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.