Outside of a few nice milestone games, Phil Kessel didn't have a great start with the Vegas Golden Knights earlier this season. The 35-year-old forward was behind on several plays and became a frequently benched player in tight games.
But Kessel now has 25 points on the year in 58 games played. He has already passed his goal total from last year with eleven goals over his eight last year with the Arizona Coyotes. Kessel signed a one-year deal with the VGK in the summer worth $1.5 million AAV.
A big part of Kessel's recent success has been his new linemates in Will Carrier and Chandler Stephenson. The makeshift line came together before in late Janurary, and the pieces just fell in place to form a productive line.
“If you look at our line you are probably thinking it isn’t going to work… But it is right now. We're all different, right? I'm more of a physical guy, but it seems to work. Phil finds (passing) lanes, and Stevie is always finding ways around the net," said Carrier.
Kessel's skill, Stephenson's speed, and Carrier's size have resulted in a perfect blend of line that has consistently been creating offense for the VGK.
Not only do these three players each have a specific thing they bring to the table, but they are also starting to play like one another with Kessel for instance going to the net more instead of skating behind the net to try and find passing lanes.
"At the start of the year, Phil liked to do that reverse cycle and go almost behind the net and come out the other side. If that play breaks down, he is 200 feet from our own net… now he's gone to the interior a lot more," said head coach Bruce Cassidy.
Carrier has been the main driver to the net and pucks are now going in for him as he has scored a career-high 16 goals this season.
"We all have speed and we know where Will (Carrier) is going. He's going to the net and going on the forecheck," said Kessel.
For Kessel, this isn't the first time he has been on a makeshift line that has stuck. In 2016 with the Pittsburgh Penguins the line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, and Kessel came together to form the "HBK" line and helped the Penguins with the Stanley Cup.
"We didn't have this one in our back pockets in September. This is just the way it played out. I think what happened is that we got the news with Mark (Stone) we thought we were going to need a net presence on each line," said Cassidy on the spontaniouness of the line.
After being on the Arizona Coyotes for three seasons, Kessel is looking forward to the playoff push with the Golden Knights.
"It's good you know? What do we have like 24-25 games left? We're right there we've just got to keep going a building and hopefully we will get to the end," said Kessel.
The Golden Knights do, in fact, have 24 games remaining in the regular season. They will play the Dallas Stars at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday at home.