Though hockey is a team sport and the ultimate goal for every player involved is hoisting the Stanley Cup, individual numbers matter too. Each guy is always looking to build what they’ve done so far in their respective careers. With a pair of shortened seasons in the books, the last two years, and the Golden Knights primed to be one of the best teams in the NHL, many players have a chance to put up career-high numbers in numerous statistical categories.
We’re taking a look at each individual player and choosing the statistic they are most likely to set their career high in this season. Today we start with goalies and defensemen, later in the week we’ll move on to forwards.
Career High – 25
Lehner has his name engraved on the Jennings Trophy twice in the past three seasons. He has also received Vezina votes in two of those years. He did both of those as part of a goalie tandem though. Before that, he was the starter in Buffalo but for just two seasons, neither of which were his best. Now, Lehner has been handed the reins in Vegas and will likely be looking at 55-60 games in the net. His career-high mark in wins is just 25, the year he came in 2nd for the Vezina. Assuming health, he should get there with ease.
Other options: Shutouts (6), Quality Starts (32), Games Started (58)
Career High – 46
Shea is the perfect guy to break through statistically this year because he doesn’t even need to improve his game to do it. In the 71 game season, in which he finished 6th in Norris, Theodore posted 46 points, an awesome number, but very reachable with 11 more games. He improved on it last year going off for 42 in 53 games. That’s 0.8 points per game. To set his career-high this year, he’ll need just 0.57 points per game.
Other options: TOI (1,588), Assists (34), Shots (219), Goals (13), Power Play Points (16)
Career High – +20
This was always going to be a tough one considering the borderline Hall of Fame career Pietrangelo has put in so far. Opening Night will be his 800th career NHL game and he’s played at least 78 games six different times in his career. +21 is a lofty number for Pietrangelo to reach, but he matched that +20 career-high number last year in just 41 games with the Golden Knights. He’s certainly going to be leaned on to generate offense for VGK and with both Brayden McNabb and Zach Whitecloud on separate pairs he shouldn’t have to shoulder all of the defensive load. It would probably take VGK having a goal differential of about +50 or more to make it happen, but they can certainly do it.
Other options: Even-Strength Assists (28), Points (54), Assists (43) Shorthanded Assists (1), Goals (16)
Stat: Power Play Goals
Career High – 4
Since coming to the Golden Knights, Martinez has been a real factor on the power play. Despite the addition of Evgenii Dadonov, which is supposed to solve VGK’s power play issues, Martinez will likely still be a focal point from the right circle of the 2nd unit. He has scored twice on the power play each of the last two postseasons, which has consisted of 39 total games. He also got three on the power play in 53 games last year. Assuming he’s out there for close to 82 this year, he should be able to notch five.
Other options: Shots (144), +/- (+26), Goals (11)
Stat: Games Played
Career High – 81
It’s going to be tough, but at least it’s possible. Pretty much every other stat is going to be tricky for McNabb to reach. Early in his career in LA, he was much more of a scoring threat, once posting 24 points on 22 assists and two goals in a season. He has just 48 points in 269 games with the Golden Knights, so it doesn’t seem likely he’ll reach 25 points this year. Maybe he can score five goals, but again, seems like a stretch. Even the stat McNabb is best at, defensive point shares, will be a tall task as he amassed an incredible 5.0 in 2017-18. I’m banking on him wanting to play all 82 for the first time in his career.
Other options: Point Shares (5.2), Defensive Point Shares (5.0), Shorthanded Assists (1), Shooting Percentage (5.7%)
Stat: Time On Ice
Career High – 909 minutes
Went with TOI over games played because I don’t even think he needs to reach his 51 game career-high to amass 910 minutes of ice time this year. Honestly though, I’d be surprised if there are many stats Whitecloud does not surpass this season.
Other options: Games Played (51), Point Shares (2.8), Points (12), Shooting Percentage (3.7%), Goals (2), Assists (10)
Career High – 65
Could have gone a bunch of different ways with Hague. The ultimate decision came down to what number he is likely to reach the fastest, and I think that’s blocks. With Dylan Coghlan likely to be pushing for ice time behind him, I can’t say I’m sure Hague will reach the necessary 53 games, nor am I sure he’ll get to six goals even if he plays all 82. I think he can put up 66 blocks in about a 40 game span, so he should get there with ease.
Other options: Games Played (52), Time On Ice (832), Assists (12), Point Shares (4.0), Goals (5), Points (17)