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VGK Expected To Reach Playoffs In Offseason Power Rankings

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

You all know how much we enjoy picking apart leaguewide power rankings during the season but now the routinely inaccurate lists are being released months before opening night. This week, NHL.com, ESPN and Sportsnet all published power rankings following the NHL Draft and July 1st free agency frenzy. Before the playoffs began, ESPN ranked the Vegas Golden Knights as the 15th best team in the NHL. They were close as VGK ended up with the 17th overall pick of the 2024 draft. After losing six players from their 2023-24 lineup, ESPN surprisingly raised Vegas three spots to 12th in the league.

ESPN’s Post-Free Agency Power Rankings

  1. Florida Panthers
  2. Edmonton Oilers
  3. Dallas Stars
  4. New York Rangers
  5. Colorado Avalanche
  6. Carolina Hurricanes
  7. Boston Bruins
  8. Nashville Predators
  9. Vancouver Canucks
  10. Toronto Maple Leafs
  11. New Jersey Devils
  12. Vegas Golden Knights

The Sportsleader ranks the Golden Knights out of the top ten but high enough to qualify for the 2025 playoffs. Vegas also cracks the list of six best teams in the Western Conference, and third best in the Pacific Division.

It’s easy to forget because it feels like it was years ago, but the Knights’ first-round matchup against the Stars was one of the best of the entire postseason. There were some significant losses from the on-ice group due to Vegas’ ever-present salary cap crunch, but we’re not convinced they’re done making summer moves, either. -ESPN Staff

NHL.com’s Post-Free Agency Power Rankings

  1. Florida Panthers
  2. Edmonton Oilers
  3. New York Rangers
  4. Boston Bruins
  5. Dallas Stars
  6. Colorado Avalanche
  7. Nashville Predators
  8. Vancouver Canucks
  9. Toronto Maple Leafs
  10. Carolina Hurricanes
  11. New Jersey Devils
  12. Tampa Bay Lightning
  13. Winnipeg Jets
  14. Vegas Golden Knights

The league’s online outlet was a bit more realistic when ranking the 2023 Stanley Cup champions. NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika is quite familiar with how the aggressive Golden Knights front office operates. However, he also observed Jonathan Marchessault, Chandler Stephenson and four other players leave the organization this offseason.

The Golden Knights are used to turnover, but this is tough. They have lost Michael Amadio, William Carrier, Jonathan Marchessault, Alec Martinez, Chandler Stephenson and Logan Thompson, while adding Victor Olofsson and Ilya Samsonov. The loss of Marchessault especially stings, even if the 33-year-old received a five-year contract from the Predators, a term that didn’t make sense to the Golden Knights. He was a “Golden Misfit,” a member of the inaugural team. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs when Vegas won the Cup in 2023, and he led the Golden Knights in goals (42) and points (69) last season. Vegas still has lots of talent, but this is a step backward, which is why I have them at No. 14 in my Super 16.” — Nicholas J. Cotsonika, NHL.com

Sportsnet’s Post-Free Agency Power Rankings

  1. Edmonton Oilers
  2. Dallas Stars
  3. Florida Panthers
  4. New York Rangers
  5. New Jersey Devils
  6. Boston Bruins
  7. Colorado Avalanche
  8. Vegas Golden Knights

This shouldn’t be a surprise, but Sportsnet has the Edmonton Oilers as the highest ranked team going into the 2024-25 season. The biggest surprise was the Golden Knights listed as the 8th best team and the second-best team in the Pacific Division. Sportsnet seems to downplay the loss of regulars VGK lost this month. They’re expecting Vegas’ remaining star players to stay in the chase for the Pacific Division title.

I know what you’re thinking: the off-season has seen Vegas lose key pieces up front in Jonathan Marchessault and Chandler Stephenson, so how can the Knights be this high coming off a wild-card showing and first-round exit? Well, they made monster in-season moves that were also a long play in deadline acquisitions Tomas Hertl (who had lots of term left) and Noah Hanifin (who signed a new deal to stay). Vegas is running back Jack Eichel, Hertl and William Karlsson down the middle, with Hanifin joining Shea Theodore (who missed half last year with injury) and Alex Pietrangelo (who missed nearly 20 games, too) in the top four. Alexander Holtz, the 2020 seventh-overall pick, is also an interesting add to the forward crew. This team won’t be fighting for its playoff life again next spring. – Ryan Dixon, Sportsnet

Well, there you have it. Three hockey outlets and three different opinions. Personally, I agree with ESPN. Vegas may not be done refiguring their lineup. Also, the team’s core should be enough to be considered a top four team in the Pacific Division without Marchessault, Stephenson and the others. It just may be a little more challenging.

Western Conference Contenders Beefed Up Top 6

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Several teams made splashes last week during the July 1st free agency period, especially the Nashville Predators. Painfully, the Predators instantly improved their top six forward by luring Jonathan Marchessault away from the Golden Knights. Add in Steven Stamkos and Nashville is being dubbed as one of the winners of the offseason.

A handful of team’s significantly improved their offenses on the first of the month. Some are from the Western Conference, Edmonton and Nashville most notably. The Stanley Cup runner-up added two top six pieces in the offseason which could push Edmonton deep in the playoffs again. Last season Zach Hyman, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid combined for 127 goals last season. That wasn’t good enough for the Oilers, so they even more added weapons.

As of today, the Pacific division Edmonton Oilers will have an opening night lineup with five forwards who scored 20+ goals in 2023-24, and seven total players with 18+ goals. In comparison, the Golden Knights will have two. If Viktor Arvidsson returns to form after an injured season, Edmonton will likely have six 20+ goal scoring forwards. If we’re being truly honest, the Oilers moves are noteworthy, but their final destiny still relies on Draisaitl and McDavid.

Now let’s move on to Nashville. Last season the Predators had three forwards to reach 20+ goals. With the additions of Marchessault and Stamkos, Nashville will field five in 2024-25. Astonishingly, the Predators casually added 82 goals to their Top 6. That’s scary. Again, to compare with the Golden Knights, it’s night and day. Vegas subtracted 85 goals from the previous season and will try and make it with three forwards that combined for 23 goals last season. One of them only played 3 NHL games and went pointless in 2023-24. If it were to come down to offense in the postseason, the Predators would have a sizable advantage.

https://twittee.com/miketgould/status/1811239178442858825?s=43&t=r0w8Y_Kvlc-GpxszwwgyWQ

Surely, other teams in the conference built up their top two line as well over free agency and the NHL Draft. Several Pacific Division teams can argue their 2024-25 lineup looks a lot more dangerous than last year. Seattle adding Chandler Stephenson makes the Kraken’s top lines more formidable. Heck even San Jose got a little better via the draft. The Golden Knights are still deep enough to defeat most teams in the Pacific Division, but they’ll likely do it with strong defense. Winning 2-1 is still worth two points in the standings. We shouldn’t count out a late summer splash for more offense. Cross your fingers fans, there’s still plenty of time for Vegas to improve their Top 6.

5 Most Intriguing Non-Former Player Return Games

Photo from @GoldandSteelVGK on X/Twitter

The 2024-25 schedule will be dominated by the returns of many former Golden Knights and Stanley Cup champions. From Jonathan Marchessault’s emotional return on the final home game of the year to Chandler Stephenson’s visit with the Kraken, Alec Martinez’s appearance as a Blackhawk, and original Misfit William Carrier’s arrival with Carolina there will be plenty of marquee games on the calendar.

However, those are just some of the most interesting games on the schedule for this season. Here are the five most intriguing non-return home games this year.

Utah Hockey Club
November 2nd, 2024

Technically, the Utah Yeti, I mean Hockey Club, are not a new franchise. But, new jerseys, new fans, new ownership, and the proximity of the team to Vegas will make it feel like another new team for VGK fans. Beyond the obvious hoopla of playing a team for the first time in franchise history, there’s also a revenge factor for the 7-4 loss in April in which the Golden Knights allowed six goals in the 3rd period for the first time in franchise history.

Edmonton Oilers
December 3rd, 2024

Despite not playing in the postseason last year, the rivalry between these two teams will still be as strong as ever. Last time the Oilers visited T-Mobile Arena the Golden Knights ended their historic winning streak. VGK still feel like they own Edmonton despite the Oilers entering this matchup as the reigning Western Conference champions. The Conn Smythe winner will be in the building (there should be two, but that’s a different story) and Edmonton will always be a good measuring stick game somewhat early in the season.

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2017 Draft Class On Full Display In 2024 Western Conference Finals

Photo from ESPN broadcast of 2017 NHL Draft

The Golden Knights have been awarded pretty much every trophy the NHL has to offer, including, of course, the Stanley Cup. It’s historically the best seven season start to any NHL franchise in modern history. This its why it continues to be bittersweet watching the Western Conference play out, especially if you believe the Golden Knights are as good as the two teams remaining in the West. Besides the desire for back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, VGK has had quite the storied history through 632 NHL games.

Most Postseason Wins Since 2018

  1. Tampa Bay – 62
  2. Vegas – 57
  3. Colorado – 49
  4. Dallas – 45
  5. Boston – 43

The organization has accomplished so much in such a short time that its small list of failures has become magnified. For instance, the franchise’s first NHL draft in 2017. It’s a draft that has shaped the league and the Golden Knights left with their hands mostly empty. As the conference finals play out, it’s hard not to imagine how much deeper Vegas would have been this season if more than just Nic Hague remained with the organization. Keep in mind, the Golden Knights front office had 12 selections in seven rounds.

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Golden Knights Have Created A Reputation, They Need To Get Back To Living Up To It

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Winning the Stanley Cup brings a team many things. Among them is a reputation. All season long the Golden Knights have been dealing with being the defending champions and constantly getting a high level of focus and effort from the opposition night in and night out. No one takes Vegas lightly, and it has shown in the results this season as it’s been a bit of a rocky road for VGK.

Part of that reputation is the style of play needed to beat Vegas. Not only are teams ready and excited to play the Golden Knights, but they know exactly what is necessary to have a chance against what was the best team in hockey last season.

After last year we have a reputation of being this big heavy team, which we are, so they’ve created that for themselves. The tough part is now you have to live up to it for 82 games and in the playoffs again. So what they’ve created and should be an honor to be considered that way, they have to back it up every night. -Bruce Cassidy

This is specifically the case in the defensive zone.

Vancouver probably had a game plan of ‘if you want to win, you’ve got to get inside.’ Edmonton I’m sure will be saying the same thing. We have to do a better job taking care of business in front of our net. -Cassidy

The last two games Vegas has struggled to defend the area in front of their own goal. The Canucks sent players there consistently and it helped them generate four goals. Edmonton worked a little more around the outside, but they won many puck battles in front of the net to keep plays alive.

It’s not just on the defensive end though, VGK’s game has been lacking physicality going forward as well.

We need to be better on the forecheck to create some anxiety for them, create turnovers, and get us some chances. To me that was the difference in the game. They were miles ahead of us in that area. -Cassidy

If the Golden Knights want to have any success in the playoffs, they have to live up to their reputation every night. Vegas is not one of the most skilled teams in the league, nor are they anywhere close to being one of the fastest. To win, they must be dominant in front of their own net defensively, and wear teams down physically in the offensive end.

Listen, this is what you’re known as so if you want to continue to be known as that then that’s the ask every night. -Cassidy

With four games left in the regular season, timing is running out on getting their game in order. Step one to doing it is living up to the reputation that made them Stanley Cup champions. It hasn’t been there recently, it needs to be starting tomorrow.

EDMONTON OILERS 5 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 1 (42-28-8, 92 PTS)

Recap: The Golden Knights traveled to Edmonton for a late-season Pacific Division battle against the Oilers. Vegas goaltender Adin Hill started in net for the first time since late March and was tested early. Midway through the period the Oilers took the opening lead and carried it into the first intermission.

Edmonton’s offense continued to produce in the second frame. The Oilers scored two goals in a short span, taking a 3-0 advantage into the break.

The Oilers took a 4-0 lead 6:50 into the final frame but Vegas got it back :60 seconds later. Keegan Kolesar snapped the Oilers shutout with his seventh goal of the season on the penalty kill. Edmonton added another to finish off Vegas 5-1.

The Golden Knights record drops to 42-28-8 falling to the Oilers 5-1 in Edmonton. Next up, Vegas will host the Minnesota Wild on Friday night. Puck drop against the Wild is scheduled for 7 PM.  (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: The Golden Knights lacked just about every necessary element it takes to beat the Edmonton Oilers, even without McDavid. They did not have much of a forecheck, they did not control the puck in the offensive zone, and they relied on transition when the Oilers were committed to taking it away. The biggest concern for VGK that comes from this game is the fact that they aren’t dominating the Oilers at 5-on-5 anymore. (Analysis by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place.

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Pacific Leading Team Losing Confidence As Regular Season Wraps Up

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Less than a month ago, the Golden Knights were deemed a postseason bubble team. Panic set in, the losses were piling up and SinBin’s postgame Periscopes were getting longer. Today, the reigning Stanley Cup champions are three points from earning home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. Ignoring last night’s 7-4 blunder in Arizona, the Golden Knights have been performing at their best since opening the season with an 11-0-1 record.

There were about three or four plays, you’ve got to go through people, we weren’t going through people. In this game — and that’s a good wall team — they’re a team that holds on to pucks, so you have to go through people. We were caught in between. There were like four plays where if you go through the player, they probably don’t get the odd-man rush. I don’t know why they weren’t ready to play. -Rick Tocchet, VAN coach

After Vegas lopsided 6-3 victory over the Pacific division leader, the Canucks were noticeably shaken. The comments from Canucks players and coach Rick Tocchet had a hint of deep realization. It’s possible Vancouver internally acknowledged the Golden Knights are deeper and are better shaped for the playoffs.

The players know it and so does Tocchet.

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