Late in overtime Golden Knights’ defenseman Alex Pietrangelo made an unfortunate turnover costing them an extra point in Carolina. The miscue stung but in reality, earning one point in a game that seemingly looked over was a nice parting gift. Unfortunately, players don’t see it that way. Especially, the players that make game-ending gaffes.
If it weren’t for Pietrangelo’s work in regulation it’s possible Vegas never even forces overtime. And for that, coaches, teammates, and some fans tend to cut heavily used defensemen some slack. Last night was a good example of that. It was Pietrangelo’s team-leading 29th shift of the game when his soft pass was scooped up by Andrei Svechnikov.
If you’ve got a good defense then you can be in every game. –George McPhee on Alz Caps podcast
McPhee joined one of his former draft picks, 12-year NHL veteran Karl Alzner on his podcast to talk some puck and the importance of reliable defensemen.
**The whole interview can be found here. It’s an excellent listen for any VGK fan.**
It’s clear the Golden Knights organization values top-tier defensemen. Acquiring Shea Theodore around the expansion draft, making an in-season trade for Alec Martinez, and inking Alex Pietrangelo to a loaded seven-year commitment should be enough evidence.
You’ve seen it with the Caps and you can see it with our team and other teams that have a lot of injuries this year. You can lose some forwards and hang in there. You start losing defenseman and you’re in trouble. –McPhee on Alz Caps podcast
For reference, McPhee’s first two picks in Washington were defenseman. Overall, while managing the Capitals McPhee selected 38 defensemen and nine of them in the first round. Including, choosing Alzner fifth overall in 2007. Clearly, it’s a position McPhee heavily values.
Positionally, the most important position gained is in the net. So I’d like to get a goalie or two and a quarterback. A quarterback that’s a defenseman. –McPhee on Alz Caps podcast
Vegas’ team president played the hypothetical situation game on how he would design a team from scratch. Not through an expansion draft, but philosophically. According to Vegas’ team president, goaltending and defense are the two positions you want to build your team around.
And when asked which NHL players he would start with, the crafty McPhee answered.
Probably Lehner, Pietrangelo and Eichel. –McPhee on Alz Caps podcast
In 2017, the Golden Knights selected two defensemen in their first four picks as an NHL franchise. Both selections worked out well for Vegas. Nic Hague’s size and shot have made an impact this season, and Erik Brannstrom was packaged for Mark Stone. In five drafts the Golden Knights front office selected 12 defensemen, only Hague has seen action with Vegas. However, they were also able to sign Zach Whitecloud, Daniil Miromanov, and Brayden Pachal as undrafted free agents.
That’s an important part of drafting is getting the right defenseman and the leadership that goes with it. –McPhee on Alz Caps podcast
Based on McPhee’s history in Washington, at some point, Vegas will draft a surplus of defensemen. From 1997-2014, the former Capitals manager selected 20 defensemen in the first three rounds. And even selected five blueliners in consecutive drafts.
Sooner than later, the Golden Knights will be looking for their next Pietrangelo, and it may take a dozen or so tries until they find him. But for now, give him a break for last night.