When you look at the Golden Knights stats, all the familiar names are at the top.
There’s William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault. There’s Reilly Smith and Alex Tuch. Max Pacioretty’s name is up there too.
But you probably weren’t counting on seeing Cody Eakin with 11 goals. And it’s highly unlikely you figured Ryan Reaves would have six goals at this point.
Yet, there’s one name that sticks out when we’re talking about lighting the lamp: William Carrier.
In just 36 games, the rugged left wing has seven goals. That’s more than his entire NHL career going into this season.
Carrier scored all of one goal last season — back on Oct. 27, 2017 in a 7-0 rout of Colorado. He only played in 37 games due to a series of injuries that had him in and out of the lineup.
When Carrier takes his first shift Thursday against the New York Islanders at T-Mobile Arena, it will match his number of appearances from a year ago.
And consider when Vegas selected Carrier from Buffalo in the expansion draft, he had scored just five goals for the Sabres his rookie season of 2016-17. So it wasn’t like we were talking Auston Matthews here.
But George McPhee sees things through a different lens than the rest of us. He knew Carrier was a fast skater. He could win footraces to loose pucks. By doing so, he enhanced his ability to create scoring chances.
There was a stat that came out Tuesday that Carrier led the NHL in wrap-around opportunities and that’s due in part to his speed. But also it has something to do with strength. Carrier’s a strong guy and he’s hard to knock off the puck.
But Carrier also has softer hands than everyone thought. He has decent touch near the net and while no one will mistake him for a sniper like Marchessault, he knows what to do when he gets the puck on his stick. He is shooting at a career-best 10.8 percent (seven goals on 65 shots).
He has found a comfort level playing on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s line. And whether it is Reaves or Tomas Nosek skating on the other wing, Carrier has worked well with both, even though Reaves and Nosek are polar opposites when it comes to style of play.
The line’s been playing pretty good. We complement each other really well and we’re looking to score. -William Carrier
But seven goals?
I think a lot of it is maturity. I’m a year older. I know what to expect and I’m more comfortable out there. I think I’m having a little more puck luck this year. Last year, I was getting great chances but the puck wasn’t going in for me. This year, it is. -Carrier.
Bellemare has a theory as to why he and Carrier work well together:
I think after you play with a guy for a while, you develop some chemistry. (Carrier) has a lot of speed and he can get around guys trying to defend him and that opens things up for the rest of the line. We know each other pretty well and we know where to look for each other. We’re also looking to score this year. Last year, we were more of a checking line and we were thinking defense-first. We’re still thinking defense, but now we’re also looking to create offense when we’re out there. -Bellemare on the line’s two-way effectiveness
The fact Carrier has stayed healthy despite not changing his physical style of play has had a lot to do with his success. He leads the NHL in hits with 177, an average of just under five a game. And considering his time on ice averages out to just over 10 minutes a game, that’s a lot of thumps in a short span.
I just try and play my game. I’m not thinking about stats. I just want to have a good shift with my line, make sure the other team doesn’t score and keep things simple. -Carrier
That’s just what Gerard Gallant wants to hear. And see.
He’s playing hard. He’s still working hard. Last year, he had a number of those chances but they didn’t go in. This year, they seem to be going in for him. He deserves it. -Gallant
And with Pacioretty out yet again, this time for who knows how long, everyone has to pick up the slack. The Knights recalled Brandon Pirri from Chicago Wednesday and he certainly knows how to find the back of the net. But for someone like Carrier who is not known for his scoring exploits, this isn’t about a bonus when he lights the lamp. He, Bellemare and Reaves or Nosek need to contribute offensively to help the Knights keep pace in what has suddenly become a competitive Pacific Division.
We need to keep looking for scoring chances and put them away when we get them. -Carrier
The way he’s playing, Carrier is making GMGM look smart once again. How far can he take his scoring exploits? Why put a cap on it? Let him keep shooting and let’s see what happens. Just the fact he has remained healthy to this point is a major victory. Carrier’s seven goals so far is the by-product of health and confidence. For any player, that’s a winning combination.
**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**