In exactly one month from yesterday the NHL playoffs will begin. Barring any major collapses, the Golden Knights will be one of the Western Conference’s most dangerous participants. However, some continue to doubt Vegas as a serious Stanley Cup contender. For example, MoneyPuck’s Power Rankings list the Golden Knights as the league’s 16th best team.
Over the years the Golden Knights front office built a team well-suited for the postseason. Six players have customized championship rings, and 12 others have playoff experience. Experience makes a different in the NHL’s second season. While MoneyPuck’s computer model doubts Vegas’ chances, several other Power Rankings are much more favorable to the 31st franchise. Here are the latest rankings from hockey outlets across the league.
As you’d expect with a team dubbed the ‘Golden Misfits’ in their early expansion days, there is no shortage of guys who beat the odds in Vegas. All three members of the original ‘Misfit Line’ — William Karlsson between Reilly Smith and undrafted Jonathan Marchessault — are still there and have been joined by a captain, in Mark Stone, who was a sixth-round selection with questionable skating; Chandler Stephenson, a third-rounder who immediately became a top-six centre after Vegas fleeced Washington for his services; and undrafted goalie Logan Thompson, who was in the thick of the Calder Trophy race before getting hurt this season.- Ryan Dixon, Sportsnet
The Canadian avenue clearly respects the Golden Knights lineup enough to have them one spot below the high-powered Boston Bruins and higher than two teams with better records. It’s possible Sportsnet sees an easier postseason path for Vegas, or that their newly formed lineup is deep enough for a Cup run. Would Sportsnet rank Vegas higher than Boston if Mark Stone were healthy in time for the playoffs? That’s a bit of a stretch.
The Knights are on a tear with four straight wins and seven of their past eight. They still haven’t really missed a beat despite being on their fourth starter in Jonathan Quick, who’s 4-0-0 with the Knights. As it stands, the Knights and Kings will face each other in the second round of the playoffs if they advance.- Jason Chen, THN
THN posted their latest Power Rankings before the Golden Knights last contest, but it would be difficult to drop Vegas more than two or three spots. Jonathan Quick’s success with Vegas has given the Pacific Division leader more security in net after injuries to virtually every Golden Knights goaltender.
If healthy, Alec Martinez is a key, underappreciated piece for the Golden Knights. The veteran defenseman won the Stanley Cup twice with the Los Angeles Kings (2012, 2014). He leads the NHL in blocked shots with 208, 35 more than Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba. He averages 1:36 of ice time on the penalty kill, third on the Golden Knights. But unfortunately, that style takes a toll, and he has a history of injuries. What makes him valuable also creates a risk that Vegas could lose him from the lineup.- Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist
The league’s official site is incredibly high on the Golden Knights, ranking them as the highest Western Conference team on their list. Only the record-breaking Bruins, Hurricanes and Devils are ahead of the Golden Knights according to NHL columnist Nick Cotsonika. There’s an argument that Vegas is slightly overrated by NHL.com, especially after being throttled by Calgary 7-2 on Thursday night. However, as legendary MLB manager Connie Mack famously said; “You can’t win them all.”
By scoring four goals and eight points in his first nine games, Ivan Barbashev has helped the Golden Knights find a temporary solution to the hole left by captain Mark Stone. Losing Stone left the Golden Knights without one of the premier two-way forwards in the league. It appears Barbashev, a pending UFA, could be the one who bridges that gap. And if so, it is going to make his offseason a rather interesting one.-Ryan Clark, ESPN hockey reporter
The Worldwide Leader is quite impressed with the acquisitions the Golden Knights made around the trade deadline. In nine games, Ivan Barbashev has fit in well in Bruce Cassidy’s system and built quick chemistry with his new teammates. If Barbashev can continue his production in the 2023 playoffs, ESPN could be on to something. While he’s not Mark Stone, the 27-year-old is doing his best to fill the captain’s unmatchable role.
Even the Seattle Times have the Golden Knights ranked in their top four. Considering the Times covers another Pacific Division team, it would be easy for them to inflate the Kraken’s position in the league. However, because the paper is well-versed with the Pacific it’s possible their rankings are generally accurate. Also, ranking seven teams from the West in their top 12 suggests their strong knowledge of the conference.
As we do when any power ranking gets updated, you have to take them with a grain of salt. It’s fair to rank the Golden Knights anywhere from 2nd to 16th. Computer scales like MoneyPuck have their factors such as expected goals and goaltender efficiency, while Sportsnet and ESPN are basing their opinions on the results. Either way is acceptable but only one can be right. We will find out which is more accurate starting on April 17th.