With Jack Eichel and William Karlsson out of the lineup, the Golden Knights knew they had to look to Nic Roy to fill some pretty massive shoes at center. The former 4th round pick has deputized up the lineup on multiple occasions, but rarely has he been asked to carry the load as a top-six center.
Bruce Cassidy opted for continuity in keeping Chandler Stephenson with Mark Stone, which meant Roy found himself between Jonathan Marchessault and Ivan Barbashev.
The line got off to a bit of a slow start, failing to score in each of their first two games together (Marchessault scored an empty netter with a different group), but the underlying numbers indicated good things to come. And starting with the home game against the New York Rangers, boy did they come.
In the last six games, the trio has combined for 13 goals, 31 points, and a +18 rating. All three of Roy, Marchessault, and Barbashev are on six-game point streaks and they’ve been on the ice for multiple goals in five of the six games.
The advanced metrics are strong as well. The line has posted a 52% Corsi, 54% shot share, and have outchanced their opponents 59-41 and 26-16 at high danger. These numbers easily outpace the team average and also outpace each player’s average this season.
Success like this will always breed two questions. First, will it continue, and second should they stay together when the injured players return?
Roy, Marchessault, and Barbashev have been on the ice for 10 goals for while just three against. However, their expected goal tally is just 5.4-4.5, indicating they’ve massively overproduced in the last eight games together. In addition, they currently boast a 111 PDO and are 9-0 in high-danger goals, both numbers that are almost guaranteed to regress.
That being said, there’s still enough positive data there to justify taking a look at how the lineup shakes out if they remain together.
It appears William Karlsson will return for the first game out of the break. If he goes right back into the center of the 3rd line, the lineup looks like this.
Karlsson, Cotter, and Amadio have played 14 games together this season and have performed reasonably well.
When Eichel gets back though, it gets a bit trickier. The simplest option is to shift Stephenson to the wing to play with Eichel and Stone, a line used twice this season.
However, there’s an argument that the strength of the team is the four centers, so in a perfect world, it would be best to have Eichel, Stephenson, Karlsson, and Roy all in their natural positions. That forces one to the 4th line.
Assuming everyone gets healthy and stays healthy, Cassidy will have some tough decisions to make. But, it’s always better to have too many options than not enough, and the Roy, Marchessault, Barbashev trio are certainly helping to make that the case.