-winner.

This year, the Golden Knights have connected on 6 of their 20, 30%, which has them in 6th place in the NHL through 6 games.

Last game in Los Angeles, the power play looked unstoppable, going 3 for 3 and creating opportunities consistently. I set out to figure out what, if any, differences there were on the power play between now and last year (especially in the playoffs when the personnel was most similar).

The first thing to focus on is the entry. Vegas consistently uses a drop pass which leads to a puck carrier with speed brinign the puck through the neutral zone. He then brings it in himself or drops it off to one of the two wingers standings at the blue line. The Golden Knights strayed from this entry for a bit in the playoffs, but returned to it by the end of the series. So, for the most part, that’s completely unchanged.

The units are not far off from what they were against the Sharks in the postseason. The better unit includes Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Paul Stastny, Shea Theodore. The other unit includes Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, and William Karlsson. The difference that Cody Glass in now in for Alex Tuch on the first unit, and Nic Hague and Valentin Zykov are in for Colin Miller and Cody Eakin on the second.

What this has done has created a small difference in the default layout the Golden Knights use once they enter the zone and are completely set up. It’s literally the only difference I can find, but there does seem to be a contrast in how the units operate due to the change.

To illustrate it, we head to the grease board!

Power Play setup last year with Tuch

Power Play setup this year with Glass

As you can see, the only difference is where Glass and Tuch play. Tuch is set up directly in front of the net with the idea of screening the goalie and picking up rebounds, while Glass is under the goal line as an extra passing option.

The main difference is the options that are presented for the two guys in the circles when they have the puck (Pacioretty and Stone).

Last year with Tuch

This year with Glass

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Carp: Managing Injuries A Tricky Proposition

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

Every hockey team has to deal with injuries. But the successful ones manage theirs better.

The Golden Knights have been tested earlier than most teams. They started this season without forwards Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin, two key components. Then they lost defenseman Nate Schmidt on opening night after he and San Jose’s Logan Couture collided in the 1st period.

And of course, no injury report would be complete without including goaltender Malcom Subban, who got hurt Thursday in Arizona and forcing Marc-Andre Fleury to work on what was supposed to be a night off.

The Knights’ ability to manage their injuries has varied in their brief existence. They somehow were able to survive after Fleury sustained a concussion early in the inaugural season and wound up missing two months. They also lost Subban and Oscar Dansk during that time too.

And they always seem to manage to compensate whenever William Carrier self-destructs and goes on Injured Reserve. Carrier’s style of play lends himself to getting hurt but to ask him to adjust and play it safe would make him ineffective. He was superb Saturday in the 6-2 win over Calgary, registering a goal and an assist in what was the first multi-point game of his career. He has to play the way he does so you live with the consequences.

You could look at Schmidt’s 20 games missed due to suspension last year as an injury because it forced others to fill the gaps, something the defense didn’t do a particularly good job of. The team struggled without him. And with Schmidt out for who knows how long, once again, the defense is under the microscope.

The hope was the youngsters — Nic Hague, Jimmy Schuldt, perhaps Dylan Coghlan or Jake Bischoff would step up and play well enough to solidify things. So far, that hasn’t manifested itself. Coghlan started the season in the minors, Schuldt joined him Friday, Bischoff got recalled from the Wolves, Hague has not distinguished himself and who knows how long Gerard Gallant sticks with him?

There was some good news from the infirmary. Eakin returned to the lineup Saturday against the Flames and the Knights will welcome his ability in the faceoff circle to win draws, to kill penalties and, most important, spearhead a tenacious forecheck and create turnovers.

If there was a common thread in the losses to Boston and Arizona, it was the lack of a strong forecheck game by the Knights’ forwards. When the forecheck is working, the game becomes vastly different. Opposing teams can’t transition as easily from defense to offense. Scoring opportunities suddenly emerge. The ice gets tilted in Vegas’ favor.

Eakin helps provide that with his tenacity.

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Eakin’s Return Will Shuffle Vegas’ Centers

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

All signs point towards center Cody Eakin resuming the same role tonight he’s performed effectively for the past two seasons. Arguably, one of the better third line centers in the NHL, Eakin’s return to duty is integral to the Golden Knights and their Stanley Cup chase.

He’s a huge player to our team. He works hard, he’s quick and he wins a lot of draws. He’s an easy guy too play with. And on the ice he’s one of the leaders. I gladly welcome him back.-William Karlsson

A healthy Eakin completes Vegas’ depth down the middle. It allows Gerard Gallant to solidify his second line, by reuniting Paul Stastny with Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone. Unfortunately, it could be a harsh reality for young center Cody Glass. Who will either be on the wing or on the bench tonight against Calgary. (If practice Friday was any indication, it’ll be the latter.) (Update: It wasn’t any indication. Glass is headed to the wing.)

That so-called second line can play with each other, they’ve had a lot of success together. For our line, we get matchups that we can play against top lines because Cody [Eakin] can shut them down. It creates transition. -Brandon Pirri

Brandon Pirri will likely play on the third line anchored by Eakin. He quipped about Gerard Gallant’s ‘so-called’ expression, but there’s no question as to what the coach expects from his third line.

He’s so solid defensively and he allows creative guys a little more room to more to make plays. He can make up for the little mistakes here and there. With his speed he can get back and catch those guys. -Pirri

An underrated aspect to Eakin’s game is his speed. He has the ability to break out and create a rush, and quickly get back to defend. Eakin’s two-way play can greatly benefit offensive wingers like Pirri, and eventually Alex Tuch.

He creates a ton of speed, he’s one of the best skaters in the league. He pushes defenses back and creates a gap for guys like me who are looking for high ice a little more. -Pirri

We’ll see how Gallant sets his lineup tonight, but it appears Eakin is playing, and he’s almost certainly centering the third line. Which leaves questions about Glass’ immediate and long-term role this year. I’m sure it’ll be addressed eventually by the coaching staff and front office, but for now, it’s nothing but positive words in press conferences from the head coach and a spot on the wing for #9.

Max Pacioretty Remembers Specific Play To Illustrate Cody Glass’s Elite Hockey IQ

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s time for another edition of “Illustrating Cody Glass’s Hockey IQ.” About a week ago we broke down his ability to use the stick lift to harass opposing players, something he’s continued to do well through his first two NHL games. Today’s example was pointed out by Max Pacioretty following the home opener on Wednesday.

I really liked one play in the 1st period when – it might have been offside but – he got a puck bouncing by their bench and instead of just throwing it in with the (first game) jitters, he found Stone in the middle and Stone was able to make a play and it almost resulted in a good offensive chance. -Pacioretty

Glass loses the puck, then gets it back, and makes a perfect pass to Stone as he enters the zone. The play went for nothing, but it made a profound impact on Pacioretty.

It’s just little plays like that in your first NHL game, you have the puck and you don’t know where anyone is on the ice but you have your head up and hit Stone in the middle it just takes very good poise. He a gut that sees plays and he makes them, he doesn’t make hope plays, and that’s why he’s so successful. -Pacioretty

Bear in mind, I didn’t ask Pacioretty about this play. My question to him that spurred this response was about whether or not he saw any first game jitters from Glass. He instantly said “no,” then went on talk about this play, before finishing up by laying loads of praise Glass.

I went back to Glass to see if he remembered the play, which he did, but he gave all the credit for that play right back to his linemates.

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Cody Glass Stands Tall On Line With Max Pacioretty And Mark Stone

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Yesterday afternoon Cody Glass tried going through the same routine he always does on game day. On the day of his first career NHL game though, one particular piece of that routine was going to be tough.

After Morning Skate: I usually pregame nap, so that’ll probably be a little bit hard this afternoon. I’m just very excited. -Glass

After the game: Terrible. I couldn’t sleep. It was one of those sleeps where my eyes were closed but I still still wide awake.

Not only was Glass getting ready to play his first NHL game, he was set to become the first draft pick in Golden Knights history to suit up in a game, and to raise the stakes, his name was listed on the lineup card in between Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty as the 2nd line center.

It was a hell of an ask for a 20-year-old rookie who doesn’t even have a fraction of a professional season under his belt. There’s a ton of responsibility that comes with playing up the lineup with incredibly high-end talents like Stone and Pacioretty, and it takes a lot of confidence in a coach to make the call to put him there, especially on opening night against the team’s fiercest rival.

After one game, it was a rousing success.

Glass saw nearly 10 minutes of even-strength ice time with Stone and Pacioretty and didn’t share the ice with any other line for a full shift at any time during the game. Aside from a few defensive zone draws (literally one or two) that were taken by Paul Stastny, Glass centered the 2nd line the entire night posting a goal and not allowing one themselves.

Whenever that kid goes out on the ice he just goes out there, sees a play and makes it. You don’t see too many young guys with that mentality. I’ve never seen one to be honest and that’s what makes him so special and while he’ll keep improving. -Pacioretty

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