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Golden Knights Analysis

Golden Knights Injuries Create Real Problem, Can Depth Shine Through?

Against the New York Rangers Wednesday night, head coach Bruce Cassidy started a line that was not listed on the lineup sheet with Will Carrier,…



Against the New York Rangers Wednesday night, head coach Bruce Cassidy started a line that was not listed on the lineup sheet with Will Carrier, Nicolas Roy, and Keegan Kolesar. 

This is a perfect representation of the status of the Vegas Golden Knight's bottom six, and here's why.

The Carrier/Roy/Kolesar line was made up of players pulled from other lines. In line rushes and throughout the game Roy played with Jonas Rondbjerg and Phil Kessel whereas Jake Leschyshyn played with Carrier and Kolesar.

Cassidy put this line together to give the Golden Knights a spark in certain moments of the game. After all, these were the three players who made up a dominant Golden Knights fourth line earlier in the season.

So why doesn't Cassidy put these three back together permanently? 

The answer, in our opinion, is simple; Cassidy doesn't trust the rest of his bottom-six forwards, especially all on a line of their own.

With Jack Eichel and Brett Howden hurt, the Golden Knights are mixing and matching the likes of Kessel, Leschyshyn, Rondbjerg, Paul Cotter, and Michael Amadio with Carrier, Roy, and Kolesar to try and find a consistent bottom two lines.

So far, nothing has quite worked. Both Rondbjerg and Leschyshyn played under seven and a half minutes against the Rangers, and Kessel likely would have been the third-lowest forward in TOI had Kolesar not taken seven minutes in penalties.

In close games in the third period, Cassidy has frequently benched these players, only icing the top two lines plus some others.

This is a problem. Two injuries at forward should not remove a Stanley Cup Contending team from a huge chunk of its forward depth.

Injuries Create Opportunity

Cassidy did not use injuries as an excuse when asked by VHN about the bottom six. He rather mentioned how injuries give players looking for bigger roles an opportunity to prove themselves.

"We've got guys out of the lineup. So the way I look at it is that there is opportunity. Robin Lehner gets hurt; there's an opportunity for some goaltenders to get in there and play. (Alex) Pietrangelo is out, so there is an opportunity for other D to go in and play… Now Jack (Eichel) and Howie (Brett Howden) are out, so some guys move up, and other guys get an opportunity," said Cassidy.

Jake Lechyshyn is not Jack Eichel. But he and everyone around him can up their game in the superstars' absence.

"I'm not going to be a guy who scores 40 goals in the league; I know that. So I can do what I'm doing right now, and that's just being a good fourth-line player. Faceoffs, penalty kill, that's kind of what I see myself as being. Right now, I just need to improve on the details in my game," said Leschyshyn.

No Issues With Some

As a good coach does, Cassidy didn't call out any specific players when asked about the bottom six woes. But given that he said that he has no issues with the way Carrier, Kolesar, and Roy are playing, we can fill in the gaps with the remaining players.

"(Will) Carrier, and (Keegan) Kolesar, I have no issue at all, and Nic Roy, they play their game. Some of the other guys around them have to be a little more consistent and help us win… It is up to me to build that. So we're going to continue work on it," said Cassidy after the 5-1 loss to the Rangers on Wednesday.

The Other Guys

The "other guys around them" are Rondbjerg, Amadio, Leschyshyn, Cotter, and Kessel.

Rondbjerg played just 7:54 in his season debut with the VGK on Wednesday. He gets a pass for now, given he has only played in one game at the NHL level this season.

Cotter has been elevated to the first line with Eichel out and scored two goals against the Boston Bruins, essentially taking him out of this conversation for now.

Amadio was brought back in the lineup against the Bruins after being scratched for four-straight games. But he was once again back in the pressbox as Cassidy went in favor of Rondbjerg over him against the Rangers. He has two points in 15 games.

Lechyshyn has played in nine games this season with a limited role. He is slowly chipping away at a permanent roster spot but could be passed in an instant by other players. He has now played 50 games in the National Hockey League and has six total points.

"I'm just trying to prove that I can play in this league. Every game is basically a tryout for the next game. So going out there in practice is key for me and having a good work ethic and details, that's a big thing again," said Leschyshyn.

Lastly, Kessel is a strange case with tons of factors involved. He's obviously the Ironman, and an all-around well-liked guy. But the Golden Knights may have a "Keith Yandle situation" on their hands, as Kessel hasn't exactly been great. More on him in the future.

Personnel Changes?

Cassidy mentioned how it is his job to forge these players into ideal third and fourth liners. But what happens if these players are simply not capable of becoming solid depth players? Who would the Golden Knights resort to?

First off, Cotter will likely be back in the bottom six once Eichel returns. He's proven to be a solid NHL'er and isn't going anywhere. Howden returning from injury will also be a plus, but the forward has most recently been placed on LTIR.

Sakari Manninen is likely the next call-up from the Henderson Silver Knights. Sheldon Rempal and Spencer Foo are also options.

What I think we can conclude from this is that the Golden Knights need better depth forwards. Whether they come internally or externally, this is an issue the VGK will have to address if they want to truly be Stanley Cup Contenders.