The story of Paul Cotter has been a fun one early on in the season for the Vegas Golden Knights. The 2018 fourth-round draft pick has paved his way to the NHL, and based on his performance during Thursday night’s home opener, it doesn’t look like he is slipping out of the lineup any time soon.
But now the Golden Knights and head coach Bruce Cassidy are faced with a good problem to have; they have too many forwards. With the return of Will Carrier from injury, both Michael Amadio and Jake Leschyshyn were healthy scratches against the Chicago Blackhawks.
It’s a simple problem of only being able to ice twelve forwards and the Golden Knights having arguably 14 capable NHL players. Today we’ll look at the updated hierarchy of bottom-six forwards for the VGK.
Not Going Anywhere
Nicolas Roy– Nic Roy has been a dominant force on the Golden Knight’s fourth line and is using his big body to his advantage. His cycling game is strong, no matter who he plays with. He’s done a great job through two games wearing out the opposing team’s defense and getting offensive chances.
Roy will be one of the first players promoted to the top six if Cassidy decides to shuffle up his line combinations or if someone gets hurt. But based on his play so far on the fourth line, Roy’s staying.
Paul Cotter– A scoring forward on an ELC contract who came up through the system and can play anywhere in the lineup has been a rarity in the Golden Knights system. But Paul Cotter is starting to change that narrative. He looks great, not just because he put the puck in the net. He’s staying for now.
“I think I am a versatile player, which helps. I can play up and down the lineup. That doesn’t necessarily mean I change my game, but I think my game can help other players,” Cotter said Thursday.
Will Carrier– Will Carrier has been the Golden Knight’s go-to power forward since season one. He returned Thursday after a mid-body injury kept him out for most of the preseason. Based on the chances he creates with his size and skating, he needs to find the back of the net more often.
But for the time being, and likely for the entire season, Carrier has enough seniority to guarantee him a roster spot in the Golden Knight’s bottom six.
So based on our analysis so far, there’s only one spot left for a forward in the Golden Knights lineup, likely a right winger. There are three names in the team’s system who could fill this role currently.
Keegan Kolesar– With his three-year contract extension at $1.4 million, Keegan Kolesar is projected to be a staple in the VGK’s bottom six. But his play through two games and in the preseason has us wondering if keeping him in the lineup is the right move.
He has missed out on several grade-A scoring opportunities, such as a chance with Roy where he missed a wide-open net against the Blackhawks. Kolesar’s play style of that of a grinding, hard-hitting player. But with Carrier and Cotter proving this already, perhaps the team could switch him out for a scorer.
Michael Amadio– Michael Amadio had 11 goals last season as a waiver claim. Not too shabby. In terms of skill, he’s likely ahead of Kolesar in that department. But Kolesar has Amadio beat in a lot of other areas that a typical fourth-liner would be used for, such as hitting and forechecking.
Kolesar’s spot is likely the one Amadio is eyeing down to get back in the lineup. It will all depend on what Cassidy has in mind for his fourth line. Does he want them to be more of a checking line that wears out the opposing team’s defenses? Or does he want some added scoring from them? Both?
Jake Leschyshyn– As a bonus, Jake Leschyshn made the team out of training camp and deserves a mention. He’s outclassed by just about every forward on the team in terms of skill and playstyle. But he’s a safe option as soon as the Golden Knights, god forbid, start having injury troubles at forward.
He played hard in the preseason and has earned a spot with the big club.
So with Cotter now in the lineup for the foreseeable future, a battle between Kolesar and Amadio is likely on the horizon. This could change in an instant. The Golden Knights also have Brett Howden currently up in the top six, and he could be demoted at any time. Jonas Rondbjerg is also an option in Henderson.
But here’s our projected line combinations based on the emergence of Paul Cotter.
Projection Moving Forward– Smith- Eichel- Kessel, Howden- Stephenson- Stone, Marchessault- Karlsson- Cotter, Carrier- Roy- Amadio. Scratched- Kolesar, Leschyshyn, HSK- Rondbjerg