Vegas Strong- Golden Knights 2019-20 Preview

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The Vegas Golden Knights enter year 3 of their franchise, and just like every other season in franchise history, there are high expectations for VGK owner Bill Foley’s team.

Vegas oddsmakers have made the Golden Knights the favorites to come out of the Western Conference and once again compete for the Stanley Cup. William Karlson, Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Jonathan Marchessault, Paul Stastny, and Reilly Smith give Vegas arguably the NHL’s best front 6. Alex Tuch is also back and will most likely rotate with Smith in the front 6.

Photo courtesy of the NHL

The Golden Knights really came on at the end of the 2018-2019 season. The Golden Knights lost in Game 7 to the San Jose Sharks, after getting the short end of the stick on a very controversial 5-minute major penalty. That penalty took the wind right out of the Golden Knights and they couldn’t recover in that Game 7 as they fell apart and watched the Sharks advance.

You could argue that if it wasn’t for that poor refereeing the Golden Knights could very well have been back in the Stanley Cup Finals and in a position to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.

A key player for VGK is Nate Schmidt, who missed the first 20 games last year while serving a suspension for violating the NHL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Schmidt was a key figure in the Golden Knights run to the Stanley Cup Finals the year before and his early absence hurt VGK. They went 8-11-1 without him last season while serving the PED suspension. Once he returned, the Knights went 19-4-3 to turn their season around.

Photo courtesy of thepointhockey.com

 

When Las Vegas acquired Mark Stone from the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline for defenseman Erik Brannstrom, forward Oscar Lindberg, and a second-round pick in 2020 that belonged to the Dallas Stars, it showed the NHL world that they were going for it once again. Vegas also quickly signed Stone to an eight-year, $76 million extension to lock in the talented forward.

The way the Golden Knights have been constructed by President of hockey operations George McPhee and General manager Kelly McCrimmon has the Golden Knights set up for success right now.  Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant has the type of team that can compete for the short and long term but he will need to make sure they get off to a fast start.

The Knights are hoping that their talented 2-way center Cody Glass, who they drafted 6th overall in 2017, can make an impact at some point this season. The 20-year-old went from juniors to the AHL last season and didn’t skip a beat.

Where there has to be concern is the age of the Golden Knights’ goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury. He is 35 years old and battled through some injuries last year which affected his play. While “The Flower” is playoff proven, the Knights need to make sure Fleury gets enough rest so he can be ready to go in the postseason, which means Malcolm Subban will also be a key as the main back-up goaltender.

The Knights defensive group on the blue line is also a concern and doesn’t set the NHL on fire. What helps the Golden Knights is that the forwards are good defensively which helps limit the back end’s importance.   

Photo courtesy of insidehockey.com

Vegas also needs to improve on their power play which ranked 25th in the NHL last season.

This team is built very similar to the one that pushed to Sharks to that infamous game 7, one that they surely are looking to avenge. What the Knights have is a proven goaltender, two outstanding lines, and depth most NHL teams don’t have.

If the Golden Knights can sure up their blue line defense or acquire a puck-moving defenseman as the season moves along, this could be a very special season for the Vegas Golden Knights.

  

 

 

Joe Arrigo

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