Want to win in the NHL? There’s one specific place on the ice where you must be better than your opponent.
These last three games for the Golden Knights, they’ve dominated there.
Early in the year, there were some games where we played well but we ran into a hot goalie. But the Winter Classic and some of the other recent ones I think we could have been better at generating offense with a little more will and second effort. Usually that requires an inside presence and that’s how we got back in the game, we got inside. -Bruce Cassidy
The Golden Knights erased a two-goal 3rd period deficit on Saturday night because they killed the Penguins directly in front of the goal. In fact, Vegas has been excellent in the low slot for the last three games, and it’s why despite the depleted roster, they’ve been winning.
Here’s a look at where each goal was scored from in the last three games against Nashville, New York, and Pittsburgh.
With eyes set on 23, the Golden Knights training camp roster of 66 has been cut all the way down to 26. The VGK front office have just a few more decisions to make. But, these final ones are always the toughest.
The 26-man roster included 15 forwards, nine defensemen, and two goalies. Three more players will have to find their way off this group before Vegas can drop the banner celebrating the Stanley Cup and begin their quest to repeat.
Obviously, the two goalies, Adin Hill and Logan Thompson are expected to suit up on October 10th, with the playoff hero Hill expected to start between the pipes against the Kraken. Down to 24.
Forwards Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, Chandler Stephenson, Ivan Barbashev, Nic Roy, William Carrier, and Keegan Kolesar are all guaranteed, if healthy, to be on the roster as well. That puts us at 15.
On the back end, Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, Alec Martinez, and Nic Hague are all locks. So, we’re down to ten.
Ten players. Seven will be on the roster, three will be not.
They are Michael Amadio, Brett Howden, Paul Cotter, Pavel Dorofeyev, Max Comtois, Brendan Brisson, Zach Whitecloud, Ben Hutton, Brayden Pachal, and Kaedan Korczak.
The first variable is always health. Right now, one of those ten players, Zach Whitecloud, is not healthy, and has already been ruled out for the rest of the preseason. If he’s not available to go to start the season, he’ll be placed on injured reserve (IR) and would represent one of the three that would not be on the official 23-man opening night roster. That being said, if Whitecloud can play, his name would have been up there next to Pietrangelo and Theodore as a lock.
Amadio, Howden, and Hutton are all as close to locks as you can be as well. The Golden Knights are not immune to throwing a surprise at us every once in a while, but in this case, it would be a bit of a stunner if the 23-man roster drops without all three of their names.
So, we’re down to six players for two or three spots (depending on Whitecloud). In order, here’s who is most likely to make the final 23.
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.
Qualifying Offers – Howden^ ($1,500,000), Dorofeyev ($874,125), Patera^ ($787,500)
Expected LTIR – Lehner ($5,000,000)
**This is an inexact salary estimation designed to give a rough outline of how much cap space the Golden Knights have to operate with. For exact up-to-date salary cap information, visit PuckPedia.com.**
Golden Knights rookies spent the weekend in Phoenix competing in three games against fellow rookie squads from the Coyotes, Sharks, and Kings. A total of 25 players suited up for Vegas, here’s are my observations on every single one of them.
Peyton Krebs (2 games, 1C, 1C)
Literally 15 seconds into Game 1, Krebs made the best move of the weekend by any Golden Knight, carrying the puck over the blue line, stopping on a dime, and stickhandling through a defender’s legs to set up a Grade A scoring chance. His compete level is always on display and it really kicked up in the third game when it was clear he took a leadership role both on and off the ice. He came away from the two games without much to show for on the scoresheet but his impact was obvious.
The first thing you’ll always notice about Pavel’s game was once again on full display, and that’s his ability to hold the puck and create space for himself and his teammates. He had a few really dangerous scoring chances but wasn’t able to slot one home. He and Marushev looked good together, but there’s no doubt Dorofeyev was at his best in Game 3 playing with Krebs and Dugan.
Maxim Marushev (3 games, 1RW, 1RW, 3RW)
Marushev plays a simple but effective game. He’s reliable with the puck on his stick and he’s always in quickly on the forecheck. He hit the post on a 2-on-0 shorthanded chance and was both creating chances for others as well as collecting them himself all weekend. For a 7th round pick, there’s not much to dislike about his game.
No one’s stock raised more in my book this weekend than Primeau’s. His skating looks very good for a player of his size and his hands were worlds better than what we saw a while back when he was in Development Camp at City National Arena. Primeau was constantly making plays all over the ice. Some helped generate scoring chances but more often we’d see plays along the wall, in the neutral zone, or exiting the offensive zone that relieved pressure for his teammates. Officially, he goes down in the books with just one assist, but there was another goal clearly created off his play in the D-zone and a bundle of chances he was in on that weren’t finished.
When it comes to prospects, we’re always on the hunt for information, trying to differentiate between players who have an NHL future and those who are simply along for the ride.
Rookie camp, and especially rookie games, are crucial in that sorting process as they stand as one of the rare times a large collection of Golden Knights prospects gather and compete on the same sheet of ice. Comparing Lukas Cormier’s 54-point QMJHL season to Kaedan Korczak’s five-game stint in the AHL playoffs only offers so much, but when they step on the ice together and compete against the same competition, much more can be gathered.
Most of that information comes from what we see on the ice. However, every once in a while we get some crumbs that give us a look into how the organization views these players, which will massively affect their chances of becoming future Golden Knights.
One such crumb was shared by this weekend’s coach, and Henderson Silver Knights head coach, Manny Viveiros.
Management and the scouting staff, they’ll put the lines together for us cause they’ve seen these kids over the last few years. They’ve been a big help in that part by putting who they want to see together including the d-pairs as well. So we’re going to decide who’s playing this weekend and with who and we’re going to go out there and support the kids and coach them on the bench. -Viveiros
This means every lineup we see being put out on the ice this weekend offers a look into the minds of the front office.
Pavel Dorofeyev and Maxim Marushev playing with Peyton Krebs on the top line tells us something about the two Russian standouts. While Mason Primeau playing on the wing of 2021 1st round pick Zach Dean and the more experienced Jack Dugan speaks volumes to where they feel the career of the 6’5″ 20-year-old who spent a portion of last year in the ECHL is headed.
Every player, every position, every decision is done with a purpose and there’s a reason behind every purpose.
Here’s the lineup the Golden Knights used in their first rookie game against the Coyotes, one they dropped 5-2 in a bit of a sloppy, penalty-filled affair.
This is just one lineup of three we’ll get to examine this weekend. With them, we’ll get more information on players like Layton Ahac, Marcus Kallionkieli, Jermaine Loewen, Zack Hayes, Jonas Rondbjerg, and Peter DiLberatore.
In the end, it’s just a weekend, and placement in the lineup, as well as subsequent performances, will always be just a piece of the puzzle to how the Golden Knights view each prospect moving forward.
But it’s neat to get a peek behind the curtain a bit, now that we know where to look.
Krebs is an elite talent who tore his Achilles tendon in early June. He was projected as a potential top-five pick but fell all the way to #17. Krebs is a 200-foot player that is a playmaker and described as a “constant difference maker.” He’s a two-way center who played on one of the worst teams in the WHL, yet he still put up 86 points.
Krebs is an excellent passer who has terrific vision as well. He’s a high-end skater who has very good speed and good burst. He’s also described as a player with excellent creativity.
Krebs was the captain of his WHL team the Kootenay Ice. He was also the captain of the Team Canada U18 team. Krebs led both teams in points.
Vegas was one of the meetings that I came out of and I felt really good about. They felt like family from the get go and so happy to be picked by them. -Krebs
I absolutely love Krebs game. I’ve said thi all year long. He drives the bus. He’s a line driver. Think Turcotte light. #NHLDraft
He’s a very mature kid. He does everything possible off ice to make himself better. He goes full out effort all the time on the ice. He’s skilled, he can skate, he can make so many plays. I expect him to be an explosive top-six forward in the NHL. –James Patrick, Winnipeg Ice coach to The Athletic
"I wanted to go to a place where I get the shivers every time I walk in the building. So, I think Vegas will do that. I'm pretty pumped." – Krebs on his excitement to play in Vegas. #VegasBorn
A well-rounded defenseman who skates well for his size. He’s steady in all areas and is considered one of the best defensive defenseman available in this Draft. He’s a 6’3″ right-handed defenseman who is very strong physically.
The Golden Knights traded up, ahead of Minnesota and Chicago to select Korczak forfeiting one of their 3rd round picks to make the deal happen.
"Just a steady reliable guy on the back end. I’ll take guys like him every year." -NHL Scout "No real weakness and I think he's just scratching the surface. I see a lot of room to grow.” -NHL Scout
Dorofeyev is a skilled forward with a deadly shot. He is said to be very calm with the puck and has the ability to create time and space while holding the puck. He has a sneaky release on his shot which can be deceptive to many goalies.
He’s listed at 167 pounds, becoming the lightest forward the Golden Knights have ever selected.