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Micro-Stats Shed Light On Many Golden Knights

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Last week one of the best follows on Twitter, analytics wizard @JFreshHockey, dropped a bunch of “micro-stats” from stat-tracking company InStat.

InStat goes back over games and grades events like turnovers, zone entries, puck battles, and dekes. The Golden Knights were littered throughout the top and bottom 20 lists for a variety of stats, some that were quite surprising.

We’ll start with a good one.

No surprise here, Mark Stone is awesome. The eye test has proven this out for years, but now we have a solid stat to show that when the puck is on Stone’s stick in the defensive zone, it’s coming out of the zone. Also unsurprisingly, he does it by passing the puck out as opposed to carrying it.

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VGK Fantasy Hockey Outlook

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If you are anything like me, when you play fantasy sports you have to have at least one player from your favorite team on your roster. You’d think being a fan of the Golden Knights would make this easy. Vegas has been one of the top three or four teams in the NHL each of the past two seasons and are right there again this year. However, fantasy hockey and actual hockey are much different.

NHL.com has released a whole host of fantasy hockey lists from Top 250 to sleepers to rookies to watch and the Golden Knights are notably absent on many of these lists. But, when they added it all up, VGK found themselves in 4th on the overall team rankings. Very confusing, let’s go through it.

The Golden Knights have eight players in the NHL Top 250. The first guy on the board doesn’t come until #24 though, that’s Robin Lehner. Then we find Max Pacioretty (#33), Mark Stone (#43), Alex Pietrangelo (#54), Shea Theodore (#63), William Karlsson (#138), Alec Martinez (#152), and Jonathan Marchessault (#164). Alex Tuch is also listed in “Key Injuries” which means he would likely have been in the Top 250 as well.

Lehner certainly earns the Golden Knights a lot of weight in the fantasy world and actually, Laurent Brossoit behind him helps out as well. The pair are ranked 4th in the NHL in fantasy goalie tandems behind the Islanders, Lightning, and Avalanche.

One slightly surprising omission is Peyton Krebs on the rookie list. Spencer Knight and Cole Caufield headline the list, but names like Marco Rossi, Jamie Drysdale, and Quinton Byfield made the cut. In fact, there are even a few “other” rookies listed and Krebs couldn’t even get his name included there.

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Hunting Career Highs: Defensemen And Goalie

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Though hockey is a team sport and the ultimate goal for every player involved is hoisting the Stanley Cup, individual numbers matter too. Each guy is always looking to build what they’ve done so far in their respective careers. With a pair of shortened seasons in the books, the last two years, and the Golden Knights primed to be one of the best teams in the NHL, many players have a chance to put up career-high numbers in numerous statistical categories.

We’re taking a look at each individual player and choosing the statistic they are most likely to set their career high in this season. Today we start with goalies and defensemen, later in the week we’ll move on to forwards.

Robin Lehner
Stat: Wins
Career High – 25

Lehner has his name engraved on the Jennings Trophy twice in the past three seasons. He has also received Vezina votes in two of those years. He did both of those as part of a goalie tandem though. Before that, he was the starter in Buffalo but for just two seasons, neither of which were his best. Now, Lehner has been handed the reins in Vegas and will likely be looking at 55-60 games in the net. His career-high mark in wins is just 25, the year he came in 2nd for the Vezina. Assuming health, he should get there with ease.

Other options: Shutouts (6), Quality Starts (32), Games Started (58)

Shea Theodore
Stat: Points
Career High – 46

Shea is the perfect guy to break through statistically this year because he doesn’t even need to improve his game to do it. In the 71 game season, in which he finished 6th in Norris, Theodore posted 46 points, an awesome number, but very reachable with 11 more games. He improved on it last year going off for 42 in 53 games. That’s 0.8 points per game. To set his career-high this year, he’ll need just 0.57 points per game.

Other options: TOI (1,588), Assists (34), Shots (219), Goals (13), Power Play Points (16)

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Can Alex Pietrangelo And Shea Theodore Succeed Simultaneously? Last Year Raises Concerns

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The moment the Golden Knights inked the mega-deal with Alex Pietrangelo the identity of the defense changed. Where VGK had previously been seen as a balanced group, Pietrangelo’s addition turned them into a collection of six defined by the two superstars. With Shea Theodore’s emergence the year prior and Pietrangelo captaining the Stanley Cup winner the year before, Vegas’ pair could be put up against any other defensive duo in the league.

Then the season came.

Theodore started off red hot amassing 14 points in his first 15 games while Pietrangelo took some time to settle in. Over the course of the year both missed time but throughout the balance of the regular season, it was clear that Theodore was the better performer. In fact, he earned himself 109 Norris votes, good for 6th place, where Pietrangelo did not receive a single vote.

Then the postseason came. And it flipped.

Pietrangelo was the best player in a Golden Knights jersey for the entire 19 game run while Theodore faded to the background going pointless in 10 of the first 12 and 13 of 19 playoff games. Pietrangelo racked up four goals including a stretch where he scored three of the team’s four total goals while Theodore lit the lamp just once in 439 minutes.

Due to the shortened season and the nature of the playoffs, the sample sizes are both fairly small. However, it seems like much more than a coincidence that when Theodore was on Pietrangelo was not, and vise versa.

I wanted to take a simple statistical approach to looking at this odd phenomenon before potentially diving deeper into it tactically and/or systematically. So, I went back over the 38 regular season games and 19 playoff games that featured both Pietrangelo and Theodore. I was focused on the two simplest stats, goals and points.

Over the course of the two seasons, before the pair played together, Theodore had scored 25 goals and 83 points in 150 regular season games. He ramped it up scoring nine times and adding 27 points in 27 playoff games. Pietrangelo’s scoring numbers are similar. In 141 regular season games he scored 29 goals and 93 points while he added four goals and 25 points in 35 playoff appearances.

Goals Per Game
Theodore – .19
.17 regular season
.33 playoffs
Pietrangelo – .19
.21 regular season
.11 playoffs

Points Per Game
Theodore – .62
.55 regular season
1.0 playoffs
Pietrangelo – .67
.66 regular season
.71 playoffs

The idea of acquiring Pietrangelo was to add his blue line production to the already excellent production Theodore had been generating. In theory, rather than having one defenseman scoring every fourth or fifth game, Vegas would have two. They’d also have two guys generating more than a half-point per game meaning there should rarely ever be a night where neither are on the board.

It didn’t pan out that way though. Here are their numbers this season in the 38 regular season games and 19 playoff games both were active,

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Here’s Why The Golden Knights Will Never Share The Coyotes Problems

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By now most hockey fans have read the news developing down in Glendale, Arizona. The city is no longer interested in hosting the hometown Coyotes in their city funded arena. This isn’t much of surprise since the two parties have been battling for almost a decade. The situation down in Arizona is a stark difference to what’s happening here in Las Vegas.

Both the Coyotes and the NHL are one hundred percent committed to staying here, and even if our specific arena plans beyond the 2021-2022 season are not yet confirmed, I want to be very clear to you that our future is here in Arizona.- Coyotes President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez

A True Expansion Team

When the Arizona Coyotes were originally formed the franchise was someone else’s leftovers. An already established club with players that made the move from dreary old Winnipeg to bright and sunny Phoenix. There was excitement in Arizona but not in the same way fans felt here in Vegas. Coyote fans were forced to cheer on a team that had finished 5th the prior year, all while the Cardinals and Suns were kicking off their seasons. It was difficult for the new addition to break through and gain the same momentum the Golden Knights did in 2017.

Also Vegas didn’t have to compete with an NFL or NBA team allowing Golden Knights fans to solely focus their attention fall on a newly formed unit called The Misfits. Both parties came together to form the greatest season in expansion history. Not sure the Cup run fairy tale would’ve happened if Las Vegas had inherited a defunct franchise’s roster.

Hidden Star Power

When the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft roster was announced it was the Vegas Golden Knights front and center. The 31st franchise didn’t have to share headlines with other incoming teams like the generation of expansion teams that came before them. Since the attention was fully on Sin City, fans only needed to focus on the player’s owner Bill Foley and GM George McPhee drafted. James Neal, David Perron and of course Marc-Andre Fleury were established names in the league but it was the unknown players that fans drew to as well. William Karlsson quickly became a star in Las Vegas after wasting away in Columbus. Same went for other Misfits. Alex Tuch, Jonathan Marchessault and even Deryk Engelland became marquees on Las Vegas Boulevard.

The roster changed slightly before the Coyotes kicked off their inaugural season featuring young captain Keith Tkachuk, future Hall of Famer Shane Doan and goaltender (the Bulin Wall) Nikolai Khabibulin. Unfortunately for Coyotes fans, stars like Teemu Selanne were sold off before the move.

Winning Of Course

The Coyotes have been operating for 24 seasons and have yet to make an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals. The desert dogs once reached the Western Conference Final in 2012 but flamed out to eventual Cup winner LA Kings. In four seasons Vegas has matched and exceeded Arizona’s accomplishments. The Golden Knights have proven that hockey can “work in the desert” by winning hockey games. Plain and simple, the Coyotes haven’t done that consistently enough over their history.

In contrast, the Coyotes own the worst franchise win percentage (.479) in the NHL and the Golden Knights for now, have the best (.636) in league history. Of course the numbers favor the much youngest organization but Arizona has had plenty of seasons to climb out of the gutter.  A successful club breeds confidence and a dedicated fanbase. Vegas developed that in only four years.

Becoming A Destination

Victories lead to playoff appearances, trophies and the pick of the free agent litter. The Coyotes started off strong making the playoffs in five of their first six seasons but have qualified for postseason only four times since then. The Golden Knights accomplishments and winning attitude allowed the front office to convince Alex Pietrangelo, Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone and Alec Martinez to long term agreements either through free agency or trade extensions. Arizona has been unable to sign that many quality players in over 20 years of existence. The Phoenix area might be a desirable location to play hockey but if the team isn’t successful, high end talent will look to play elsewhere, like in Las Vegas. That’s been the case for the Coyotes.

Say No To Public Funding

Lastly, and this is a big reason why Arizona and Vegas don’t share the same problems. The Coyotes organization have been desperately campaigning for public financing to build a state of the art arena. That can come across as greedy and too risky for certain taxpayers. We see it in our own backyard as some Vegas residents despise that the city funded Allegiant Stadium. Golden Knights fans won’t have to worry about any nasty public negotiations as T-Mobile Arena was built with private money.

The future in Arizona is up in the air, but it won’t matter. The Coyotes will never own a market like the Golden Knights do, even if they were as committed to winning. After four straight successful seasons and one amazing run to the Cup Finals, Vegas fans and players have quickly bonded. That connection from the inaugural season will never get lost, even down the road after a few losing seasons. If they stay put or move, the Coyotes proved hockey may not work in all desert cities, but it sure works in Las Vegas.

Which Golden Knights Have the Best Odds To Win Individual Awards In 2021-22?

Last year the Golden Knights got back atop the individual awards podium when Marc-Andre Fleury took home the Vezina Trophy. Before that Vegas had seen wins by William Karlsson (Lady Byng), Deryk Engelland (Messier), Gerard Gallant (Jack Adams), and George McPhee (GM of the Year) all in 2017-18.

With a stacked roster and the expectation of being a Cup contender once again, there’s a good chance a VGK player could win another individual award this year. Recently, William Hill listed all of their awards futures on the mobile sports app and all are available to bet right now. Here are the VGK candidates.

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Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman)

Shea Theodore: +2500
Alex Pietrangelo: +2500
Alec Martinez: +6000

As the odds suggest, this truly is a toss-up between Theodore and Pietrangelo. While Shea had the much better regular season and finished 6th in the voting a year ago (and the year before), the postseason put in by Pietrangelo was the closest thing the Golden Knights have ever seen to a Norris-level performance. Martinez was stellar in the playoffs but his chances of being a true Norris finalist are probably long gone.

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Are The Golden Knights and Kraken Spoiling The Future for Canadian Teams?

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Prior to the pandemic, the country of Canada welcomed in 22 million tourists yearly. Here in Las Vegas, we entertained 40 million visitors in 2019. Nothing against our neighbors up North but there’s a lot more desire to visit the States and it’s possible the players feel the same way.

A unique, but valuable case could be newly-minted Stanley Cup champion David Savard, because word is he’s more willing than some of his peers to consider Canadian destinations. One GM said Thursday that he’s hearing more and more from players that they prefer not to play in Canada. ‘It’s a real thing,’ he said, mentioning taxes, social media and tighter pandemic restrictions.-Elliotte Friedman, Sportsnet

When the Golden Knights introduced George McPhee as the organization’s first general manager, GMGM answered a question we asked about Las Vegas being a top destination for the NHL’s best players. The hockey exec knew it would be easy selling Southern Nevada to players on the open market. The front office quickly took advantage by acquiring Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty, and eventually Mark Stone in the second season. All three players departed established Canadian franchises only to voluntarily commit their services to the year-old Golden Knights. By the time Alex Pietrangelo was locked in for seven years it was clear Vegas would have no trouble recruiting high-end talent.

Those who live here understand why players love performing in Nevada. Other than first-season castoff Vadim Shipachyov, former Golden Knights consistently express their affection for the city of Las Vegas. Like us, players crave the comfortable winter weather, low taxes, and the excitement of living in the Entertainment Capital of the World. It’s difficult for any Canadian city to compete.

The future for northern border teams became even bleaker once Seattle was introduced to the league. The Kraken offer another American city option creating more competition for the seven Canadian teams. Like Nevada, Washington offers millionaire athletes the same friendly income tax laws. Call it blasphemy but over the years Vegas and Seattle will become more desirable than some of the NHL’s Original Six.

Of course, there are benefits to playing in Canada, most notably Connor McDavid. The majority of players would jump at the chance to play with league’s best player. Vancouver is a beautiful city with a great fanbase, and who would turn down an offer from the renowned Canadiens or Maple Leafs?

It’s more than just history for today’s players. Weather, taxes, city amenities, and media pressure are some of the elements a free agent will consider. It’s clear the two newest franchises check off more on a player’s list than most Canadian franchises. For purists, it’s hard to absorb but as long as the stars decide to play stateside the Cup drought will probably continue in Canada.

2021 VGK Free Agency Tracker

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*This article will be updated throughout the day as more information rolls in.*

  • Alec Martinez has re-signed with the Golden Knights for a three-year contract worth $5.25 million AAV. (Source: @ frank_seravalli)
  • Laurent Brossoit has signed with the Golden Knights on a two-year contract worth $2.325 million AAV. (Source: @DarrenDreger)
  • Nick Holden and a 3rd Round Pick have been traded to the Ottawa Senators for Evgenii Dadonov. (Source: SinBin.vegas + @KevinWeekes)
  • Mattias Janmark will stay with the Golden Knights. (Source: @FriedgeHNIC)
  • Vegas is reportedly interested in signing Montreal’s Phillip Danault (Source: @GeorgesLaraque)
    • Danault has signed with the Kings. Six years for $5.5 million AAV. (Source: @PierreVLeBrun)
  • VGK have signed Sven Baertschi to a one-year, two-way deal worth $750K (Source: @GoldenKnights)
  • Patrick Brown has re-signed in Vegas. (Source: @GoldenKnights)
  • Gage Quinney has re-signed with the Golden Knights on a one-year, two-way deal. (Source: @GoldenKnights)
  • The Golden Knights have extended qualifying offers to both of their RFAs, Dylan Coghlan and Nolan Patrick (Source: @DavidSchoenLVRJ)
  • Tomas Nosek has signed with the Boston Bruins for two-years at $1.75 million AAV. (Source: @DarrenDreger)
  • Jimmy Schuldt’s agent confirms he will not be re-signing with the Golden Knights. (Source: @VeritasHockey)
    • Schuldt signed with the Buffalo Sabres for one-year at $750K (Source: @SabresPR)
  • Erik Haula has signed with the Boston Bruins for two-years at $2.375 million AAV. (Source: @PierreVLeBrun)
  • Carl Dahlstrom signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Source: @MapleLeafs)
  • Ryan Murphy signed with the Detroit Red Wings. (Source: @DetroitRedWings)

For up-to-date salary cap information, check out PuckPedia.com.

VGK’s Best Postseason Players All Had One Important Thing In Common

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If there’s one thing the Golden Knights were not short on as they headed into their fourth Stanley Cup playoff journey, it was experience. Before the 19 games they each played on their path to the Semifinals, the Golden Knights entered the playoffs with 1,086 games of postseason experience on the roster.

On top of that, they also boasted four prominent players that have won Stanley Cups. Between Marc-Andre Fleury, Alex Pietrangelo, Alec Martinez, and Chandler Stephenson, this version of the Golden Knights had players who had won seven of the last 13 Stanley Cups.

When you hear people talk about players like Fleury, Pietrangelo, Martinez, and Stephenson you’ll often hear them mention that accolade. In Martinez’s case, when he was acquired it was literally the only thing anyone wanted to reference when describing him as a player. And, after this season concluded, Martinez himself went right to it when talking about Pietrangelo.

He’s got that championship pedigree. He’s been through a lot of playoff runs. We actually went head-to-head quite a few times. -Alec Martinez on Pietrangelo

Personally, I’m usually a little skeptical when it comes to pedigree making a difference, but this year has made me re-think it a bit seeing the performances of the Cup-winners on the Golden Knights’ roster.

Think about it. Who were Vegas’ best three players on this postseason run?

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Playoff Pietrangelo Proves He’s Worth The Money

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When the Golden Knights inked All-Star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo to a jaw-dropping $61.6M contract it sent a strong message to the rest of the NHL. In the past Vegas’ front office gleefully spoke about “big game hunting,” and they did just that by signing the former St. Louis Blues captain to a 7 year/$8.8m AAV contract. In the end the money was well spent, even if the majority was earned in 19 postseason games.

At first glance, or really first 34 glances, the 2019 Stanley Cup champion looked pedestrian. Sharp skating, good defense but he was a step behind. Surely, Pietrangelo needed time to fit and understand coach Pete DeBoer’s plan of attack. Local fans are familiar with adjustment periods after Max Pacioretty’s leap in year two as a Golden Knight. Either way, the 31-year-old didn’t impress right out of the gate.

Pietrangelo’s First 34 Regular Season Games
2.78 Shots Per Game
0.47 Points Per Game
17 Points (4 Goals, 13 Assists)

The 2008 4th overall pick began showing signs of improvement with less than a month remaining in the regular season. It was almost like Pietrangelo said to himself ‘it’s go time.’ From that moment forward the slick shooting, right-handed defenseman became more involved offensively and was, for extended periods, the Golden Knights most lethal weapon. Vegas’ alternate captain was increasingly more comfortable and more impactful when the games mattered the most.

Pietrangelo’s Final 7 Regular Season Games
4.3 Shots Per Game
0.85 Points Per Game
6 Points (3 Goals, 3 Assists)

The last seven games of the regular season were a postseason warm-up for Pietrangelo. In 19 postseason games, the first-year Golden Knight was arguably Vegas’ most reliable skater. He finished the postseason leading the team in minutes played, shots on net, and power play points. Only William Karlsson had more playoff points and points per game. The 31-year-old played up to his pricey contract and performed like a Stanley Cup winning captain.

Pietrangelo In 19 Postseason Games
4.0 Shots Per Game
0.63 Points Per Game
12 Points (3 Goals, 3 Assists)

Over his career the 13-year veteran has averaged 0.59 points per game, its nearly identical to his 0.56 points per playoff game. As Vegas fans painfully know, points are tougher to come by in the postseason.

To be honest, I thought the conversation after year one would be how Pietrangelo’s contract would end up financially haunting the organization. Based on his early play, you couldn’t blame management for having some buyer’s remorse, but then playoff Pietrangelo appeared and the cost and commitment didn’t matter. The front office paid for the player fans watched in June, not January.

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