The summer is almost over and the Golden Knights are getting ready to defend their Stanley Cup! The good news is most of the core players are back for Vegas. You still have a young Logan Thompson, Jack Eichel, and crew hungry for another Stanley Cup.
But Vegas will have a massive target on their back, too. Keep in mind there are teams gunning for the Golden Knights, especially in the Pacific. Obviously, there’ll be teams like the Oilers and Kings. But the Seattle Kraken and the up-and-coming Anaheim Ducks will be hungry to win the division, too. In short, there should be more competition out west this season.
With that, there are some Knights who look to make an impact. It won’t be easy, but it helps to have some “knights in shining armor.” Here are three Golden Knights that are ready to shine in Sin City this upcoming NHL season.
Last season, Paul Cotter had 13 goals in 55 games, showing off why he’s a part of Vegas’s scoring depth. His contributions were paramount to the Golden Knights winning the Pacific Division. Granted, he didn’t have a presence in the Stanley Cup playoffs. But the former fourth-round pick has a chance to do so.
That’s due to him using his size and speed to his advantage. A sizable body that can score is a threat to any defender, after all. Another benefit of Cotter’s game is he’ll continue to grow offensively. If he scored 13 goals last season, imagine what he could do with more ice time.
Cotter will likely spend some time on the third or fourth lines this season. But knowing Bruce Cassidy, he’ll be open to making the necessary changes if things go awry. This is especially true if Cotter learns to move without the puck. Watch for the native of Canton, Michigan, to come through in a big way.
When the Golden Knights got Ivan Barbashev from the St. Louis Blues for Zach Dean, the move was meant to give Jack Eichel a partner in crime. Boy, did the Russian superstar deliver. In 23 games with Vegas, he scored six goals and notched ten assists on the top line.
As for Eichel? He was unleashed in the postseason, notching 20 assists in the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs. As a result, the Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup and finally brought gold to Las Vegas. Barbashev’s presence has brought out the best in Vegas’s prized superstar, making him into a versatile threat.
These aforementioned reasons are why the Golden Knights re-signed Barbashev to a five-year, $25 million deal this offseason. In a period where Vegas didn’t make any splashy outside signings, their biggest move was retaining a superstar that would’ve been swooped up without question.
Therefore, it’s imperative for Ivan the Great to continue to be… well, great. Whether it’s with Eichel on a two-on-one or with a man advantage, Barbashev must live up to his new deal. That way, the first line for the Knights can continue to be a dominant force.
Last year’s All-Star was out for an extended period of time, which left the Golden Knights in a pinch at goalie. However, Logan Thompson should be back with more experience under his belt. This season, he’s projected to be the starting goaltender and stay healthy this season.
But the central question will be, “How is Logan Thompson going to rebound from his lower body injury from last year?” Time will tell, of course. But as it stands, Thompson is beyond the benefactor in a goaltender-friendly system constructed by Cassidy.
Currently, Vegas has plenty of goaltender depth to cover for Thompson. That includes the Stanley Cup hero, Adin Hill, and upcoming prospects like Isaiah Saville. But the expectation is for Thompson to carry the load most of the season.
If Thompson can handle the pressure and stay active in front of the net, he’ll grab another All-Star bid for himself. That means playing at the top of the crease efficiently and using his 6’4″ frame to his advantage. That’ll also mean Vegas makes another deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs, possibly going back-to-back.
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