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Replacing Reilly Smith On The Penalty Kill

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.


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  1. knights fan in minny

    wild bill and smitty were fun to watch on the pk the other team had to be on their toes

  2. Jailbird

    No doubt Smity was great on the PK and will be missed. I think maybe Pavo has some of those qualities and might find a spot there with Jack taking the occasional shift. We held a team scoreless, on the PP, in the SC finals, for the first time in 80 years. That was amazing!

  3. What will be missing and truly was is the chemistry Karlsson and Smith had. That doesn’t develop overnight despite the fact we all wish it could. Smith will be missed in more ways than one, I hope the tradeoff pays off.

  4. Chris

    The immediate thought that we are getting a shorty has diminished markedly with Reilly’s departure.

  5. TS

    Carrier knows how to hound and harrass opposing players. It would seem a good transition to more of the PK, and Carrier will adapt well with time. He’s a smart guy, he’ll be fine!

  6. Cindy

    Dorofeyev can fill that role.

    • Maybe he can, but I can honestly say I’ve never seen him on the PK at any level he’s played at since becoming a VGK prospect. Have a feeling there’s a reason for it, but you never know what guys may excel at until you see them do it.

    • sb

      Pavel must learn to play defense before becoming a penalty killer.

  7. Jake

    Loved Smith, one of my favorites.

    However, Barbashev was a must get player.


  8. Jailbird

    I agree Cindy. Pavo might not have played PK in his short career yet, but we all know how good Cassidy is at developing players to where he wants them to be. Also, Howden can play PK as well! We will be alright I think!

    • sb

      Karlsson and Roy, Stephenson and Howden are the PK guys.
      VGK are about the least penalized team in the League.
      These four can handle the minutes. Don’t overthink this one.

  9. That was a very good post today as I didn’t really consider that aspect of PK when smith was traded….Barbashev can fill that role at times but I’m still squarely and firmly on the fence as to how effective he will be over the 82 game grind as a ‘first line’ winger…I still do believe that the Barbashev/Smith trade needed to be done even if I still feel Barbashev is way overpaid… I still believe cotter is a better overall player than Pavo and his grit and fire is always a welcome trait to be had in the lineup.

  10. Jailbird

    Barby is a solid player and has been for a few years now. He played great in the 2019 playoffs with the Blues. He is very good on that line withJack and Marchy. No worries!

  11. Jailbird

    Also, I love Cotter, but he needs to learn to be a 200 ft player and more consistant. I’m confident Cassidy will get him there!

  12. Tim

    We gained 5 years in the Smith Barbashev trade we keep doing that and we’ll stay relevant. I think Alex Martinez 36 will be traded and replaced by one of our young D-Men again not only getting younger but gaining almost 5 million in cap space.

  13. Jailbird

    Marty will only get traded if we are questionable about making playoffs. Otherwise he plays the year and maybe retires? I don’t think he is interested in going anywhere else !

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