It’s not hard to see George McPhee believes in strength down the middle. He made that clear by drafting five centers in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. Unfortunately, that talent is undeveloped and unavailable. As for 2017-18, the unit will contain five centers, Vadim Shipachyov, Oscar Lindberg, William Karlsson, Cody Eakin and Jonathan Marchessault. The Golden Knights aren’t expecting much success this season, but for the future, one of those five needs to turn into a top line center.
Shipachov will likely start the year as the top center but currently, he has no NHL experience, and like most KHL imports, is a great unknown. The other possibility is Lindberg. He skates in with 134 games played and just over 850 face-off attempts. The 25-year-old Swede will have the chance to make a serious impact with Vegas.
Oscar loves New York and he loves winning, but he also loves ice time… He’s going to have a great opportunity to play major minutes and a major role in Vegas. Claude Lemieux, Lindberg’s agent
Lindberg’s career TOI average will certainly increase from 11:30 minutes per game. His effectiveness in all three zones will prove his value.
Karlsson’s impressive flow and off-the-puck play could help him climb the charts too.
The concern for Vegas is their center depth long term. The team is hoping Lindberg, Shipachyov and Karlsson break out, but if one doesn’t go from unknown to a legit top line center, the cupboard is a bit dry of potential game-changing guys for at least the next three years. Again, this year isn’t terribly important, but McPhee knows only teams with game-changing centers have a realistic chance of winning. Check out the last 12 Stanley Cup winners. Each champion had an elite center.
2006 – Staal
2007 – Getzlaf
2008 – Datsyuk
2009 – Crosby
2010 – Toews
2011 – Bergeron
2012 – Kopitar
2013 – Toews
2014 – Kopitar
2015 – Toews
In 3-5 years the future will rely heavily on center development. Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, and future prospects will determine if McPhee’s pledge came true. Maybe when Vegas makes a run, their centers will be Glass, Suzuki and top prospects McPhee picked up after dealing James Neal… or David Perron… or Vadim Shi… I’ll stop, it’s a sensitive subject.
But the fact of the matter remains, there’s likely not an elite center on this roster, and until there is, the Golden Knights may as well keep hoarding picks.
(Oh, and by the way, for those still complaining, Marcus Kruger was not going to solve this problem.)