Vegas has been on a wild ride since its miraculous Stanley Cup run in its inaugural season. Once the NHL’s darling, life hasn’t been too kind to the Vegas Golden Knights. Playoff exits, a lack of a star center, and controversial moves have turned the Knights into the NHL’s resident bad guys.
Of course, that changed with Jack Eichel coming to town from Buffalo since he hated the Sabres’ guts. Unfortunately, the former second-overall pick didn’t play until February, which resulted in the first missed postseason for Vegas. Can the Knights get back to the playoffs this season and finally bring Lord Stanley to Sin City?
Sick with playoff disappointment, the Golden Knights sacked Pete DeBoer and replaced him with Bruce Cassidy. The former Bruins coach specializes in special teams, which was a major weakness for the Knights last season (18.4% on the power play). The Bruins were consistently in the top ten on the power play, boasting a PP percentage of 20 or higher in all six seasons. Scoring more on the man advantage will be paramount to Vegas’s success.
Max Pacioretty was also traded to clear up cap space. That has been a lingering issue for Vegas in recent years, which was why Marc-Andre Fleury was traded to the Blackhawks last off-season. Of course, this didn’t sit well with fans, although they weren’t as outraged as when the former Vezina winner was traded.
Out came Pacioretty and in came Shea Weber, who’s still in the league, but out for the season. It’s hard to believe that Weber is still here, especially after being swapped for Evgeni Dadanov. Yet, it’s a trade that immediately backfired on the Knights. Adin Hill was brought in to provide goaltender depth for Vegas, who suddenly has a massive weakness at the position.
Also, the hot dog king himself is in Sin City! That’s right! Phil Kessel, the ultimate male specimen, is now a Golden Knight. He was a key part of those dominant Penguins teams in the 2010s and is always a thrill to watch. Now, Kessel is slimmed down and looking better than ever! The hope here is that Kessel boosts Eichel’s game the way he boosted Sidney Crosby’s.
Losing Robin Lehner for the season (hip) is going to sting, especially when he’s trying to fill the void left by Fleury. That’s why it’s vital for Logan Thompson to remain composed as the starter. He was a standout on the Henderson Silver Knights from 2020 to 2022, boasting save percentages of .943 and .920, respectively. The consequences will be that Vegas has no goaltenders, which will cause pain for Knights fans. Luckily, Cassidy has also dealt with this issue in Boston, which has led to six playoff appearances during his time with the Bruins. The 25-year-old Thompson should also be buoyed by a strong back check, led by Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore.
Another matter to consider is keeping Eichel happy. He’s the big get for the Knights and is in Sin City to win a Stanley Cup. Of course, that also depends on Eichel returning to his superstar form, which remains to be seen in Sin City. Granted, he did get disk replacement surgery. However, he must lead the team, especially with key players like Weber and Alec Martinez on the wrong side of 30 years old.
I’m going with a record of 44-30-8, which is good enough for 96 points. Why? I expect the younger stars like Nicolas Roy and Nicolas Hague to break out. While this is an older team, the Knights also have young stars that can contribute. That’s what should keep them in the playoff hunt for the year, especially if the back check can help out Thompson. However, Vegas will be bounced from the first round by Edmonton in six games.
Bold Roster Predictions:
If Vegas finds themselves as sellers at the trade deadline, I believe Martinez will be a piece to go. But also keep an eye out for Jonathan Marchessault, who’s also up in age.
Of course, the Knights have plenty of draft capital to make moves if they’re contending. They have two second round picks from 2024 to 2025 and four third round picks over the next three seasons. I believe they’ll be in play for a goaltender, particularly Connor Hellebuyck or Jonathan Quick.
One rookie that I’m boldly predicting to make the roster is Isaiah Saville (no relation to Dave). Yes, they have a logjam at goalies with Thompson, Laurent Brossoit, and Adin Hill. However, Brossoit was on the injured reserve for an undisclosed injury and Hill, while decent, isn’t convincing. Saville could step in should anything happen to the three goalies.