Our Vegas Golden Knights 2021-22 Preview is a part of our 2021-22 NHL Team Preview Series. Starting September 9th, we have covered one team per day in the leadup to the 2021-22 season. After a crazy busy offseason with a ton of player movement we need something to help summarize what happened and give an outlook of the impact on each team. Make sure to check back each day for the next team in the list!
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It was almost another HISTORIC season for the Vegas Golden Knights. A 40-14-2 record tied them for first in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche at 82 points. They were so close to the President’s Trophy, but ultimately lost in the tiebreaker of regulation wins (Colorado had 35 to Vegas’ 30).
If it was any consolation, the team still had a HISTORIC performance by winning the William M. Jennings Trophy for giving up the least goals in the league. Their league best defense was almost matched by their third ranked offense, behind only Colorado and Pittsburgh.
Once again led up front by Mark Stone, who put up 61 points in 55 games to set a career-best scoring pace. Stone also got major recognition for his defensive prowess by finishing third in Selke voting. Max Pacioretty shows no signs of slowing down, either, as his 24 goals in 48 games had him scoring at a career high pace of 1.7 goals/60.
Shea Theodore has emerged as a top defender, possibly even their number 1 (though Alex Pietrangelo might have something different to say). He had 42 points in 53 games last season, well on his way to setting a new career high and finishing 6th in Norris voting for the second consecutive year.
Vegas is a deep team with plenty of players capable of scoring around 40 points, a wide variety of role players to take on plenty of different team needs and situations. The offseason was a fairly stable one for the Golden Knights, which is a good thing for the team’s consistency. But it is also weird since usually there is a huge offseason acquisition that somehow finds their way into Vegas’ cap situation.
The main story from Vegas’ offseason was the end of the Marc-Andre Fleury saga. Fleury’s name has been in trade rumours for a couple seasons as a cap casualty likely to be moved to make room for their big acquisitions (or so they can actually dress a full lineup on gamedays). But this offseason, shortly after winning the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender, Fleury was dealt to Chicago for absolutely nothing. Well they did get Mikael Hakkarainen in return but his contract was terminated not long after the trade. And he found out about the trade on Twitter.
Marc-Andre Fleury’s trade out of Vegas was yet another situation that the front office of this organization severely mishandled. They were an attractive franchise and place to play, the league’s shiny new toy, early success and an intense environment on home ice. But they have quickly used up any goodwill they had through a series of decisions and actions in how they deal with their personnel. This series of articles outlines the situations of blatant mistreatment of employees in the team’s short history.
Although this team is still going to be good for a few years based on the roster they’ve built, stories like these spread and will quickly make players hesitant to join the organization. The most important storyline to follow in Vegas may not be anything happening on the ice, but instead how mismanaging their personnel will impact the organization in the years to come.
Vegas Golden Knights Roster Additions
Vegas Golden Knights Roster Subtractions
Vegas Golden Knights Roster Overview
Vegas has been in the market for an actual number one centre for a while now but unfortunately for them, they had no luck in finding one. For now, they will still be leaning on Chandler Stephenson to centre the first line. He is okay but definitely not as good a player as the team wants in that spot. Stephenson’s 35 points in 51 games puts him just shy of a 60 point pace over a full season which could work on some teams. But when your linemates are Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, both of whom were over a point per game pace last season, Vegas is hoping for a bit more in that centre spot.
Next in Vegas’ depth chart is the likely combination of Jonathan Marchessault-William Karlsson-Reilly Smith. These three have been a regular fixture in the Golden Knights’ lineup over the past few seasons. Their versatility and ability to fit in whenever and wherever have been great for the team. Marchessault and Karlsson brought the offense here last season as Marchessault had 44 points and Karlsson had 39 points. Reilly Smith struggled bigtime and only had 25 points, his worst pace since 2016-17 with the Panthers. If Smith struggles again out of the gate, Vegas now has Evgenii Dadonov projected on the third line who could very easily jump up to try and flesh out this line a bit more.
Newcomer Nolan Patrick will be getting his shot to establish himself as an NHL’er in Vegas. If there is any place for him to thrive, this is probably the spot. Patrick has struggled with his health since arriving in the NHL. The start of 2020-21 season marked his return after nearly 2 full calendar years without playing an NHL game as he recovered from a migraine disorder mixed in with the impacts of the pandemic on the NHL schedule. He only had 9 points in 52 games, so Vegas is hoping for a breakout/bounceback this season. Patrick himself acknowledged it was tricky to return after so long away and it was challenging for him to adjust to the game out of caution of triggering his migraines again.
Nolan Patrick should be joined here by Mattias Janmark and Evgenii Dadonov. Dadonov has been a great scorer in the past but struggled in Ottawa last season. He could provide some life to this line and help them become a third line with second line scoring potential. The Golden Knights are hoping he can regain his form from 3 seasons ago that saw him score 70 points while with the Panthers instead of the 20 in 55 he had with Ottawa last season.
The depth Vegas has, however, leaves some options for the fourth line as players who could jump up the lineup if needed, such as William Carrier or Nicolas Roy. Both of them produce well enough to get more ice time so if Nolan Patrick struggles again he might be replaced pretty quickly. Keegan Kolesar, Patrick Brown, and Brett Howden are going to be fighting for the bottom line winger spots.
One other forward to keep an eye on is Peyton Krebs. He is the top prospect in Vegas’ system. Krebs made his NHL debut last season, recording 1 assist in 4 games. He is in competition to make the roster out of training camp this season and with him being a centre (the position the team is very weak at), Krebs could have an inside track to making the team and having a major role with the team. Similar to Nolan Patrick, that number 1 centre spot is not very secure for Chandler Stephenson so an exciting young player with offensive potential and playmaking talent could fit nicely with a defensively skilled forward like Mark Stone and a sniper like Max Pacioretty.
Vegas is extremely lucky on defense to have 2 Norris calibre defenders in Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore. Both of these guys can play top pairing minutes, but for the sake of depth they spend more time on separate pairings.
The main defensive partner options for Pietrangelo and Theodore are Alec Martinez and Brayden McNabb, both of whom are very defensive defenders. Martinez is a shot blocking wizard while McNabb hits absolutely everything he can (even making a clean hit once in a while, too).
Martinez and Theodore spent the most time together last season at even strength among the possible options here, though the line projections show Martinez and Pietrangelo taking the top pairing. At this point, with the career trajectory that Theodore is on, I would place Shea on the top pairing with Martinez. Theodore had 34 assists (42 points) in 53 games last season so his offensive talent will be best utilized playing with Pacioretty and Stone as much as possible.
This would leave McNabb to play with Pietrangelo on the second pairing, an opportunity to give these two the tougher defensive matchups as Pietrangelo is an experienced and reliable defender while McNabb can wear the opposition down.
Nicolas Hague and Zach Whitecloud are likely the third pairing here. They were Vegas’ most common defensive pairing last season and recorded some great underlying numbers from this role. Dylan Coghlan made his debut last season and played in 29 games, including the game in which he scored his first career goal and got a hat trick later in the game. He slots in as the seventh guy but will probably see lots of time this season as an injury fill-in.
Now that Marc-Andre Fleury has been traded, the crease is all clear for Robin Lehner. He was 13-4-2 last season with a .913 SV% and 2.29 GAA. Lehner had a 2.5 GSAA, indicating he was good enough but not necessarily a game changer. Now that he is the clear number one, Vegas might be wanting more from him.
Laurent Brossoit has been brought in as the backup for the Golden Knights. He has historically been very inconsistent year-over-year in his career so it is difficult to predict how he will fare. Luckily, Vegas has a very strong team in front of the goalies so it will help. But, Brossoit’s career trajectory so far has been good year, bad year, repeat. Last season he had good numbers with Winnipeg, will Brossoit be able to break the cycle?
Vegas Golden Knights 2021-22 Prediction
1st-2nd Pacific Division
I say 1st to 2nd in the division because there is technically a chance they struggle or Edmonton absolutely lights it up this season but I think Vegas has this division safely on lock. They have by far the strongest team in the division at most positions, in terms of depth, and (seemingly) coaching. They will be able to feast on some of the weaker teams in the division to help pad the point total as well.
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