The Vegas Golden Knights have an interesting dilemma, they have too many decent centermen in their lineup. How is this a problem? Because they lack a number 1 centerman.
Though Chandler Stephenson has been good during his time as a top-line center, could other options be a better fit?
Good but Good Enough?
Stephenson is a speedy two-way player who has played well during his time in Las Vegas. The former Stanley Cup champion with the Washington Capitals has performed above and beyond expectations with Vegas.
When he was traded to the Golden Knights back in 2019 in exchange for a 5th round draft pick, not much was expected of him. He was a bottom-six player in Washington and was anticipated to be the same in Vegas. But in late 2020, the Golden Knights traded Paul Stasny to the Winnipeg Jets, leaving the top-line center position vacant. With prospects such as Cody Glass not yet ready to fill that role and William Karlsson being a better fit for the second line, Stephenson found himself playing top-line center minutes.
Since then he has played that position admirably. In the 2019-2020 season, he scored 22 points in 41 games with Vegas. And in the 2020-2021 season, he recorded 35 points in 51 games.
Though these are respectable totals they are not tallies you would expect from a top-line centerman.
A dynamic Duo looking to make a trio
Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone are both proven veterans and are top-line quality players. Their partnership made them one of the most effective duos in the league during the 2020-2021 season. Their chemistry also helped make Vegas’ top line the most lethal line in the league when looking at goals scored. Though when looking at individual point totals for each player there is a clear difference between Stephenson and his top line teammates. During the 2020-2021 season, Stone and Pacioretty were both point per game players while Stephenson was nowhere near that mark.
With the rumors that Vegas had been an active participant in the Jack Eichel sweepstakes, it appears their management recognizes this as well. Even though the Pursuit of Eichel proved to be a fruitless endeavor. The fact that they were looking for a player of his quality means they recognize their need for a top-line center.
Since they failed to obtain Eichel, Vegas management appears to be content with keeping Stephenson where he is. This seems to indicate that they are comfortable with him on the top line, at least for the time being. And why not? He has proven to be adequate in this position and a quality place-holder until a better option is found.
Taking a chance on young talent?
Of these other options, Peyton Krebs could be considered as a possibility. The prospect has a ton of potential and is capable of making the starting lineup for the upcoming season. It is likely he will be given an opportunity to prove himself at the NHL level early on. However, even if he makes the team it is not guaranteed that he is ready to play on the first line. But if he is, it is quite possible management jumps at the opportunity to have him center for Stone and Pacioretty.
The newly acquired Nolan Patrick is another potential option for the position. He struggled during his time in Philadelphia with performance and medical issues, both of which most definitely stunted his development. Hopefully the almost 23-year-old can rebound and make major steps towards reaching his full potential this upcoming season. If in training camp, Patrick shows promise in the role and develops chemistry with Stone and Pacioretty, management could look to him filling that role.
Featured image courtesy of the NHL
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