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Krepps: So Who Is Jack Eichel Going To Play With This Season?

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Jack Eichel Vegas Golden Knights Buffalo Sabres return (Photo- Vegas Golden Knights via Twitter)
Jack Eichel, Vegas Golden Knights (Photo- Vegas Golden Knights via Twitter)

Remember last season, right after the November Jack Eichel trade, when people were going wild with what the Vegas Golden Knights line combinations would be like with Jack in the mix? “Max Pacioretty,  Jack Eichel, and Mark Stone will be unstoppable!” Everyone collectively said.

How’d that work out?

Now entering his first full season with the Golden Knights, a lot of expectations are on the shoulders of Eichel. After all, his $10 million cap hit inadvertently caused the VGK to trade away guys like Pacioretty and Evgenii Dadonov, not to mention Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, and two picks in the initial deal.

The Golden Knights are banking on Eichel becoming the 70-80 point player he was with the Sabres a few seasons ago, before his need for artificial disk replacement surgery. Personally, I think he can get back to this level. But a big contributing factor will be who he plays with this upcoming season.

Eichel’s Linemate History

Jack Eichel played for the Buffalo Sabres for six years. So his linemates were understandably a little all over the place as the Sabres at the time, and still currently, are going through a rebuild.

His most frequent linemates were Jeff Skinner, Victor Olofsson, Brian Gionta, Marcus Foligno, Evander Kane (yep), and Taylor Hall that one season where he was there.

Last season with the Golden Knights, Eichel played alongside William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault the most. He also saw Nicolas Roy as his right winger at times. Former Golden Knights Max Pacioretty, Mattias Janmark, and Evgenii Dadonov also saw time on Eichel’s wings.

Mark Stone only played two games on Eichel’s wing in 2021-22.

Most Likely Candidates

So with this background in mind and by looking at the framework of the Golden Knights roster, we can expect to see some more Eichel experiments in 22-23. I think it goes without saying that Mark Stone will get another look with Eichel, especially given his current health and their lack of playing time together.

Simply put, Stone is the Golden Knight’s best winger. It only makes sense to put him with a top center.

A late-season knee injury knocked out Reilly Smith’s chances of seeing time with Eichel last season. As a result, I think we could see him tested on Eichel’s wing sometime this season as well.

Eichel and Jonathan Marchessault didn’t seem to click completely as former head coach Peter DeBoer expected them to last season. They weren’t a total liability, but given their scoring prowess, they struggled to score together and made several defensive mistakes in the games they played together.

But as the Golden Knight’s leading point scorer, I can see Marchessault getting another shot with Eichel.

Underrated Options

Without getting into a whole line combinations debate, I think the best place for Smith and Marchessault is to stay with William Karlsson on the misfit line. My pick for the third member of Eichel and Stone’s line would then go to Chandler Stephenson.

The criminally underrated Stephenson was second on the Golden Knights in scoring last season. He had 64 points in 79 games and did this bouncing up and down all throughout the lineup.

Stephenson can play both center and wing. With the Golden Knights having Eichel, Karlsson, Nicolas Roy, and Brett Howden, one of these players will have to switch over if they want playing time. I don’t see any better fit than Stephenson to do so. He’s a speedy, versatile player who could fit in well with Eichel.

You could also make the case for Nicolas Roy. But in my opinion, he is better off suited as the VGK’s 3C.

Testing Testing 1-2-3

A full 82-game season with the same linemates is something only achievable in EA Sports NHL. Injuries, scoring slumps, and other outside factors will be put in place this season. This may lead head coach Bruce Cassidy to experiment with Eichel’s line combinations.

Everyone and their mother is projecting Phil Kessel to play with Eichel and team up as American-born heroes. I can absolutely see this happening at some point in the season, but don’t see it as a permanent fit. Kessel is simply past the point in his career to be a top-line player, especially in terms of ice time.

There is a reason he was out in the free agency market for so long.

Don’t get me wrong; he will help the Golden Knights score. But I see him doing this as a powerplay specialist and third-line depth scorer. Not as an elite first-line playmaking forward. Sorry, Phil.

Another player who has a fantastic shot but is at a completely different stage of his career is Brendan Brisson, the Golden Knights 2020 first-round draft pick who is turning heads as a top VGK prospect. With the VGK’s winger depth, he could make the team out of camp and get a shot with Eichel.

Moving back towards the option of centers moving over, Brett Howden and William Karlsson are here. Like Roy, I see these players better off playing center. If I had to pick one I would go with Howden.

Everyone Else

Again, you never know what can happen in an NHL season. Injuries especially. The wingers listed are not all of the possible wingers in the Golden Knights system We could see someone like Michael Amadio or William Carrier get shots with Eichel, or even AHL scorer Paul Cotter.

But as things currently stand, here are my projected line combinations for the Golden Knights with Eichel playing alongside the speedy Stephenson and puck magnet Stone.

VHN’s Projected Forward Lines

Chandler Stephenson- Jack Eichel- Mark Stone

Jonathan Marchessault- William Karlsson- Reilly Smith

Michael Amadio- Nicolas Roy- Phil Kessel

William Carrier- Brett Howden- Keegan Kolesar

Spares: Brendan Brisson, Paul Cotter, Jake Leschyshyn, Jonas Rondbjerg, Nolan Patrick*

Welcome to your new home for Vegas Golden Knights breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to VHN+ for all of our members-only content the entire Vegas Hockey Now crew plus an ad-free browsing experience.

Owen Krepps covers the Vegas Golden Knights for Vegas Hockey Now. A 2022 Robert Morris University graduate, he has previously written for RMU Sentry Media, Colonial Sports Network, The Titusville Herald, Pittsburgh Sports Now, and Pittsburgh Hockey Now.

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