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A Case For And Against Trading Each Of VGK’s Top-Six Forwards And Top-Four Defensemen

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are likely headed for an offseason of change. It might be just a little if they can solve the goalie situation without breaking the bank or it might be a lot if they land the big fish in free agency. Either way, the possibility of moving one of Vegas’ top-six forwards and/or top-four defensemen is much higher this offseason than it was last summer.

Here’s a case for why they should trade each one of them, followed by a case against it. (Alex Tuch is substituted for Mark Stone due to Stone’s full no-movement clause.)

Max Pacioretty
$7 million (3 seasons remaining)

Case for: You want cap relief, here it is. Shedding Pacioretty’s $7 million would basically allow for a one-for-one move to make the big-ticket free-agent splash. Pacioretty may not return nearly as much as you’d probably like after the dismal end to the playoffs, but he has a history of scoring and former captains aren’t easy to find. He’s likely on the declining side of his peak and his injury issues are concerning. If someone is willing to buck up a 2nd round pick and eat the entire $21 million in cap space over the next three years, Vegas absolutely has to listen.

Case against: The biggest problem the Golden Knights had in 2019-20, and especially in the playoffs, was scoring and the solution is to trade the team’s leading scorer? What world are we living in here? The guy is coming off a 32 goal pandemic shortened season and was clearly banged up during the playoffs. When he’s healthy, he’s the best scorer Vegas has. He’s also worked incredibly well with VGK’s most important forward, Mark Stone. I’ll repeat what I said before, if scoring is the issue, you do not trade your leading scorer.

Jonathan Marchessault
$5 million (4 seasons remaining)

Case for: The case for trading Marchessault must start with his play in the postseason. He’s not the best defensive player in the world, he’s been known to take a penalty or two that he shouldn’t, and he isn’t exactly the physical specimen you look for in a hockey player, but all of that is overlooked because he can do the hardest thing to do in hockey, score. When he doesn’t, he has to be considered when thinking about change. The cap number would help free up some space for Vegas to make the splash they are hoping for in free agency and his production under DeBoer hasn’t matched what it was under Gallant which causes concern for the future. Plus, he’s played a lot less under DeBoer showing a lack of trust that Gallant had. This postseason Marchessault averaged 16:33 per game, in 2018 he averaged 19:25. The return would likely be worthwhile which could help in making something else happen down the line.

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Golden Knights OK With “Low-Event Hockey”; Should They Be?

Through the first three games of the series, the Golden Knights have tallied five goals total with just three coming at even-strength. While Vegas leads on the even-strength shot tally in the series 71-62, the scoring chance numbers per NaturalStatTrick.com actually show Dallas ahead 60-48.

Following Game 1, a game in which Vegas was bullied a bit early, Pete DeBoer used a phrase he had previously been known for in his time in New Jersey to describe the series-opening loss.

I don’t know what the chances were but it was a low-event game both ways. I didn’t think their offense gave us a lot of difficulty. -DeBoer

When DeBoer was behind the Devils bench from 2011-2015 the brand of hockey his teams were known for was often described as “low-event.” That means the shot numbers, chance numbers, and hopefully, the goal numbers are down. It’s a brand of hockey that has worked for many teams over the course of the past decade but one the Golden Knights have always viewed as the nemesis.

When the Golden Knights are at their best, they are creating chances in bunches. They tilt the ice in their favor and they impose their will on the other team. That’s how they overwhelmed Chicago, how they eventually cracked Thatcher Demko and the Canucks, and how they made their way out of the round-robin as the #1 seed. Going back further, that was the brand they played when DeBoer first arrived and it’s how they played for the entire Gallant era as well.

In Game 1, Vegas created just 14 scoring chances in the game at even-strength and only racked up seven through the first 2 periods. In Game 2, they tallied nine in the 1st period alone and finished the game off with 19 despite playing six fewer minutes of even-strength time. Then, in Game 3, they were back to struggling to create chances, totalling 17 but just 10 through two periods.

 Even-Strength TOIScoring ChancesChances/Min
VGK Game 154:52140.25
VGK Game 246:45190.41
VGK Game 352:15170.32
DAL Game 154:52270.51
DAL Game 246:45170.37
DAL Game 352:15200.38

Meanwhile, Dallas has stayed fairly consistent. They had a breakout period in the 2nd of Game 1, but aside from that, they’ve created about the same number of chances per minute in every other period of the series.

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“Heavy” Becoming Vegas’ New Label

Throughout their series, the Blackhawks used the word ‘heavy’ 31 times to describe the Golden Knights in press conferences.

Blackhawks captain Jonathon Toews uses “heavy” to describe two things. Vegas’ size, and their ability to hold the puck once they possess it. It’s no secret, the Golden Knights are big and most of their players are hard to bump off the puck. Which was apparent right from the start of the series.

Mark Stone is 6’4″, 219 pounds but also has the puck super glued on his stick. Alex Tuch is 6’4″ as well, and his skill, speed, and size make it difficult for a defender to strip the puck. Max Pacioretty is 6’2, with the lethal combination of power and a rocket shot. These are examples of being a heavy team, and playing like one.

They play a different game then the Oilers. They’re a very structured, simple team. They play a heavy game. You got to tip your hat sometimes, they play well as a squad. -Calvin de Haan, CHI Defenseman

Blackhawks defenseman Calvin de Haan used the word to describe differences between the Golden Knights and a faster, skill-based team like the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton has Connor McDavid, but what they didn’t have was the team structure and physicality Vegas has. The Golden Knights get scoring from multiple players, not just two, they defend, and rarely veer from their gameplan.

We know they’re an excellent team. They’re a heavy team, they get on the forcheck and try and hold you down… We gave them some easy ones, easy chances. They score 3-1 and during that stretch we just weren’t very good.-Jeremy Colliton, CHI coach

Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton called the Golden Knights a heavy team after three of the five games. Again, it wasn’t just their size, it was Vegas’ forecheck. When the Golden Knights push the puck with pressure they make teams feel like they’re being weighed down. All twelve forwards have that ability allowing Vegas the fortune to use all four lines.

Then there’s the natural use of the word.

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Golden Knights Unveil New Power Play Setup

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Pete DeBoer has had four months to scour over his roster and come up with the best combination of players in every situation. The forward lines and defensive pairs mostly match what we had seen in DeBoer’s time behind the bench before the pause, but the new power play groups have seen a bit of a shakeup.

Here’s how the Golden Knights ran out their power play units in practice on Friday, an early indication of what they’ll likely use when they get to the bubble in Edmonton.

Unit 1
Stastny-Stone-Pacioretty-Marchessault-Theodore

Unit 2
Karlsson-Smith-Tuch-Martinez-Schmidt

The first unit is absolutely loaded, which leads to a key question; are these equal time units, or is the first unit going to get closer to 90 seconds of the two minutes?

Stastny at center gives a good chance to win the faceoff, then he goes to the front of the net where he’s a terrific decision-maker. Marchesseault is stationed in the high-slot where he’s deadly when he gets the puck with a bit of time. Stone and Pacioretty present two excellent scoring options in the circles and both have shown tremendous vision to move the puck. And Theodore manning the blue line and driving the entries is VGK’s best PP QB.

There’s really nothing wrong with that unit at all, in fact, it might be the best collection of players the Golden Knights have ever had on the ice at the same time. The question is what it leaves the other unit.

DeBoer is abandoning the single defenseman setup on the second unit that he’s deploying on the first and has used most of his time in Vegas. The problem, in this case, is that neither defensemen is particularly proficient on the power play. Schmidt has just 26 power play points in his career and Martinez has only reached 15 in a season once. Both are good on at the blue line and each has the ability to laser a shot from distance, but as calling them elite weapons on the power play is a bit of a stretch.

That leaves much of the load to be shouldered by the three forwards.

 PointsPower Play PointsPower Play Points %
Max Pacioretty661929%
Mark Stone631727%
Shea Theodore461635%
Jonathan Marchessault471226%
Paul Stastny381026%
William Karlsson46817%
Alex Tuch17741%
Nate Schmidt31723%
Reilly Smith5459%
Alec Martinez13430%

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Vegas’ Top Line May Need A Postseason Nickname

In years past, certain forward lines have taken the postseason by storm and helped their teams win the Stanley Cup. Affectionately known as the HBK line, Carl Hagelin (16 points), Nick Bonino (18 points) and Phill Kessel (22 points) surprisingly combined for 56 points en route to the Pittsburgh Penguins fourth championship in franchise history.

Years earlier the LA Kings were also lucky enough to have an acclaimed line of their own. Going by the nickname, That 70’s Line, Jeff Carter (25 points), Tyler Toffoli (14 points), and Tanner Pearson (12 points) caught fire in the regular season which continued into LA’s run to the cup. Each wearing a jersey number in the 70’s, the line totaled 51 points in 26 games.

Keep in mind both of these famed triplets were support lines, that massively overachieved. Without them, however, their clubs wouldn’t have been so dangerous. Good news for Golden Knights fans, Vegas had their own explosive line in last year’s postseason, and expectations are even higher in 2020.

In their seven-game series against the Sharks, Mark Stone (12 points), Max Pacioretty (11 points) and Paul Stastny (8 points) were offensively unstoppable. The trio combined for 31 points in the series loss, averaging a whopping 4.4 points per game. The veteran line made up for 44% of the Golden Knights offense against San Jose. Just silly when you think about it.

Can Vegas expect the same this postseason? And is it possible it can get better? I don’t see why not considering coach Pete DeBoer upgraded at center with William Karlsson in the middle.

All three players have the skill to excel in the postseason. Karlsson added 15 points in 20 games in 2018, and Pacioretty and Stone lived up to their billing in 2019. Combine their playoff averages together and the top line’s production will scare the bejesus out of an opponent.

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Golden Knights Who Could Be Heading To The Olympics In 2022

As we inch closer to the NHL and NHLPA agreeing on a plan to finish out the 2019-20 season, word has leaked out that an amendment to the CBA will pave the way for NHL players to participate in the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.

The league blocked players from playing in the 2018 games citing an unwillingness to put the NHL season on halt for upwards of two months. Russia’s KHL took 33 days off for an Olympic break in 2018, Sweden’s SHL took 14, and leagues in Germany, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic took nearly three weeks each.  The last three times NHL players have gone to the Olympics the league took a two-week break.

So, with the prospect of being without the Golden Knights for two weeks in the middle of the 2021-22 season, we’ll have to hope a few Golden Knights make Olympic rosters. Here’s a look at which ones have the best chance.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Mark Stone – Canada

It’s hard to believe a roster with the option to select Mark Stone would be without him, but it is actually possible. He should be a lock as the best defensive winger in the NHL and nearly a point per game producer with size and an incredible stick, but the list of Canadian forwards is vast and depending on the type of team they are going for, there’s a legitimate argument to leave him off.

In the end, not selecting Stone would be a mistake Team Canada will probably not make.

William Karlsson – Sweden

Sweden is surprisingly a bit weak when it comes to the center position. By 2022, there’s going to be an argument to be made for Karlsson as the best Swedish center available. Nicklas Backstrom will be 34-years-old, so it’ll be between Karlsson and Mika Zibanejad. Karlsson will probably find himself down the lineup a bit due to his defensive prowess, but with the wingers Team Sweden boasts, every line is going to be potent.

Assuming health, Karlsson will be headed to Beijing.

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Shots Shots Shots Shots Shots Shots, Everybody

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In the shortened 2019-20 regular season the Golden Knights led the NHL with 34.5 shots on goal per game. In fact, since they entered the league Vegas has averaged the second-most shots per game over that three-season span.

Vegas led the entire NHL in 19-20 with 28 victories when they won the SOG battle. That’s 71% of their total wins for the season. The Golden Knights went 28-12-7 (.670), and are now 92-43-13 (.665) in franchise history when they’ve outshot other teams. Compare that to their 11-12-1 (.479) record this year when they were outshot and 35-37-9 (.488) all-time.

In 22 games as Golden Knights coach, DeBoer’s club outscored opponents 19 times, and went a stellar 13-4-2.

The bulk of the shots come mostly from the Golden Knights top-six forwards. Max Pacioretty led the team averaging 4.32 shots per game, followed by Jonathan Marchessault. Shea Theodore and Alex Tuch do their part as well, both creating several scoring chances per night. When DeBoer gets all of his weapons firing on net, opposing goaltenders have to play at their best, or else it’ll likely be a long night.

VGK Shot Leaders

Max Pacioretty: 4.32 S/GP
Jonathan Marchessault: 3.56 S/GP
Shea Theodore: 3.08 S/GP
Mark Stone: 2.58 S/GP
Reilly Smith: 2.38 S/GP
Alex Tuch: 2.33 S/GP
William Karlsson: 2.19 S/GP

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Golden Knights Hockey Card Checklist

Being stuck at home isn’t ideal but it does open up time to basically do just about anything. Some are working on loose handrails, others are taking up painting, Netflix binging, but in my case going through boxes and boxes of NHL common cards.

About six months ago my young son starting getting into hockey and baseball cards. It started with a Golden Knights team set, then grew to a few packs at Target, to eventually pulling singles from the local card shop. On one visit my four-year-old became overly excited when he pulled a random Roberto Luongo card. Valued at .65 cents, it’s become one of his favorite cards. No idea why, but it doesn’t matter.

With time in hand, the boy and I decided to do some inventory. Two full seasons and a paused one later, we found the Golden Knights are well represented in the hockey card world. From common cards like Nick Holden, Jon Merrill or William Carrier, to specially autographed and game-worn jersey inserts from your favorite stars.

According to Trading Card Database, there are a total of 3,811 separate Golden Knights hockey cards. Most are common cards you find in most packs, but there are plenty of insert cards available.

Autographed or signature inserts include; Shea Theodore, Reilly Smith, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Alex Tuch, Cody Glass, Zach Whitecloud, Nic Roy. Not shocking, the most valuable auto-cards are Upper Deck’s Marc-Andre Fleury autographed, VGK jersey cards. Most range $175-$200 in value. Autograph cards are hard to find (1:276), as in one per every 276 individual packs.

My personal favorite inserts are game-worn jersey cards. They’re not as elusive as player signature cards. Beckett.com lists jersey cards as (1:40), or one per 40 packs. If you do get lucky, hopefully, it’s a card with value or has some sentiment. As cool as they are, most are overpriced. For instance, on eBay, you can buy an Upper Deck game-used Fleury jersey card for $2,669.99, and an Alex Tuch patch insert for $499.99. As well crafted as these cards are, there are plenty of them released so they don’t hold value. Consider them like a car. However, here are a few that could hold value.

Trading card companies don’t produce as many cards as they used to, so not every player is featured in a series. Also, companies sign contracts with younger players and develop entire lines of cards around those projected stars. Tuch has the most trading cards as a Golden Knight. Fleury would be second, but you’d be surprised who follows. Cody Glass has upwards of ten separate autograph/jersey cards, including several Draft Day autographed jersey cards. At the young age of 20, the 2017 sixth overall pick has 341 different trading cards, most being released before he played a game for Vegas. If Glass pans out like the organization expects his cards could hold and possibly gain value over time.

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On A Set Play Vegas Comes Through In The Clutch

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It was the play of the game, if not one of the biggest plays of the season (feels like we’ve said that a lot, hopefully this one actually sticks). Having given up a 3-1 lead, Vegas could have easily skated out the period and secured at least a point in Carolina. However, the Hurricanes gave the Golden Knights one more chance to come away with a win. And that’s exactly what they did.

The late-game power play allowed Vegas to execute a perfectly set up game-winning goal. The beautifully designed tic-tac-toe sequence by Shea Theodore, Paul Statsny and Alex Tuch clinched a wild game for the Golden Knights. Not only was it a big goal for Tuch, but for the new coaching staff as well.

It was a good play by Theo and Stas, something we were kind of looking to do and we were able to execute. I just put my stick on the ice and made sure I hit the net. -Alex Tuch

The play began with a faceoff won by Stastny, purposely to his left, which Mark Stone jumped on and fed out to Theodore. Instead of taking his own shot, giving the puck back to Stone or Max Pacioretty to his right, the defenseman walked the blue line with the puck, opened up the seam and then used a little shot pass to feed the puck through an incredibly tight window to Stastny.

Theodore’s stutter-step/fake shot shifted the defense and goaltender just enough to find an open passing lane to Stastny who was waiting on one side of the net.

Knowing the puck was coming to him, he quickly directed the pass across the crease and on to the stick of Tuch, who tapped in the game-winner.

From the initial pass by Stone, to Theodore’s shot fake, to Stastny’s quick touch pass, each player knew exactly where the others would be. You’ll even notice Pacioretty charging in behind Tuch ready to scoop up any rebounds in case the puck was blocked. Or perhaps as a secondary option. Either way, all five players did their job and the execution paid off.

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Tuch, Engelland, Karlsson, Smith, Theodore Owned “Player’s Locker” Officially Open In Downtown Summer

(Photo Credit: @tomkaplan on Twitter)

First, they took over your TV’s. Then they took over your local tavern. Now, they are taking over a local restaurant.

A group of five Golden Knights, led by Alex Tuch, have officially opened the first NHL player-owned sports bar in Las Vegas. Deryk Engelland, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore, and Tuch took over Wolfgang Puck’s previous place in Downtown Summerlin, and with the help of Puck and his staff, have opened the “Player’s Locker.”

I brought it to a few different guys on the team. It was guys that I saw were going to be here for a long time. Shea Theodore was one of the first ones I went to. We’re really close and I just wanted other guys that really showed interest. I think we have a really good group and I’m really excited about it. -Alex Tuch

The restaurant had its “soft opening” Saturday and has a grand opening in the works soon. It’s a mix of upscale Wolfgang Puck inspired food with a bar food twist. The menu includes one dish named after each player.

  • Tuch’s Reuben Sandwich (pastrami, swiss cheese & coleslaw on rye, chips)
  • Engelland’s Fish & Chips (tartar sauce, malt vinegar)
  • Karlsson’s Vegan Burger (“beyond meat” vegan patty, vegan cheese & fixins)
  • Reilly’s Cheese Curds (fry sauce)
  • Shea’s Gooey Deluxe (salted caramel chocolate chip cookie, vanilla ice cream)

The full menu also includes Wolfgang Puck favorites like spicy brick chicken (my personal favorite), filet mignon steak frites, salmon en papillote, taco pizza, and house-made meatballs.

https://twitter.com/clarkdumont1/status/1221584014080823297

Tuch hasn’t stopped raving about his item since the first moment the news of the restaurant went public.

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