When the Golden Knights hit the ice tomorrow for their first preseason game of the 2019-20 season, there will be a few familiar faces to most Vegas fans, but there will also be a lot of new ones too.
The team currently has 29 forwards, 17 defensemen, and five goalies available in camp. Ryan Reaves has been ruled out with an injury for what we expect to be a majority of camp but should not roll into the regular season, and Shea Theodore was described as behind in his conditioning due to his offseason procedure which leaves him unavailable for the first week or two.
That means the coaching staff has 51 players to select from when making their 20 man roster to ice on Sunday afternoon. Historically (which means the last two years), the Golden Knights go very young in their first few games. Dylan Ferguson was the goalie for each of the preseason openers and multiple rookies played both at the forward and defense. Here’s a look at how they lined it up each of the first two seasons.
2018-19 Preseason Game 1
2017-18 Preseason Game 1
By rule, the NHL requires each team to ice at least eight veterans in every NHL exhibition game. (We believe the Golden Knights were issued an exemption in their first preseason game in 2017-18 as there are only three veterans in that lineup.) That’s why you see names like Pacioretty, Marchessault, Karlsson, and Holden mixed among a mass of players who have yet to make their NHL debuts.
What is more interesting though is the experimentation that goes along with the preseason. Last season, the Golden Knights tried a rash of different bottom-six options. In fact, through all seven games, they never played a third line that matched the one they used on Opening Night.
In 2017-18, the Golden Knights did not roster a single line that played together in Dallas for the franchises first game.
Gerard Gallant did, however, use the entire preseason last year to cement his ideas for the top six. Marchessault and Karlsson played five preseason games together and were matched up with their linemate Reilly Smith in four of the five (Smith didn’t play the other game). Pacioretty and Stastny found themselves on the same line for four of the five games Max played and all four of Paul’s. They rotated between Tuch and Haula on their wing, with Haula eventually winning that spot as Tuch was injured in the final preseason game.