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League Leading Top Lines

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The Golden Knights are leading the league in several categories this season but one in particular is a bit surprising. Vegas forward Max Pacioretty scored two 1st period goals last night to give him a total of 16 on the season. Pacioretty’s production has him five goals behind superstar and league leader Auston Matthews. However, that’s not a shocking statistic.

Most Goals Scored By Line
VGK: Pacioretty-Stephenson-Stone (24)
BOS: Pastranak-Bergeron-Marchand (17)
NYI: Lee-Eberle-Barzal (16)
VAN: Boeser-Miller-Pettersson (16)
COL: Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen (15)

Not only is Pacioretty scoring, but his linemates are as well. The support from captain Mark Stone and center Chandler Stephenson have transformed Vegas’ top line into the best scoring trio in the NHL. Considering the heavy offensive lines in Boston, Edmonton and Toronto it’s unexpected to see the Pacioretty-Stephenson-Stone lead the entire league.

Vegas fans have seen the chemistry all season. All three complement one another and serve important roles when they’re on the ice together. We know Pacioretty is out there to sling the puck, but Stone and Stephenson have elevated the entire line by their playmaking abilities. The captain has 24 assists, meanwhile, the top line center has 11. The trio combined has a running total of 83 points or 33% of all Golden Knights points.

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Chandler Stephenson #1 Center Film Breakdown

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Coming into the season one of the biggest concerns for the Golden Knights was center depth. With Chandler Stephenson set to fill the role as the top center and options like Cody Glass, Nic Roy, and Tomas Nosek behind Stephenson and William Karlsson, we knew Stephenson needed to be great for this team to succeed.

So far, Stephenson has been just that and the more I watch him the more I realize why his skill set fits perfectly between Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. In the pantheon of the NHL, Stephenson would still rank all that highly among the #1 centers in the league, but for this team and that line, he’s the perfect fit.

Vegas’ Cup Contending Offense On Display Last Night

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No matter how many games an NHL regular season has, no game’s are alike. Sure, the first few games had similarities, Vegas won all three but didn’t look good doing it.

Something had to break.

We were talking before the game that we hadn’t really pitched in too much… It’s kind of convenient that we did tonight, and I thought it definitely helped our overall game. -Shea Theodore

With the exception of the first few minutes, the Golden Knights put together their best attack of the season and were handsomely rewarded from it. Ten players collected points in Vegas’ 5-2 victory against Arizona and not a single one of them were cheap empty-net points either.

All five goals were examples of how dangerous this club can be. Alex Tuch scored Vegas’ first power play goal of the season, Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty paired up once again, and the star defensemen found the net three times.

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2020 VGK Free Agency Tracker

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  • Paul Stastny has been traded to the Winnipeg Jets for Carl Dahlstrom and a 4th round pick. (Source: @DarrenDreger)
  • Robin Lehner has signed a 5-year $25 million ($5 million AAV) to remain with the Golden Knights. (Source: @frank_seravalli)
    • Lehner’s contract includes a modified no-trade clause which allows him to submit an eight team list for year’s one through three and then a five-team list in the final two years. (Source: @PuckPedia)
  • Chandler Stephenson has agreed to a 4-year deal with $2.75 million AAV. (Source: @FridgeHNIC)
  • Tomas Nosek has re-signed with the Golden Knights on a one-year deal worth $1.25 million. (Source: @FriedgeHNIC)
  • Reid Duke and Jimmy Schuldt signed one-year contracts for the league minimum of $700,000. (Source: Vegas Golden Knights)
    • Both are two-way deals. (Source: SinBin.vegas)
  • Gage Quinney agreed to a one-year two-way deal with an NHL value of $700,000. (Source: Vegas Golden Knights)
  • The Golden Knights have signed Tomas Jurko to a one-year one-way deal worth $700,000. (Source: @simiinko_97)
  • Danny O’Regan has signed a one-year deal with the Golden Knights at $700,000. (Source: Vegas Golden Knights)
  • Kelly McCrimmon confirmed the Golden Knights did NOT extend a qualifying offer to Nick Cousins. He becomes an unrestricted free agent. (Source: SinBin.vegas)
    • Cousins signed with the Predators for two years at a $1.5 million AAV. (Source: @frank_seravalli)
  • Qualifying offers were extended to Jimmy Schuldt and Keegan Kolesar. (Source: Vegas Golden Knights)
  • The Golden Knights will make a significant pitch to Alex Pietrangelo. (Source: SinBin.vegas)
    • Torey Krug is expected to sign with the Blues further paving the way for Pietrangelo to sign in Vegas. (Source: @FriedgeHNIC)
    • Pietrangelo is taking a private flight to Vegas to visit with the Golden Knights today. (Source: @gm_mark)
  • Keep an eye on Erik Haula, we’ve heard some rumbling that there could be a reunion coming. (Source: SinBin.vegas)
  • Kelly McCrimmon confirmed he does not expect Deryk Engelland to return to the Golden Knights this season. (Source: SinBin.vegas)
  • Jon Merrill has signed with the Detroit Red Wings. One year deal worth $925,000. (Source: @frank_seravalli)
  • Malcolm Subban has re-signed with the Chicago Blackhawks for $850,000 AAV for two-years. He is expected to be given a shot to win the starting job in camp. (@Tramyers_NHL)
  • Max Lagace has signed a one-year two-way deal with the Penguins. (Source: @Penguins)
  • Daniel Carr signed a one-year two-way contract with the Washington Capitals. (Source: @Capitals)

The Free Agency Tracker is brought to you by Adam S. Kutner and Associates, the best Las Vegas personal injury attorney. This page will update throughout the day as more information comes in.

GOLDEN KNIGHTS SIGN (F) CHANDLER STEPHENSON TO 4-YEAR EXTENSION

Carrier and Stephenson Won’t Change No Matter Which Line They End Up On

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Ever since he was traded to the Golden Knights, Chandler Stephenson has done everything he’s been asked to do. And he’s done that and more.

From centering the team’s most talented line, helping the penalty kill, and even scoring a game-winning goal in 3-on-3 overtime. Stephenson has done so well in his role that the team trusted him to play another, 1st line forward.

I don’t really think there’s too much of a challenge. With the type of players I’ve been playing with, you know they make my life really easy. Stoney, Patch, Smitty, Karly, are all All-Stars in my mind. They’re fun to play with. -Chandler Stephenson

You think it would take some time to adjust during a game to new linemates, even for the professionals. However, Stephenson feels no pressure to make immediate chemistry with anyone Gerard Gallant has assigned him with.

They do all the dirty work and they let me play my game without telling me where to go, or do this, do that. They just let me play. That’s nice and relaxing at the same time. -Stephenson

Position adjustment doesn’t bother Stephenson either. Mainly he’s been a center in Vegas, but he’s played plenty of wing in the NHL. Either position, he will find a way to pitch in.

You have a little bit more responsive at center. At wing, your more of a straight line. It’s not too much of difference for me since I’ve played so much over the years. At center, you know you need to be more defensive but for the most part it’s pretty similar. -Stephenson

The same goes for forward William Carrier. One of the original Golden Knights has mostly been relegated to the fourth line playing alongside Ryan Reaves, Tomas Nosek, Nicolas Roy, and others over three seasons. Lately though, he’s been bouncing around filing holes when needed.

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Carp: Chandler Stephenson Is Ryan Carpenter 2.0

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

When the Golden Knights traded for Chandler Stephenson earlier this month, my initial reaction was: “O.K.”

I wasn’t overwhelmed by the move nor was I disappointed, given what the Knights gave up to the Washington Capitals to get the fleet forward — a fifth-round draft pick in 2021. What I knew was the team was lacking depth in its bottom-six forwards and Brandon Pirri and Nicolas Roy didn’t seem to be figuring in the team’s plans in the immediate future.

Valentin Zykov? I also didn’t think he was part of the Golden Knights’ future. So snagging Stephenson seemed like a “nothing ventured, nothing gained” kind of move. If it worked out, great. If it didn’t, at some point Cody Eakin would be back and he would reclaim his spot.

But then Cody Glass got hurt against the Rangers on Dec. 8, courtesy of a Brendan Lemieux elbow to the head. He likely has a concussion or symptoms of one and who knows when he’ll be back on the ice? There was no update on Glass’ status or Eakin’s prior to Sunday’s game against Vancouver at T-Mobile Arena.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Suddenly, Stephenson has become a more valuable commodity. The Knights recalled Zykov from the Chicago Wolves and put him on the third line. Stephenson, who has played with virtually everyone so far in his brief stint in Vegas, is centering for Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone on the Knights’ second line and the trio appear to be clicking. Both Stone and Pacioretty have registered points in three straight games while working with Stephenson.

Part of it is when you’re playing with two talented wingers, it forces you to elevate your game. Part of it is Stephenson has his own solid skills — he’s an excellent skater, has a good hockey I.Q. and he has quickly picked up Vegas’ system.

The other part of the equation is he’s an NHL veteran. This is his fifth season in the league and he’s just 25 years old. He understands how to play at this level. He has kept things simple and not tried to overthink the situation, regardless of who he has been paired with by Gerard Gallant.

It’s been good. Obviously when I first came here, meeting a whole new team, that’s something I’d never experienced before. But knowing Schmitty (Nate Schmidt) and Nabber (Brayden McNabb) here obviously helped. With the group that’s here, it’s a very welcoming group. Everybody made me feel at home right away and made me feel like I was part of the team. It was an easy transition. -Stephenson

With his skills and his versatility, Stephenson reminds me of another Golden Knight who was obtained in December and turned out to be an important cog in the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Final their inaugural season.

Remember when George McPhee plucked Ryan Carpenter off waivers from San Jose? No one thought much of the move at the time. He was a decent player who wasn’t getting much ice time with the Sharks.

Carpenter turned out to be a reliable, versatile player, someone who could play anywhere, kill penalties, be on the ice late in games to help protect a one-goal lead and was good in the locker room and was liked by his teammates.

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An Idea On How To Deploy The Bottom Six When Cody Eakin Returns

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s not the way anyone envisioned it coming to be, but the 3rd line of William Carrier, Cody Glass, and Alex Tuch was formed three games ago. In those three games, the Golden Knights have earned points in each and won two on the road.

They’ve also received three goals and five assists from that line. They’ve created eight scoring chances in 26 minutes of play and have a 54% Corsi.

But where they’ve been best is in the eye test. Since the Golden Knights have been a franchise, they’ve never had a 3rd line look as good as Carrier, Glass, and Tuch have looked over the past three games. Tuch is driving offense, Glass is controlling the defensive end, and Carrier is winning puck battles helping set up the cycle to spend time in the offensive zone.

Tuch has returned to the right-wing, Glass to his natural center position, and Carrier is playing with the most offensive talent since he’s been a Golden Knight. It’s not the perfect line, but it’s certainly an upgrade on what they’ve gotten throughout this season with Cody Eakin as the center.

Tuch scored just one goal in 10 games with Eakin. He has three with Glass and Carrier. Glass has just three assists in 23 games playing with Eakin. He has two in three games with Tuch and Carrier.

However, the fourth line hasn’t looked quite the same without Carrier. Ryan Reaves has struggled without Carrier recording just five hits in three games while Carrier was on the 3rd line. Tomas Nosek still appears to play better as a center than a winger. And Stephenson scored the goal, but doesn’t quite seem a match for Nosek and Reaves.

Eakin remains out week-to-week with an upper body injury, so the decision on where to put him when he returns is not imminent, but after just three games on the road, it might be time to start considering where else he might fit.

The key question moving forward will become usage. Eakin has averaged about 15 minutes of ice time each season with the Golden Knights. That’s normal for a 3rd line center with penalty-killing duties. But, if he finds himself relegated to the 4th line, his TOI will likely drop under 10 minutes per game as has been the case for Reaves in 66% of games this season. That also means relying more heavily on Glass, something Gerard Gallant has not shown a willingness to do. (He’s played more than 14 minutes in less than half his NHL appearances.)

Vegas has never used an interchanging line system throughout an entire game, but they may want to consider it when Eakin is ready to return. With Glass, Eakin, Carrier, Reaves (or Nosek), Tuch, and Stephenson, there are multiple combinations that can be deployed depending on the situation.

Rather than lay out the standard two lines and roll them over, they could be mixed and matched depending on draw location, score, matchup, and stamina. Here are just a few of the logical trios that could be made out of that group.

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Expecting Another Golden December

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Kelly McCrimmon spoke with the media yesterday to formally announce the Chandler Stephenson acquisition. He also mentioned his high expectations for the month of December.

We’re trying to get all little bit of traction. December has for one reason or another traditionally been a really good month for this organization. We’re hopeful we can get a solid footing and play good hockey. -McCrimmon

Vegas’ GM should feel optimistic about the next 13 games in December. A month his players annually shine.

Win Percentage in December
2017: .846 %
2018: .600 %
Overall: .714 %

Point Percentage in December
2017: .923 %
2018: .800 %
Overall: .857 %

Including last night’s game in New Jersey, the Golden Knights have an exceptional franchise record of 22-4-4 in the month of December. Beginning the month 2-0-0 is a good sign their holiday tradition will continue. Vegas plays 13 more games this month including seven at home and only three are against teams in the top 3 in their division.

Historical Breakdown

December 2017
13 Games: 8 Home/5 Road (11–1-1) Record

  • Goals For: 49 Total
  • Goals Against: 33 Total
  • Win Streak: 7 Games
  • OT/SO Games: (4-1)
  • 2+ Goal Wins: 5
  • Pacific Division Points: (8 points)
  • Wins vs Playoff Teams: 8 (Anaheim x 2, LA, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Toronto, Washington)
  • William Karlsson: 10 Points (7 Goals, 3 Assists) +9
  • Jonathan Marchessault: 14 Points (5 Goals, 9 Assists) + 9
  • Reilly Smith: 11 Points (3 Goals, 8 Assists) +10
  • Alex Tuch: 8 Points (3 Goals, 5 Assists) +3
  • Marc-Andre Fleury: (4-0-1) 1.56 GAA, .948 Save%, 8 Goals Allowed
  • Malcolm Subban: (6-0) 2.25 GAA, .920 Save%, 14 Goals Allowed

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Chandler Stephenson Add Is All About Depth

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last night the Golden Knights shipped out a 2021 5th round pick to add 25-year-old center Chandler Stephenson from the Washington Capitals.

Stephenson is a bit of a swiss-army knife type forward who is versatile enough to play all over the lineup and in all situations. With Washington, he was primarily deployed on the fourth line, but throughout his 168 games, he saw time on all four lines including a quick stint with Alex Ovechkin on the top line.

What Stephenson is known most for is his penalty killing. In that regard, he’s close to elite.

There are 89 centers in the NHL with at least 30 minutes of penalty-killing time on ice this season, and Stephenson’s numbers are very good. He ranks first in that entire group in high danger chances allowed per 60 minutes with only 1.74. He also ranks in the top-three in the NHL in Corsi against (66.06), scoring chances allowed (31.29) and expected goals allowed (3.6) on the penalty kill. He’s 13th amongst all centers in goals against per 60 at 3.48. –Jesse Granger, The Athletic

The add isn’t just about penalty killing though.

It’s also about replacing Cody Eakin during the injury. It’s also about finding a new center to push Nic Roy back to the AHL where he may belong at the moment. It’s also about adding versatility to the roster. It’s about all of it.

Let me break it down group by group.

Centers
Karlsson, Stastny, Eakin, Nosek, Glass, Roy, Stephenson

As opposed to teams of VGK’s past, this team is not loaded with centers playing wing. Most of the Golden Knights wingers, especially when Eakin is out, are natural wingers, while every center is playing center. There’s a lack of versatility that both Gallant and the front office like to have on their roster. By adding Stephenson, who has played a lot of center and a lot of wing, they get a guaranteed NHL caliber player (something Roy is not yet) who can fill in at center when needed, or play on the wing if necessary. He’s an insurance policy for three different guys. For Cody Eakin if he’s hurt for a while, for Cody Glass if he isn’t physically strong enough to play center yet, and for Nic Roy if he’s just not quite ready to be a full-time NHLer.

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