The Vegas Golden Knights are going through a bit of an adjustment period given how strange this past year was. You can blame the season on injuries, COVID, underperforming players, or just plain bad luck. But for the first time in franchise history, the Golden Knights missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
On paper, the Golden Knights core is locked up with Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Alex Pietrangelo, and Shea Theodore under contract. But a team with a Stanley Cup Contender writer all over them failed to make it to the playoffs as a whole. The VGK have a lot of questions that need to be addressed this offseason.
If you missed part one from earlier we discussed the futures of Robin Lehner, Peter DeBoer, and Reilly Smith. But the Golden Knights still have more questions that face them this offseason. Let’s pick up where we left off.
6- How Will They Add Youth Into The Organization?
The Golden Knights are in an awkward position as their prospect pool is drier than Lake Mead. They traded top prospects such as Peyton Krebs, Cody Glass, Erik Brannstrom, and Nick Suzuki to acquire the star players that they have on their current roster.
This has worked out for both sides, but the Golden Knights now need an injection of youth to round out their NHL roster. They need cheap yet effective young depth players in their lineup. Just look at the Tampa Bay Lightning with guys like Anthony Cirelli, or Ross Colton.
In 2022-23, the VGK over-relied on Henderson Silver Knights call-ups like Jake Leschyshyn and Jonas Rondjerg. These AHL guys failed to make an impact at the NHL level.
What the Golden Knights need is a handful of young and skilled players who can come in and make an impact, similar to what Brett Howden did before he got injured against the Colorado Avalanche.
But with only six picks in this year’s draft and Brendan Brisson as the only NHL-ready prospect in the system, Kelly McCrimmon will have a hard time adding youth to the Golden Knights lineup.
7- Who Is Nolan Patrick?
The idea of young players providing depth leads me to Nolan Patrick, who yet again had an injury-prone season. Patrick was acquired by the Golden Knights in a one-for-one trade with the Nashville Predators for Cody Glass.
McCrimmon took the risk of adding a former Brandon Wheat King and so far, things have not panned out. Patrick played in just 25 games in 2021-23 and has just seven points. He looked good in some stretches, but we sadly could be nearing a breaking point for the no. 2 overall pick in the NHL.
With a slightly more expensive than average $1.2 million salary cap, Patrick could be in danger of being offloaded this offseason. If not, he has one last shot at being a reliable young forward not just for the Golden Knights, but in the NHL in general.
8- Will This Team Ever Be Fully Healthy Again?
This is the biggest question I have for the Golden Knights.
We tend to underlook just how much injuries can impact athletes in the modern age of sports. Since injuries are such a commodity, we expect athletes to get used to them over time and jump back into play when they are healthy without missing a beat.
If there is anything we learned this season from the Golden Knights, it is that this is not the case. Just ask Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Nolan Patrick, Alec Martinez, or basically any player on the roster as they struggled to come back into the lineup after significant injuries.
With the offseason giving these players a long break from game action, how healthy will this team be next season? Is Stone’s back okay? Will Pacioretty’s age dictate how he plays? How will the offseason surgeries of Lehner and Brossoit affect their play?
9- How Will McCrimmon Adress The Logjam on D?
On a more positive note, the Golden Knights have a good problem on defense. They have eight NHL defensemen on their roster and can only dress six. We saw head coach Peter DeBoer push the boundaries and go with eleven forwards and seven defensemen late in the season.
Nicolas Hague is an RFA, but outside of the giraffe, every other member of the Golden Knights defense corps is locked up for next season. Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore had strong seasons and will lead the charge. Brayden McNabb and Alec Martinez will provide the shut
All of these players have proven to be capable NHL D-men. With their salary cap situation, the Golden Knights might have to move on from a defenseman to add depth in other areas of their lineup.
10- Was 2021-22 A Fluke?
This one is pretty simple, and the biggest question that needs answering. Was 2021-22 a fluke for the Golden Knights? Was it like the 2017 Tampa Bay Lightning where they missed the playoffs? Will this team be back in the playoffs next season as a Stanley Cup Contender? Or are they on a downward spiral?