Welcome back to a mini-series here at Vegas Hockey Now, where we look at the Vegas Golden Knight’s current depth chart in specific positions. This series will examine the Golden Knight’s goaltending, centers, defensemen, and wingers. This can help us get a feel for what moves if any, general manager Kelly McCrimmon could make in the remainder of the offseason.
JT Miller (trade), Nazem Kadri, Patrice Bergeron, Paul Stastny, Johan Larsson, Sam Steel, and Cody Eakin are currently on the market.
We will only be including information on notable players currently signed by the Golden Knights as well as current RFAs. So no recent draft picks or some prospects. We are also including every player that can play center, even if they mostly play another position, like Keegan Kolesar at wing or Nolan Patrick at LTIR.
The Golden Knights are in a completely different situation with their centermen than they were just a few years ago. Nicolas Roy, Brett Howden, and Chandler Stephenson have all taken big steps in their development as NHL players. Oh, and your center depth greatly improves when you add someone like Jack Eichel. With the Golden Knights currently lacking wingers, which we will get to later in this series, it is highly likely we will see some of the Golden Knights centers switch over to play wing.
First Line Center- Jack Eichel
No questions here. Eichel was brought in to be the star first-line center for the Golden Knights and will only see this role increase in 2022-23. He is only 34 games into his Golden Knights career but has four years left on his deal and is just 25 years old. Finding consistent linemates for Eichel should be on McCrimmon and Cassidy’s to-do lists this upcoming season.
Second Line Center- Chandler Stephenson
Everyone not named Jack Eichel is hard to place. Stephenson, Karlsson, Roy, and others can all play wing if needed but are better off at center. However, the NHL is only a four-line league. But after what was a career-year, I think it is safe to slot Chandler Stephenson in as the Golden Knights second line center. With an injury-ridden lineup in 2021-22, Stephenson remained mostly healthy and scored 64 points in 79 games played with a multitude of linemates on his wing.
Third Line Center- William Karlsson
William Karlsson has dramatically regressed from his 2017-18 43-goal self but still remains a solid two-way center for the Golden Knights. His contract makes him hard to move on from, so it is likely that he will rejoin the Golden Knights for their sixth season in 2022-23. The good news for Karlsson is that he gets to reunite with both Jonathan Marchessault and a newly re-signed Reilly Smith to form the Misfit Line one more. Though a lack of winger depth thanks to the Dadonov and Pacioretty trades could result in Marchessault and Smith playing elsewhere.
Fourth Line Center- Nicolas Roy
He needs a new contract, yes, but all signs are pointing towards Nicolas Roy returning to the Golden Knights in 2022-23. Roy is a player that can be looked at to play wing as, again, the VGK currently lacks top-six wingers. He played parts of the season in 2021-22 on the wing, and with more centers pushing for a roster spot, which we will get to later, he could swing to the wing. Roy is just 25 years old and is emerging as a solid two-way center in the NHL. He scored 39 points in 78 games last season as one of the few mostly-healthy Golden Knights.
The Golden Knights recently re-signed forward Brett Howden to a one-year extension worth $1.5 million. Howden was a dynamite scorer for the Golden Knights in bursts last season, but a nasty collision with Filip Forsberg caused his season to end on short notice. Nonetheless, he scored 20 points in 47 games and will have a lot of people expecting a breakout season from him in 2022-23. Howden will more than likely play in the Golden Knights lineup. The question is simply where. Will he play wing? Or will someone else move over so Howden can play fourth-line center?
Michael Amadio and Keegan Kolesar are here too. These two are simple, as they are primarily wingers in the Golden Knights system, so we will talk about them down the line. But is always nice to have these two as options at center if something is not working out or when injuries arise. Kolesar also needs a new contract and has an arbitration deadline set for August 10th.
Nolan Patrick is the last one here, and there are a lot of questions surrounding the former no. 2 overall draft pick. Injuries damaged his 2021-22 campaign once more. He will have a lot of work to do to dig back into the Golden Knights lineup, especially if he wants to play center. But his ability to play wing helps his case.
The Golden Knights have a good eight players who can qualify as NHL-level centermen. But in the event that injuries arise, like they did last season, the Henderson Silver Knights might have to assist one more. In 2021-22 we saw Jake Leschyshyn get into 41 games. He looked less than NHL-ready but had to be resorted to with the injury crisis. Perhaps he can take the next step in his development in the minors after he signs a new contract with the VGK.
Spencer Foo, Sakari Manninen, and Byron Froese are all also under contract with the VGK and can play center. Out of these three Manninen is the most notable. He is coming over from the Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the KHL to play with the Golden Knights and, at 30 years old, has plenty of experience playing against men. He scored the Gold-Medal-winning goal in the 2022 World Championships against Roy, Zach Whitecloud, Logan Thompson, and the rest of Team Canada.
Brendan Brisson, Pavel Dorofeyev, Paul Cotter, Ivan Morozov, and Zach Dean are all solid prospects that can play center in the Golden Knights organization. We discuss them in more depth in our 2022 Golden Knights Prospect Pyramid. Out of these options, Brisson and Dorofeyev could make the team out of training camp, but likely won’t do so as a center. The Golden Knights need wingers, which some of these players like Cotter and Brisson have proven they are capable of playing.
Areas of Need
The Golden Knights have a plethora of good NHL centers, so many in fact, that it will require some of them to play wing in 2022-23. The VGK’s centers are likely set for this upcoming season. The only shakeup I could see happening is a trade involving William Karlsson for cap relief. However, the time to make that move would have been before free agency and has passed. There is a possibility of the VGK adding a player via free agency that can play both wing and center like Paul Stastny.