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2020-21 Pressure Index: Forwards

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The weight of expectations is often the determining factor of success and failure in professional sports. In Year 1, the Golden Knights had absolutely no expectations and they helped ride that wave of pressure-free hockey all the way to the Cup Final. The following year, the pressure ramped up a bit as they had to prove they weren’t a fluke. They did it, but it still ended sadly. Then, last year, the expectations were at an all-time high, with something close to a Cup-or-Bust mentality. They reached the Western Conference Final, a success for most teams, but it felt like a missed opportunity because of the preseason expectations.

Now, they are all in on the Cup, and the pressure has risen not only on the team as a whole, but on plenty of individuals. New titles, big contracts, elevated roles, and high expectations will have a lot of players feeling the heat coming into the Golden Knights’ fourth season.

To illustrate the pressure on each player I’ve ranked them from 1-10 with 10 being the most pressure and 1 being the least. First, we start with the forwards. Tomorrow we’ll complete the roster with the defensemen, goalies, coach, and GM.

William Karlsson

With a full season between Stone and Pacioretty, it would be awfully difficult for Karlsson to be the problem. As long as he holds down the fort defensively and doesn’t get destroyed in the circle he’ll have the typical strong year we’ve come to expect from him. The contract is fair as long as he’s the only truly reliable center on the team. He has almost no pressure on him at all, but he is the #1 center on a team that doesn’t really have much behind him, so there’s got to be a little. Pressure Index: 3

Mark Stone

Assuming he’s named captain, which we expect to happen near the beginning of camp, he’ll be under the most pressure of his career this season. He has to continue performing at a near point per game pace, he needs to be on the ice for 18+ minutes a night every single night, and if the going gets tough, he’s going to be the one they look at to pull them out. Team performance is where the pressure lies on Stone. If they are good, he’s in the clear, but if they aren’t that C might as well be a bullseye for where people point to the problems. Pressure Index: 9

Max Pacioretty

Max is coming off a tremendous regular season on which he led the team in scoring, but then the injury bug hit and he disappeared at the biggest time in the playoffs. The pressure on him is simply to score. He needs to get to 30 goals (or the equivalent if the season is shortened), otherwise that $7 million cap hit is going to look like a major burden on a contending team. Pressure Index: 8

Cody Glass

It’s not really, because he’s just 21-years-old, but it really feels like it’s now-or-never for Glass. The Golden Knights have moved out two useable centers in Paul Stastny and Erik Haula over the past two years and replaced them with virtually nothing leaving the job wide open for Glass. He’s going to get his chance. He has to stay healthy and he has to look like a bonafide #2 center in the NHL. If he doesn’t, he’ll fly down the depth chart, likely end up back on the wing, and will certainly look like a bust if Stephenson and Roy are clearly outperforming him. Pressure Index: 8

Reilly Smith

Smith has been one of the most reliable players on the Golden Knights since they began play back in October of 2017. With two years left on his deal, he’s not really playing for a contract yet. Once the C goes on Stone’s chest, Smith’s role as a leader will decrease. Unless he’s absolutely atrocious, he’s got nothing to worry about this year. However, Smith is a motivated guy, and being named as an “untouchable” has to motivate him to stay there moving forward. Pressure Index: 3

Jonathan Marchessault

When Marchessault signed his contract in January of 2018 he was the offensive heartbeat of the Golden Knights. Since, his role and importance has diminished year over year as the Golden Knights have brought in bigger named stars. However, with the $5 million contract, he has to make sure he’s not viewed as expendable, especially now that the guy standing behind the bench isn’t his biggest cheerleader anymore. He wanted stability when he signed in Vegas, and he thought he got it, but if he doesn’t score close to 30, he’s going to be high on the trade candidate list as he was this offseason. He doesn’t want to move and the only way he can guarantee that is to score, a lot. Pressure Index: 8

Chandler Stephenson

For the first time in his career he’s finally cashed in, plus he’s also headed for a season with the most responsibility he’s ever had. He’s the next most reliable center behind Karlsson on a team expected to run away with the Pacific Division and contend for the Cup. That’s a majorly different burden than he’s ever had considering he started last year on the 4th line in Washington and was basically fighting just for a roster spot. He absolutely has to be the guy he’s been for the Golden Knights, not who he was in Washington, otherwise, this team could be in for some trouble. That’s a lot to ask for a guy who’s never done it. Pressure Index: 7

Alex Tuch

There’s certainly a level of pressure on Tuch to perform at least up to what he has in the past, but there’s also some pressure to take it to the next level and reach the potential most believe he has. It starts with health. If he’s healthy, he has very little to worry about, because when he’s on the ice, he’s never been anything less than what’s expected out of a 3rd line winger. But, there definitely feels like there’s some personal pressure to take the next step this season and be the “X-Factor” he’s supposed to be on a Cup contending team. Pressure Index: 4

Nic Roy

It’s all about opportunity for Roy this season. Opportunity certainly comes with a bit of pressure as to not let it slip by, but the team’s season doesn’t rest in his hands like it might for the two centers above him. He’s coming off a year where he was the NHL/AHL yo-yo and that shouldn’t be the case this year. If he plays at his best, he might end up as a #2 center on a Cup contender. If he doesn’t, he’s still a bonafide NHLer. He’s basically playing with house money, but anyone who’s ever had large amounts of house money knows, that can still be nervewracking. Pressure Index: 2

Tomas Nosek

His year of opportunity came two years ago, and he wasn’t able to quite grasp it like many hoped. Instead, he’s now a classic reliable 4th line center that is about as safe an option as there is in the NHL for that role. Even though it’s a contract year, he’s in a pretty safe place for the present and future. Pressure Index: 2

Ryan Reaves

No longer the most overpaid player on the team based on performance, the pressure is completely off the big 4th line enforcer. Everyone knows exactly what he’s going to bring, he has term on his contract, and he’s well aware that doing exactly what he’s always done will keep him in the good graces of just about everyone. He probably has more to worry about running a beer company during a pandemic than he does on the ice. Pressure Index: 0

William Carrier

Similar to Reaves, Carrier just has to be himself. Last season he proved he has the ability to stay healthy, which is something he needs to continue to do, but as long as he’s out there, he really can’t go wrong the way he plays. The only difference between he and Reaves is that he was handed a four-year deal, so maybe there’s a tiny bit of pressure to make the organization feel like it was worth it. Pressure Index: 1

For the rest of the roster, including the head coach and front office, check out the second part of this article.


VGK And The 2021 World Junior Championships


2020-21 Pressure Index: Defensemen, Goalies, Coach, Front Office


  1. Since there is only one lets add coach. In my opinion 10 since Mr
    Personally has done nothing to improve our outcome as a team i think it’s the cup or gone for Debooor.

  2. A VGK Fan

    I still don’t know where everyone gets that Stone will be captain. Just because he’s one of the better players on the ice doesn’t mean he will be the C. I dont see Mackinnon Captain of the Avalanche. Or Barzal for the Isles. i dont believe simply being the best on the ice (skill wise) makes you de facto Captain.

    Reilly is the original misfit. he’s also reliable, hard working, and plays a 200ft game. He is also been named untouchable by GMGM, which lets be honest, is harder to gain than anything else in this league. Also, for what Reilly lacks in defense (compared to Stone), he makes up for in speed and offense. He can play any position at any time.

    Plus, Reilly is just a cool dude. Nothing against Stone.

    • VGK2018

      @ 9.5m/yr I think Stone needs to be more than a “near a point a game player”. For that $ he needs to score 35 plus, be pushing 100 PTS or preferably both. That is what elite players produce and that was the hype around him when we signed him.

      • Hague_for_Norris

        What are you talking about?! 100 points! that’s not the kind of player he has been or ever will be he’s money in the bank for 70-85 points and is top of every analytics chart there is. I just don’t think you have watched enough of him if in you’re right mind you think he’s going to put up those point totals he’s an elite two-way winger probably a top 3 winger in the league but putting up insane point totals isn’t his game and that’s not what he’s being paid for.

        • VGK2018

          Please read what I said. I said for close to $10m he NEEDS to do those things not that I thought he would do them.

          • Hague_for_Norris

            He doesn’t need to do any of what you said. he needs to put up around 70 points, be dominant defensively and create plays all of what he is doing currently. I’m sorry but if you think stone NEEDS to put up 100 points we are in trouble, that’s not the kind of player he is or will ever be.

    • VGK2018

      Would have no problem if Smith was named captain. Very deserving.

  3. Great comments – yes I believe they are probably putting the “C” on the wrong jersey if it isn’t on Smith’s – if he even wants the title. I don’t think Stone has done anything to be named captain or deserves the title, in fact a case could be made that he is even worth the money he is getting paid. That said I am not questioning his ability but while better than some in no way is he near the top of the list. He made himself a great deal ( good for him) thanks to the splash brothers being blinded by the Cup. Of course the same could be said for their recent 8.8 million deal with Pietrangelo and Lehner at 5 mill, welcome to the cash register Golden Knights – time will tell if the ROI was worth the money!!!! Has anyone ever wondered why their greatness was not recognized by their prior clubs – just an observation and question?????

  4. AA

    In reply to “ Has anyone ever wondered why their greatness was not recognized by their prior clubs – just an observation and question?????”

    Stone – Came from Ottawa, undisputedly the worst owner and prob the worst ran club in the NHL. They were offloading their top end talent left and right when we traded for Stone.

    Pietrangelo-My understanding the the St Louis GM was willing to offer a no-movement clause which Pietrangelo was set on getting. They probably would have given him the same terms besides that.

    Lehner- Chicago is sort of in the middle of a rebuild. They let Crawford is walk too. Though I’m not sure why the Islanders weren’t willing to give Lehner term. Might have felt that it was their defense system that allowed Lehner to have the season he did there. Speculation was that it could have had something to do with his mental health issues and they felt it was an additional risk but who know. They prob regret it.

    • Reading your guess as to the question unless l am mistaken it is quess work on your part unless you have inside info. I assumed you mean not willing regarding pietrangelo. By your response seems you agree with the dollars which only time will tell if the ROI become reality. Good for all three fleecing VGK out of the $$$$$..

  5. Tim

    Nice article Ken I think the most pressure is on Marshessault turning 30 and production down he’s got a hill to climb.
    On a different subject Erik Haula from what I’m reading he want’s 2.75 to 3 million on a 3 year contract. Being only 28 there has to be concern on his health or he sounds like a bargain for a center. I would think if the Splash Brothers thought they needed him they’d go get him unless he has a bad taste for Vegas. If he really liked Vegas would he drop his price to rejoin the Knights? Just interesting that he hasn’t signed yet. It would be kind of cool to have Roy who we got in the Haula trade and then get Haula back. Only in Vegas does the craziness continue.

  6. AA

    Edit- *wasn’t willing to offer a no-movement clause

  7. sb

    Shoulda keep Cousins at $1.5 mil over Reaves at $1.75 mil. Cousins will still be in the NHL 10 years after Reaves retires. He had no effect in the Playoffs at all.

    • Hague_for_Norris

      Cousins never fit into our system. didn’t fit on the third sure as hell didn’t work on the 4th. Reaves is an energizer we need guys like him, Cousins is just a chirpy bottom 6 forward.

    • jason mason

      The only guy in the league that’s going to “yard sale” Tom Wilson is Ryan Reaves. Having him on the ice puts people on their toes and their heads on swivels. For the little money he’s getting it would be foolish to let him go.

      • Daryl

        I disagree… This isn’t the old hovky, which I miss. Reaves at $1.25 is worth keeping. Reaves at $1.75 is a total waste of money. He provides energy for court 30 seconds a game then he does nothing. He’ll even go for a big hit only to leave players wide open for odd an rushes

  8. Carl

    A MISFIT should be the first Captain. REILLY is more deserving than anyone on the team. Or Engelland, but that point is moot. Stone is great but he is NOT A MISFIT.

    • Hague_for_Norris

      100% agree I think Reilly should be named captain. He’s a great leader on and off the ice and has a very calm leadership tone similar to Jonathan Toews.

    • Daryl

      It won’t happen but they should sign Engo to a one day deal and name him the first Captain for VGK.

  9. Jerry

    Reilly for CAP is a no brainer. Seriously. If not Reilly then nobody

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