One of the favorite offseason time wasters for fans and media types alike is to project lines for the upcoming season. Where does Paul Stastny fit in? Is Erik Haula a center or a wing? What are the chances of Erik Brannstrom or Zach Whitecloud cracking the lineup out of the camp? They are all legitimate questions, and who am I to stop those debates, but while writing the article on Vadim Shipachyov’s hatred for Vegas I stumbled across a line chart from early in the season last year. It looks quite a bit different from what we saw in the Stanley Cup Final and it might put a bit of pause on some of those line projection discussions.
Last year the Golden Knights were a brand new franchise with a collection of players who had never played together. There were no clear-cut lines or pairings to bank on heading into the year. So, obviously, things are a bit different going into 2018-19, but take a look at the line charts from Game 1 and Game 6 of last season.
Cody Eakin, top line center. Brayden McNabb, scratched for Brad Hunt, Jon Merrill, and Luca Sbisa. William Karlsson and Erik Haula, interchangeable at wing and center. Oscar Lindberg, relied upon center. Shea Theodore, in the AHL.
The point is, things change, and in a hurry. The Golden Knights are almost certainly going to head into 2018-19 with Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault, and William Karlsson as the top line, but beyond that, almost everything is flexible.
The roster that broke camp and headed to Dallas included eight players that did not play a second in the Stanley Cup Final. Eight out of 23 is 35% of the roster. 35% of the Golden Knights roster at the start of the year was not there at the end.
It wasn’t until Game 8 that the Karlsson line was created. Schmidt wasn’t paired with McNabb until Game 18.
The Golden Knights middle six and all three defensive pairings are far from set in stone. However, when we finally get to camp and we finally get to see what’s on the reigning Jack Adams’ Award winner’s mind, remember what you see then probably isn’t what you’ll be seeing when the games really start to count.
Ok, now go back to projecting your favorite line pairings and D pairings. Here’s what I’m thinking…