As the Vegas Golden Knights prepare to get back to game action against the Los Angeles Kings tonight, the health of head coach Pete DeBoer and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo remains up in the air.
Pietrangelo has been the only Vegas Golden Knights player officially listed on the league’s COVID-19 protocol this week, while several members of the coaching staff have been kept away from the team, including DeBoer.
So on top of the injury to Brayden McNabb, what can the Golden Knights present defensively if the top pair is unavailable for the game? VHN takes a look at the possibilities.
At various times this season, the Vegas Golden Knights have dressed 13 forwards and five defensemen for a game. Keep in mind, that was with a healthy Pietrangelo and a healthy Brayden McNabb, who is now on LTIR, suited up. Without them in the lineup, the five defensemen would be:
Shea Theodore – Zach Whitecloud – Alec Martinez – Nic Hague – Nick Holden
Let’s be frank: the team has looked terrible on the back end when they’ve run with five defensemen. Miscommunication, confusion on assignments, and a lack of chemistry/familiarity has been rough. Plus, throw in the necessity of guys playing on a side they’re not used to due to the rotation, and it’s just a mess.
Had Vegas not already done this earlier in the season, I wouldn’t even bring it up. But they’ve gone there once, so I felt the need to put the possibility forward. Based on previous results, this would not be a good choice missing both Pietrangelo and McNabb.
Combing the Depth Chart
First of all, I’d like to present every defenseman under contract we haven’t named so far, courtesy of our friends at PuckPedia.com:
Jake Bischoff, Dylan Coghlan, Lukas Cormier, Carl Dahstrom, Kaedan Korczak, Brayden Pachal, Jimmy Schuldt.
With that in mind, when you look further down the depth chart for the Vegas Golden Knights, there are a few options that round out a Top Six defensive alignment.
While not a big-time household name, he impressed the coaching staff in training camp. Coghlan got a good long look before tapping out, and he shows plenty of promise to potentially become an everyday NHL defenseman. He will get his look at some point, and it could be tonight. Definitely high on the list.
Just called up to the taxi squad for the VGK, Kaedan Korczak is a young player with tons of potential. An unusual case at just 19, normally he wouldn’t be in this position. A player under 20 would have to be returned to his junior team (in this case, the Kelowna Rockets) if he wasn’t on an NHL roster. But in a pandemic year with Kelowna not playing, the NHL has granted exceptions to the rule, so Korczak went to the AHL camp with Henderson. I don’t mind the youngster getting a look, but putting him in with both McNabb and Pietrangelo out is a tall order.
To me, this is why Dahlstrom is in the system. At 26, he’s not a rookie and has several years of pro experience under his belt already. While he doesn’t appear to be a long-term solution for McNabb being out, I would have confidence slotting him in at the 5/6 position if needed.
Another 26-year-old with experience, Bischoff, is someone I don’t have reservations about slotting into the bottom pair. It’s nice to have a few defensemen like him on the Henderson Silver Knights, guiding the prospects and aiding development. While he’s not my first choice, he could certainly make it work with no problems.
I don’t see a way that five defensemen make sense at the best of times, let alone when you’re missing both of your top two defensive pair. Elevating everyone makes sense and running with six D, and the guy I think will get the nod will be Coghlan. That said, the one I’m most excited to see at some point is Korczak, although it would definitely help to have Pietrangelo back in the lineup when it happens.