Let’s be honest, we all thought the Golden Knights would be a lot worse off than they are today. Thanksgiving has passed and we can all let out a collective sigh knowing that if the season ended today Vegas would be in the playoffs.
The injury bug hit the Golden Knights hard but through coaching, leadership, and responsibility, the Golden Knights are currently in third place in the division.
One player that was an enormous reason why the Golden Knights kept their heads above water is defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. Since Game 52 of last season, Pietrangelo has emerged as Vegas’ most important player. Sure, some deep stats will disagree but frankly, this is a case of mistaken identity. You want a stat? The Golden Knights are 7-2 when Pietrangelo registers a point. A point! Not a goal, but just one point from #7 usually propels the Golden Knights to a victory. That’s just his offensive contributions.
Clearly, coach Pete DeBoer isn’t concerned with what the data says about his most essential player. If the 31-year-old is such a deterrent than why would he be one of the most utilized defenseman in hockey? Pietrangelo is a bonafide workhorse and a fantastic facilitator for DeBoer.
Average Time On Ice: 25:16
- 1st on VGK, 9th in NHL
Even Strengthened Minutes Per Game: 20:03
- 2nd on VGK (1st – Theodore 20:17)
PP Minutes Per Game: 2:20
- 2nd on VGK (1st – Stone 3:05)
Shorthanded Minutes Per Game: 2:50
- 2nd ok VGK (1st – McNabb 2:57)
Offensive or defensive draw, up a goal or down a goal, up a man or down a man, it doesn’t matter, DeBoer is calling on #7.
Endurance and ice time isn’t the only indication of Pietrangelo’s nightly impact. This season there have been 124 goals scored in 20 Golden Knights games, Pietrangelo has been on the ice for almost half of them. What’s interesting is how the numbers break down. He’s Even-Steven.
On Ice For Goals Scored: 29
- On Ice EV Goals For: 23
2nd on VGK, 11th in NHL (1st – Stephenson 24)
- On Ice PP Goals For: 5
1st on VGK
- On Ice SH Goals For: 1
2nd on VGK
On Ice For Goals Against: 29
- On Ice EV Goals Against: 23
1st on VGK, 11th in NHL
- On Ice PP Goals Against: 5
2nd on VGK (1st – McNabb 8)
- On Ice SH Goals Against: 1
Tied – 1st on VGK
Another element to the alternate captain’s game is his durability, which has been on display since last season. Pietrangelo hasn’t missed a game since 3/31/21 and has averaged nearly 30 shifts per night, including the playoffs. The defenseman averaged .68 points per game finishing behind William Karlsson for most playoff points too.
Sure, I expect some backlash because most will argue Mark Stone is Vegas’ most important player and either way, we’re probably splitting hairs. However, Stone’s lack of scoring in the playoffs was a major problem in the Golden Knights last two postseason exits. The captain is vital to the operation but he isn’t paid $9.5M per year only to create turnovers, disrupt, and start an offensive break. Of course, that’s what a Selke candidate is supposed to do, but a highly paid captain like Stone cannot come up pointless in the semifinals. As a defenseman, Pietrangelo plays his position at an All-Star level and creates offense in the biggest moments.
For those reasons, #7 has become #1 in Vegas.