The Vegas Golden Knights tough loss on Wednesday, Oct. 20 to the St. Louis Blues, made something clear. Coach Pete DeBoer needs to make changes to the Golden Knights’ lineup. Poor performances paired with several key players out with injury should warrant drastic action.
Offensive production needs to come from more than just the misfits line: Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith. Vegas’ defense must also stop failing Robin Lehner. With so many important players injured, the rest of the team should be playing to the best of their abilities to make up for them,
The first and second lines
DeBoer needs to put together four complete lines that stay as consistent as possible throughout this stretch. This was something that was an issue before Stone and Pacioretty went down with injury, however. Vegas seemed to have a solid top-six forward core, whereas the rest of their lineup was in constant rotation. With Stone and Pacioretty out, DeBoer was forced to butcher the bottom two lines to accommodate for their absence. Now instead of two lines struggling to build familiarity and chemistry, it’s three.
With the Misfits line being promptly made the top line, Chandler Stephenson was moved down to the second. Evgenii Dadonov makes perfect sense playing on Stephenson’s wing but DeBoer opted to deploy him on the left during Wednesday’s game against the Blues. Disregarding the fact that Dadonov has seen most of his success while playing on the right. This was seemingly done as a result of Dadonov being a left-handed shot and the team’s current lack of depth at left wing.
Despite the team’s lack of LW depth, DeBoer should play Dadonov in the position he is most comfortable with. It is not like Vegas is unfamiliar with players in the lineup playing on the opposite wing of their shot. Take the misfit line for example, Marchessault is a right-handed shot and plays on the left while Smith is a left-handed shot that plays on the right.
With Mattias Janmark returning to the lineup from COVID protocal, it would make sense for him to be on a line with Stephenson and Dadonov. Had he not returned to the lineup Vegas could have looked to call up a player from the AHL. The experienced Sven Bärtschi is one such option. With a goal and two assists in two games for the Henderson Silver Knights, Bartschi has shown to still be capable of putting up offensive numbers at a professional level.
The third line
Peyton Krebs and Nolan Patrick are both young players with massive amounts of offensive upside. For their talents to be fully maximized, they need to be supplemented with another offensively minded forward. Though Keegan Kolesar is a quality player in his own right, his style of play is not conducive to that of the linemates he was paired with in Wednesday’s game. Replacing him on the third line may be crucial for Krebs and Patrick to get going offensively.
There are a few AHL options for Kolesar’s spot on the third line. Lukas Elvenes, Paul Cotter and Jonas Rondbjerg are all quality players with offensive upside. However, with three goals in two games for the Henderson Silver Knights, Pavel Dorofeyev may be the best choice. With Krebs being a highly talented playmaker and Patrick being a strong two-way forward, Dorofeyev’s shooting capabilities may be the missing piece to their puzzle.
The fourth Line
Brett Howden did not have the best of debuts on Wednesday, generally looking out of place on Vegas’ fourth line. Jake Leschyshyn, on the other hand, has performed decently during his first two NHL games. However, this potential temporary roster rework does not have space for either of them.
Keegan Kolesar and Nic Roy would take their places on the fourth line with William Carrier. With Roy back to his natural position at center and Kolesar on the right.
Carrier, Kolesar, and Roy are strong skaters with an aggressive forecheck, all three playing with a certain level of physicality. Carrier and Kolesar especially play a very similar game and would compliment each other well.
Roy is a very versatile player who can adapt to different positions and styles. Despite this, he does seem to play at his best while at center position. Especially with prowess in the faceoff circle and his good instincts when it comes to the two-way responsibilities of the position.
This fourth line would have the potential to become a minute-eating powerhouse with the ability to chip in offensively from time to time.
Vegas’ defensemen have been mediocre at best and calamitous at worst for the first three games of the season. Alex Pietrangelo has been the team’s only relatively consistent d-man, despite his blunder in Wednesday’s game that resulted in St. Louis scoring their go-ahead/game-winning goal. In contrast, his partner, Alec Martinez, has looked rather subpar through the beginning of this season. Despite having recorded two assists, Martinez has struggled immensely in his own zone. Something that is highly uncharacteristic for the veteran. Perhaps altering the top two defensive pairings could be the solution for struggling players, such as Martinez. With him now being day-to-day with injury, a short-term replacement for him is now necessary. However, If he continues to struggle after he recovers from his injury, pairing him with someone else may be the solution.
Shea Theodore and Brayden McNabb have seemingly not been on the same page throughout Vegas’ first three games. Perhaps reuniting Theodore with Martinez upon the latter’s return, will help both of them get to the form they were in last season. Pairing Mcnabb with Pietrangelo may be a little bit of a stretch, but perhaps it may prove to ultimately be for the benefit of the team.
To avoid losing their spots in the lineup to other talented defensemen in Vegas’ system, Zach Whitecloud and Nic Hague need to prove that they are better. Especially with players like Dylan Coghlan and Daniil Miromanov vying for roster spots.
Robin Lehner was arguably VGK’s best player in Wednesday’s loss to St. Louis. The loss to the LA Kings prior to that could hardly be blamed on Lehner either. He is still the clear-cut starter for Vegas. However, as long as his teammates fail to perform in front of him, Vegas’ percentage will remain below .500.
Laurent Broissot did not look great after Lehner was pulled during Vegas’ game in LA. He’ll need to prove his dependability later on in order to ensure his position on the team long-term. Logan Thompson is a talented young goaltender for Henderson, and is making a strong case as to why he deserves a chance at the NHL level. If he proves to be a better backup option, Broissot’s tenure in Vegas likely will not last.
The Vegas Golden Knights are in a difficult position right now. Several star players that the team usually relied on are out with injury. Team management is now being forced to rely on an offensive depth core that has yet to prove itself. Other players on the team need to step up during this stretch of time to keep themselves above water. If they still have playoff ambitions, they can not solely rely on the team’s top-six forwards to score all of their goals.
DeBoer should be willing to experiment with Vegas’ lineup during this stretch. Activating the offensive capabilities of players like Krebs and Patrick should be at the top of his to-do list.
The Vegas Golden Knights are in free fall right now. Players other than just: Marchessault, Karlsson, Smith, and Lehner need to step up. Now more than ever does Vegas’ depth need to prove why they deserve their spots on the team.
Featured image courtesy of the NHL
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