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2023-24 Fantasy Rankings: Where Do Vegas’ Stars Land?

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Yesterday, many Americans were glued to their TV sets or streaming devices watching the first Sunday of the NFL season. For some, professional football is a religion. They wake up, turn on the pregame show, grill up some brats, and most importantly set their fantasy lineups. The NHL is not known for being a mass fantasy sport but it’s widely popular among diehard puckheads. This week the best 2023-24 fantasy player rankings came out and several Golden Knights made the experts’ draft list.

Let’s start with the most desired.

#32 – Jack Eichel

While the championship center is ranked the highest on the Golden Knights he’s far behind some of his contemporaries. Obviously, Connor McDavid is ranked first overall but fourteen other centers were ranked ahead of Eichel. It’s not a knock on the World Champion but a compliment to the structure of the Stanley Cup Golden Knights.

Eichel had his lowest average time on ice in his career last season, as Vegas likes to roll four lines in a balanced attack. Given that, and the fact Eichel has missed substantial time in all but two of his NHL seasons, it’s tough to count on him for more than 70 games and 70 points. –Michael Amato on Sportsnet.ca

#92 – Mark Stone

Let’s be fair, dozens of teams would select Stone before the 92nd pick but in fantasy sports, points are the only figure that matters. The Golden Knights captain can do a little bit of everything, and much better than anyone else. However, he isn’t a scoring winger like David Pastrnak, Matthew Tkachuk, or Mikko Rantanen. Not to mention Stone’s past injury absences will likely scare fantasy GMs from drafting him any higher. If picking pockets were a statistic in fantasy hockey then that’s a different story. In that case, Stone would be selected much higher than 92.

The only thing holding Stone back in fantasy is health. His numbers are always solid but he just misses so much time due to injuries, and the odds of that improving as he’s now 31 seem slim. Don’t reach too high for him. –Amato on Sportsnet.ca

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Call Me Crazy, But … (Jason’s 2023-24 Picks)

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Here we go, it’s Day 2 of making crazy predictions (here are Ken’s from yesterday). I truly believe a couple of my predictions will come true this season. Especially, the one about Jack Eichel squaring off against Connor McDavid.

Call me crazy, but Shea Theodore will pass his career high in goals in 2023-24.

There have been theories floating over the past several seasons that Alex Pietrangelo’s presence impacted Theodore’s growth. It’s an easy assumption, considering Theodore was the Golden Knights’ biggest threat in the 2020 postseason. The Original Misfit registered seven goals in the bubble and 12 assists to go along with his breakout performance. Months later Pietrangelo was acquired and appeared to slow Theodore down.

The 28-year-old flashed some skill in the Stanley Cup Final and there’s reason to believe it will carry over to October. After playing in Bruce Cassidy’s system for 76 games, Theodore is in a position to flourish offensively. Look for Theodore to top 15 or more goals this season. Maybe enough to earn a few Norris Trophy votes.

Call me crazy, but there will be a goalie controversy at some point during the season.

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VGK’s Top 6 Stanley Cup Playoff Saves

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The success of the Golden Knights goaltenders in the 2023 playoffs will be talked about for years to come. Heck, it’s already being studied by other organizations. We’ve gone over the top offensive plays, so let’s turn our attention to the few that kept the puck out of the net.

6. Brossoit Dazzles in Game 2 vs. Winnipeg

Golden Knights fans will never forget which goaltender began the 2023 Cup run. Adin Hill earned Conn Smyth votes and a massive post-playoff payday but Laurent Brossoit will always have a special place in team history. Brossoit started eight games, eliminated Winnipeg, and picked up another win in the second round. In his group of playoff games, Vegas’ opening goalie made a few outstanding saves that some might have forgotten. His stop in a deciding Game 5 is worth watching on a loop. After making the initial save, Brossoit was forced to desperately slide across the crease and stop a wide-open shot. The Jets offense was stunned. If it hadn’t been a blowout, LB’s save would have been ranked higher.

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Starting The Misfits

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The opening shift of a Stanley Cup Final game is not typically a time to get sentimental with decision-making. The Golden Knights still needed to win one more game to reach the mountaintop, and they knew they were facing a team that had been in a 3-1 hole before and dug themselves out.

For Bruce Cassidy though, he knew the time was right.

To start Game 5, Cassidy went off script of both his forward lines and standard operating procedure and chose to tug on some heartstrings instead.

The starting lineup he selected was Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore, and Brayden McNabb. Five of the six original players from the inaugural season that began Vegas’ love affair with the Golden Knights.

I apologized to Will Carrier, I told him, I’m sorry, I can only start one left winger. -Bruce Cassidy

Cassidy reunited the greatest line in Vegas history and used McNabb and Theodore to start a game for the first time during the entire postseason. It was a risk, but he knew it was one worth taking.

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League’s Best Defense Won Game 1 For The Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: @GoldenKnights on Twitter)

They always say defense wins championships. And while the Golden Knights won nothing more than Game 1 last night, defense was the main reason they were able to take the 13th step toward ultimate glory.

There were three areas in particular where Vegas’ back end rose to the occasion in the opening game of the Stanley Cup Final.

Driving offense

To reach this point the Golden Knights had played 17 games against three very different opponents. VGK D-men had scored just three goals in those games. In Game 1, both go-ahead goals came from a similar spot on the ice by Golden Knights’ defensemen.

First, Shea Theodore masterfully walked the blue line leaving Anthony Duclair in his wake before firing a perfect wrist shot through traffic to the top right corner. Theodore first received the puck near the wall in front of Vegas’ bench. He skated it to the center looking for a shooting lane but was blanketed by Duclair. So, he kept carrying it all the way across the rink to the opposite set of boards. That’s where he did a pirouette before a double inside-out dangle to lose his marker. The rest was history.

Against a Florida defense that likes to take away the front of the goal, the high slot is an area that is expected to be open at times for the Golden Knights. In previous years a lot of Vegas’ in-zone offense operated by seeking out this exact look, but this season, and especially this postseason, it’s been rare. On the Theodore play, you can tell the emphasis that has been placed on getting to the high slot. The play started with a shot from Theodore in that space, then as the puck was worked back up to him he instantly brought it there again, and finally when it was taken away, he used his skating and skill to work it there a third time inside of 10 seconds.

That exact area of the ice would manifest itself in another goal from a Vegas blueliner later, which eventually stood as the game-winner. Following a rush chance by Jack Eichel and Ivan Barbashev that was stopped, under pressure by multiple backcheckers, Barbashev sent a pass to Zach Whitecloud who was just entering the zone. Typically, Whitecloud favors a play where he activates down the dot-line on his forehand, but this time he held onto the puck and brought it directly into the high slot. With a Panther providing a screen on his own goalie, Whitecloud sent one back across his body where he beat Sergei Bobrovsky clean.

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Golden Knights Player Quotes From Stanley Cup Final Media Day

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Jonathan Marchessault on this time vs. last time in Cup Final

“It’s not as overwhelming as it was the first year. I think we know what we are coming into this time and it feels good to be because. But, this means nothing if we don’t win it and that’s the mentality I have this year.”

Mark Stone on original members of the Golden Knights “finishing what they started”

“I’m not so sure they are here to finish what they started as much as it’s just they want to win. These guys really want to win, man. Everybody in this organization wants to win. The owner stated he wants to win badly and you’ve seen that we’ve spended to the salary cap and we’ve added top-end players and key pieces throughout the time we’ve been here. These guys will do anything it takes.”

Alex Pietrangelo on players asking him about Stanley Cup experiences

“Guys ask the questions and I’ll give them an honest answer and I hope that helps because that feeling of having that opportunity is something we all want to have at least once… if not more.”

Brayden McNabb on playing against physical forecheck

“It’s going to be a physical series. They come hard and they finish their checks and we’re aware of that. It’s going to be about having good first touches, getting to the puck first, and making good reads. There won’t be a single play we can rely on every time either, we’re going to have to moce our feet and make reads and be smart with where we go on the first touch.”

“Dallas is a great forecheck team and we got better and better dealing with it as the series went on.”

Shea Theodore on long layoff before Stanley Cup Final

“We just felt like it was such a long time. When you’re waiting for that first game sometimes it can benefit the guys who are nursing some injuries but I remember us really wanting to get after it. It kind of got us out of a little bit of a rhythm.” 

“When we had the layoff we kind of were flashing back to the whole year. It was a magical run and we had a lot of key bounces and we were always scoring timely goals. And then our luck kind of ran out.”

Nic Roy on 4th line being challenged after Game 5

“We felt that challenge and he talked to us a little bit before the game. We know what (Cassidy) expects from us. He wants us to be physical, be hard on the forecheck, and set the tone at the start of the game. That was the message and I thought from the get go we did a really good job of that.”

Jonathan Marchessault on the possibility of the next word engraved on the Cup being Vegas

“It’s a lifetime achievement. You can ask anyone here, what’s your dream if you can have anything you want and winning the Stanley Cup is the answer. It’s what I’ve been working on my entire life.”

Vegas Defense Set Early Tone For Game 4 Dud

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For the better part of eight games, the Golden Knights defense have carried their team to success in the postseason. That was until last night’s Game 4 in Edmonton. Not only did Vegas’ blueliners jump start the Oilers offense in the opening period but they potentially put their team at a disadvantage for Friday’s Game 5 too.

Before the game clock hit the eight-minute mark Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore committed two slashing penalties and committed an egregious turnover. Unfortunately, the bad luck didn’t end for the 27-year-old blueliner. Edmonton cashed in on Theodore’s second slash and things began to unravel for the Golden Knights 7:38 into Game 4. Almost six minutes later, the Oilers took a three-goal edge, all with Theodore on the ice.

Opening 13:30 of Game 4

  • Score: 3-0 EDM (2 EV, 1 PP)
  • Shots on Goal: EDM – 8, VGK – 2
  • Penalties: VGK (Theodore – 2 x Slashing), EDM (McLeod – Tripping)
  • Faceoff Wins: EDM – 6, VGK – 4
  • Hits: EDM – 14, VGK – 11

It’s been stressed a dozen times over the past week; do not give the Oilers power play opportunities. Although Edmonton scored just once on the man-advantage in Game 4, it came seven minutes into the game, doubled their lead and completely shell-shocked the Golden Knights. Theodore’s inability to cleanly defend opened the door for an Oilers rout. Of course, it wasn’t just the penalties taken because Edmonton was the first team to hit the box. It was a combination of over-committing, poor positioning and problems tracking the puck. It was uncharacteristic for an overall reliable defenseman.

Going back to the last series with the Winnipeg Jets, Vegas’ blueline has been the team’s most consistent unit. Last night, the shaky defense hurt VGK’s attempt at taking a two-game series lead back home for Friday’s Game 5. It’s easy to compliment the opponent’s attack but even coach Bruce Cassidy couldn’t hold back after last night’s 4-1 defeat.

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Hot, Cold, And William Karlsson

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have been on a nice run since the All Star break, losing just one game in regulation and cementing their place in the Western Conference playoff picture.

Along the way, there have been a few big-time performers stepping up consistently helping lead VGK to goals and eventually wins. Despite all the winning though, there have been a few disappointments as well, players that will need to step up their game if the Golden Knights want to achieve the ultimate goal by season’s end. And then, there’s been William Karlsson.

We’ll start with the good.

Hot

Jack Eichel
8 goals, 6 assists, 14 points, +10 rating

There’s really no point in doing this list without starting with #9. Eichel has been on his best run as a Golden Knight since the calendar flipped to February and there are no signs of him slowing down. He’s scored goals in seven of the 12 games since the break, and has been on the score sheet with at least a point in nine.

Plus, the goals have been big ones. Eichel gave the Golden Knights a 3rd period lead against both New Jersey and Dallas, he scored twice in the 2nd period to put VGK ahead against Carolina, and his power play goal against the Flames sparked the Golden Knights’ comeback.

And on top of all of it, he just flat-out looks like the best player on the ice most nights. His powerful skating stride is breathtaking and his shotmaking ability at full speed is spectacular.

Shea Theodore
3 goals, 9 assists, 12 points, +8 rating

Theodore returned from his nasty knee injury a few days before the break. He didn’t quite look himself in those games and the results showed. Since, he’s been every bit of the dynamic puck-moving defenseman the Golden Knights knew they had when they signed him to a long-term deal four years ago.

He’s driving offense from all three zones again and putting teams on their heels with his ridiculous puck-handling ability. In the last nine games, Theodore has recorded at least four shots in five of them and he’s averaging nearly 22 minutes of ice time a night, lightening the load on Alex Pietrangelo.

Scoring from the blue line is not exactly the main focal point of the Bruce Cassidy offensive system, but when Shea is going like he is, the offense looks so much more potent.

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VGK Have Plenty Of Younger Players, But Most Of Their Offense Comes From Players North Of 30

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This season, the Golden Knights’ top two scorers are smack dab in the primes of their careers. Chandler Stephenson’s All Star campaign has the 28-year-old on 50 points in 61 games while Jack Eichel leads the team with 22 goals and has tallied 45 points in 48 games.

The next group of players on the Golden Knights’ scoring list are not exactly in their primes though. Six of the next seven top scorers (so 6 of 9 overall) are at least 30 years old. The first player under the age of 26 on the stat sheet is Paul Cotter, checking in as the 13th-highest point producer on the team, and expected to be a healthy scratch tonight.

Simply put, the Golden Knights are old, or at the very least, their most effective players are old.

47.9% of the offense has come from 10 players aged 30 or above. Only five teams in the NHL have received more ice time from 30+-year-old players, and three of them have won a Stanley Cup in the last six seasons. VGK’s 240 points from 30+-year-olds is 4th most in the league behind Washington (373), Pittsburgh (311), Boston (277), and the New York Islanders (255).

In the present, that’s really not a problem at all. The problem lies in the group of younger players behind 30+’s. The Golden Knights have used 20 players under the age of 30 this season, so there are plenty of 20 somethings to choose from. However, outside of Eichel, Stephenson, William Carrier, and for his age Cotter, that group has not made much of an impact.

Despite ranking outside of the bottom 10 in games played, VGK rank in the bottom five in goals, assists, points, and points per 60 by players aged 25 or younger.

Now, you may be saying, “ok, but Eichel is 26, add him in.” With Eichel included, the Golden Knights rank 25th in goals, 28th in assists, 26th in points, and 29th in points per 60 by players aged 26 or younger.

It looks even worse in graphical form, including when you add in 27-year-old Shea Theodore, and 28-year-olds Stephenson and Carrier

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Golden Knights Defending Superbly Since All Star Break

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Most of the focus over the past few games since the All Star break has been on the offense. It’s with good reason as a team that often goes through scoring droughts has posted 19 goals in four games with all but one coming at even strength.

The other end of the ice is where the Golden Knights have really been winning games though. Their ability to limit the opposition has helped allow the attack more time to work and it’s also fed the transition game Vegas relies on so heavily.

It’s not just the defensemen that are making this happen.

Part of the reason (our opponents) haven’t generated much is what we’ve done between the blue lines. I think it’s a combination of our forwards working really hard to get out of the other end and working back to help. It’s all gap related, if our D can have confidence to close their gap they’ll kill some of those plays knowing the forward will cover for them if they don’t get there in time. That’s just a team playing the right way and it’s best for the group if we play that way. -Bruce Cassidy

Where that has shown up most is Vegas’ ability to limit odd-man rushes. In the past four games, they’ve only allowed two true odd-man rushes, once against Minnesota and another against Anaheim. Cassidy also believes forwards reloading to help the defensemen in the neutral zone has helped their offense as well.

That’s the selling part for me. You tell the forwards, if you work back really hard and we’re on time there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get yourself a puck five seconds later with a chance to attack and I think we’ve done a good job of that. -Cassidy

There’s no denying the impact the group of six healthy defensemen have had on the game as well. With both Zach Whitecloud and Shea Theodore back in the lineup, the Golden Knights look more comfortable in every aspect of defending.

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