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Golden Knights Who Could Be Heading To The Olympics In 2022

As we inch closer to the NHL and NHLPA agreeing on a plan to finish out the 2019-20 season, word has leaked out that an amendment to the CBA will pave the way for NHL players to participate in the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.

The league blocked players from playing in the 2018 games citing an unwillingness to put the NHL season on halt for upwards of two months. Russia’s KHL took 33 days off for an Olympic break in 2018, Sweden’s SHL took 14, and leagues in Germany, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic took nearly three weeks each.  The last three times NHL players have gone to the Olympics the league took a two-week break.

So, with the prospect of being without the Golden Knights for two weeks in the middle of the 2021-22 season, we’ll have to hope a few Golden Knights make Olympic rosters. Here’s a look at which ones have the best chance.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Mark Stone – Canada

It’s hard to believe a roster with the option to select Mark Stone would be without him, but it is actually possible. He should be a lock as the best defensive winger in the NHL and nearly a point per game producer with size and an incredible stick, but the list of Canadian forwards is vast and depending on the type of team they are going for, there’s a legitimate argument to leave him off.

In the end, not selecting Stone would be a mistake Team Canada will probably not make.

William Karlsson – Sweden

Sweden is surprisingly a bit weak when it comes to the center position. By 2022, there’s going to be an argument to be made for Karlsson as the best Swedish center available. Nicklas Backstrom will be 34-years-old, so it’ll be between Karlsson and Mika Zibanejad. Karlsson will probably find himself down the lineup a bit due to his defensive prowess, but with the wingers Team Sweden boasts, every line is going to be potent.

Assuming health, Karlsson will be headed to Beijing.

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Shots Shots Shots Shots Shots Shots, Everybody

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In the shortened 2019-20 regular season the Golden Knights led the NHL with 34.5 shots on goal per game. In fact, since they entered the league Vegas has averaged the second-most shots per game over that three-season span.

Vegas led the entire NHL in 19-20 with 28 victories when they won the SOG battle. That’s 71% of their total wins for the season. The Golden Knights went 28-12-7 (.670), and are now 92-43-13 (.665) in franchise history when they’ve outshot other teams. Compare that to their 11-12-1 (.479) record this year when they were outshot and 35-37-9 (.488) all-time.

In 22 games as Golden Knights coach, DeBoer’s club outscored opponents 19 times, and went a stellar 13-4-2.

The bulk of the shots come mostly from the Golden Knights top-six forwards. Max Pacioretty led the team averaging 4.32 shots per game, followed by Jonathan Marchessault. Shea Theodore and Alex Tuch do their part as well, both creating several scoring chances per night. When DeBoer gets all of his weapons firing on net, opposing goaltenders have to play at their best, or else it’ll likely be a long night.

VGK Shot Leaders

Max Pacioretty: 4.32 S/GP
Jonathan Marchessault: 3.56 S/GP
Shea Theodore: 3.08 S/GP
Mark Stone: 2.58 S/GP
Reilly Smith: 2.38 S/GP
Alex Tuch: 2.33 S/GP
William Karlsson: 2.19 S/GP

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Pacioretty Unleashed His Wrist Shot In 2019-20

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty was one of three players to accumulate 300+ shots in the regular season. The two other players were Nathan McKinnon and Alexander Ovechkin; prestigious company. However, when you break it down by types of shot, Pacioretty led the entire league with 192 wrist shots. A shot in which #67 is known for.

Pacioretty must’ve come into the season focused on letting his wrist shot go more often than he did 2018-19. In his second year with the Golden Knights, the 31-year-old forward released 94 more wrist shots. Which worked out nicely for his club.

Not only did his wrist shot release go up but so did its effectiveness. Pacioretty added nine more wrist shot goals in 2019-20 and ended up having statistically one of his better seasons. His 0.93 points per game was a career-high for the 12-year veteran.

2018-19: 66 Games, 98 Wrist Shots, 12 Wrist Shot Goals
2019-20: 71 Games, 192 Wrist Shots, 21 Wrist Shot Goals

Pacioretty totaled 30 SOG in last season’s playoffs series against San Jose, scoring five goals in seven games. Unsurprisingly, 23 of 30 were wrist shots, and four of his five goals were from wrist shots. Any goalie should know what to expect from Pacioretty, the problem is whether they can save it or not.

Pacioretty’s pinpoint lasers create challenges for opposing goaltenders, especially when they’re being screened. His goal in Game 4 against the Sharks’ Martin Jones illustrates exactly how nasty and nearly impossible his wrister is to stop.

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“We’re Built To Play”; In Front Of Fans Or Not

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s going to be different. It’s going to be quiet. It’s going to be weird.

But according to Mark Stone, it’s going to be just as intense as ever when the games finally get going in front of empty seats at a hub city somewhere in North America.

No matter what the surroundings or what the setting is, I think the intensity is going to be there. -Stone

Vegas fans are so used to seeing their team play in front of 18,000 screaming fans inside of a building with a sound system that makes jet engines sound like lullabies. They’re also used to players both home and away explaining how important to fans are to the success of the Golden Knights.

But the fact of the matter is when you take it all away, as awkward as it will look visually, hockey is still hockey and the best players in the world will be competing for the same prize they’ve dreamed of winning since they were young boys.

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Golden Knights Return To City National Arena For Small Group Sessions

Phase 2 of the NHL’s Return to Play protocol is underway which meant groups of six players were allowed to resume training on the ice at team facilities.

The Golden Knights provided a video of one of those groups including Marc-Andre Fleury, Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny, Nick Holden, and Deryk Engelland.

Group sessions are expected to continue for the next six weeks or so until the league re-opens for training camps prior to the 24-team playoff. The target date to start training camps is mid-July while the hope is to start playing games in early August.

Theodore Anything But Marginalized On A Power Play

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If you had a chance to watch SinBin’s Virtual Game Show, you would’ve seen me guess incorrectly which player leads the Golden Knights organization in power play assists. I answered Jonathon Marchessault with 27 PP assists, but was off by one.

Defenseman Shea Theodore leads the franchise with 28 power play assists. Based on games played it was a bit surprising, but when you check his man-advantage time on ice, it clearly makes sense. With over 567 PP minutes served for the Golden Knights, Theodore has become Vegas’ ace in the hole on the power play.

TSN’s Travis Yost argues over the past few years defensemen have been marginalized on the PP. Mostly because a majority of teams use a four forward unit. The Golden Knights have been one of those clubs. Sure, we’ve seen variations of 5-on-4 lines but Theodore is usually the lone defenseman. Which is why he’s gradually become more effective on Vegas’ power play. His PP statistics prove while he’s a valuable asset, blueliners overall are underutilized on offensive special teams.

It’s not a trivial data point. A few years ago, teams started to shift towards a four-forward power play because it yielded more scoring opportunities and, consequently, goals. –Travis Yost, TSN

This season, Theodore had the 17th most power play points in the NHL for a defenseman.

2017-18: 9 PP Points (1 Goal, 8 Assists)
2018-19: 8 PP Points (4 Goals, 4 Assists)
2019-20: 16 PP Points (1 Goal, 15 Assists)

Without a doubt the 24-year-old has become the Golden Knights #1 blueline option on the PP. Theodore’s PP TOI% is 70.6% (5th in the NHL), showing he’s deployed like John Carlson, Torey Krug, Rasmus Dahlin, and Kris Letang.

Need further evidence? Don’t mind if I do.

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Late Round Pick Success Stories Give Hope For Jack Dugan

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In 2010, the Ottawa Senators took a flier in the 6th round on an 18-year-old awkward skater from Winnipeg. The Golden Knights took a similar chance in the 5th round in 2017 on Jack Dugan, a player with close to the same build.

As a young player, I had to do a lot of things to even make it here… I wasn’t a very good skater. That was documented when I was 12 years old. Everyone told me I couldn’t skate. -Mark Stone

Going back to the 2012 NHL draft, only 106 of the 729 players selected in the 5th round or later have suited up to play in an NHL game. Only 28 have played more than 100 games.

A few have been successful in the NHL, but none have become elite like Stone. The former Wheat King, Senator, and current Golden Knight is an outlier when it comes to late draft picks. Stone has enjoyed eight seasons in the NHL, scoring 385 points, 601 takeaways, and is valued at $9.5M per year. Finding a player with that resume after the first three rounds takes incredible scouting, trust, and let’s face it, luck.

We’re still probably a year or two away from Jack Dugan even breaking into the NHL, but he’s trending in the direction of a late-round steal just like Stone.

At the time of the draft, Dugan’s scouting reports were lukewarm. Some thought he had the skill and eventual size to play a bottom-six role in the NHL.

Jack Dugan Scouting Reports:

The Hockey News
Every draft has sleepers, dark horses and late bloomers and Dugan may be a hidden gem that encompasses all three. A big, aggressive and raw talent who was passed over.

Dobber Prospects
Dugan is a late bloomer who is big, aggressive and is loaded with raw talent.

HockeyProspect.com Black Book
Isn’t a smooth skater but moves well and handles the puck at his top speed. We like his potential, has size, skill and a good hockey IQ.

Mark Stones Scouting Reports:

Hockey’s Future
Probability of success: C
The size and hands are there as is the willingness to work the boards and get to the dirty areas. The one noticeable weakness is his choppy stride which he’s working on and has spent time with the Ottawa skating coach improving his foot-speed. Smart on the ice and well-spoken off of it, Stone has the talent, intensity and work ethic to get himself to the NHL in time.

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DeBoer: “I’m A Believer In A Captain”

Since the beginning, the Golden Knights have had 23 captains. Technically, they’ve had about 10 with a variety of players wearing “A’s” through the first three seasons, but the underlying mantra of “23 captains” has been a part of the fabric of the Golden Knights’ locker room since they first got together back in September of 2017.

With the new coach in town, that could be changing in the very near future.

I’m a believer in a captain and I think we have a lot of candidates in that dressing room. I’m still getting to know the group, but that’s something I’ll have to discuss with Bill Foley and George and Kelly and see what their feeling is on it. -Pete DeBoer on VGK Q&A Podcast for season ticket holders

Vegas is one of five teams in the NHL currently without a captain. They are also the only team that has not had a captain in any of the previous three years. No captainless team has won the Stanley Cup since 1972.

I think the reason we didn’t have a captain in Vegas, to begin with, was the identity of this team, basically coming out of expansion you were getting all these guys that were left unprotected or traded for, was the strength of the team was going to be in the group. -DeBoer

That reason was repeated time and time again by management, coaches, and the players during the Gallant era. DeBoer thinks the time is near that the first “C” is stitched into a Golden Knights jersey.

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Season “End” Stat Leaderboards Lacking Many Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When, how, or if the NHL season picks back up will probably remain a mystery for a while longer, but every day that ticks off the calendar it becomes clearer and clearer the regular season will not be completed in its entirety.

They may come back and play a few games or they may even eliminate a few games and backdate the season to the 68-game mark to make it even. Either way, the stats on the board currently are likely to be pretty close to what ultimately goes down in the record books for the 2019-20 regular season.

Despite playing 71 games, with most of the rest of the league playing fewer than 70, the Golden Knights have a player listed in the top 10 of just two standard offensive statistical categories. Max Pacioretty’s 307 shots on goal have him ranked 3rd behind Nathan MacKinnon and Alex Ovechkin and Ryan Reaves led the NHL in hits with 316.

But that’s it. No one’s in the top 10 in goals, assists, points, +/-, shooting percentage, PIM, TOI, blocks, faceoff stats, or even point shares.

Here’s a look at the Golden Knights’ highest ranking in each statistical category.

Goals
Leader – David Pastrnak: 48
VGK – Max Pacioretty: 32

Assists
Leader – Leon Draisaitl: 67
VGK – Mark Stone: 42

Points
Leader – Leon Draisaitl: 110
VGK – Max Pacioretty: 66

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Playoff Participation Plan Diminishes Vegas’ First Place Finish

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Silly comments from P.K. Subban shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone around the Golden Knights. Remember this?

He knows he bit me. I’m not trying to rip his head off. I’m not that type of player… I don’t know how I walk out of there with four minutes in penalties… It wasn’t explained. They tried to apologize after the fact that they gave me four minutes in penalties. My finger is bleeding. I don’t know what you want me to do.-P.K. Subban accusing Pierre-Edouard Bellemare of biting his finger, 01/23/19

Well P.K. is back, and he’s pushing the idea of a ridiculous 31-team playoff. Subban believes the NHL should allow every club a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup, including his 68 point Devils team. Contenders like the Golden Knights worked hard to position themselves for a Cup run, but none of that matters to the former Norris Trophy winner.

It was kind of floated around… I saw a few things on social media and I like that. For my team specifically, we were pushing to make the playoffs down the stretch. I would like to see our team have an opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup. I’d love too see a 31-team playoff and give those pesky Devils an opportunity of bringing the Cup back home to New Jersey. I’d love to see that. -PK Subban on ESPN

While it might sound intriguing to certain fanbases, it makes zero sense for any legitimate contender. In fact, the real losers would end up being the Golden Knights and other elite clubs. Why should they be punished for playing strong during the 71-game paused season?

The NHL is not college basketball, or even the World Cup. The Stanley Cup playoffs is not a tournament of rewarded participants, it’s a tournament of winners. So, why would Vegas, St. Louis, Boston or Tampa want to risk playing a team that has nothing to lose, and face losing to a #16th seed? They wouldn’t, and frankly, they’d be wronged if the league forced them too.

If you’re New Jersey, you’re sitting there and you say, ‘okay fair enough we realize below the cut line.’ Then you say but Montreal, sitting with 71 games 71 points. The Devils go ‘whoa, whoa, whoa, time out, we’re three points behind Montreal with two games in hand. Why would you give Montreal a chance?’ The Devils would say ‘well Montreal can’t be a part of any postseason thing because we got a better point percentage then them.’ So, I guess that’s kind of where P.K. was coming from. -Bob McKenzie

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