Earlier this year head coach Bruce Cassidy referred to Michael Amadio as “Plan E” when it came to finding a third player on the line with Mark Stone and Chandler Stephenson. In other words, he was barely even considered for the spot and it took multiple injuries and failures of other guys for him to get his chance.
For the first few months of the year, Amadio couldn’t even secure a consistent place in the lineup. He was a healthy scratch 14 times in the first 30 games of the season. In his first 20 games he played, bouncing around the lineup including games with William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault as well as a few with Jake Leschyshyn and Jonas Rondbjerg, Amadio scored just one goal and added two assists. He was averaging just over 10 minutes of ice time per night and carried a -4 rating.
Then, in Game 35, it happened. He was bumped up to the 1st line to play with Stone and Stephenson and from that moment, he has taken off. Amadio quickly rattled off five goals and eight points in his first six games on that line, saw his TOI increase more than six minutes a game to 16:18, and went from a shooting percentage of 4% to 26%.
It wasn’t just dumb luck or being in the right place at the right time either. Amadio fundamentally changed the way he plays the game to succeed alongside his elite linemates.
(Amadio) came up as a junior guy and minor pro and he was the guy making the plays to the guy going to the net. Now, the shoe’s on the other foot so he has to be that guy to go there and he’s bought in well. Give him credit for changing what he has to do to compliment a line. -Bruce Cassidy
There’s no better graphic indication of this change in style than looking at where Amadio’s 5-on-5 goals have come from this season. Here’s the chart from MoneyPuck.com.
Amadio’s 15 goals this season have come from an average of 16.4 feet away from the net. For comparison sake, Smith’s have come from 20.4 feet away, Marchessault’s 20.7, and Eichel 24.7. VGK’s best “crash the net” player William Carrier’s number is 16.5, a fraction worse than Amadio.
(My goal this year was) just to have a better year than I did last year. I thought last year I made some strides in the league so this year I just wanted to come in and play consistent and play the same way every night and I think it’s paying off. -Amadio
It hasn’t been just offense though. Amadio has quietly become one of Vegas’ best wingers along the walls as the Golden Knights try to break pucks out of the zone. These types of plays not only relieve pressure in the D-Zone, but they also often lead to transition chances, where VGK thrive most. Here are two examples, one from each of his first two shifts last night.
He has excellent hands which allows him to take care of the puck in tight spaces. Typically we only celebrate nifty puck control when it leads to goals, but plays like the two above are just as important to winning, especially in the playoffs.
Amadio’s emergence as a legitmate top-six option has given Bruce Cassidy many more options in his lineup. Recently it’s allowed Ivan Barbashev to go down to a 3rd line role playing with Stephenson and Kessel, and when Mark Stone comes back, the options will grow even more.
The Golden Knights sit one point away from winning the Pacific Division and clinching the #1 seed in the Western Conference. They would not be here without the rise of Michael Amadio.