Sunday, January 10, 2021

Vegas Golden Knights 2020-21 Season Preview

 


       In their short history, the Golden Knights have had a reputation of a bunch of misfit players who became good in Vegas. However, the real key to the recent success of Vegas is actually something else. They have been aggressive in acquiring stars, with Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone and Robin Lehner being recent examples. This offseason saw the most aggressive of these approaches, as the Golden Knights went all-in on former Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo, sacrificing some pieces in the process. Will it be worth it? That's the main question for them entering 2020-21.

Additions: D Alex Pietrangelo, D Carl Dahlstrom, F Dylan Sikura, F Tomas Jurco.

Subtractions: D Nate Schmidt, F Paul Stastny, D Jon Merrill, D Deryk Engelland, F Nick Cousins, F Brandon Pirri.

Best Move: Signing Alex Pietrangelo to a seven year deal.

Worst Move: Trading Nate Schmidt to Vancouver for a 3rd round pick.

One Move I'd Make: Sign Brian Boyle to a PTO.

Best Contract: Jonathan Marchessault, four years remaining with a $5 million cap hit. 

Worst Contract: Marc-Andre Fleury, two years remaining with a $7 million cap hit.

New Division Rivals: Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Los Angeles, San Jose, St. Louis.

Pending UFAs: Alec Martinez, Tomas Nosek, Tomas Jurco.

Pending RFAs: Carl Dahlstrom, Dylan Sikura.


Forwards

In his first full season in Vegas, Mark Stone proved to be a great fit. He scored 21 goals with 63 points in 65 games, with 17 points in 20 playoff games. An added bonus is that he is arguably the league's best defensive winger, and he is under contract for the next seven seasons. Stone finished 5th in Selke voting last year. The team leader in goals and points was Max Pacioretty. He scored 32 goals with 66 points, hitting those numbers for the first time since 2016-17. It was relieving to see Pacioretty succeed, as he is currently 32 and entering a time where age is a concern. William Karlsson had his worst season as a Golden Knight, but he still scored 15 goals with a 7.9 GAR. His 54.8 CF% was a career high. Reilly Smith scored a career high 27 goals with a 9.5 GAR. Smith's teammate from before the Vegas days, Jonathan Marchessault, scored 22 goals, his lowest total since 2015-16. He had a shooting percentage under ten percent, so better luck could lead to more goals for him. The Golden Knights traded a 5th round pick for Chandler Stephenson mid-season in a deal that has worked out well. He scored eight goals with 22 points in 41 games post-trade, with a +19 rating. He was extended for four years in the offseason. Alex Tuch missed time in the regular season with an injury, but he struggled besides that. In 42 games, Tuch had just 17 points. He went back to his old form in the postseason, with eight goals. There were high expectations for 2017 6th overall pick Cody Glass entering 2019-20, but he didn't deliver. He spent most of the season in the NHL, with 12 points in 39 games. With Paul Stastny off to Winnipeg, Glass has a shot at the second or third line. Nicolas Roy, who the team got for Erik Haula, had 10 points in 28 games, with eight in the playoff run. He was also great in the AHL, with 22 points in 27 games. Fourth line center Tomas Nosek has had basically the same season point-wise three years in a row in Vegas. He had 15 points in 68 games last year, although his analytics depleted, as he had a -3.4 GAR. William Carrier had a career high 19 points in 71 games. Despite an average ice time under 10 minutes, Carrier had 213 hits. In his NHL career, he has averaged about 3.5 hits per game. That doesn't compare to Ryan Reaves, who is purely a body-checker. Reaves had 316 hits last year, and has averaged over four hits per game since joining the Golden Knights in 2017-18. Vegas' depth is lacking, but they hope that Jack Dugan can change that. The 2017 5th rounder had 52 points in 34 games at Providence last year. Tomas Jurco spent last year in the Oilers' organization. He had two points in 12 games, with seven in eight AHL games. Dylan Sikura scored 14 goals in 45 AHL games. He has 14 points in 47 career NHL games, all for Chicago.

Defensemen

The Golden Knights hope that 2020-21 is the year of Alex Pietrangelo. His 4th place Norris finish last year was tied for the highest of his career with 2011-12. He scored 16 goals with 36 assists for 52 points in 70 games for the Blues. Giving Pietrangelo seven years entering his age 31 season is a really risky move that probably won't pay off in the long run. Pietrangelo will take Nate Schmidt's place on the top pairing, partnered with Brayden McNabb. McNabb had nine points with an average ice time of 20 minutes and 201 hits in 71 games. Shea Theodore finished sixth in Norris voting, as he scored a career high 13 goals with 46 points. Theodore had 219 shots, which was fourth among defenseman, just behind Pietrangelo. The Golden Knights acquired shot-blocking menace Alec Martinez from Los Angeles at the trade deadline. Martinez had eight points in the remaining 10 games of the season, with 32 blocked shots. He has hit at least 100 in that category for six consecutive seasons. Like McNabb and Martinez, Nick Holden is a left-handed defensive defenseman. Holden had 14 points in 61 games with 74 blocked shots and 129 hits last year. His 4.5 GAR was an improvement on 2018-19. Zach Whitecloud only played in 16 regular season games, but he didn't miss a playoff game. He had seven points in 35 AHL games. The Golden Knights acquired Carl Dahlstrom from Winnipeg in the Stastny trade. He appeared in 15 games for the Jets last year. 2017 2nd rounder Nicolas Hague had 11 points in 38 games last year, and he had 10 points in 21 AHL games. Right now, he is on the outside looking in on the starting lineup.

Goalies

The Golden Knights' goalie controversy got weird in the playoffs, thanks to a tweet from Marc-Andre Fleury's agent. Vegas reportedly tried to move the three-time Cup winner in the offseason, but his salary affected negotiations heavily. Fleury had his worst save percentage since 2005-06, at .905. He also had a 2.77 GAA and a -6.50 GSAA. Fleury played well in four playoff starts. Robin Lehner rightfully earned the starting job, and an extension with his play. He had a .918 SV% but a 3.01 GAA playing behind an awful Blackhawks team before a trade to Vegas. He had a .940 SV% in three starts after the deal. In the playoffs, Lehner had a .917 SV% with a 1.99 GAA. 


Projected Lines

Max Pacioretty - William Karlsson - Mark Stone

Reilly Smith - Chandler Stephenson - Jonathan Marchessault

Nicolas Roy - Cody Glass - Alex Tuch

William Carrier - Tomas Nosek - Ryan Reaves

Extras: Jack Dugan, Tomas Jurco, Dylan Sikura


Brayden McNabb - Alex Pietrangelo

Alec Martinez - Shea Theodore

Nick Holden - Zach Whitecloud

Extras: Carl Dahlstrom, Nicolas Hague


Robin Lehner

Marc-Andre Fleury


Projection

The Golden Knights are a part of the super three in the West Division. Combined with Colorado and St. Louis, these three teams are really good with little competition around them. They'll all make the playoffs, and if not, people will be fired. The salary cap situation is under control in Vegas, and so is the team in general. I predict a second place finish. 

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