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Pairing With Pietrangelo – 5 Options For The Golden Knights Blue Line

Adding Alex Pietrangelo changes the look of any defensive unit in the NHL. It’s no different for the Golden Knights who through the years have seen quite the morphing of their blue line.

Vegas will head into 2020-21 with just one remaining starter from their inaugural game in Dallas, two from the Cup Final roster, and three from last year’s Opening Night.

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

2017-18 Opening Night


2018 Stanley Cup Final Game 1


2018-19 Opening Night

*Schmidt Suspended

2019-20 Opening Night


How they run it out for 2020-21 is still to be determined, but the options are fairly minimal. Three of the six projected starters are absolutely locked into one side of the defense with a fourth basically a foregone conclusion. The three are Pietrangelo (right), McNabb (left), and Whitecloud (right). Theodore is the fourth, he played 90 of 91 games on the right side last season, including the playoffs.

That leaves just a few moveable pieces thus limiting the combinations Pete DeBoer has to work with. Here are each of the possible options, starting with the one most likely to be used by the Golden Knights when they open the 2020-21 season.

Option 1

This combination leaves two pairs intact from the playoff run and slots Pietrangelo in with a good fit in McNabb to play first pair minutes. Martinez has shown to be a great option with Theodore and the Holden/Whitecloud pair have held the fort on the third pair. The main question with this grouping would be how much McNabb holds back Pietrangelo’s offense. At times, Schmidt’s offense was neutered a bit playing with McNabb as they found themselves hemmed in the defensive zone against the opposing top line. Pietrangelo is an upgrade over Schmidt which should help that issue, but he wasn’t brought to Vegas to spend a majority of his shifts trying to exit the zone. The Golden Knights want offense from Pietrangelo, and if it’s not coming in bunches with McNabb by his side, they won’t hesitate to switch things around. Probability: 80%

Option 2

Before Martinez got here, the best partner for Theodore was always McNabb. Martinez has shown he can step in and gel quickly with a new partner so maybe the Golden Knights consider moving him up to play with Pietrangelo. The question with this combination would be in deployment. DeBoer has used Theodore and Martinez in a primarily offensive role and would likely do the same using Option 1, but with Option 2, the first and second pairs are similar both offensively and defensively, which would mean a lot more defensive responsibility for Theodore. Probability: 15%

Option 3

The McNabb/Schmidt pairing was certainly imperfect through the postseason which is likely why the Golden Knights were content with letting Schmidt go. There’s an argument to be made though that McNabb was the culprit more so than Schmidt. If McNabb’s game has slid a bit, maybe Holden is able to take over the enviable role of playing with Theodore. The next option would be better if that’s the case, but this one is more likely. Probability: 2.5%

Option 4

This one would require a massive step forward from Whitecloud, but it’s absolutely worth a look as it’s the most balanced option available. Theodore played more than 100 games on the left paired with Deryk Engelland. Whitecloud has a lot of Engelland’s traits with a bit more offensive upside. It’s probably a bit crazy to change positions on a guy that was playing at a Norris level, but it’s 2020, so you never know. Probability: 1.5%

Option 5

The moment the Golden Knights officially put pen to paper with Pietrangelo, the idea of he and Theodore playing together had many people drooling. The problem is that it leaves the rest of the cupboard quite bare when it comes to generating offense. The dominant pair would likely see 25 minutes, which leaves almost 60% of the game with neither on the ice. There’s no doubt there will be times where Theodore and Pietrangelo see the ice together, especially when VGK are chasing a goal, but as a starting pair, it’s not likely at all. Probability: 1%


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  1. Hague_for_Norris

    Honesty on that third pair I would love to see Hague and Whitecloud they played well together in Chicago and I think that if Hague can develop his physical game a little more and play like he did in Misaggua you have a really good two-way player.

    • I could absolutely see that as an option. I could see Dahlstrom beating out Holden too. Was more worried about the top two pairs for this article.

    • Daryl

      I’m not sure what Hague’s problem is, maybe it is his physicality, but he didn’t look very good the few times he was brought up. But I do agree with you on that I would love to see Whitecloud playing alongside someone other than Holden. I personally don’t think Holden is that good and they wasted money by signing him. I really like Whitecloud and I hope he gets a chance to play next to someone different this season.

  2. David VanderKlipp

    No option(s) with other guys in the lineup

    • There’s certainly a chance for a guy like Dahlstrom, Hague, Bischoff, etc to make the lineup, but in every instance, they’d be on the 3rd pair. Was more focused on how Pietrangelo fits in for this article than the 6th D spot.

  3. Carl

    But if only we still had Nate…

  4. SB

    Holden is valuable to the Team. A solid third pair D-Man at a very reasonable cost. He is worth every cap dollar spent. It bothers me to see his name thrown around as the guy to go to get under the cap. Had Management given Reaves the $1 mil per season his game deserves, the Team would be cap compliant. A costly miscalculation. I’d be looking for another alternative before sending Holden out the door.

  5. Tim

    I’m not a big Holden fan maybe because of his age and he’s holding guys like Hague from getting a chance. In fairness to Holden he’s quite an athlete anyone making the NHL is pretty good to start with and when he kicked that 52 yard field goal in the bubble tells me he’s a well rounded athlete. The problem going for the cup creates is our draft prospect are overcooked and who have they brought up on a permanent basis zero. Yea I know Whitecloud but he was a free agent signing so besides Hague and Glass coming up for a cup of coffee and I mean a small cup of coffee that’s it. They’ll do it again this year Glass if healthy should be a regular but after that they’ll all be playing for the Silver Knights. You can bet the extra D-Man will be Dahlstrom because of age and experience. They will tell us that playing daily for the Silver Knights is better then sitting on the bench with the Golden Knights which will further there career. Thats really true playing beats sitting but openings are so few and far between on the Golden Knights that there basically trade bait. I think the Silver Knights will have an interesting team to watch and I hope we get some TV games.

  6. Tim

    Thanks for the info about the AHL TV I’m looking forward to watching the younger players.

  7. THE hockey GOD

    option 1A

    Whitecloud (the CHIEF) and Peter Angels.

  8. Daryl

    The only REAL option is option 1. Martinez is getting slower but he faired well alongside Theo last year. Whitecloud isn’t quite ready to step up a level yet which is unfortunate because he will be held back a lot playing alongside Holden. I’m worried about that first pairing (which should move down to 2nd pairing) of McNabb and Pietra. I don’t think Pietra is good enough defensively to help McNabb and all is mistakes, if he plays like he did last year.

    Putting Theo and Pietra together would look great offensively but the team would suffer a lot defensively. Plus you would have both guys fighting over who would get to shoot the puck more

  9. DC

    All this pontificating about D men. From what I saw in the bubble playoffs, VGK struggled from a lack of scoring. They were decent at the blue line. So what is the plan for scoring more goals next season? Based on what I’ve seen in recent player trades, VGK’s plan for scoring more goals next season basically comes down to wishful thinking.

  10. Juan

    Jon Merrill and a Vegas traffic cone would still be a better pairing than any of the ones mentioned in the article or the comments. That guy could do it all. It was unfair to even give him a partner. Was like playing with 6 skaters on the ice at all times – the guy’s a walking, talking powerplay. Need a spark up front? One shot, one goal, two wins, no losses when he’s plugged into the offense. PDB didn’t even let him play more than a couple of shifts against Edmonton because he saw just how unfair it was to unleash the beast on poor McDavid and Draisaitl. Pretty sure I saw them crying on the bench. Guess they didn’t like not being the best forwards in the building. #15IsElite #JonnyHockey

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