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MCKEEN’S 2023-24 NHL YEARBOOK – VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS – Team Preview – Player Profiles

Review: In the sixth season in franchise history, the Vegas Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup, going 51-22-9 and finishing with the best record in the Western Conference during the regular season. The Golden Knights ranked 14th with 3.32 goals per game, and ranked 11th with 2.79 goals against per game. They were a mediocre possession team, controlling 49.0% of score-and-venue-adjusted shot attempts and 51.7% of expected goals, so that did not profile as a dominant Cup contender, but they also did this with five different goaltenders starting games for them during the season. It may not have necessarily been a typical path to a championship, but banners hang forever.

What’s Changed? Not surprisingly, the Stanley Cup champions did not make a lot of changes in the offseason. They did trade reliable winger Reilly Smith to Pittsburgh and let Phil Kessel hit the open market as a free agent. Center Teddy Blueger and goaltender Jonathan Quick signed as free agents with the Canucks and Rangers, respectively. The biggest move of the summer for Vegas was re-signing Ivan Barbashev, who played such a crucial role on Vegas’ top line in the playoffs, so keeping him around ensures that the Vegas heads into this season with a lot of the same championship pieces in place.

What would success look like? Expecting a repeat is asking a lot, but that is naturally going to be the expectation for Vegas after winning in 2022-2023. They return much of that championship team and while back-to-back Stanley Cups is a tall order, a title has to be the standard. Now, if they lose in the Western Conference Final, it is hardly going to be a disaster, but the Golden Knights have reached the final four in four of their six seasons, so that becomes more of a baseline expectation, which sounds preposterous but that is what follows this level of achievement.

What could go wrong? The Golden Knights managed to win the Stanley Cup with a myriad of goaltenders last season, so they might be able to survive an off season between the pipes. The bigger concern may be the health of captain Mark Stone, who has played in a total of 80 games over the past two seasons. He still plays well when healthy, but if Stone misses a bunch of time, that could cause problems for Vegas. Because the Golden Knights tend to have a top-heavy roster, the health of their stars is of major importance. It might be that way to some degree for every team, but especially teams that have invested more among their top players.

Top Breakout Candidate: On a veteran-laden team, there are not a lot of young players in prominent roles, so the best breakout candidate in Vegas is probably a goaltender. Adin Hill was excellent in the playoffs, posting a .932 save percentage in 16 appearances, but the 27-year-old netminder played a modest career high of 27 games during the regular season. He should see more action this season and that alone will give Hill a chance to have the best season of his career.  If it’s not Hill, then Logan Thompson is a viable option, too. Thompson has a .915 save percentage in 57 career games and was cruising as Vegas’ starter last season before a lower-body injury ended his season.


Jack Eichel

Eichel just kept getting better and better as the 2022-23 season went on, culminating in a dominant Stanley Cup run that saw him grab the game by the scruff of the neck and carry Las Vegas to victory on more than one occasion. Eichel showcased a nearly magnetic ability to keep the puck on his stick through opponent stick checks and his own physics-defying dangles that enabled him to create offense on a consistent basis for Vegas. Eichel lead all Vegas forwards in zone entries per hour of even-strength hockey by a comfortable margin and was in the 99th percentile for zone entries among NHL forwards per the All Three Zones project. Eichel didn’t waste these zone entries, he was in the 98th percentile for rush shots taken among NHL forwards last year as well. In the postseason, Eichel led the Golden Knights in both shot-attempt generation and in the creation of quality scoring chances. Eichel will continue to serve a top line role for the Knights where his vision and creativity allow him to serve up scoring opportunities for his teammates in addition to the rush chances we mentioned. Eichel finished the playoff run with the highest assist total (20) of any player in the league. With his health issues behind him, expect a very good chance at a repeat performance from Eichel.

Jonathan Marchessault

Marchessault, the Golden Knights’ Conn Smythe winner, had a consistent and strong offensive season that culminated in a 13-goal campaign that included some huge goals in critical moments of time. The most tenured member of the Golden Knights and a member of the inaugural version of the team, Marchessault’s ability to skate the puck out of danger was the foundational role in his performance. Marchessault was a menace offensively at both even-strength and on the power-play. His quick acceleration, puck handling, and knack for finding open space made him a difficult player for opposing defenders to mark. Marchessault’s even-strength offensive performance was good for the 90th percentile among NHL forwards. He played a huge role as a conduit for assisting in getting the puck to safe areas and out of the defensive zone as evidenced by landing in the 98th percentile for forward zone exits as tracked by All Three Zones. Marchessault had the highest expected goal share of any Knights forward in the Cup run at just over 56 percent. Whether it involved finishing plays or making high-danger passes, Marchessault was heavily involved in the Knight’s offense and is expected to step right back into his role on the top line next season.

Mark Stone

Mark Stone is one of the best two-way hockey players in the game and one of the most resilient. Stone, fresh off two back surgeries inside of one year, somehow managed to play a full slate of games in the post-season despite having the most recent of those surgeries in January of 2023. With 24 points in 22 playoff games, it was hard to believe he’d returned from surgery for game one of the post-season. Stone’s defensive performances have been the bedrock of the Golden Knights over the last few seasons and that was no different this season. When Stone is on the ice, scoring chances just do not happen in front of the Golden Knights net. He is noticeably low in the zone, actively looking to engage with any opposing forward looking to garner a chance from a high-danger area. For evidence of his participation defensively, Stone was in the 99th percentile of forward zone exits per the All Three Zones project. Stone does work in being a conduit from defense to offense and creating scoring chances himself. He is a big body that is difficult to move and possesses great vision. Stone’s best work is on the cycle and in the battle areas of the ice, but his offensive toolbox is deceivingly deep, and his shot is both powerful and accurate.

Chandler Stephenson

Stephenson is coming off a year of career bests in points for the regular season (65) and the playoffs (20). Stephenson’s passing is the cornerstone of his game and undoubtedly his best offensive attribute. As a result of this skill and his ability to put the puck on the stick of teammates in a scoring position, he had more power-play time than any other Golden Knights’ forward last year. Stephenson found the back of the net 10 times in 22 playoff games during the Cup run, scoring some absolutely pivotal goals en route to capturing his second Stanley Cup ring. Opportunities exist for Stephenson to put the puck on the net, but that’s nitpicking given his overall offensive impacts have been fine. Stephenson drew some difficult deployments last season and still found success in them. He routinely went against some of the best forwards in the league and had the highest number of defensive zone faceoff starts of any forward on the Golden Knights roster. Overall, Stephenson plays a critical role in his team’s ability to work the puck through traffic.

William Karlsson

Turns out, the purported demise of William Karlsson was greatly exaggerated.  After a career-low 35 points in the 2021-22 season, it appeared Karlsson was on a downward trajectory of slumpy-ness that was putting into question what the best fashion to deploy him was moving forward for Las Vegas head coach Bruce Cassidy. The result was a 53-point campaign for Karlsson that was followed up by an additional 17 points in 22 playoff games on the way to the Stanley Cup. Karlsson’s forechecking became a critical part of the cog that moved the Golden Knights forward. It was infectious and momentum stealing in nature. Karlsson had the highest number of recovered dump-ins per hour of even-strength ice time, a testament to his ability to quickly press the play and be a nuisance to his opponents. Additionally, Karlsson was in the 88th percentile for passes to a high-danger area per the All Three Zones project. Karlsson had positive impacts to both the power-play and penalty-killing units for the Knights this year. His utility in how he can be deployed truly makes him a coach’s dream. While his finishing has still struggled in recent years, the boosts he provides in other areas, with and without the puck, are a major benefit to the overall structure of the team.

Ivan Barbashev

Barbashev arrived in Vegas via St. Louis in a trade that ultimately played a critical role in the Golden Knights winning a Stanley Cup. Barbashev, whose previous playoff experience had garnered him a total of nine points in 50 games for the St. Louis Blues, found his name all over the scoresheet for the Golden Knights championship push. When it was all said and done, he’d registered seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points in 22 playoff games, undoubtedly his best post-season performance to-date. Barbashev has traditionally put up forgettable if not sometimes detrimental results defensively, but his offensive outputs have always masked that, and he often does a lot of thankless work in getting the puck on the stick of his teammates. Barbashev had the second highest expected-goal share on the Knights for the 2022-23 post-season, a testament to his ability to aid in controlling the play. Expected to fulfill top line duties this season, the question is whether Barbashev’s offensive run in the playoffs was a mirage or a new standard of expectation for his game moving forward. He’ll certainly be in an environment that will allow him to continue to focus on supporting offensive production. In any case, the Knights have a proven playoff performer here that can fill in anywhere within the top six forward group.

Brett Howden

Howden is a traditional defense-first forward that makes mostly indirect offensive contributions but can be relied upon for a consistent, above-the-line performance defensively on a nightly basis. Minimally impactful outside of an even-strength deployment. In fact, Howden accumulated a total of 41 minutes of special teams play in his 54 total games last season, all of it on the penalty-kill. This year could present the opportunity for him to step into a top six role. From a microdata perspective, there is some evidence from the All Three Zones project to support his time there despite his overall poor outputs offensively. For instance, in games tracked last season, Howden ranked in the top 10 percent of the league’s forwards in shot assists in the offensive zone and shots taken off of passes from a high danger area. Howden has never eclipsed 10 goals in a season or more than 24 points, but the path to doing so seems fairly easy if he can stay in the lineup. Ultimately, Howden’s best work is in maintaining possession in difficult areas of the ice and being a strong defensive presence. Fresh off of a new, two-year contract worth a total of $3.8 million dollars, Howden will be looked at to provide a spark and potentially a few more points than he has previously.

Michael Amadio

Amadio is a former waiver pickup that earned a new contract with the Golden Knights and showed the rest of the league why they trusted him with that deal as this season wore on. Amadio set highs in every bucket and put down 10 points in 16 playoff games. Briefly scratched in the post-season during a scoring drought, Amadio returned to the lineup and finished out the run on a positive note. Amadio’s defensive performance has always been strong, but he’s gone from being slotted as a specialist in that bucket to having much more to provide offensively, especially from a goal-scoring department. Amadio both gets to scoring areas himself and sets up teammates with an increasing level of effectiveness. As a result of this offensive boost, his overall Wins Above Replacment total fell in the 79th percentile of NHL forwards per JFresh Hockey’s data. Amadio was third on the Knights among forwards in primary shot assists per hour at even-strength. Amadio was deployed in a fashion that gives you the sense he may be in line for more ice time and responsibility this season given that he has provided a moderate boost to the Golden Knights offense and defense over the last two seasons.

William Carrier

Carrier had never scored double-digit goals prior to the 2021-22 season but ended last year with a total of 16 goals in 56 games played. He contributed six points in 18 games to the Stanley Cup win. Carrier’s big body and strong style of skating made him an extremely difficult player to handle in the Vegas system. Carrier had the best expected-goal share of any Golden Knights forward with at least 500 minutes played at even-strength with over 56-percent of the quality scoring chances going his way. Per the All Three Zones project, Carrier was in the 90th percentile among NHL forwards with regard to scoring chance generation and in the 91st percentile regarding his ability to generate shots off of the rush. For as good as Carrier’s offense was this year, his defense kept up the same pace. While he isn’t a special team’s player for the Golden Knights, his ability to press the play forward, contribute to offense, and be an impactful defensive player make him a forward that the defensive staff trusts to deploy in a variety of fashions.  Last year was an anomalous result to his finishing ability, but if he can continue to score goals in the double digits, it will be a huge boost to the depth scoring for the Golden Knights.


Alex Pietrangelo

Alex Pietrangelo put in a dominant offensive season for the Golden Knights en route to his second Stanley Cup. Pietrangelo hit a high-water mark of 54 points in 2021-22, which tied his career best that he established in 2017-18 with St. Louis. He followed the regular season up with a playoff performance that saw him register 10 points in 21 playoff games and finish the run with the highest expected goals for rate among any Golden Knights defender in the post-season. Pietrangelo is still among the best defensemen in the league at confidently skating the puck out of the defensive zone and pressing in the offensive zone to generate additional chances and shooting opportunities. He creates offense against the other team’s best players and takes some of the most difficult assignments the Knights defensive unit has to offer. Per the All Three Zones project, he was in the 89th percentile of league defensemen with regards to his ability to generate exits out of the defensive zone. Pietrangelo is not a strong defensive player but is not the liability defensively of some of his offensively-minded counterparts across the league. Overall, Pietrangelo will continue to take tough minutes for Las Vegas and translate them into offense. He will take minutes at even-strength, power-play, and on the penalty kill, truly making him a player that can be deployed in any fashion and the leader of the Knights defensive unit.

Shea Theodore

Theodore was one of the league’s most dangerous offensive defensemen last year and the only member of the Golden Knights blueline who out-paced Alex Pietrangelo with regard to zone exits last season. With Theodore, you know what you will get: a defenseman that joins the rush, acts as a fourth forward, pinches offensively, and takes risks all over the ice surface. The proof is in the pudding as he had 41 points in 55 regular season games with an encore performance of 13 points in 21 playoff games. Theodore’s offensive impact this season was in the 97th percentile of NHL defensemen per JFresh Hockey. The All Three Zones project had him in the 93rd percentile for shot contributions and rush offense. With Theodore, the defensive impact is where the issues arise. Theodore is often simply non-existent for transition defense given his role as an offensive defenseman. Within the zone, he’s best served in his ability to find his way out and provide the offense with a boost. Despite his offensive skillsets, he trailed his peers on the team in power-play contributions to shot and chance generation. Expect Theodore to continue to push the limit offensively and focus on the contributions to transition offense and creating chances off of the rush.

Alec Martinez

Martinez is a more defensive-minded defenseman who takes difficult deployments for the Golden Knights and settles them down. Martinez saw his defense and its on-ice impacts grow by leaps this season. When the regular season finished, he had the 2nd highest expected-goal share of any defenseman on the team. Martinez’ 244 blocked shots lead the rest of the NHL’s defensemen by a significant margin. His blocked shot rate in 2012-22 was the highest of his entire career. Martinez played a large role in the Golden Knights penalty-kill and was a reliable presence in that environment. He doesn’t handle the puck a lot, but when he does, it’s with confidence and success. Martinez posted his lowest number of giveaways and highest number of takeaways since the 2018-19 season.  Martinez seemed to thrive in the defensive zone but had a larger number of struggles in transition. With regard to his ability to mitigate zone entries with possession, he was in the 26th percentile of NHL defensemen. Expect Martinez to continue to make the most of difficult defensive situations and take on a larger share of even-strength ice time this season. Martinez should continue to act as Pietrangelo’s safety on the top defensive pairing for the Golden Knights.

Brayden McNabb

Brayden McNabb was an underrated, stay-at-home style defenseman who gained bigger notoriety this year on a national stage due to his repeatedly solid performances in the spotlight of the playoffs. McNabb is physical, protects his own zone extremely well, and is the perfect balance for an offensive-minded partner like Shea Theodore. McNabb is very limited in his ability to handle the puck but due to his partner that hasn’t needed to be his focus. Per the All Three Zones project, McNabb had the highest rate of zone entry denials from opposing forwards and that is certainly where he is at his best. He keeps a strong, aggressive gap at the defensive blueline and is physical in his approach. His long reach enables him to force forwards to make uncomfortable decisions. All Three Zones data had him in the 92nd percentile among NHL defensemen regarding his ability to stifle scoring chances from zone entries. His limited mobility hurt him more on the penalty kill where he has a larger area of ice to cover and more loose puck races to engage in. Overall, the Golden Knights will once again look to McNabb to be a quiet, stabilizing presence within their top four defensive unit.


Logan Thompson

Perhaps no one has been a more pleasant surprise than the undrafted Logan Thompson of the Vegas Golden Knights, who went from being an overager in the WHL to a year of college hockey up in Canada to a minor league-only deal – and finally to the NHL, where just three years after first getting his chance with the Golden Knights, the unlikely team hero found himself with his name on the Stanley Cup.

Thompson was one of the too-many goaltenders that Vegas saw suffer injuries last season, so he’ll need to prove he can stay healthy this upcoming season. But he boasts a lot to love about his game; he’s taken a long-standing willingness to do anything to stop the puck and cleaned up his game reads as he’s gone along, sharpening his positioning so he no longer needs to course-correct as frequently as he used to. Combined with a more conservative base position than fellow former WHL-er Adin Hill, that makes Thompson the goaltender in Sin City who’s less likely to elevate blood pressures and allow open holes. His instincts aren’t quite as top-tier as Hill’s, which makes for a nice tandem of goaltenders that each offer unique strengths in the Vegas net. But ultimately, the affordability of Thompson’s deal with the team alongside Hill’s make it hard not to marvel at just how lucky the team got with their pairing.

Projected starts: 40-45

Adin Hill

The Vegas Golden Knights didn’t exactly see goaltender Adin Hill put up the kind of wunderkind numbers one might have hoped for from a relatively young reclamation project, especially one moving from a pair of rebuilding teams to a playoff contender. But while Hill wasn’t exactly a Vezina candidate during his first year in Vegas, he was exactly what the team needed him to be – just better than league average, and able to avoid any meltdowns statistically en route to the team’s alarmingly fast championship win. In fact, Hill – who doesn’t always play the most technically sound game, but can make acrobatic saves look easy and snag pucks that smaller-statured goaltenders only dream of – managed to put up a clutch postseason performance that helped his team secure their win; he might not have been a Vasilevskiy or a Shesterkin during the year, but he was certainly good enough to get it done when he needed to most.

Hill’s reliance on lightning-fast reflexes and his above-average agility levels, combined with his impressive size and reach, can be both a blessing when he snags last-second pucks and a curse when he does too much and opens up holes that he doesn’t need. But he proved last season that when given more stability up front, he’s got the ability to be consistent enough to rely upon as a starter. And for Vegas, who have him signed to a team-friendly deal that doesn’t require too much commitment on their end, that’s more than good enough.

Projected starts: 35-40