Nearly halfway through the regular season roles have been fairly clearly identified by second-year head coach Bruce Cassidy.
After returning a lineup nearly identical to the one that hoisted the Stanley Cup a year ago, it didn’t take long for the minute load on each player to reflect the coach’s preferred usage.
None of this will likely surprise anyone who watches Golden Knights games regularly, but it’s interesting to see the clarity in the roles that have been defined by time on ice this season.
**Times are listed on a per-game basis. Blank spaces indicate less than five seconds per game.**
Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo have paced the blue line at 5-on-5 with Theodore seeing more of the offensive zone starts. The penalty kill is led by Pietrangelo and Brayden McNabb with Alec Martinez and Zach Whitecloud the next pair over the boards. Ben Hutton is the fill-in power play defenseman while Nic Hague and Brayden Pachal get the call when a penalty killer is unavailable.
At center, there’s a clear hierarchy at even-strength. Jack Eichel leads the group followed by Chandler Stephenson, William Karlsson, Nic Roy, and Brett Howden if one of the other four is missing or needed on the wing. The centers are also expected to do a lot of the heavy lifting in special situations for the Golden Knights as well. All four primary centers play on both special teams while three of the four are relied upon in all situations.
On the wing, Ivan Barbashev paces the group at 5-on-5, mainly because his power play time is a bit limited compared to Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone. Unlike the centers, the wingers are basically only there for 5-on-5 and power play. Maybe the most surprising number on the whole chart is Keegan Kolesar’s offensive zone start percentage. With Roy and Howden, Kolesar is one of the few players with a significant rate of shift starts in the defensive zone. This is a good indicator that Cassidy trusts his 4th line to start in the O-Zone, something that was not always the case under Pete DeBoer.