2C or not 2C? That is the question… for many forwards on the Vegas Golden Knights headed into the 2020-21 season. Who will be Vegas’ second line center?
When it comes to Stastny’s replacement, Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon hinted that the team was going to look inside the organization for his replacement.
“I mentioned last week with trading Paul we feel we’ve got some internal candidates who need more opportunity.”
Who are those candidates to be Vegas’ second line center? VHN takes a look.
Let’s start with 21-year-old Cody Glass, who was the first player ever drafted by the Golden Knights at sixth overall in 2017. Last season Glass appeared in 39 regular season games with 12 points before a March knee injury derailed his season. Glass was not healthy enough to give it a go in the bubble when the Golden Knights returned to play.
The real question surrounding Glass will be whether he has completely recovered from that injury when camp rolls around. It’s one thing to complete rehab, and another to jump on the ice and push through training camp. If Glass has healed fully, the Winnipeg native will have a shot at filling Stastny’s role on the second line. It also helps that Glass is entering the second year of his ELC. This way he makes financial sense, but the impetus is there for him to perform as well.
Another option is the recently-signed Chandler Stephenson, who last week inked a four-year, $11M contract extension.
“Chandler was a really good fit upon joining our team, great utility in terms of his ability to play throughout the lineup,” said McCrimmon in announcing the signing. “(He brings) a real dimension of speed, (and is) a player we really think is going to be an important part of our team for the next four years.”
Stephenson did notch 20 games of playoff experience this year. He definitely showed enough to get fans excited about what his future could look like. Especially early on in the bubble when he saw action with Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone I thought he looked comfortable and capable. Although his playoff stats don’t blow your mind (3-2-5, +2) Stephenson showed he can up his game with more capable players. Plus his ability to slide up and down the lineup will be key for the Golden Knights this season.
If Stephenson is able to build on his playoff showing, he could be a very strong candidate for the 2C position.
Peyton Krebs is an interesting possibility. A potential breakout star in the future, Krebs was part of the bubble contingent for the Golden Knights but didn’t see any action. But just by being there, practicing and taking the occasional warmup speaks volumes about where the VGK see him now and in the future.
Krebs is just 19 years old, turning 20 in January. Last year in the Western Hockey League he posted 12-48-60 in just 38 games with Winnipeg. Krebs scored 25 of those points on the power play and if/when he makes the team might also get some time on the second power play unit to start.
Krebs is the one player I think can really disrupt the chain for the Golden Knights. Sometimes when a young center makes the big club for the first time, he isn’t immediately slotted in the middle. Players might end up on the wing, allowing them to concentrate more on the adjustment to the NHL game in a simpler role. Centers have additional defensive responsibilities that could overwhelm a player making the transition. It doesn’t mean Krebs won’t become a center eventually, but he could start on the wing.
The VGK also have Nicholas Roy available up front. The 23-year-old checks some needed boxes for the VGK. He’s on a very affordable two-year deal at $750k per. He is versatile and can play center or wing. And he seems to have earned the team’s trust, appearing in 28 games in the regular season and all 20 in the playoffs.
Moving forward Roy may stay on the wing, or if he returns to center could also potentially lead the fourth line. If his development continues he may become a key cog for Vegas this season.
Finally, Vegas also brought back Tomas Nosek on a one-year, $1.25M deal. Nosek has played center before but recently has been on the wing. It will remain to be seen if Nosek slides back to the middle depending on how the lines progress at training camp. Another valuable player who can move around up front, Nosek also lends a bit more of a veteran presence at age 28.
In the end, the Golden Knights do have plenty of options up the middle already in-house. Glass and Stephenson figure to be the primary candidates for Vegas’ second line center role, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see a surprise in camp. Stay tuned for what promises to be a great position battle.
TURNING POINT: Fleury’s save comes up big in Golden Knights win
The hardest thing for Marc-Andre Fleury to do between the pipes is watch his Vegas Golden Knights teammates on gameday, when most of the action is taking place at the other end.
Sunday the Arizona Coyotes took a whopping 16 shots on Vegas’ veteran netminder during a 1-0 win in Glendale, Ariz.
“So sometimes I thought the hardest thing was just to stay focused and be ready for those things,” Fleury said after registering his 62nd career shutout and improving to 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals against average and .951 save percentage this season.
Those things, he referred to, were two big saves that may have proved to be turning points for Vegas, which is now 5-1-0 and just one of two teams in the league with five wins.
“They were game changers,” said Jonathan Marchessault, who had the lead assist on William Karlsson’s game-winning goal with 43 seconds left in the game.
Just before the horn at the end of the second period, Fleury denied Jakob Chychrun’s shot through traffic from the top of the right circle.
But it was the save early in the third period that was Fleury’s best, and preserved the shutout and kept momentum fueling into the Golden Knights.
Arizona’s Phil Kessel was able to snatch the puck free from William Carrier in Vegas’ zone, skate through and around Golden Knights defenseman Zach Whitecloud in the neutral zone and bust free for a breakaway chance on his former Penguins teammate.
After shuffling backhand-forehand five times to his forehand, Kessel was stuffed by Fleury.
“I saw it was Phil Kessel coming on the breakaway, and I’ve faced him a lot in practice (in Pittsburgh),” Fleury said. “Sometimes I overthink stuff and what he likes to do, but I was really happy to make that save.”
From there, Fleury faced just four more shots over the final 16:55. And adding to the deflation of the Coyotes’ hopes after Fleury’s save on Kessel was a clanker moments later.
Johan Larsson rang one off the far post, the puck squirted back toward Fleury, whose left pad was off the ice and allowed the puck to get underneath so he could cover it and stop play.
“The breakaway save on Phil Kessel … that’s a huge momentum save for us at the right time, to give us a chance to get back to work and keep the pressure on them,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. “I thought Flower gave us exactly the kind of game we needed tonight.”
With his shutout, Fleury passed Walter Broda for sole possession of 16th all time.
“We had our moments,” Arizona coach Rick Tocchet said. “You’re looking for that big moment.”
For the Golden Knights, once again, it was their face of the franchise since they entered the National Hockey League.
W.G. Ramirez is the newest columnist and reporter for Vegas Hockey Now. He is the Golden Knights beat writer for The Associated Press and remains a contributor to The Hockey News. Catch him on Twitter @WillieGRamirez
Karlsson’s Late Goal Lifts Golden Knights
William Karlsson played the role of hero for the Vegas Golden Knights, notching the game-winning goal with just 43 seconds remaining in a scoreless game to give the VGK the 1-0 victory Sunday afternoon.
With cheers coming from what sounded more like a partisan Vegas crowd, Jonathan Marchessault dug out a puck from behind the Coyotes net and centered to Karlsson. Karlsson made no mistake, burying the puck on the stick side of Darcy Kuemper (26 saves) for the game-winning goal.
Marc-Andre Fleury posted his 62nd career shutout on 16 saves. The victory was his third straight to open the 2021 season.
For the Vegas Golden Knights, the win is redemption after giving up five goals to the Coyotes on Friday night for the team’s first loss of the season. This time Vegas never really let Arizona into the contest, giving up only four shots in the first period.
The game felt sluggish at times, perhaps due to the afternoon start but also the fact that these same two teams were facing each other for the fourth straight time. Fortunately for Vegas, they were able to break through late and steal the victory.
“The name of the game was patience,” Karlsson said with a relieved laugh after the game. “We had a lot of chances and sooner or later they will go in. I thought we had a great game. Eventually (it) has to go in and it did.”
When the Golden Knights had the energy up and forechecked aggressively in the game they generated chances. Nowhere was that on display more than the game-winning goal. Alex Tuch dumps the puck into the corner from neutral ice as Marchessault attacks with speed into the Coyotes zone, beating out an icing call. Marchessault puts the puck into an area just off the net in the slot where Karlsson was able to follow up and immediately shoot the puck, not allowing Kuemper to set up for the shot.
WILD BILL SAVED THE BEST FOR LAST 🤠🚨 pic.twitter.com/UBlTugE2y5
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) January 24, 2021
Vegas was definitely the better of the two sides throughout regulation, out-shooting and out-chancing the Coyotes especially in the later stages of the game. Darcy Kuemper deserves the credit for yet another great start for Arizona, making save after save to give the Coyotes a shot at the win.
The Vegas Golden Knights return home for the team’s toughest test so far, a pair of games against the St. Louis Blues starting Tuesday evening.
- I feel like I’m beating the same drum over and over, but when the Vegas Golden Knights are generating scoring chances, it’s because of the forecheck. This team is built on speed and being aggressive, chasing down pucks and setting up scoring chances from that. Today’s game-winning goal was a perfect example of that.
- Marc-Andre Fleury wasn’t busy the entire time, but made every single save he needed to including a breakaway stop on Phil Kessel that could have spelled disaster for the VGK. I’ve never seen a goalie who stays so completely game-ready regardless of work schedule. Fleury won’t receive the credit he deserves for the work he did in this one, but without him being perfect, perhaps Vegas doesn’t win.
- The Vegas Golden Knights have never gone past regulation with a 0-0 score, and came within 43 seconds of that happening against Arizona.
- Once again Cody Glass sat and Nic Hague was back in the lineup, giving Vegas the traditional six defensemen and 12 forwards. Hague looked good and to underscore another point I’ve been making, this team is much better with six defensemen in the lineup.
- Vegas also dominated in the faceoff circle, winning 61% of the draws.
Coyotes End Golden Knights Win Streak At Four
The Arizona Coyotes stopped the Vegas Golden Knights winning streak at four games with a 5-2 victory at Gila River Arena on Friday night.
Connor Garland led the Coyotes offense with a goal and two assists, while Nick Schmaltz scored for the third straight game.
It’s a very difficult proposition to beat a team four times in a row – look at any playoff series. Arizona winning a game, especially at home, was probably due. The Coyotes seemed to have more spring in their step than they did Wednesday night when the Golden Knights handed the Coyotes a 5-2 loss. Several times the Vegas defense allowed odd-man rushes to the Coyotes, and running five defensemen once again likely contributed to some of the errors on the back end.
“It’s definitely different,” said Shea Theodore after the game. “You are rotating through partners (and) you can’t exactly get into the rhythm with one guy… at the same time I don’t think that’s an excuse.”
“We should be able to adapt. We just can’t give up that many odd-man rushes on any given night.”
Vegas Golden Knights head coach Pete DeBoer said he felt it was more the special teams that affected the outcome of the game.
“Penalties really kinda took our momentum out of the game. Both taking them, and obviously their power play goal early, and then a bunch of the other kills we had to have… when they did take (penalties) I didn’t think our power play created any momentum for us. For me that was… the story.”
“Some self-inflicted things tonight,” DeBoer said.
Whatever the reason, Vegas allowed the Coyotes to grow confident by ceding the opportunities and it showed. Arizona seemed to feel better about its game more and more as the game wore on.
Darcy Kuemper made 29 saves to earn the win as Vegas never quite seemed to find the scoring touch it displayed Wednesday night. Robin Lehner struggled, giving up four goals on 25 shots against and will likely want a couple of those goals back. Lehner seemed off the entire night, whether handling the puck, setting himself for shots, or tracking movement. Those games will happen, but they’re highlighted even more when the goaltender in the other net makes the needed saves. Kuemper was definitely the better of the two goalies on the night.
Fortunatley for the Golden Knights, they’ll be able to jump right back into the action against the Coyotes on Sunday afternoon at 4 pm MT, 3 pm PT.
- The game marked the first time this season the Vegas Golden Knights have given up more than two goals.
- Cody Glass returned to the lineup after sitting out a pair of games and recorded a power play goal in the third period.
- Shea Theodore scored for the second straight game, an unassisted marker at 1:19 of the third period.
- Vegas went back to a lineup that featured five defensemen and 13 forwards with Glass back in the lineup. Notably both Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo went minus-2 in the contest.
- Mark Stone keeps his scoring streak intact, assisting on Cody Glass’ power play goal in the third period to give him eight points (2-6-8) in his first five games.