(Photo Credit: @_jkarsh on Instagram)

On the 22-game road to glory, the Golden Knights were able to maintain remarkable consistency with their lineup. From Eichel, Marchessault, and Barbashev on the 1st line to Carrier, Roy, and Kolesar on the 4th, Vegas rolled out a similar-looking set of forwards throughout the entire two-month run.

Heading into 2023-24, as they look to defend their title, it’s unlikely Bruce Cassidy will be able to lean on the similar lineup that brought home the Stanley Cup, unless the team adds another forward.

The trade of Reilly Smith leaves a fairly significant hole in the middle of the Vegas lineup. While the Golden Knights do have a number of capable options to step in and play in Smith’s place, none of them are truly a like-for-like option to Smith.

The two leading candidates to take the place are Paul Cotter and Pavel Dorofeyev. Both have shown they are able to play at the NHL level but neither would be considered a defensive stalwart the way Smith was. Simply replacing Smith with either Cotter or Dorofeyev makes the roster look much different, as the third line no longer carries the identity of a shutdown line the way it did with Smith and Karlsson.

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