Welcome back to Vegas Hockey Now’s season in review series where we look at every player on the Vegas Golden Knights and their 2021-22 season from Michael Amadio to Zach Whitecloud.
You can catch up on the series here: Michael Amadio, Reilly Smith, Jonas Rondbjerg, Keegan Kolesar, Robin Lehner, Alex Pietrangelo, Nolan Patrick, Shea Theodore, Jake Leschyshyn, Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Laurent Brossoit, Mattias Janmark, William Carrier, Jack Eichel, and Nicolas Roy.
Today’s player is Chandler Stephenson.
Chandler Stephenson is the most underrated player in the entire National Hockey League. There, I said it. The Golden Knights are beyond lucky to have him not only on their team and in their organization but at a bargain contract that has two years left on it under $3 million.
In 2021-22 Stephenson set new career highs in every major statistical category. With 64 points he outscored NHL stars like Taylor Hall, Mat Barzal, Brayden Point, and former VGK draft pick Nick Suzuki.
The Golden Knights were ravaged with injuries all season. Stephenson and Jonathan Marchessault were the only two constant scorers for the team. Marchessault is already established as a scorer in the NHL, but Stephenson, before this season, was not, and as a result turned heads in 2021-22.
Before Jack Eichel was a Golden Knight, Stephenson was the team’s makeshift first-line center on a line with Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. This past season proved that this trio is not a bad combination at all as their chemistry is off the charts.
Stephenson scored most of his goals off the rush, utilizing his speed and the Golden Knight’s transition game to his advantage. The line of Stephenson, Stone, and Pacioretty, when healthy, was a collective goal-scoring unit for the VGK that could be relied upon for offense in tight games.
Find someone who passes to you like Chandler Stephenson passes to Max Pacioretty pic.twitter.com/eFUsSntjeU
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 6, 2021
Stephenson only missed three games in 2021-22 due to COVID protocols and personal reasons, meaning that he stayed healthy. Because of this, he saw a lot of different linemates but made the most of what he had available, even if it meant playing out of his normal center position and at wing.
raise your hand if Chandler Stephenson is faster than you 🙋♀️🙋♂️ pic.twitter.com/e8Fhz1HZF5
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) January 18, 2022
Stone, Eichel, Pacioretty, Karlsson, and Smith all missed significant potions of time in 21-22, and Stephenson stepped up in their absence with big games against the Minnesota Wild (4 assists), Boston Bruins (3 assists), and Chicago Blackhawks (3 assists). He proved to be the perfect setup man for scoring wingers like Stone, Pacioretty, Smith, Dadonov.
Things Chandler Stephenson loves:
– Scoring the first goal
– Other stuff too prob pic.twitter.com/YhYlmV8iVQ
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) November 25, 2021
One last highlight for Stephenson. With today being Father’s Day and all it’s fitting that Stephenson recently became a father in May as he and his family welcomed Ford Stephenson into the world.
With the cap crunch always presenting problems for the Golden Knights, they are beyond lucky to have Stephenson locked up for another two years at a bargain contract.
The Golden Knights need to take advantage of his cheap contract while they have a chance and win now. If Stephenson keeps up his current pace, he will be asking for a major raise in 2024-25.
Stephenson is one of only three current Golden Knights who have their name on the Stanley Cup too. Heck, he even won a Cup inside T-Mobile Arena with the Washington Capitals in 2018.
I know everyone will be calling for Bruce Cassidy to replicate his Bruins “Perfection Line” in Vegas with Stone, Eichel, and Pacioretty. But with the way Stephenson played this past season, you have to keep him with Stone and Patches. Keep the Misfits together too (assuming Smith re-signs) and then you have three elite-level forward lines for a deep offense. Jack Eichel who?
2021-22 could have been a career year for Stephenson, yes, but at 28 years old, I believe he still has a lot left to show in the NHL and that he has a chance of etching his name on Lord Stanley a second time.