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Vegas Likely To Move On From “Best Teammate, I’ve Ever Had”

From TNT broadcast

As the Golden Knights walked off the ice for the final time in the 2023-24 season, one of the last people to step off wearing gold was 36-year-old Alec Martinez.

The veteran defenseman heads into the offseason without a contract for next season which has spurred plenty of uncertainty not only for his future in Vegas but in the NHL.

Martinez has played 818 career regular season games and added another 131 playoff games. He’s won three Stanley Cups with two different franchises and has always been one of the most consistent, hard-working, determined defensemen in the league. Since 2013, Martinez has led the NHL in blocked shots, stepping in front of an asinine 1,644 shots, or 7.11 per 60 minutes.

He’s scored a couple of massive playoff overtime goals for the Los Angeles Kings and chipped in his fair share of offense in Vegas as well.

But if this truly is it for Martinez, those who played with him won’t remember his on-ice accolades nearly as much as they’ll remember who he was off it.

He’s had a phenomenal career, multiple Stanley Cups, been very successful but it’s the person that makes the player and coming to work with him everyday is a special thing. I don’t know what’s in store for him but there’s a lot of guys who enjoy his company and having him around. You’re not going to meet many people that are better than him. -Alex Pietrangelo

Having been around the locker room myself, and spoken to many players about Martinez over the years, just about every player who has played with him would likely echo this next quote from Pietrangelo.

He’s probably one of the best teammates, if not the best teammate, I’ve ever had. -Pietrangelo

For the Golden Knights, the roster is set up well to move forward without #23 as a part of it. The locker room, maybe not as much.

Because any locker room with Alec Martinez is better than one without him.

Ben Hutton Has Played A Huge Role In VGK’s Defensive Turnaround

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Veteran defenseman Ben Hutton played 31 of the Golden Knights’ first 38 games this season. The game before the Winter Classic he went down with an injury that not only cost him a few months of game-action, but it also ended up costing him his spot in the lineup. Hutton returned to health about six weeks after his injury yet he was forced to watch from the press box for another month while Vegas’ “preferred six defensemen” played together.

Like every 7th defenseman in the NHL though, his time eventually came. After the Trade Deadline, the Golden Knights were experiencing a bit of a swoon and Bruce Cassidy decided it was time to shake things up. On an afternoon home game at T-Mobile Arena, Cassidy healthy scratched both Nic Hague and Zach Whitecloud which opened the door for Hutton to re-enter the line. Seven games, five of which were VGK wins, later, and Hutton has made it impossible for his coach to take him out.

In 104 minutes of action at 5-on-5, Hutton has racked up a +4 rating being on the ice for five VGK goals while conceding just one, he’s amassed a 67.4% expected goals share which is good for 6th on the team in that span, and has been on the ice for 18 high-danger chances with just four against.

Of course, it’s not a completely direct correlation as Hutton is just one of six defensemen. Still, the Golden Knights have put together one of their best defensive stretches starting with the game Hutton came back into the lineup. They’ve allowed two or fewer goals in five of the last seven games and have held the opposition under 25 shots four times.

Hutton’s partnership with Zach Whitecloud has worked great as both players’ metrics are up across the board playing with each other as opposed to without.

At the deadline, it became clear the Golden Knights needed help on the blue line. Alec Martinez, Nic Hague, and Zach Whitecloud were all struggling. The big change was bringing in Noah Hanifin and he’s been excellent since the first moment he donned a gold jersey. But the work of the other defenseman who came into the lineup at the same time cannot be ignored either.

Whenever Alex Pietrangelo gets over his illness and can rejoin the team, the decision on who he’ll replace is going to be a tough one. Hutton has already unseated Martinez, don’t be surprised if he stays ahead of Hague or Whitecloud next.

Mark Stone “Had An Apparatus Attached To His Spine” In January 2023 Back Surgery

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

While the world patiently awaits more information on the status of Mark Stone’s lacerated spleen which has him scheduled to miss the rest of the regular season and potentially a portion of the playoffs, some more details have surfaced about the previous injury suffered by Stone.

During one of his many post-deadline interviews, general manager Kelly McCrimmon dropped a new nugget of information on the captain’s ailments.

Mark’s back surgery wasn’t routine if there is such a thing as routine back surgery. He had an apparatus attached to his spine and everything else, and it was a little bit unsure what his future might be. –Kelly McCrimmon to The Athletic

The surgery McCrimmon is referring to is the second of Stone’s two back procedures in eight months from May 2022 to January 2023. The first was described by the Golden Knights as a lumbar discectomy performed by Dr. Robert Watkins in Los Angeles. The second, in which Stone “had an apparatus attached to his spine” occurred in January 2023 in Denver by Dr. Chad Prusmack.

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A Look Back At The 11 Players To Score In Their First VGK Game

When Mason Morelli stepped on the ice last night he became the 81st skater to don a Golden Knights jersey in a regular season game. He was the 23rd to do so while making his NHL debut. When he scored a goal in the 1st period, he became the 11th player to do so in their first VGK game and the 3rd in their NHL debut as a Golden Knight.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane to remember each of the 11 players to score a goal in their first VGK game. We’ll start with the three in their NHL debuts as well.

Mason Morelli – February 19th, 2024 at San Jose

Cody Glass – October 2nd, 2019 vs San Jose

Vadim Shipachyov – October 16th, 2017 vs Boston

Next the other eight who did it in the first game with the Golden Knights.

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NHL Network Sweet On Two VGK Forwards

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

On Wednesday, the NHL Network affectionally announced their appreciation for under-the-radar players across the league. While they’re well-loved in Las Vegas, the league’s television outlet highlighted two beloved Golden Knights forwards on Valentine’s Day.

Likely a favorite Valentine for most Golden Knights fans, Jonathan Marchessault is proving yet again how valuable he is to his team. The 2023 Conn Smythe winner leads Vegas in goals, offensive point shares, and total point shares and is third in shooting percentage. Through 53 games, Marchessault continues to be the Golden Knights’ most lethal shot and has found success on multiple juggled lines. At the age of 33, the unrestricted free agent is on pace for a career-high in goals, even strength goals, and points. His numbers indicate a bump in pay contract extension should be in the works.

Former NHL’er Dave Reid gushed on Wednesday over Marchessault’s team-leading statistics and his infectious emotions on and off the ice. There’s no doubt, the television analyst is an admirer of Mark Stone and his passion as well. Between the two, Vegas has no shortage of motivators in their lineup. It’s no surprise both are on pace for career years.

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Cassidy Weighs In On The State Of VGK’s Blue Line, Including The Zach Whitecloud Healthy Scratch

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Thursday in Arizona there was a bit of a shocker in the Golden Knights’ lineup. With Daniil Miromanov returning from injury, Bruce Cassidy opted to healthy scratch Zach Whitecloud while leaving the younger Kaedan Korczak in the lineup. It was made clear that this was a coach’s decision and today the coach backed up why he chose to make it.

First off, we’re trying to get a look at Miromanov. So that’s first and foremost. We just felt Korczak was playing really consistent hockey so we put him ahead of Zach (Whitecloud) for that game. It’s not a long-term thing but sometimes it’s good for a player to know that this young guy is pushing from underneath. -Bruce Cassidy

It was the first time Whitecloud had been left out of the lineup when healthy since February 13th, 2020, Pete DeBoer’s 10th game in charge of the Golden Knights and a game started by Malcolm Subban.

However, just a few days later, Korczak was sent to the AHL and Whitecloud appears set to jump right back into the VGK lineup tonight.

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Jonas Rondbjerg Is Proving His Worth

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Jonas Rondbjerg has not posted a point in any of the last six games he’s played with the Vegas Golden Knights. He has just one goal and three points in his 11 games this season and has managed career totals of only three goals and seven assists in 54 NHL games.

However, when the Golden Knights are in need of a replacement forward, he’s always been the first to get the call. And, beyond that, Vegas even utilized a loophole in the waiver system in order to allow him to stick around a bit longer before having to clear waivers once again.

Hockey fans are often enamored with goals and points, and for good reason, so there’s understandably a bit of confusion when a player like Rondbjerg remains ahead of many others who are much more proficient offensively. For a coach though, a player like Jonas offers so much more and Bruce Cassidy has shown it by his usage.

Rondbjerg has done a good job down where he is. He played the other night against Crosby’s line. We have no issues with having him out there against top people. He’s an excellent checking forward, and we’re trying to build his offensive game. Maybe that will come with more reps at this level. Right now we want him to check well and kill. -Cassidy

This season in the NHL, Rondbjerg has been on the ice for 104:27 at 5-on-5. The opposing team has not scored a single goal while he’s been out there and they’ve only generated 11 high-danger chances per NaturalStatTrick.com. This is all while Rondbjerg’s line has started 65% of their shifts in the defensive zone.

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