I like Keegan Kolesar. He’s a scrappy hard-working player. But I think he has a bit more to give for the Vegas Golden Knights. I’m not quite sure where he fits with the team heading forward. Kolesar took the next step in his NHL career and played nearly a full season. He missed only a few games due to COVID, and a week-to-week lower-body injury at the end of the season.
Kolesar didn’t wow me by any means, but he also didn’t do anything egregiously team-costing. His offense and defensive play were hit or miss and usually depended on his linemates. With the injuries in 21-22, Kolesar found himself with several different linemates.
The one thing about Kolesar that we all know he can provide is physicality. He is willing to stick up for his teammates, throw a big hit, or get into a fight. The six-foot-one, 217-pound, Winnipeg-born forward got into nine fights in 21-22. He did this all while avoiding any suspensions or fines too.
No highlight-reel goals were scored by Kolesar this past season. Most of Kolesar’s contributions to the Golden Knights go unnoticed. But the fights are the exact opposite. In nine fights over the course of the season, Kolesar fought seven players. They are– Brendan Lemieux, Josh Manson, Liam O’Brien (twice), Ryan Getzlaf, Tanner Jeannot, Casey Fitzgerald, Logan Stanley, and Jamie Oleksiak.
He saved a goal on this one against the Ducks…
Kolesar also finished 10th in hits in the entire NHL in 2021-22 with 246.
General manager Kelly McCrimmon will have to resign Kolesar this offseason as he is coming to the end of his entry-level contract. As a 25-year-old restricted free agent, a bridge deal is likely in mind for Kolesar. It shouldn’t cost too much to keep Kolesar, but the Golden Knights are cap-strapped.
If he stays, he is a sure-fire bottom-six forward for the Golden Knights. He’s not going back to the minors, he’s paid his dues and is entering the prime of his NHL career. Obviously, a little bit more offense out of Kolesar would be great. You can’t just be a pure fighter in the NHL these days.
With Evander Kane and several other pests running around the league, it is always good to have a player like Kolesar in your organization. But what Kolesar can provide outside of his grittiness will show what type of player he is in the coming years.
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Owen Krepps covers the Vegas Golden Knights as editor-in-chief for Vegas Hockey Now.
A 2022 Robert Morris University graduate, he has previously written for The Boulder City Review, RMU Sentry Media, Colonial Sports Network, The Titusville Herald, Pittsburgh Sports Now, and Pittsburgh Hockey Now.
You can follow him on Twitter @OKrepps85