A battle between the top two overall picks from the NHL’s 2015 Draft Class is set for Saturday night in Edmonton as the Vegas Golden Knights (14-4-0, 28 points) take on the Edmonton Oilers (9-8-0, 18 points). Tonight is the first of four meetings this season between the Pacific Division rivals.
The Golden Knights are on a mini two-game road trip that will hit Edmonton and Vancouver. They will finish playing all Pacific Division teams for the first time this season. After missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last season, picking up division wins is huge for the VGK.
Nicolas Roy, who left Thursday night’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, is not expected to play in the Golden Knight’s next two games. He has a lower-body injury, according to head coach Bruce Cassidy.
Mattias Janmark, who left the Golden Knights in free agency, will play against his former team.
What to Watch For
Eichel v McDavid
Comparing Jack Eichel to Connor McDavid may be a little unfair to Eichel. As undoubtedly the best player in the game, McDavid is off to a 15-goal, 17-assist, and 32-point start in just 17 games.
That’s not to say that Eichel has been bad, as the Golden Knights star has 10 goals and 11 assists for 21 points in 18 games. But perhaps pinning these two up against one another could lead to a superstar-player rivalry similar to the likes of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.
“Maybe this is the closest they have been on equal footing with teams and health. So have at it. I think it is great for the game,” said Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy.
While McDavid has Eichel beat in terms of individual stature, Eichel and the Golden Knights lead the Pacific Division standings. McDavid and the Oilers currently sit fourth. A playoff matchup between these two teams would be a treat and seems destined to happen sooner rather than later.
New Fourth Line
With Roy out with a lower-body injury, the stellar fourth line of the Golden Knights will have to be reworked. Cassidy did not say who he would insert into the lineup as a replacement, as he has two options in Jake Leschyshyn and Michael Amadio. Both can play center.
No matter who he slots in on the fourth line, or even if he adjusts the bottom six as a whole, the Golden Knights will need their depth scoring against a strong Oilers team.
Eventually, the Golden Knights are going to need some more depth in their bottom six. Whether that comes internally or externally will be something we will have to wait to find out. But let me present a potential option for an external trade candidate to the Golden Knights- Jesse Puljujarvi.
Puljujarvi has been rumored to be leaving the Oilers for years now, but it has simply not happened yet. The Oilers were rumored to be shopping the 24-year-old forward during free agency last season before they signed him to a one-year $3 million deal. He has three points in 17 games this season.
Assuming they are able to move out Laurent Brossoit’s contract down the line, the Golden Knights could go after Puljujarvi near the trade deadline for depth. So keep an eye on his play tonight.
Projected Vegas Golden Knights Line Combinations
Chandler Stephenson- Jack Eichel– Mark Stone (c)
Jonathan Marchessault- William Karlsson– Reilly Smith
Paul Cotter- Brett Howden- Phil Kessel
William Carrier- Jake Leschyshyn- Keegan Kolesar
Alec Martinez- Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb- Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague- Zach Whitecloud
Logan Thompson/Adin Hill
Vegas Golden Knights Special Teams
PP1: Stone, Eichel, Stephenson, Marchessault, Pietrangelo
PP2: Howden, Karlsson, Smith, Kessel, Theodore
PK1: Karlsson, Smith, McNabb, Pietrangelo
PK2: Stephenson, Stone, Martinez, Whitecloud
Nicolas Roy/Michael Amadio, Ben Hutton
Projected Coyotes Line Combinations
Mattias Janmark- Connor McDavid (c)- Zach Hyman
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins- Leon Draisaitl- Warren Foegele
Klim Kostin- Ryan McLeod- Jesse Puljujarvi
Dylan Holloway- Devin Shore- Derek Ryan
Darnell Nurse- Cody Ceci
Brett Kulak- Evan Bouchard
Ryan Murray- Tyson Barrie
Jack Campbell/Stuart Skinner
Oilers Special Teams
PP1- Hyman, RNH, McDavid, Draisaitl, Barrie
PP2- Puljujarvi, McLeod, Holloway, Bouchard, Nurse
PK1- McLeod, Hyman, Nurse, Ceci
PK2- Draisaitl, RNH, Kulak, Bouchard
Mike Smith, Oscar Klefbom, Evander Kane, Kailer Yamamoto, Tyler Benson/Derek Ryan, Markus Niemelainen
How to Watch/Listen
7:00 p.m. on AT&T Sportsnet, ESPN+, and Fox Sports 98.9 FM Radio.