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Two Golden Knights Make SI’s 2019-2020 Fantasy Bust List

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Again with the lists. This time, fantasy experts took their shot at predicting players that will drop in production and be this season’s busts. A few Golden Knights were unfortunately selected in Sports Illustrated’s newest list of fantasy flunkies.

One of the first players SI cautions fantasy GM’s to steer clear from is Vegas’ left-handed sniper.

Max Pacioretty (Golden Knights) ESPN: 67 | NHL: 68 | CBS: 81
Let’s get this out of the way: Max Pacioretty went berserk in the playoffs, scoring five goals in seven games, and he dominated when playing with Mark Stone and Paul Stastny. That as much as anything is fueling the hope that Pacioretty will become a 30-goal scorer again. Turning 31 in November, Pacioretty hasn’t surpassed 22 goals and has missed 34 games in the last two seasons. He’s no longer a threat to record lofty shot totals, making his floor lower than other players in his range.-Sportsnet

The next Golden Knight to skip in your fantasy draft according to SI, could be considered VGK’s most reliable player.

Marc-Andre Fleury (Golden Knights) ESPN: 68 | NHL: 24 | CBS: 22

How many more good years can Vegas get out of Marc-Andre Fleury, who is turning 35 this year, while also expecting him to carry the lionshare of the workload? While the departure of defenseman Colin Miller isn’t a death blow to Vegas’s defense, it also doesn’t do Flower any favors. His career has been revitalized since joining the Golden Knights (64 wins, 2.40 goals against average, .919 save percentage) and his potential “bust” label is based more on his longevity than his ability. Avoid reaching for Fleury in early rounds when his value should be much safer as a second-tier goalie.-Sportsnet

Albeit a soft critique from Sports Illustrated, but beyond his age, I doubt Golden Knights fans agree with their reasoning. Las Vegas loved watching Colin Miller rip shots on net, but let’s be honest, his departure won’t hurt Fleury. It’s fair to be concerned with the 34-year-old goalie’s workload but I’m assuming the coaching staff has a preservation plan in place for 2019-2020.

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Miracle On Ice Team Coming To T-Mobile Arena

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Do you believe in miracles?

40 years ago the answer that was question was “YES!” when the United States hockey team pulled off the greatest upset in sports history defeating the Soviet Union en route to the 1980 Olympic gold medal.

Now, for the first time in nearly a decade, the entire team is getting back together to celebrate the most memorable game in hockey history, and they are doing it right here in Vegas.

What better place other than Lake Placid to celebrate your 40th than in Vegas? -Mike Eruzione, 1980 USA Olympic Team Captain

On February 22nd, exactly 40 years to the date, the Golden Knights are hosting every living member of 1980 USA Olympic team to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their monumental win in Lake Placid.

Any time I can get to see my teammates it’s exciting so I’m looking forward to it, especially on this special occasion. -Eruzione

The team will be at that night’s Golden Knights game vs. the Florida Panthers and will be included in a night-long anniversary celebration. Plus, a special season ticket member event is scheduled for the night before the game and an event open to the public is in the works for the afternoon on the 22nd.

We’d like to thank the Vegas Golden Knights for considering it and doing it, and obviously, as a team we’re excited about celebrating our 40th and it’s nice that somebody stepped forward and offered an opportunity for us to do it. Thanks to the Vegas Knights, the people of Vegas, the fans, and the season ticket holders. I know they’ll do a great job of promoting it and we’ll have some fun. -Eruzione

There are still tickets available to the game on the Golden Knights website, including a bunch on the “flight deck,” (standing room only tickets next to the castle) which is likely where the team will be hanging out for a majority of the night.

More information is expected to be announced by the team soon.

More Shots, Fewer Goals; Why?

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During the 2018-19 season the Vegas Golden Knights attempted 5,254 shot attempts, 2,814 of them made it to the goalie registering as shots on goal, and 246 of them went into the net.

They finished the year above average in all three categories, but the numbers weren’t consistent. Vegas attempted 10.6% more shots than the league average, they took 9.1% more shots on goal than average NHL team, but they only scored 0.8% more goals than the league average.

The question is, why?

The first answer is a simple one. The Golden Knights shooting percentage (8.7%) was quite a bit lower than the league average (9.5%). The year prior, the Golden Knights scored on 10.0% of their shots. In 18-19 they were 8th worst, in 17-18 they were 8th best.

But once again, why?

Between the two rosters, there wasn’t much turnover. Out went James Neal, David Perron and Erik Haula (injury) from the regular lineup, and in came Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny, and eventually Brandon Pirri and Mark Stone. William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith all saw some decreases in production, while Cody Eakin, Ryan Reaves, and Brandon Pirri saw massive increases.

No matter how you slice it, the team wasn’t a ton different nor did they didn’t play much differently, they just didn’t score as much.

The answer to why almost certainly lies in where the shots came from.

Recently, Bill Tran of TheWinColumn.ca did a deep dive into shot distances for each team. Here’s a look at what he found for the Golden Knights.

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Who Has Established Themselves Enough To Be The Knight Commander?

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Since the Expansion Draft, the Vegas Golden Knights have “had 23 captains.” Each player, no matter of skill, salary, or demeanor all have an equal say in the Golden Knights locker room.

It’s utopia, and it’s kind of seemed that way in reality too.

For two seasons the franchise has been largely successful, so it’s hard to nitpick. However, both playoff runs were cut short. Go ahead and laugh but there could be a connection.

Over the history of the league, the Stanley Cup has been hoisted 101 times. One thing most of those Cup winning teams had in common was a captain. Heck, the 1989 Stanley Cup winning Calgary Flames had two captains. It’s that voice that leads by example on and off… you know all the talking points so I won’t waste your time.

The last captainless Stanley Cup winner was the 1971-72 Boston Bruins. The team had a vacancy at the captain’s role but had four alternates. They didn’t have a problem winning the finals without a captain, in fact, they did it two years prior. Same formula, no C, four As. It also didn’t hurt that Boston had the greatest defenseman in league history on their side.

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Hardest And Softest Spots In Golden Knights 2019-20 Schedule

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An NHL season is like cycling through the most challenging course on the Peloton bike… for six months straight. There are homestands, road trips, back-to-backs, and all sorts of weird quirks that pop up because half the teams in the league play in the same stadium as NBA teams.

This year’s Golden Knights schedule is no different, and like every Pacific Division team, there are some high peaks and some low valleys.

Softest Spots

October 23 – November 2nd
vs COL, vs ANA, vs MTL, vs WPG

After what is a bit of a tricky opening few weeks of the season riddled with tough opponents, single-game road trips, and a back-t0-back in different time-zones with 750+ miles of travel, the schedule hits its softest spot of the year. Four home games, in an 11-day span against one good team, two okay ones, and a horrible one. The Golden Knights have two days of rest before the Colorado game and then three days prior to Montreal. They even have two more days off after the last of the four-game set. Really, the whole month of October is favorable for Vegas, and if they start it off well, the last week could turn it into one of their best months ever.

February 12th – March 3rd
vs STL, vs NYI, vs WSH, vs TBL, vs FLA, @ANA, vs EDM, vs BUF, vs LAK, NJD

Directly on the heels of the ridiculous 27-day span away from T-Mobile Arena (more on that below), the Golden Knights come home for 10 straight. (Really it’s 9 of 10, but I figure a road game in Anaheim in February is basically a home game.) The opponents are challenging at first, but they ease up majorly as it goes on. There will be 20 points to get here, the Golden Knights should reasonably be after at least 14 of them.

December 29th – January 11th
vs ANA, vs PHI, vs STL, vs PIT, vs LAK, vs CBJ

It’s the longest homestand of the year and the first 7-game homestand since the magical one that opened the inaugural season. Only six games are listed because it starts out with a road-home back-to-back, but there are two off-days behind it. This is about as nice a stretch as you can ask for on a schedule as there’s at least one day between every game and the opponents are all average at best (except for St. Louis). Of course, this is directly before the 27-day monster. It’s almost like the NHL knew they were screwing the Golden Knights, so they tried to make it up to them with two soft spots before and after the nightmare.

Hardest Spots

January 12th – February 7th
at BUF, at OTT, at MTL, at BOS, at CAR, at NSH, at TBL, at FLA

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Late Summer Forward Free Agent Options

A couple of days ago I illustrated how thin the Golden Knights are at forward outside of their top 12. Aside from Valentin Zykov, who scored two goals, Vegas currently does not employ a single forward who scored an NHL goal last year that will not be in their starting lineup on October 2nd.

That’s why it would probably be wise for George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon to scour the UFA list and find at least one cheap option to add some veteran depth to the Golden Knights bench.

Here are five options that could make sense, without breaking the bank.

Tobias Rieder

Yep, Brandon has a Tobias Rieder photo. #BestInTheBiz (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Rieder started off his career fairly well in Arizona scoring 13, 14, and 16 goals in his first three seasons. He was then traded to the Kings at the deadline in 2018 where things didn’t work out very well. He signed a one year contract in Edmonton this past offseason where he played 67 games and went goalless. There’s no doubt his career seems to be headed in the wrong direction at the age of 26, but he’s a defensively responsible player, never takes penalties (he’s gotten Lady Byng votes in three separate seasons) and he’s been able to score in his past. Reider has consistently started more shifts in the D-zone than O-zone and yet still boasts a nearly 3:1 takeaway to giveaway margin in his career. Plus, he’s fast and he kills penalties. Last year he signed for $2 million with Edmonton and was released when he was not extended a qualifying offer that would have also paid him around $2 million. Reasonably, he should be gettable for right around $1 million, and the Golden Knights should absolutely be in the market for his services.

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Is Fighting In Hockey Almost Extinct?

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Last season, Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves fought four times and was voted the victor in each by the fans. Three regular season scraps and one postseason go-around with Evander Kane was a light schedule for Reaves, who normally averages seven fights per year.

So, is it a sign Reaves is bored of whooping every opponent’s ass? Or is it just a continuation of the steady decline of fighting in the NHL? ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski examined it further.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to boomerang back. I think we’re going to see decline, after decline, after decline, to the point now that we have new historic lows across the board in hockey fighting.”- Greg Wyshynski, ESPN NHL Reporter

Player safety has been a big reason for the drop off but it’s also becoming difficult to carry fists in a salary cap world. Love him or hate him, Reaves is unique. He has stood the test of time and is preparing for his tenth NHL season.

He’s arguably the toughest guy in the league, but the fact he can play the game and contribute that’s what makes him valuable. That’s where the game is nowadays. There were a lot of players that were pushed out, he was not one of them. Rightfully so. He can contribute to the game and not just for what we’re known for doing. -Shawn Thornton, Former NHL Player

Thornton spoke with me in late February, after the Golden Knights hosted the Florida Panthers. Overall, the retired NHL heavyweight was glad to see the decline in fighting.

In my opinion, intimidation is a part of life. When you’re in an arena that’s two hundred by eighty-five with no out of bounds, it’s amplified. I think there will always be a space in hockey. Sometimes it’s a pressure cooker and a fight will be the thing that pops the top off… but there’s no more room in the league for a one-dimensional guy, and I’m actually very okay with that. -Thornton

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Golden Knights And Fort Wayne Komets Renew ECHL Partnership

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Vegas Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee announced the club has renewed its affiliation agreement with the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets. The Komets became the official ECHL affiliate of the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018 and are based in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The organization was established as a hockey club in 1952 and open their 68th season on Saturday, Oct. 12. Under the terms of the affiliation arrangements, the Golden Knights will be able to transfer players to and from Fort Wayne during the 2019-20 season.

The Komets finished the 2018-19 season with a 36-26-4-6 overall record, the sixth straight season with at least 36 wins. The team finished third in the ECHL’s Central Division standings with 82 points and qualified for the Kelly Cup playoffs. In the playoffs, the Komets fell to the Toledo Walleye in the semifinals, 4-2.

I’m sure you remember seeing this beautiful save by former Komet and Golden Knights prospect Zach Fucale on your social media timeline.

https://twitter.com/ECHL/status/1151572275918974977?s=20

Since the franchise joined the ECHL in 2012 the Komets are the only team to advance to the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs each of the last six seasons and look to qualify for the seventh time in the 2019-20 season.

Differences Between Ice Surface Size

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The NHL rink is 200 feet long by 85 feet wide. An international rink is nearly identical at 197 feet long but it’s significantly wider at 98.4 feet. Those 13 feet make a major difference in how the game is played and it makes transitioning from one ice size to the other a challenge.

Over the summer I had a chance to speak to two different wingers who were used to one size and then had to suddenly swap to the other. The first was Lucas Elvenes, a Golden Knights draft pick who has played in Sweden throughout his entire career before finishing up this season with the Chicago Wolves. The second was Mark Stone, who went with Team Canada to play in the IIHF World Championship in Slovakia.

Both agreed that the difference is significant and it absolutely takes some time to get used to.

It took some time to get used to for sure. I think the first game was difficult especially for us playing a good team. Being good hockey players the 20 of us figured it out pretty quick. -Mark Stone

Oh yeah, it’s a huge difference. Every time you come into the offensive zone you are close to the goal. Back home you have to work more to get a shot. -Lucas Elvenes

Where both noticed it the most was when their team had the man-advantage. Both Elvenes and Stone, while at massively different levels, play the same position on the power play. Each are set up to the goalie’s left on the half wall playing as both a shooting option as well as a pivot to move the puck out to the point or through the seem.

Power play is a lot different. You feel like you have all this time and space. If you are at the top of the circle, taking a shot from there it’s not going in. It’s just such a far shot and a bad angle. From the circles to the boards it just adds in a lot more room. -Stone

The D-Zone is always close to you, so you can’t make mistakes. The gap is tough for me because the forwards are always close to me. Plus the guys are big and like to hit.

Nikita Gusev plays the same role, but on the other side. But that’s New Jersey’s problem now.

The question is how will other Europeans in the Vegas pipeline translate on the smaller ice? Both Stone and Elvenes agreed that eventually the size difference fades and it just becomes hockey.

It’s going to matter, it just matters how much.

Do NHL Players Resent Analytics?

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Newly signed Canadien Ben Chiarot was forced to defend himself this offseason, as some analysts in Montreal weren’t impressed by the acquisition. Enhanced analytics have exposed some of the limitations to Chiarot’s game. Some expressed their opinions and it didn’t sit well with the former Winnipeg Jet.

“A lot of those analytics guys sometimes I wonder if they played a game of hockey. There’s more to it than what the analytics show with a lot of players. It doesn’t always give you the full picture. That’s something new that’s kind of come up over the last couple of years is the whole analytics. And then you get all of these new hockey experts that come up when they get all of these numbers. That’s just one part of the game and one to evaluate a player.”-Ben Chiarot, Canadiens Defenseman, TSN Montreal

Colleague and friend of the site, Sheng Peng from Fear of the Fin, views the game differently than most. He’s heavily influenced by deep statistics that predict or highlight a player’s ability to create, or limit time and space. Peng never played the game but understands it well, sometimes that isn’t enough. He’s had a few confrontations with coaches and players when asking analytically focused questions. Defensive pushback can make it difficult to get the responses Peng would like.

“The challenge is figuring out which players are open to the subject. There are players who are completely resistant, players that need it framed the right way, and players who are open.”-Sheng Peng, Fear of the Fin

Former three-time Stanley Cup winner Aaron Ward is involved with the next generation of NHL analysis, advanced player tracking. Ward genuinely believes player tracking will accurately evaluate strengths and weaknesses.

“Active players get lost in what the analytics say about them. You’re trying to dissect certain circumstances and understand how they react in that situation. It’s based on tendencies. As the science evolves… you’ll find new ways to break down players that maybe a benefit or a relevance for players in that role.”-Aaron Ward, TSN 690 Montreal

As much as Ward sees future improvement with chip tracking, he understands why players are sensitive to negative statistics of any kind. It’s tough for a professional athlete to recognize their inabilities.

“I think what happens is a player will come out and get an idea of how they played. When the numbers don’t fit it, and they don’t match the way you play, they immediately dismiss it.”-Aaron Ward

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