Reilly Smith served as an alternate in all 22 playoff games and each of the 78 regular season games he suited up last season. His time as an alternate dates back as far as the Golden Knights’ very first home game on October 10th, 2017 against Arizona (“and we beat the shit out of them”) and he’s worn the “A” more than 300 times while donning steel grey and gold.
But, with Smith set to wear a different shade of gold next season in Pittsburgh, Vegas will need a permanent replacement.
Last year, Alex Pietrangelo and Smith were the alternates for just about every game each participated in. Pietrangelo will likely continue to serve as an alternate as he plays into year four of his seven-year contract with the Golden Knights. The other spot is up for grabs.
There are a host of candidates who could potentially take over for Smith.
Wild Bill leads the list because he served as the alternate to the alternates in the only game missed by Pietrangelo or Smith in the postseason. Game 5 against the Edmonton Oilers saw Pietrangelo sidelined serving his one-game suspension for slashing Leon Draisaitl. Wearing the “A,” Karlsson posted a sweet assist to Smith for the go-ahead goal in the 2nd period and led the team with 24 shifts on that night.
As an original Misfit, Karlsson makes perfect sense to take over for Smith. He’s played more than 500 games as a Golden Knight, rarely missing a game, and is a perfect example of how Cassidy likes his forwards to play. Plus, after the “You Guys Were Greater” speech, it’s hard to argue he’s not a natural leader.
The elder statesman of the Golden Knights now boasts three Stanley Cups and is as clear a leader both in the room and on the ice as they come. Martinez is already, in many ways, the captain of the penalty kill as he’s one of the few VGK killers who does not play on the power play. So, when the team runs power play practice, Martinez leads the band of penalty killing misfits, and he’s extremely loud in doing so.
Martinez served as an alternate many times during the course of the 2022-23 season as the team often iced three alternates with Mark Stone unavailable.
The former captain of the Buffalo Sabres is clearly a leader for the Golden Knights. After a bit of a rocky tenure in western New York, Eichel seemed content taking a bit of a back seat as he settled into his new team in Vegas. But, over the course of his first full season and especially into the playoffs, there’s no doubt Eichel started to step to the forefront.
The creator of the Elvis wig tradition, one of the team DJs, and arguably the most talented player in franchise history, Eichel makes perfect sense to reassume a leadership position.
Much more of the “lead by example” type, Stephenson was one of the few other Golden Knights to don the “A” last year. His chemistry with Mark Stone on the ice is undeniable so it would make natural sense for him to serve as the captain’s #2. One of his strongest qualities has been somewhat diminished though. Previously Stephenson stood as one of just a handful of players to have ever lifted the Cup. Now, they all have. Granted, Stephenson has now done it twice, which is what most of the roster is now striving to do.
It still may be a bit too early for the 26-year-old defenseman to assume the role of full-time alternate captain, but his time will come eventually. Whitecloud has proven himself time and time again as the consummate professional through the ups and downs of the NHL. With so many strong candidates in front of him and a slightly older team as a whole, Whitecloud is a bit of a longshot to don an “A” in 2023-24, but before his time is up in Las Vegas, he’s a shoo-in to do it at some point.