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GOLDEN KNIGHTS ACQUIRE JACK EICHEL FOR TUCH, KREBS, AND 1ST ROUND PICK

The Golden Knights have completed yet another blockbuster trade, this time adding Buffalo Sabres star center Jack Eichel.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Vegas has acquired Eichel and a 3rd round pick in exchange for Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, a 1st round pick and a 2nd round pick.

The 1st round pick is top-10 protected, meaning if the Golden Knights select outside of the top-10 in 2022, the selection will go to Buffalo, if Vegas selects inside of the top-10, they will keep the 2022 pick and send a 2023 1st to the Sabres.

Eichel is currently injured and unavailable to play with a neck injury that will require surgery. He will undergo an artificial disc replacement surgery in the coming days and is expected to be able to return to play in about 3-5 months.

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Assessing VGK’s Options Without Mark Stone And Max Pacioretty

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights came into this season touting “the deepest forward group in team history.” Due to a rash of injuries, that depth will be put to the test quickly this year and may ultimately determine the fate of the Golden Knights’ fifth season.

With Alex Tuch sidelined until at least January and Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty seemingly joining him with serious injuries, the options are starting to look limited on Pete DeBoer’s lineup choices.

Eventually, he’ll get Nic Roy, William Carrier, and Mattias Janmark back, but even then, it’s challenging to come up with a lineup that will truly strike fear in an opponent.

Here’s the most likely solution Vegas could turn to.

Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Janmark-Stephenson-Dadonov
Krebs-Patrick-Kolesar
Carrier-Howden-Roy

The Misfits return to the top of the lineup and will have to carry a massive load both offensively and as the clear best defensive line of the four. The good news with this group is there isn’t a major weak spot. Sure, there would likely be games where certain lines struggle, but as long as the Misfit Line produces, they should be able to survive.

The next option is to swap a Dadonov and Kolesar in the middle-six to try and build an offensive line and a defensive line.

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Micro-Stats Shed Light On Many Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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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Tuch’s Injury Creates Power Play Opportunities And Roster Options

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s been a tough week for Golden Knights fans. First the organization traded away two fan favorites only to have word come down that Alex Tuch will be out for six months with an injured shoulder. That’s a lot of difficult news in only five business days in the middle of summer.

Sticking with who’s left, filling Tuch’s role for an extended period of time will be difficult for coach Pete DeBoer. The good news is the roster has several options to help create offense, but will it be enough to improve Vegas’ lackluster power play?

(Dadonov) was a player we identified as a priority. We had him ahead of all players that were available in Expansion. That effectively addressed the need of adding one good foward. -Kelly McCrimmon

This week general manager Kelly McCrimmon acquired forward Evgenii Dadonov from Ottawa as another weapon to aid the power play, where he’s found high levels of success. Since his return to the National Hockey League in 2017-18, the 31-year-old Russian has registered 25 power play goals. In that span, he’s tied in PPG with offensive studs like Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin. Even more impressive, Dadonov posted those numbers without scoring on a man-advantage last season with Ottawa.

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It’s Time For Alex Tuch To Crack The Top Six

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If you’ve watched every Golden Knights game or just a few over the past four years, you’ve seen the talent level of Alex Tuch. It’s tough to miss. He’s big, fast, and incredibly skilled. Three attributes many NHL players weren’t born with.

After 255 games played with Vegas, it’s hard not to wonder if Tuch’s been used properly. A clear top-six forward on most NHL teams, the 25-year-old has been largely relegated to an inconsistent third line with no identity for four straight seasons. So when will the organization, coach Pete DeBoer, and Tuch himself, decide to make that leap and become a top scoring option for Vegas?

I’ve taken on a role of being able to move up and down the lineup. Honestly, it isn’t my decision whether or not I’m playing on the first two lines or the second two lines. I come here to do a job and that’s to play hockey and to do that to the best of my abilities. Whatever management, coaching staff feel where I should slot in the lineup that’s their decision and I’m never going to complain about that. -Alex Tuch, 06/26/21

I know he’s considered the seventh forward in the top six but it’s fair to argue if Tuch were given more shifts and better linemates he would become Vegas’ most lethal threat. I’m not ignoring Max Pacioretty’s natural ability to net pucks but Tuch is bigger, younger, and possesses a nasty release as well.

Perhaps the Misfit line’s chemistry is too consistent to break up. However, after back-to-back premature playoff exits, it’s possible there will be some roster shuffling. I’m not advocating trading a reliable two-way forward like Reilly Smith to shake things up, but to collect assets, cap relief, and create roster space it might made sense, especially with Tuch waiting in the wings.

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Vegas Needs Mark Stone’s Greatness To Continue Tonight

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Golden Knights captain Mark Stone has been as advertised against the Minnesota Wild. He leads the team in goals, points, average minutes by a forward and has shown his true leadership this postseason. However, it’s still not enough.

In order for the Golden Knights to advance past Minnesota, Stone will need to continue supplying Vegas with offense. With his linemate Max Pacioretty out it adds stress on the 29-year-old captain to come through night in and night out in the playoffs. And unfortunately when Stone can’t produce offense the team doesn’t fare well.

Starting with Stone’s first postseason as a Golden Knight in 2018, the winger has tallied 34 points in 32 playoff games. His average points per game is 1.06, up from 0.77 before the 2021 postseason began. However, the bulk of Stone’s postseason points come in Game’s 1-4. His production drops 50% in the last three contests of a seven-game series.

Stone Postseason Points Per Game w/ VGK

Games 1-4: 20 Games, 24 Points = 1.20 PPG
Games 5-7: 9 Games, 5 Points = 0.60 PPG

Vegas’ leader shouldn’t have to take on all of the responsibility but when he doesn’t score in one of the last three games the Golden Knights record is 1-6. That’s a problem.

This trend goes back to the regular season. Vegas heavily relied upon Pacioretty and Stone’s nightly offense to scoop up two points. When the two top liners came up dry, often so did their team. That can’t happen tonight or going forward in the playoffs.

In Game 5, Stone registered a goal in a losing effort. Even when he’s producing a point per game his club has come out on the losing end. Ultimately, most of the pressure falls on Stone to create more offense when Pacioretty is unavailable and Alex Pietrangelo continues to underachieve. Against Minnesota, the captain has made up for the absence of other’s production.

My guess is Stone will be active tonight and hard to keep off the scoresheet.

Carp: Patience Pays Off With Tuch

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

To paraphrase that great military philosopher and mercenary Col. John “Hannibal” Smith, “Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?”

When the Golden Knights managed to wrangle Alex Tuch away from the Minnesota Wild for a third-round conditional draft pick, someone knew something. All the organization needed to do was show some patience.

The Wild had drafted Tuch in the first round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft at No. 18 overall. He appeared in six games with Minnesota and was scoreless. Minnesota, which was hell-bent on protecting defenseman Matt Dumba, basically give Tuch away as the Knights used the Wild’s expansion selection to take Erik Haula.

Today, Tuch is a first-line winger, kills penalties, plays on the power play, and is one of Vegas’ best players. And he’s signed through 2026 at an AAV of $4.75 million. He has earned Peter DeBoer’s trust and best of all, he’s only 24 years old.

George McPhee doesn’t get them all right. But Tuch is making him look pretty damn smart. Ditto for Kelly McCrimmon, Vaughn Karpan and the rest of the team’s pro scouting contingent.

We had input from a lot of people. Minnesota was in a position where they had some stress from a salary cap standpoint and also from the cycle of where their team was at. They had a lot of really good players and we identified Minnesota as a team where we could get a prospect. If you go back to the expansion, we had the first (amateur) draft we drafted were ’99s and late ’98s. We didn’t have access to ’97s,’96s ’95s or ’94s. So there was value in dealing with one of the teams that were strapped to get one of the players from that age group, those exempt players. Alex Tuch was one of those players, born in ’96. Minnesota was in a tough spot. if they did nothing, they would’ve lost a top defenseman of forward. So it made sense for them and it made sense for us. -Kelly McCrimmon

I don’t know who is going to be the GM of the U.S. Olympic Team for next year’s Olympics in China, but if Tuch’s not on the list of invitees, something is definitely wrong. But more on that in a bit.

Let’s focus on the present. The Knights originally were in no rush to play Tuch. If you recall, he started the inaugural 2017-18 season with the Chicago Wolves. But late in October, he and Shea Theodore were recalled to the NHL and neither ever returned to the minors.

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