As the 6th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and the first player ever drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights, Cody Glass was instantly thrust into the spotlight.
That light got even brighter after the other two first round selections by the Golden Knights were each traded in separate deals netting Vegas Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone. Glass was the only one left and with the success the team was having on the ice, he’s long represented the only real blue-chip prospect in the Vegas system.
The Golden Knights were purposely patient with Glass. He played his 20-year-old season in the WHL. Since, he’s spent the majority of time in the NHL, but a pair of recent demotions to the minors leaves his spot on the roster for this playoff run in question. This current trip to the AHL marks the third consecutive season the #6 overall pick has played in the minor leagues, which had me wondering, is this common?
To try and help answer that question, I went through every Top 10 selection from the 10 drafts prior to when Glass was picked. I wanted to see how many players played in the AHL at all, how many have made multiple trips back after reaching the NHL, and how many remained with their original team after a third stint in the AHL.
We’ll start with the likelihood a Top 10 pick plays in the AHL at all. Of the 100 players selected in the Top 10 between 2007 and 2016, 39 went straight to the NHL from their junior, college, or European teams while 61 saw AHL action. Of the 39, 26 of them were selected in the Top 5. So, that means 37 of the 50 players selected from picks #6 to #10 played in the AHL at some point.
At different points this season the Golden Knights have had to make difficult decisions due to the salary cap. When fully healthy, Vegas is within a couple hundred thousand dollars of the $81.5 million limit with just 19 players on the active roster.
Early in the year, they experimented with a lineup of 13 forwards and five defensemen. At other times they’ve taken advantage of the emergency exception rules in the CBA that allow a team to exceed the cap. But when every avenue has been exhaust and Vegas wants to ice a standard 12/6/2 lineup, it’s typically been Cody Glass as the odd-man-out.
There are multiple reasons for this, a big one not related to his play on the ice. Due to his age and contract status, Glass is the only forward on the Golden Knights’ normal roster that is waiver exempt. Thus, he can freely travel between the NHL, the taxi squad, and the AHL without ever being at risk of being claimed by another team. The same cannot be said for players like Keegan Kolesar, Nic Roy, William Carrier, Ryan Reaves, or Tomas Nosek.
However, performance on the ice has played a factor in some of the decisions surrounding Glass. To put it bluntly, Glass simply hasn’t been good enough to force himself onto the roster at all times. That’s definitely not to say he’s been bad, or is even among the poorest performing players on the team (he’s definitely not), but when a decision has to be made, he hasn’t made enough of an impact to compel the front office to make a different choice.
This most recent instance was unlike any prior one though. When Alex Pietrangelo returned from LTIR, Vegas once again needed to clear space. Like before, Glass found himself on the outside looking in, however this time, instead of assigning him to the taxi squad, he was sent to the AHL… to actually play.
I just wanted to see him get a little more confidence 5-on-5. So we’d like him to go down there and play games, contribute and be an offensive player, come back and give us some juice when he returns. –Kelly McCrimmon to Las Vegas Sun
Unlike previous situations where he was assigned to the taxi squad and remained with the NHL team, this time they were looking for improvement. This time, they were sending a message about his play at the NHL level.
The Golden Knights are so close to the cap that the first five games this season are the only in their 240 regular season game history in which they’ve gone without a single healthy scratch.
On top of the limited roster, each night they’ve had to decide which of three options they hate the least. Waive Keegan Kolesar and likely lose his rights to another team, bench Cody Glass, or dress a lineup with just five defensemen.
Through five games, they are in an excellent position with a 4-1-0 record, but one has to wonder how long will this charade continue, especially if it continues to look like it’s catching up with them as it did last night.
Clearly, benching Cody Glass is not in the best interest for either the Golden Knights or Glass. He needs to develop into the team’s 2nd best center or at least a high-end 3C before the trade deadline, otherwise, he’ll need to be replaced. Playing sparingly won’t help his development nor will it give the team enough data to draw the necessary conclusions this season.
Leaving Glass in the lineup leads to taking Nic Hague out and forcing the defense to play a man down. Game 5 of the season was the third time the Golden Knights have used the 13/5 lineup. Unsurprisingly, these are the three games in which the Golden Knights have struggled most defensively, especially in the 2nd period when it’s more challenging for defensemen to change.
Vegas has allowed five 2nd period goals when they have five defensemen and just two when they have six. Aside from goals, they’ve had more trouble breaking out, they’ve turned the puck over more often, there have been more odd-man rushes against, and just as a whole they haven’t been nearly as good.
It’s actually impacted their offense as well. In the two games with six defensemen, Vegas has seen three goals and five assists from blue liners, while the defensemen have chipped in just one goal and five assists over the three games with five on D.
It’s definitely different. You are rotating through partners and you can’t exactly get into the rhythm with one guy. -Shea Theodore
Theodore went on to say they can’t really use it as an excuse, but the eye test and the stats bore out that they are indeed better across the board with six defensemen rather than five, albeit in a tiny sample.
But really, there’s no way the Golden Knights can solve this issue with the current roster construction which should have all eyes focused on the front office. How long are they going to let this continue? What will it take to force a change?
It should have happened for the first two games. Now it’s happening tonight.
I’m talking about the decision to send Cody Glass to the AHL/taxi squad, and thus take him out of the lineup, inserting Nic Hague into the defense, and keeping Keegan Kolesar on the active roster and away from waivers.
Due to the massive offseason move of signing Alex Pietrangelo, the Golden Knights spent every day between the moment they lost to the Stars to Opening Night 2021 over the cap. We knew some “salary cap gymnastics” were going to be necessary to make the team compliant before the first game against the Ducks.
They came on the final day of Training Camp. The Golden Knights waived Nick Holden, risking losing him to another team for nothing, then released a peculiar looking roster of 13 forwards, five defensemen, and two goalies. Vegas went on to play two games voluntarily down a defenseman and pulled out a pair of wins to start the season.
Admittedly, the Golden Knights were not in love with the idea of playing short a d-man, but their willingness to do it proved they believed it was necessary.
Why? While we don’t have an answer to that question on the record, we have a pretty good educated guess. That guess is that the Golden Knights have knowledge that if they placed Keegan Kolesar on waivers he would get claimed by another team.
How do they know this? Again, another educated guess, but GM’s talk to each other often, and the Golden Knights were probably one of the most active teams this offseason trying to maneuver their roster after signing Pietrangelo. Somewhere in one of those conversations, there was likely a clue that another team coveted Kolesar. If someone’s willing to trade for a 23-year-old forward with limited NHL experience and a league minimum contract, they’ll certainly be willing to scoop him up for free if he hits waivers.
So, the Golden Knights avoided it. Now, two games in, they are still trying to avoid it, but the options remain limited.
They could continue with five defensemen, but through two games, the Golden Knights have the two league leaders in average time on ice per game and all five defensemen rank in the top 15 across the entire NHL. For now, that’s fine, but over the course of an entire season (especially one that is as tightly packed as this one), that’s not a viable long-term option.
Over their history, the Golden Knights have scored a total of 877 franchise goals, 738 in the regular season, 139 in the playoffs. In 238 regular season games, Vegas’ average comes out to 3.14 goals scored per game. In all three seasons, Vegas tallied more than the league average, and are ranked 8th in the NHL in goals since their inception.
The big offseason question was can the Golden Knights score enough in year four, and most importantly, in the playoffs?
2017-18: 268 Goals, 3.26 Goals Per Game (Regular Season) 57 Goals, 2.85 Goals Per Game (Playoffs) 2018-19: 246 Goals, 3.00 Goals Per Game (Regular Season) 25 Goals, 3.57 Goals Per Game (Playoffs) 2019-20: 224 goals, 3.15 Goals Per Game (Regular Season) 57 Goals, 2.85 Goals Per Game (Playoffs)
Coming into the Vancouver series, the Golden Knights were on a torrid offensive pace. Three round-robin games and a five-game whooping of the Blackhawks had Vegas scoring at a 3.75 goals per game clip. Then, it hit the skids. In 12 postseason games against Vancouver and Dallas, the #1 seed in the Western Conference averaged only 2.25 goals per game. In the last eight games, they scored just 12 goals or 1.5 per game.
After the season, it was mostly written off publicly by players, coaches, and the office as just a rough patch and a pair of hot goalies The offseason was centered around one major move, though one that should help the team offensively.
As the Golden Knights roster continues to churn, the balance of importance on that roster changes with it. Many guys who were once the most vital on the team are no longer here and other stars have stepped into their places.
So, when discussing which players are the most indispensable for the Golden Knights this season, the exercise is not as simple as it would seem. The great Kevin Iole, Jason, and I had a discussion about this very topic and realized the options are so plentiful that we had to bring it to the site. We each picked three and between us we came up with six different players.
3rd Most Indispensable Kevin – Cody Glass Jason – Robin Lehner Ken – Mark Stone
Kevin – The 2017 NHL Entry Draft was loaded at the top. Nico Hischier, Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar and Elias Pettersson are already elite NHL players. The Golden Knights’ thought Glass would be a player of that caliber and jumped on him when he was available at No. 6.
Now, Paul Stastny has been traded and they need someone to plug into that second line. The best way it could work out for the Golden Knights is if Glass could finally live up to his draft status. He showed glimpses last year, but wasn’t able to stay healthy and went long stretches while doing little.
If he comes up big and the Golden Knights can put Chandler Stephenson on a third line with Alex Tuch and Nic Roy, they can create a huge match-up problem with the third line while have two very strong top lines.
If Glass struggles, Stephenson moves up to center one of the top two and the third line suddenly isn’t as much of a scoring threat. Glass’ success will tell much about the kind of season the VGK will having in 2021.
Jason – Is this a trick question? Of course, it’s Lehner, without him the Golden Knights don’t have a goaltender. Sure, they have two now but by the time the season begins Fleury will be gone, leaving Lehner as the only starting goaltender in Vegas. I understand we were told by the Golden Knights that the plan on keeping both goalies but I don’t see that happening. In a shortened season, a condensed schedule may require a sturdy backup but how many nights do they plan on sitting Lehner? 10-15 games? The 29-year-old has started more than 34 games in the last four seasons, so it doesn’t make sense to relieve him with an expensive backup like Fleury?
Both sides have said the right thing over the past few months but in reality, keeping both isn’t good business. If the Golden Knights are seriously trying to win the Stanley Cup it won’t be by spending $12M in net. They’re too smart for that. And with that, Robin Lehner’s presence in the VGK lineup is paramount.
Ken – I originally had Lehner, for all the reasons Jason spelled out, plus the fact that losing him for any amount of time would further the lunacy of keeping them both. But, while both goalies are on the roster, I just couldn’t bring myself to rank Lehner above Mark Stone.
Stone has been the engine of the team since the moment he got here at the deadline in 2018-19. When he’s scoring or helping others score, the Golden Knights are basically unbeatable. Think back to the Sharks series. He drops 10 points in the first four games and VGK leads 3-1. Goes silent in Games 5 and 6 and they lose them both. (He had two points in Game 7, which still remains a win in my book.)
Yes, the Golden Knights have replacements, but no one can do what he can do. The season isn’t over if they lose Stone, but you can forget about winning the Cup if he’s not out there and dominating.
The weight of expectations is often the determining factor of success and failure in professional sports. In Year 1, the Golden Knights had absolutely no expectations and they helped ride that wave of pressure-free hockey all the way to the Cup Final. The following year, the pressure ramped up a bit as they had to prove they weren’t a fluke. They did it, but it still ended sadly. Then, last year, the expectations were at an all-time high, with something close to a Cup-or-Bust mentality. They reached the Western Conference Final, a success for most teams, but it felt like a missed opportunity because of the preseason expectations.
Now, they are all in on the Cup, and the pressure has risen not only on the team as a whole, but on plenty of individuals. New titles, big contracts, elevated roles, and high expectations will have a lot of players feeling the heat coming into the Golden Knights’ fourth season.
To illustrate the pressure on each player I’ve ranked them from 1-10 with 10 being the most pressure and 1 being the least. First, we start with the forwards. Tomorrow we’ll complete the roster with the defensemen, goalies, coach, and GM.
With a full season between Stone and Pacioretty, it would be awfully difficult for Karlsson to be the problem. As long as he holds down the fort defensively and doesn’t get destroyed in the circle he’ll have the typical strong year we’ve come to expect from him. The contract is fair as long as he’s the only truly reliable center on the team. He has almost no pressure on him at all, but he is the #1 center on a team that doesn’t really have much behind him, so there’s got to be a little. Pressure Index: 3
Assuming he’s named captain, which we expect to happen near the beginning of camp, he’ll be under the most pressure of his career this season. He has to continue performing at a near point per game pace, he needs to be on the ice for 18+ minutes a night every single night, and if the going gets tough, he’s going to be the one they look at to pull them out. Team performance is where the pressure lies on Stone. If they are good, he’s in the clear, but if they aren’t that C might as well be a bullseye for where people point to the problems. Pressure Index: 9
Max is coming off a tremendous regular season on which he led the team in scoring, but then the injury bug hit and he disappeared at the biggest time in the playoffs. The pressure on him is simply to score. He needs to get to 30 goals (or the equivalent if the season is shortened), otherwise that $7 million cap hit is going to look like a major burden on a contending team. Pressure Index: 8
It’s not really, because he’s just 21-years-old, but it really feels like it’s now-or-never for Glass. The Golden Knights have moved out two useable centers in Paul Stastny and Erik Haula over the past two years and replaced them with virtually nothing leaving the job wide open for Glass. He’s going to get his chance. He has to stay healthy and he has to look like a bonafide #2 center in the NHL. If he doesn’t, he’ll fly down the depth chart, likely end up back on the wing, and will certainly look like a bust if Stephenson and Roy are clearly outperforming him. Pressure Index: 8
The Golden Knights are into offseason number three as they prepare for season number four. In season three, they began to work in some younger players like Nic Roy, Cody Glass, Zach Whitecloud, and Nic Hague, but the playing time was limited and the roles were certainly reduced.
As they move forward, especially with the cap staying flat, the Golden Knights must find more ways to save cap space by getting larger contributions out of younger players.
You can’t sit still. There’s a balance between having a real strong nucleus that gives you a chance to win but there’s also the importance of having enough churn that you give opportunities for new players. -Kelly McCrimmon
The question that will be answered this offseason is just how much “churn” is enough.
The Golden Knights prospect system has a heap of players that appear to be ready to break into the NHL. From the four that did in 2019-20 to Jack Dugan, Lucas Elvenes, Peyton Krebs, Jonas Rondbjerg, Dylan Coghlan, and Jimmy Schuldt the options are certainly there for Vegas.
Every one of the players mentioned carries a cap hit of less than $1 million, which means replacing just about anyone in the everyday starting lineup means cap savings.
But, how much is too much? Especially when considering the Golden Knights are a clear Cup contending team and have aspirations of lifting it in the very near future.
In 2019-20, when the Golden Knights were pushed up to the salary cap limit, they pretty much always had at least two entry-level contracts on the NHL roster. It started with Hague and Glass, then morphed into Roy and Whitecloud as the season went on and into the playoffs.
I’d guess that Roy and Whitecloud have become permanent members of the NHL roster moving forward and any of the other six players mentioned could easily make a case as well. But there has to be a spot for them and at the moment there don’t appear to be many open.
That’s where this offseason comes into play and why Vegas fans should be expecting at least a bit of a shakeup, if not a mega one, in the Golden Knights standard 18-man starting roster. McCrimmon and McPhee not only want to see what they have in the system, but they’ll need to get production out of these younger players if they want to continue to improve their team without the advantage of a rising salary cap.
Expect to see at least one player from the top-six to head out and a high probability of one of the six starting defensemen from the Dallas series no longer in steel grey and gold come opening night of season four.
Churn is normal every offseason, but the Golden Knights are ripe for a bit more than usual with the collection of factors the front office is up against in this one. The cap is at the top of it, but also a seven-game scoring drought that ended a promising playoff run, and a new coach behind the bench for his first offseason.
The Golden Knights will remain a very good team, and one most will project to win the Pacific Division once again when play gets underway. However, don’t expect that team to look too much like the one that just exited the bubble in Edmonton.
Cody Glass and Nic Hague were drafted together in 2017 as the first homegrown generation of Golden Knights. The two rookies were selected alongside Nick Suzuki and Eric Brannstrom potentially in what appeared to be the Golden Knights future core. Obviously, things changed and Suzuki and Brannstrom were traded to other organizations. However, Golden Knights fans will always keep an eye on the two former prospects.
In Montreal, fans are frustrated with the Canadiens dim playoff chances but Suzuki is pleasantly surprising Habs nation.
His hockey IQ certainly stands out… he knows where to go instinctively. He knows who to take, he knows the area to cover. The puck seems to follow him. Players with good IQ’s, that’s what happens.- Dan Robertson, TSN Montreal PxP
The 20-year-old is 7th on Montreal’s roster in goals and overall points. He began the year in a bottom-six role, averaging 13 minutes per game, but now he’s a second-line winger. He’s making an impact on the Canadiens power play, chipping in seven PP points. His playing time went up and so did his production. In 40 games, the 13th overall pick in 2017 has three multi-point games, one in which he registered three assists. Currently, Suzuki is in the top five in NHL rookie scoring along with Olafsson, Makar, Q.Hughes, and Mikheyev.
In comparison, Cody Glass has pitched in as well as a Golden Knight, but not quite to the level of Suzuki in Montreal. In 35 games, the Golden Knights rookie has played mostly on the third line but he’s added 6 power play points. Unfortunately, Glass missed a handful of games due to injury but many Golden Knights fans are still impatient and hoping for more. It becomes increasingly difficult to calm folks down when Suzuki is having such success in Montreal.
Points Per Game
Power Play Points
Time On Ice
The story changes a bit when you look at the defensive rookies side-by-side. Vegas fans have nothing to be disappointed about in that respect. Hague has played in 30 of VGK’s 42 games and has shown a lot in his time on ice. Whereas Brannstrom is still trying to figure out his role.
In Vegas, the 6’6″, 21-year-old rearguard worked his way from beginning the season paired with a Deryk Engelland, to now skating consistently with Shea Theodore. It shows the coaching staff trusts him more with tougher assignments and keeping up with the high-level Theodore brings. Although Hague is without his first NHL goal, the rookie defender is releasing 1.13 shots per game and eventually his laser slapshot will hit the back of the net.
Up in Ottawa, the Senators sent Brannstrom down to the AHL in early December. According to the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch, the Swedish defenseman needed to rebuild his confidence.
A healthy scratch for only the second time this season as the Senators faced the Oilers, the decision was made by general manager Pierre Dorion, coach D.J. Smith and the rest of the staff that the time had come to send Brannstrom down because he wasn’t playing up to his capabilities in the NHL… Not only was Brannstrom struggling to contribute offensively — he is still looking for his first NHL goal — while getting lots of opportunities in those situations, his game had taken a turn for the worse defensively because he was taking gambles, trying to get points. –Bruce Garioch, 12/05/19
What drew the Golden Knights scouting staff to draft Brannstrom was his offense and creativity with the puck. However, the Senators were concerned he wasn’t progressing properly and felt the risky, young d-man needed some more time in the AHL. Garioch speculated that there could’ve been a bit pressure on the 20-year-old, after all, Brannstrom was the centerpiece of the Mark Stone trade. In mid-December, Ottawa recalled the undersized rookie and he’s since been averaging 17+ minutes per game.
Points Per Game
On Ice Goals For
On Ice Goals Against
Time On Ice
While the comparisons are still premature, considering these players have lengthy careers ahead of them, their rookie seasons won’t determine anything in regards to their success. Glass and Suzuki will always be compared throughout their hockey lives because of their positions, but mostly because Vegas traded one of them for Max Pacioretty. Hague and Brannstrom don’t compare much at all. Either way, if all four rookies turn out to be successful NHL players, Vegas fans should feel confident about the organization’s scouting department, and the prospects they draft in the future.
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.
“We get the bounces right now. We’ve been playing good all year, I think we have a really good bottom six as well. So we can contribute offensively. It’s been good to get those goals and help those guys up the top six.”-Nic Roy to @JesseGranger_