Depth. It is something both the Mariana Trench and the best teams in the NHL both have plenty of. There has not been a single Stanley Cup Champion team in the NHL’s salary cap era that has won with weak forward depth in their lineup.
Of course, you need to have your big guns step up and perform in the playoffs. But when they are shut down, the depth of an organization is truly tested. Due to injuries, the Vegas Golden Knights have had to do just that early on in the 2021-22 NHL season.
The Golden Knights have a good five-to-six players that have been called up from the Henderson Silver Knights and played NHL games this season. Jonas Rondbjerg, Jake Leschyyshn, Paul Cotter, Benjamin Jones, Daniil Miromonov, and even Sven Baertschi all fit this bill.
Today the Golden Knights reassigned both Jones and Baertschi to Henderson. With Zach Whitecloud back and Shea Theodore’s injury not looking serious, Mirimonov will likely soon follow.
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) November 19, 2021
But for the remaining three players, who can crack the Golden Knights fully healthy lineup? Cotter, Rondbjerg, and Leschyshyn have all been turning heads at the NHL level. All members of the trio scored their first NHL goals this season recently.
For the sake of this exercise here is my projected framework of what the Golden Knights lineup could look like fully healthy. The reason that both Evgenii Dadonov and Mattias Janmark have asterisk listed on their names is due to the fact that they could potentially be moved.
Once Jack Eichel, Max Pacioretty, and others come back to the Golden Knights roster, the team will be well over the NHL salary cap. With Dadonov at $5 million and Janmark at $2 million one, or both of the forwards could be shipped out.
Vegas Golden Knights fully-healthy projected line framework
Max Pacioretty- Jack Eichel- Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault- William Karlsson- Reilly Smith
Mattias Janmark*- Chandler Stephenson- Evgenii Dadonov*
Left-Wing– Nicolas Roy- Right-Wing
Remaining Forwards: William Carrier, Keegan Kolesar, Jonas Rondbjerg, Jake Leschyshyn, Paul Cotter
William Carrier and Keegan Kolesar are the two most likely suitors to occupy the two remaining slots on the fourth line as of now. Both have NHL experience and have served head coach Peter DeBoer well in the past. But the emergence of a young player in the organization could cost them their job.
Here are Vegas Hockey Now’s picks on which 22-year old forward between Rondbjerg, Leschysyn, and Cotter should stay in the NHL.
Third- Jonas Rondbjerg
A 2017 third-round pick, Rondbjerg was one of the first call-ups for the Golden Knights when injuries started to plague their lineup. He has played in ten games with the Golden Knights this season and has a goal and two assists. Rondbjerg has not found himself off of the team’s fourth line in these ten games.
But in his limited ice time (averaging 10:04 per game), Rondbjerg has proven to be a solid NHL forward with the Golden Knights. He has seven shots, a Corsi rating of 44%, an expected 0.68 goals per sixty, and is the first Danish player for the Golden Knights in team history.
Jonas Rondbjerg 2021-22 Stats via MoneyPuck.
Rondbjerg is showing signs of his potential as an NHL forward but in a full-healthy lineup, he simply does not have the skillset to maintain an NHL roster spot. However, Rondbjerg has proven himself to be a reliable call-up option for the Golden Knights. At only 22-years old, there is a lot of growth left in his game as well. Expect Rondbjerg to continue to be a solid call-up option and potentially make the team out of training camp as soon as next season.
Second- Jake Leschyshn
Son of Curtis Leschyshyn, Jake has the most NHL games played between these three players with fifteen. He has one goal and two assists for three points and is averaging 12:04 minutes of ice time. His expected goals per sixty is 0.48, the lowest of these three players.
Drafted just a few picks ahead of Rondbjerg, Leschyshyn still has a lot of development left in his game before coming a stable NHL player.
Jake Leschyshyn 2021-22 Stats per MoneyPuck.
The reason I rank Leschyshyn second is simply due to the fact that he is a center. With Jack Eichel now in the fold for the Golden Knights the team’s center depth has drastically improved. This hypothetically moves Chandler Stephenson to the third line and Nicolas Roy to the fourth. Neither of which will lose out on a roster spot to Leschyshyn.
However similar to Rondbjerg, Leschyshyn has proved to be a reliable call-up for the Golden Knights and adds to their center depth as an organization.
First- Paul Cotter
He has only played in four games, but Paul Cotter has been electric for the Golden Knights this season. In one week Cotter scored his first NHL goal against the Minnesota Wild, was sent down to Henderson where he scored again, got called up, and then scored against the Detroit Red Wings.
“I was talking to my agent and he was like ‘this might be the best week of your life,’ and I giggled at him. But he was like ‘no seriously.’ Not too many words can describe this week. Scoring a goal in the NHL is obviously pretty crazy,” said Cotter after Thursday night’s victory in which he scored.
The fedora-wearing Cotter is averaging just under nine minutes of ice-time and has an expected goal rating of 0.57 per sixty. He has two goals and two points in four games.
Paul Cotter 2021-22 Stats per MoneyPuck.
His creative instincts and drive for offense are unmatched by Ronbjerg and Leschyshyn. If the Golden Knights do end up having to shed an asset on the forward end via trade, Cotter will be there to occupy the vacant roster spot.
It will come down to head coach Peter DeBoer to make these decisions on Leschyshyn, Rondbjerg, and Cotter. We also have a good bit of time to see what they are made of with the Golden Knights still hurt.
Keep an eye on the internal battle for a roster spot between these three youngsters. Heck maybe even put them all on a line together.