The #PowerKill is no more. With the departure of Reilly Smith, the Golden Knights have a fairly sizeable hole to fill on their penalty kill. Not only must Vegas find a suitable partner to skate with William Karlsson, but they are replacing nearly 15% of their overall forward power play time with the loss of Smith.
Last year, only seven forwards in the entire NHL skated more on the penalty kill in the postseason than Smith. Smith was on the ice for 36:51 shorthanded minutes in the playoffs and another 102:57 in the regular season. Only Chandler Stephenson and Karlsson played more than Smith.
Bruce Cassidy did not use many players on the penalty kill over the course of the season. Just seven players reached at least 25:00 of shorthanded time in the regular season and only six skated at least 20:00 in the playoffs.
Shorthanded Time On Ice (Regular Season)
Karlsson – 127:34
Stephenson – 114:03
Smith – 102:57
Roy – 80:01
Stone – 52:13
Howden – 40:36
Eichel – 26:10
Shorthanded Time On Ice (Playoffs)
Karlsson – 42:09
Smith – 36:51
Stephenson – 28:57
Stone – 25:01
Roy – 24:37
Howden – 21.45
Without Smith, we can still expect to see Karlsson, Stephenson, Stone, Roy, and Howden soak up the majority of the PK minutes, but that sixth and final spot is up for grabs.
The obvious answer, and undoubtedly the best player for the job, is Jack Eichel. However, that would mean all six penalty killing forwards would be projected top-nine players.
Cassidy mentioned it a year ago, and Pete DeBoer said it multiple times during his tenure; using bottom-six (especially fourth line players) on the penalty kill is crucial for the overall health of the team. Since Gerard Gallant’s time behind the VGK bench though, no one has been able to do it.
William Carrier could be the key to making it happen in 2023-24. Early in the season last year, Cassidy expressed a hope to build Carrier into a full-time penalty killer. He was unable to follow through on it though as Carrier played just 9:27 in PK time during the regular season and added a measly 18 seconds in the playoffs.
Ignoring the incredibly small sample size, Carrier wasn’t half bad on the kill. In the nine minutes he was on the ice for just one goal (which equates to about an 80% PK rate) and he ranked 6th among VGK forwards in shot attempts against. Watching the film of his nine minutes, it’s fairly clear he wasn’t completely comfortable doing the job, but, in theory, added experience should resolve that issue.
Whether it’s Carrier or not, filling Smith’s shoes on the kill, and in empty-net situations, will be even more important than filling them at 5-on-5. Eichel can do it, but the team would be better off with it being done by literally anyone else.