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Vegas Golden Knights: The Cup defense begins

Oct 10, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights right wing Jonathan Marchessault (81) skates back to the bench after scoring a goal against the Seattle Kraken during the first period at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Vegas Golden Knights have been one of the league’s most successful regular season teams since entering the league, and heading into the 2022-23 season they were motivated by just missing the playoffs the season prior. It was a team that knew they would have a healthy Jack Eichel to start the season, and overall a pretty deep team with balance throughout the lineup. What they didn’t know is what a wild ride it would be for the goaltending, and how much a late offseason trade would impact the team’s fortunes. Entering this season the Golden Knights will have the majority of its core players back in the fold, with some youngsters looking to make their mark too, and they will look to defend the title it won back in June.

Key Additions / Subtractions

Out: Reilly Smith (F), Lauren Brossoit (G), Phil Kessel (F), Teddy Blueger (F), Nolan Patrick (F), Jonathan Quick (G)

This offseason saw some fan favorites depart the franchise like Reilly Smith and Phil Kessel. Some of the moves made were for salary cap reasons, and others because they no longer had a spot on the team. And for that reason there aren’t any new players who joined the organization externally, only potential players who could be promoted from within. The team will have Ivan Barbashev for the entire season and beyond, as the team signed him to a five-year contract extension after acquiring him at the trade deadline.


The Golden Knights are a very talented team, and one of their biggest strengths is balance in the lineup both at forward and on defense. Here’s a quick look at a projected lineup that includes players under contract with the team at full strength.

Ivan Barbashev — Jack Eichel — Jonathan Marchessault

Brett Howden — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone

Paul Cotter — William Karlsson — Michael Amadio

William Carrier — Nicolas Roy — Keegan Kolesar

Alec Martinez — Alex Pietrangelo

Brayden McNabb — Shea Theodore

Nicolas Hague — Zach Whitecloud

In the most recent playoff run, the Golden Knights collectively had a 66.73 GF%, a 47.88 CF%, and a 53.39 xGF% at 5v5. The team generated 3.65 goals per 60 minutes, and allowed just 1.82 against. This is a very impressive 22-game sample, and I’d expect this to be something that can continue this season. The poor Corsi number leaves some room for improvement, and the talent on the roster and waiting in the wings put this team in position to have another special season. Here’s a look at the construction of last year’s roster by GAR for a larger overall look.

In terms of weaknesses, the Golden Knights really don’t have one, but I guess you could say there’s potential concern when it comes to goaltending. This is because you wonder what the odds are that someone like Adin Hill, who just has the season of his life at age 27, is going to be able to do it all again.

He’s expected to be the main guy to start, and has a career line of 45-39-6 in 101 starts with a .910 save percentage and a 2.66 goals against average. This is nothing to sneer at, and the risk and potential weakness is that if he regresses the team will have that performance from a player making $4.9 million as opposed to the $2.175 million he made the year before.

The team does have Logan Thompson as the backup and the potential 1B if needed, but he has even less experience with a line of 31-18-6 in 57 games with a .915 save percentage and a 2.65 goals against average. Again, these aren’t terrible numbers at all, but it represents the one area of “weakness” relative to other teams in the league.

Biggest questions

To me there are a few big questions to ponder, none of which are easy to answer right now.

Will the goaltending be as good again?

How motivated/hungry will this squad be coming off a Stanley Cup win?

Could this be the last we see of Chandler Stephenson and Jonathan Marchessault as they enter their free agent walk year?

Star players

Jack Eichel led the team in scoring last season with 66 points in 67 games.

The Golden Knights are a team that has offensively gotten things done by committee, and fresh off a Stanley Cup win I think Eichel will use this season as an opportunity to have a career year offensively to remind the rest of the league that he’s an elite player.

After Eichel, I would say that Mark Stone is the only other true “star” forward with everyone else being a small step behind.

Stone had 311 points in 366 games with the Ottawa Senators, and since joining the Golden Knights he’s posted a line of 73-130-203 in 218 games. He’s had his fair share of injury problems which have limited his ability to have an impact, but he’s one of the league’s top two-way forwards. In the playoffs he looked like the Stone of old, and tallied 24 points in 22 games played. The Golden Knights are lucky to have someone like him, and they are hoping he has a big 2023-24 season.

On defense, Alex Pietrangelo is coming off a very strong season, a season that was much better than previous one.

He finished the season with 54 points in 73 games, and he would have been in position to set a career high in points except he had a brief leave of absence while his daughter had a health scare. Pietrangelo is a leader on the blue line for the Golden Knights, and someone they lean on. He will turn 34 in January, and the Golden Knights will look to get the most out of him while he still has some prime years left.

Under the radar player who could have an impact

Ivan Barbashev joined the Golden Knights at the trade deadline and fit in quite nicely by tallying a line of 6-10-16 in 23 regular season games. He came up big in the playoffs with a line of 7-11-18 in 22 games, and the team rewarded him with a 5-year deal that pays him $5 million a season and also includes a no-trade clause. The bet is that the Barbashev who showed up for the Golden Knights is the one they paid to extend, and not the one who was struggling in St. Louis. In 59 games with the Blues, Barbashev owned a slash line that included a 47.06 GF%, a 45.86 CF%, and a 44.06 xGF%. With the Golden Knights that line was 65.6, 45.6, and 50.94 respectively, with each being an improvement with the exception of puck possession. Barbashev has the potential to be a difference maker now that he has a permanent home, and it will be interesting to see how he starts the season.

Key rookie/youngster

Pavel Dorofeyev is a young player with the potential to be a wild card for the Golden Knights this season. Dorofeyev has shown some growth since coming to North America and could even have a bigger opportunity this season. He turns 23 in October, and there’s still a lot of time for him to grow as a player.

During the 2021-22 season, Dorofeyev appeared in 63 games with the Henderson Silver Knights, and posted a line of 27-25-52 during the regular season. Last season, he only appeared in 32 games and posted a line of 9-8-17, but also spent 18 games in the NHL with the Golden Knights. During that span he scored 7 goals and added 2 assists for 9 points in 18 games. Dorofeyev was also worth 2.2 goals above replacement per Evolving-Hockey, an impressive feat considering the limited number of games played.

Dorofeyev was praised for his skating ability, hands, and vision during his draft year, and was someone that scouts felt could be an impact player if he showed up every night. Compete level was something they questioned, and if he gets a chance to play in the top six, we know that Bruce Cassidy is a coach that holds players accountable and doesn’t just hand out opportunities. He’s one of the players I think Vegas has a lot of high hopes for to be a contributor for the immediate and long-term future, so he’s a top candidate for me here.

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