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Golden Knights Analysis

Golden Knights: Is Stephenson Odd Man Out as Cassidy Looks for Right Mix in Forward Lines?



Chandler Stephenson, Vegas Golden Knights

Vegas Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy has an issue on his hands. The line of Ivan Barbashev, Nic Roy, and Jonathan Marchessault has been producing consistently since Jack Eichel suffered a lower-body injury on Jan. 11. The other three forward lines have not been nearly as consistent as the Roy line. Coach Cassidy tried a couple of different line combinations in the last two games.

Tuesday vs. Nashville Predators


Monday vs. San Jose Sharks

Howden – Stephenson – Stone
Barbashev – Roy – Marchessault
Cotter – Karlsson – Amadio
Morelli – Froese – Kolesar

Vegas Hockey Now asked coach Cassidy about Stephenson’s game on the wing after Tuesday’s loss to the Predators.

“It’s situational for Stephenson.” Coach Cassidy on Stephenson playing the wing. “It’s not ideal to move him (Stephenson) to the wing with Jack Eichel being out. We’re already down a top center.”

What is the situational circumstance that coach Cassidy is referring to? Does the opponent matter if Stephenson lines on on the wing or center? Or is this Nic Roy’s fault?

Relax everyone. This is partially Roy’s fault because of how well Roy is playing. That is not a knock on Stephenson as much as it is a credit to the job that Roy has been doing.

Coach Cassidy has mentioned many times in Vegas that players need to step up when opportunities present themselves. Cassidy does not expect someone to perform at the level that Jack Eichel performs at night in and out. But he does want to see players become the best versions of themselves.

Vegas likes this version of Nic Roy, who has 16 points in 14 games Eichel has missed.

Stephenson has 31 points in 52 games (0.596 points per game pace) and is a minus-7 on the season. This season’s numbers are a sizeable drop-off from his last three seasons with the Golden Knights. Stephenson has averaged 0.778 points per game while being a plus-22, plus-5, and plus-12 for his previous three seasons.

What Makes Stephenson the Odd Man Out?

It starts with Nic Roy and his $3 million AAV through the 2026-27 season. The Golden Knights extended Roy before last season, and it is a good thing they did. Roy was compensated as a fourth-line center who could kill penalties while helping on the powerplay. The 27-year-old’s career-high points total is 39 from the 2021-22 season. Roy has 31 points in 47 games this season.

Speaking of contracts, this is the final year of a four year deal worth $2.75 million AAV for Stephenson. It is fair to assume that Stephenson’s next contract will exceed $5 million AAV.

General manager Kelly McCrimmon will have a tough decision to make regarding Stephenson. The Golden Knights, when healthy, have great depth at center. A potential one-two-three punch of Jack Eichel, William Karlsson, and Nic Roy is a great start to any lineup. Michael Amadio, Brett Howden, Jonas Rondbjerg, and Byron Froese have done well in the center position when called upon.

Stephenson’s best value to the Golden Knights, from a long-term perspective, is if he can contribute on the wing. If Stephenson can elevate his game as a winger, that could help his prospects of remaining with the Golden Knights.

Can Stephenson Perform on a Line Without Mark Stone?

We are about to find out. General Manager Kelly McCrimmon said Stone will be out “for a while” yesterday. Stone was having tests conducted Wednesday morning to check the severity of his injury. It is fair to assume that the initial results did not yield great results for the captain.