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DeBoer Committed To Using Depth Forwards More On Penalty Kill

As the Golden Knights head into the 2021-22 season there’s not a lot they want to change. They’ve been to the conference finals in back-to-back seasons, they tied for the President’s Trophy last year, and they’ve been consistently one of the winningest teams in the NHL since their inception.

But, since they haven’t reached the mountaintop yet they know they can’t stand pat and expect things to be different this time around.

Speaking with the media on the first day of Training Camp, head coach Pete DeBoer clued us in to one such place he’s looking for change in his forward group.

What we saw last year was I felt we overplayed some of our top guys, especially penalty killing situations. When we talked in the summer about building this team out with Kelly and George, I’m a big believer that we’ve got to have at least a couple penalty killers in the depth of the lineup so that you’re not overtaxing the top guys, you can save them a little for offensive situations. -DeBoer

Last season, the Golden Knights’ primary penalty killers were William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Mark Stone, and Chandler Stephenson, all top-six players.

Regular Season PK TOI
Total (Per/game)

William Karlsson – 99:29 (1:47)
Reilly Smith – 91:02 (1:43)
Mark Stone – 74:12 (1:21)
Chandler Stephenson – 69:47 (1:22)
Tomas Nosek – 51:04 (1:21)
Alex Tuch – 41:24 (0:45)
Nic Roy – 41:14 (0:49)

Playoffs PK TOI
Total (Per/game)

William Karlsson – 24:21 (1:17)
Reilly Smith – 26:09 (1:23)
Mark Stone – 25:48 (1:21)
Chandler Stephenson – 23:14 (1:27)
Tomas Nosek -4:04 (0:41)
Alex Tuch – 11:36 (0:37)
Nic Roy – 10:16 (0:32)

With Tomas Nosek off to Detroit and Alex Tuch injured for the first few months, this concept of using depth players to penalty kill opens the door for a number of guys. The chief among them is newly acquired Brett Howden.

Howden has averaged 1:44 of penalty killing time per game over the past few seasons for the Rangers and has been reliable doing it. This could be a hint that Howden has an inside track into the Golden Knights’ lineup early in the season.

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With Training Camp Underway GM McCrimmon Happy For Some Normalcy

(Photo by Brandon Andreasen)

Golden Knights training camp begins today representing the return of the players and finally the fans. The start of a normally scheduled camp has the Golden Knights brass ecstatic as well. The Golden Knights’ GM addressed the media yesterday to give his expectations on training camp and making another chase for the Stanley Cup.

Really excited about 82 games. Really excited about playing 31 other teams. Last year was a challenge for a lot of people and for a lot of different reasons. We’re really optimistic that this will feel a lot more like a normal NHL season. We’re pleased with our offseason, pleased with the makeup of our team as we head into the season. -Kelly McCrimmon, Vegas GM

While the GM was satisfied with his offseason changes he’s also eager to learn more about what’s in the cupboard. Entering their fifth NHL season, Vegas’ front office would like to add contributions from some of their more experienced prospects.

I always get excited about the evolution of young players. I’m excited to see Keegan Kolesar, Dylan Coghlan, Nic Hague, Nic Roy, that group of young players. I’m excited to see their progression because that’s a big part of how your team improves. Zach Whitecloud, still a young player. I’m excited to see those players. -McCrimmon

The list of players the Golden Knights GM rattled off are under contract for one more season before entering restricted free agency. Of course, it’s an established roster but the Golden Knights at some point will need impact from the younger generation. McCrimmon also mentioned centers Nolan Patrick and Brett Howden but there are different expectations considering both are new to the organization.

Coach Pete DeBoer will have the luxury of roughly three weeks and seven preseason games to examine his younger players. DeBoer will need some to quickly become everyday NHL players. There may not be many openings in Vegas’ opening day roster but there could be bottom-six minutes up for grabs.

This year has seven preseason games, last year did not. I think there’s real value in that. Not only for your veteran players but it’s a great opportunity for young guys… I believe our forwards as a group are better than they’ve been at any point in our existence. I think we made our team better at the forward position. -McCrimmon

McCrimmon stated, and few would disagree, Vegas has a roster that only a handful of teams can match. The general manager never mentioned direct expectations but the goal has to be the same under The Creator’s ownership.

With the franchise’s best-ever forward unit, star-studded defense, and superb goaltending, it has to be a Cup or Bust type mentality behind closed doors. Expect another fun ride.

Roster Battles Incredibly Limited At 2021 VGK Training Camp

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When you take a hard look at the Golden Knights roster you’ll quickly realize there aren’t many question marks when it comes to lineup construction. The top-six is all but guaranteed to remain intact, the entire blue line is locked in, and there’s no longer a goalie competition for either the starting role or the backup.

There are at least 15 players out of the allowed 20 that will dress on October 12th we can essentially write in with a Sharpie marker. There would actually be a 16th if Alex Tuch were healthy, but his injury leaves at least one more spot open for discussion.

Of course, the lines and pairs could shift, but here are the names that I’d be willing to go out on a limb and guarantee (if healthy) are in the lineup in 27 days at T-Mobile Arena.

Pacioretty-Stephenson-Stone
Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Janmark-(Open)-Dadonov
(Open)-(Open)-(Open)

Martinez-Pietrangelo
McNabb-Theodore
(Open)-Whitecloud

Lehner
Brossoit

Thus, there are reasonably five slots that could be interchangeable.

At forward, there are five players currently under one-way NHL contracts. William Carrier, Brett Howden, Keegan Kolesar, Nic Roy, and Patrick Brown. Then, there’s Nolan Patrick who is an RFA but will likely have a contract prior to Opening Night. Throw in the waiver-exempt Peyton Krebs, Jack Dugan, and Lucas Elvenes and we’re looking at a group of nine players with a chance of suiting up against the Seattle Kraken.

Roy is probably the closest player in this group to having a guaranteed spot in the lineup, especially considering his strong postseason and massive goal in Game 4 against the Canadiens.  The other three spots truly represent the only roster competition in VGK Training Camp.

Kolesar would seem to have the next strongest case considering he was protected against waivers for the entire 2020-21 season. His game certainly progressed over the year and there’s really no reason to believe they’d be willing to risk him on waivers this year when they were in an even tighter spot a year ago.

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Odds Favor Patrick Improving In Vegas

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Since 2010, 2nd overall picks in the NHL Draft have lived up to their expectations. Many have even outperformed the only pick chosen before them. It’s not the 1st selection of a draft but it’s an immensely valuable one. Screw up the 2nd pick in the draft and it’ll cost future results and ultimately jobs. So, it’s no surprise the Golden Knights took a chance on the 2nd overall selection from four years ago.

Second Overall Pick Since 2010
2010: Tyler Seguin BOS (6x All Star, Cup Winner)
2011: Gabriel Landeskog COL (ROY)
2012: Ryan Murray CBJ (395 NHL games)
2013: Aleksander Barkov FLA (Byng, Selke)
2014: Sam Reinhart BUF (295 NHL points)
2015: Jack Eichel BUF (3x All Star)
2016: Patrick Laine WPG (All Star)
2017: Nolan Patrick PHI (70 NHL points)
2018: Andrei Svechinikov CAR (140 NHL points)
2019: Kaapo Kakko NYR (40 NHL points)
2020: Quintin Byfield LAK
2021: Matthew Beniers SEA

As you can see there haven’t been many busts, if any, over the last decade or so. From 2010-2016, seven 2nd overall picks have combined for 12 All-Star Game appearances, three All-Rookie Team nods, a Calder Award, a Lady Byng, Selke and most importantly, a Stanley Cup ring. Add in 2018’s second overall selection Andrei Svechinikov quick start to his career, and the odds look bright for the newest Golden Knights center.

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Hunting Career Highs: Forwards

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Part 1 of this article was on Tuesday, now we’re moving on to Part 2 where we are looking at the Golden Knights forward group. Again, we’re looking for the statistic each player is most likely to surpass their career-high in.

Mark Stone
Stat: Even-Strength Assists
Career High – 31

Mark Stone is a superstar, there’s really no way around it. He’s been one for a few years too, so hitting career-highs in just about anything won’t be easy. But the one number that jumped off the page was even-strength assists. I’d expect Stone to be pushing 40 assists this year (his career-high in a season is 42), and with VGK’s power play struggles most of them should come at 5-on-5. Plus, he’s awesome at 3-on-3 which could nab him a few more.

Other options: Assists (42), Games Played (80), Shorthanded Goals (1)

Max Pacioretty
Stat: Shots
Career High – 307

Pacioretty is a high-volume shooter, especially since he’s been in Vegas. It’s not uncommon to look up and see him on the board with five, six, or seven shots in a game. In 2019-20 he amassed his career-high 307 shots in just 71 games. This year, assuming he gets to around 80 games, he could easily be pushing 350. His numbers did pull back a bit last year, which is concerning, but he’s not exactly a guy with a lot of reachable career-high options.

Other options: Faceoffs Won (51), Assists (34), Power Play Goals (10)

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Playing Around With Lineup Combinations

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When talking about the Golden Knights, there’s always a chance of the next blockbuster move being right around the corner, but for now, it appears the dust has settled on the offseason and the roster as currently constructed is the one they plan on bringing into the regular season.

The additions of Evgenii Dadonov, Nolan Patrick, and Brett Howden, along with the possibility of Peyton Krebs, Jack Dugan, and Lucas Elvenes being ready to make the NHL leap, leave the Golden Knights with plenty of options as to how to roll out their forward lines.

Alex Tuch’s injury and the departure of Ryan Reaves will force at least some shuffle to the lineup, the question is how much coach Pete DeBoer is going to go with.

The simple answer is to keep everything as close to what it was last year and allow the new and young players to battle for the final few spots on the bottom-six, but what if they get creative? Let’s run through a bunch of different potential options to show just how versatile this group has a chance to be.

Continuity

Pacioretty-Stephenson-Stone
Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Janmark-Roy-Dadonov
Carrier-Howden-Kolesar

This is essentially the same group the Golden Knights ran out during the postseason run. Dadonov goes in for Tuch and Howden replaces Nosek and we’re looking at a lineup we know can dominate the Pacific Division.

Karlsson As 1C

Pacioretty-Karlsson-Stone
Marchessault-Patrick/Krebs-Smith
Janmark-Stephenson-Dadonov
Carrier-Roy-Howden

Getting Karlsson on the ice with Stone has always been somewhat intriguing. The move requires someone to fit in his spot on the Misfit Line, which is definitely easier said than done. There are two good potential options in 1st round picks from 2017 and 2019. If one can do it, the center depth will look much stronger.

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GOLDEN KNIGHTS ACQUIRE NOLAN PATRICK FOR CODY GLASS

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Right before the rosters freeze for the Expansion Draft the Golden Knights pulled off a trade four years in the making. The former #6 overall pick, and the first in Vegas history, Cody Glass, has been traded for the former #2 overall pick, Nolan Patrick.

Patrick has played 197 NHL games for the Philadelphia Flyers and scored 30 goals with 40 assists. He struggled in 2021 posting a -30 rating while tallying just nine points in 52 games.

Glass will head to the Nashville Predators as part of a pair of trades that included defenseman Ryan Ellis going to Philadelphia.

McPhee Calls Entry Draft Weak, Then Says He Doesn’t Call Drafts Weak

GM George McPhee made his first Vegas radio appearance since the lottery debacle on ESPN 1100 this afternoon (interview here, begins at 28:00). McPhee joked with Ed Graney and Mike Pritchard that after he found out the results, he was happy he got stuck in Washington. Stanley the Rooster still believes his presence could have helped the situation. But I digress.

When talking about the draft, McPhee mentioned once again how much of an advantage the Golden Knights have had in knowing they would be selecting the top six from the beginning of the season. In the same answer he then went on to divulge some information we’ve discussed many times, but never thought we’d actually hear from McPhee’s mouth.

With this particular draft there are a couple of players at one and two that I think are a lot better than the next layer of players. You can get the same player at 3 at 6 at 9 so I’m not worried about getting a good player because there are enough them there that we’ll be fine. -George McPhee

Essentially he said, Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier are good, and the rest of the players a cut below. However, while most scouts around the continent believe Nico and Nolan are good, no one is ready to compare them to the McDavids, Matthews, and Eichels of the world. So, in agreeing, McPhee basically said the draft is not as strong at the top as in recent year’s past.

A few minutes later, McPhee went on to say he doesn’t calls drafts weak or strong.

I’ve tried to approach every draft in the same way, some people say certain drafts are strong drafts, certain drafts are weak drafts, and I’ve never ever looked at it that way because if you go into what is supposed to be a weak draft and come up with two or three good players then it wasn’t a weak draft. I believe this is where good drafting teams really make their hay. If you go into what’s supposed to be a strong draft, seems like everybody gets good players. When you go into a weak drafts, the good scouting departments come up with the players and create separation between teams. -McPhee

And then there’s me listening to all of what McPhee said thinking, well yeah that’s all accurate. So, let’s try and recap.

The lottery sucked so much it was worth not being at. It’s disappointing the lottery sucked because those top two guys are good. Not that good, but pretty good. After them though, it’s not as good. There’s a big mess of players that are all very similar. We have to now pick from that mess. But this draft isn’t weak because if you pick the good players then you got some good players and the draft can’t be weak if you got multiple good players.

Yup, that all makes sense to me.

Nolan Patrick Draft Stock Continues To Slip

Months ago Brandon Wheat Kings star prospect Nolan Patrick was the near consensus first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft. Through a season of injuries and a fantastic campaign by the Swiss standout, Nico Hischier is starting to find his way to the top of draft boards.

So what do you do if you have the first pick overall this summer? Patrick’s two-way game and 6-foot-3 frame seemed to make him a safe top pick before the injuries, but Hischier’s hockey IQ and elite offensive skills make him look like another Jonathan Drouin. For me, it’s Hischier right now – and he certainly had to earn the distinction. -Ryan Kennedy, The Hockey News

Hischier has been stupendous all season long and has continued his excellent run during the QJHML playoffs. Meanwhile, Patrick has been out much of the season and missed the Wheaties playoff series in which they were swept.

Here’s the good news, the Golden Knights didn’t need the 2016-17 season to know who Nolan Patrick is. While many teams were set to take advantage of another pre-draft eligible season for Patrick (he missed the cutoff by four days last year), they weren’t afforded a wealth of ice time due to Patrick’s nagging injuries. The Golden Knights on the other hand have Kelly McCrimmon on their staff. The current owner of the Brandon Wheat Kings and the former coach and GM of Patrick through his first three years in Manitoba.

Of course the lottery balls still have to have their say (still no official date on the lottery yet), but it’s likely that if McCrimmon believes Patrick is the next Anze Kopitar, he and McPhee will do what it takes to make him a Golden Knight. Therefore, the injuries, the rise of Hischier, and the lack of minutes from Patrick could in fact be a blessing in disguise for Vegas.

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Drafting Third Is Equivalent To Drafting Fifteenth; You Know What That Means

TSN’s Director of Scouting Craig Button updated his mock Entry Draft this week with no change at the top. Week in, week out Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier have led the top two picks of June’s draft. Last week Button slotted Vegas in the third draft position just missing out on the Patrick, Hischier sweepstakes. Vegas is still selecting third in Button’s mock draft, but the player drafted was different this week.

According to Button’s latest mock draft, the player currently slated to go third is 18 year-old center Martin Necas. The young center has 7 goals and 8 assists in 41 Czech Extra League games. The numbers don’t mimic Patrick or Hischier but obviously the skill speaks for itself.

Necas has a style of game that reminds me of Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux. He has a high skill level, can finish or create, and has a desire to find some way to make an impact in every game he plays. – Craig Button, TSN Director of Scouting

Whoa Giroux?!? According to the NHL Central Scouting Bureau Necas is rated the fifth best international skater. For a full player spotlight check out our post from January.

Of course Necas sounds like a promising franchise center, but now we’re getting into deep waters. TSN analysts Bob McKenzie, Frank Seravelli and Button have all stated the talent pool is less impressive than past drafts. After Patrick and Hischier, who are dubbed can’t miss players, the talent drops significantly. Analysts have said drafting 3rd or 15th is about the same this year. Not good for Vegas if the ping pong balls act anything like the craps table does for Ken.

Drafting Necas doesn’t have much value at pick third. In a way after the first or second pick it possibly doesn’t matter where Vegas drafts in the top six. We’re all thinking it, and of course McPhee is… but the Golden Knights really need to trade up. Getting in the top two, Vegas would kill two birds with one stone. The new franchise would draft their potential future center and they make a big splash for the fans.

Hitting the big splash isn’t necessary for the Golden Knights but it could work out for the franchise’s future. Drafting a player that’s a unanimous first or second pick is a much different from selecting a player third that could’ve been drafted sixth, ninth or thirteenth. Of course, the pick itself is valuable, but this is a different circumstance. The Golden Knights first franchise selection will be over analyzed and critiqued. Waiting a couple of years for Necas to develop could frustrate the T-Mobile faithful. Plus, he may continue playing in Eastern Europe next year while waiting for his turn in Las Vegas. I’ll say it for Vegas fans, just trade up and secure the first or second pick. Hey, I don’t need to tell the Golden Knights how to draft but I know 16,000 invested fans will.

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