It is the eve of the 2023-24 NHL season. Here are predictions on the Vegas Golden Knights’ best player, breakout player, surprising player, underrated player, disappointing player, and record.
Best player – Jack Eichel: Easy question and easy answer. Eichel had 66 points (27 goals) in 67 games last season. The 2015 No. 2 overall pick found a different level when the playoffs started. Eichel led all playoff scoring with 26 points (6 goals) in 22 games.
Could this be the year Eichel gets Selke consideration? Eichel’s two-way game was on display last season. Faceoff percentage may be the biggest weakness in Eichel’s game. Eichel can get Selke consideration if he can elevate his faceoff percentage over 50%.
Breakout player – Shea Theodore: Theodore has been a mainstay in the Golden Knight’s lineup since the inaugural season. What makes Theodore a candidate to break out? His offensive ability. Theodore has the ability to rush the puck and create offensive opportunities from the blue line. The 28-year-old paced for 60 points last season.
Theodore has the offensive ability to become a point-per-game type of player. If Theodore can appear in 75 or more games, expect a 70-point season and an outside chance at Norris consideration.
Surprising player – William Carrier: Carrier had seven game-winning goals in 56 games last season. If Carrier played all 82 games last season and kept that pace, he would have had 10 game-winning goals. That would have only trailed David Pastrnak, Leon Draisaitl, and Connor McDavid. That is some pretty elite company. By the way, Carrier plays on the fourth line and gets little to no time on the power play.
Carrier can be moved up in the lineup as well. The 2013 No. 57 overall pick was having a career year with 25 points (16 goals) in 56 games played prior to injuries limiting his games played. Carrier has the ability to become a 20-goal scorer as a fourth-line forward.
Underrated player – Keegan Kolesar: It happens every season with Kolesar. Fans will call for Kolesar to be benched in favor of pretty much anyone else. Kolesar’s name hardly hits the three stars of the game and you don’t see his number on the scoresheet often.
Here is an important stat. Kolesar has found himself among the top 10 in hits over the last two seasons. In 2022-23, Kolesar tied for seventh in points for players ranked in the top 10 for hits. In 2021-22, Kolesar was fourth in points for players ranked in the top 10 for hits.
Disappointing player – Adin Hill: Hill was great in the playoffs last season. The concern with Hill is health. The 27-year-old has never appeared in more than 27 regular season games. Hill was awarded a starter’s contract worth $9.8 million for two years. The Golden Knights need Hill to do something he has never done in his career, appear in 45 to 55 games. If Hill appears in nearly half of this season’s games, will he be healthy heading into the playoffs?
Record 42-28-8-4, 104 points , third in the Pacific Division: Injuries are adding up early and will be noticeable throughout the season. The Golden Knights and coach Bruce Cassidy will have to deal with a lineup that will be changing game after game. There is enough talent and leadership on the roster to put together a very strong season despite injuries. Hopefully the injuries are limited to small pockets and do not prevent the Golden Knights from hitting 100 points.
The Edmonton Oilers will be on a mission this year and will dominate the Pacific Division. Do not confuse that as being a prediction for the Oilers to win the Stanley Cup. The Oilers will suffocate teams with their powerplay and ability to score at will during the regular season. When defense and goaltending matters come playoff time, the Oilers will struggle. The Oilers will not make it out of the second round.
The Seattle Kraken can take a step forward from last season’s 100 point performance. Improvements on the blue line and Calder winner Matty Beniers have Seattle in line for a top-two finish in the Pacific Division.