Happy 4th of July!
To me, one of the most American things in the world is Mount Rushmore. The fact that someone carved the faces of four Presidents into the side of a mountain in South Dakota is both absurd and amazing at the same time. Can’t get more patriotic than that.
So, let’s honor this great feat of American spirit by creating some Mount Rushmores of our own. The only requirement for each category is that there must be exactly four people chosen.
Nate Schmidt, Shea Theodore, Alex Pietrangelo, Deryk Engelland
There’s really only one guaranteed easy selection and that’s Theodore. After that, there’s a group of five or six that could be chosen as the final three. Engelland seemed like the easiest next choice based on his history with the franchise and playing incredibly tough minutes the first season. After that, I opted to go for Schmidt and Pietrangelo over McNabb in a close call. McNabb will probably pass Schmidt this year due to longevity but Nate’s overall impact both on and off the ice still give him the nod for now. Pietrangelo gets the call simply cause he’s the best blue liner the team has ever had.
Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, Max Pacioretty, Jack Eichel
The first two are obvious. Marchessault leads the franchise in goals with 122 while Karlsson remains the single-season leader with the insane 43-goal year. Reilly Smith actually has one more goal as a Golden Knight than Pacioretty, but Max has played in nearly 100 fewer games. The final slot was going to go to Mark Stone, but I just couldn’t leave Eichel off of this. He’s going to lead the team in scoring multiple times over the next few years and he has the best chance of anyone to break Karlsson’s record. Mount Rushmore isn’t usually for forward-thinking, but it’s going to look awfully weird in a few years if Eichel isn’t up there, so let’s just do it and save ourselves the future explanations.
Mark Stone, Reilly Smith, William Karlsson, Alec Martinez
The first three are all easy. Stone and Karlsson have both been Selke finalists and if Smith played in Toronto or Montreal he’d probably have been right there with them. The last one was tough. Theodore, Pietrangelo, Roy, Stephenson, and Schmidt were all considered, but in the end, Martinez gets the nod. Since coming over in the trade he’s been a rock on the back end while also becoming one of VGK’s most dangerous power play weapons. The guy scored in his first game as a Golden Knight, then tripped over his own feet into the boards, and without him, the defense went to crap most of last year.
Alex Tuch, Jonathan Marchessault, Mark Stone, Zach Whitecloud
This one is about who is the proudest to be a Golden Knight. While Deryk Engelland was considered, his loyalty always seemed to lie more with Vegas than it did the Golden Knights (I’m not sure if that makes sense, but it does in my mind so go with it). Tuch was the runaway favorite here, which is sad because he was eventually traded. Marchessault constantly refers to the organization as the “pride and joy” of his career, and Stone is the team’s first captain. It’s the last one that was tricky. Whitecloud’s love for the team starts with his decision to pick VGK when he could have gone pretty much anywhere else for the same price. Then, he battled his way through the minor league system jumping over higher-touted players to become an everyday player for the team. He’s as team-first a guy as they come both on and off the ice. Plus, like Tuch before he was traded, it’s the only organization they can be tied to.
Chandler Stephenson, Brayden McNabb, Erik Haula, Tomas Nosek
We’re almost to the point where we talk so much about how underrated Stephenson is that he falls out of the category, but I don’t think we’re there yet. McNabb is an obvious candidate here too. Haula makes the cut for a few reasons, but most notably how much he scored. Most people don’t associate Haula as a key goal scorer for this franchise, but he still sits 11th all-time despite playing just 91 regular season games as a Golden Knight. I also have a soft spot for the double-OT goal against the Kings, the first playoff overtime goal in team history. As for Nosek, he did everything for the Golden Knights and almost made the 200-foot player list. There was never a situation where you felt concerned with having him on the ice and the dude came up with some of the most incredibly timed goals in team history.
Engelland’s Speech, Theodore’s GWG vs TBL, Stone OT GWG vs COL, Lifting the Cambell Bowl in WPG
For a franchise that’s only been around for six years, there were a lot to choose from here. Deryk’s speech was a no-brainer and the little informational plaque at the base of this Mount Rushmore would also commemorate the Nosek goal. The Theodore goal the moment most people realized just how good that first year team was and as much as has gone on since I still think it’s the loudest the building has ever been. The Stone goal is the seminal moment from the most impressive series win ever, over Colorado in 2021. And finally, the moment the Golden Knights huddled around the trophy after they had won the Western Conference still remains the gold standard for what all future VGK teams are trying to reach.
Winnipeg (cutting the Jet in half), Seattle (welcoming the Kraken to the league), the OG (sword and stone), San Jose (stabbing the shark)
This one really only needs pictures.