Options are good and the Golden Knights have options.
When Zach Whitecloud went down with an injury in a preseason game on September 25th, the Golden Knights were in need of a replacement in the six-man defensive unit that led them to the Stanley Cup.
All of last season, the first man up was Ben Hutton. The loveable seventh defenseman stepped in time and time again when called upon including in the first round of the playoffs against the Winnipeg Jets.
This year though there are a few other younger options pushing for those minutes. Brayden Pachal, who also played in the same postseason game as Hutton, had a strong preseason and appears to have taken the step from AHL captain to NHL-ready defenseman. Also, Kaedan Korczak has shown plenty of glimpses of the skill that made him a 2nd round pick back in 2019.
We’re trying to find the right guy for the spot and we have three to choose from. The problem with Hutton in that spot is he’s a left-shot and now someone has to go to the right and we tried that as well. So we’re still kind of experimenting. -Bruce Cassidy
On Opening Night the Golden Knights were without both Whitecloud and Alec Martinez. Cassidy opted to go with Hutton and Pachal. By the third game of the year, Pietrangelo was out of the lineup as well which saw Korczak get his first opportunity. But, as Martinez and Pietrangelo worked their way back to full health the decision of which one of the three had to be made.
Against Chicago it was Korczak. One night later in LA it was Pachal. Tonight, it’ll be back to Korczak.
Hutton is better to go in for an injured guy on the left. Until someone grabs the spot we’ll keep looking at both (Korczak and Pachal). I wouldn’t say it’s matchup-based, it does factor into it, but not a lot. It’s more who is going the best, who do we see building their game every night, and then making a call. -Cassidy
Cassidy’s eyes are not just on each individual game though. If they were, it might be Hutton every night. Instead, the coach and the organization have the future in mind as well.
We have Korczak and Pachal who are good young players too and we’re trying to identify them as an organization. Are they ready to play every night? We’re trying to stay in the moment but look at the big picture as well. -Cassidy
Whitecloud is expected to be out for at least another week which means there are plenty of games on the schedule to experiment with. Korczak gets the next chance tonight, but don’t be surprised if Pachal is given another chance in the near future.