We’re less than a month away from the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, so let’s take a gander at how things should shape up for the Central Division.
The Tampa Bay Lightning clinched the first postseason berth this season, Quinn Hughes signed his entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks, Shane Wright was granted exceptional status and the DTFR Duo presented the first few individual season awards.
*Zach Boychuk wasn’t actually on… …this time around, anyway.*
Vegas Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee made the biggest splash at the annual NHL Trade Deadline, acquiring Mark Stone and Tobias Lindberg from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Erik Brannstrom, Oscar Lindberg and a 2020 2nd round pick (originally belonging to the Dallas Stars).
In the grand scheme of things, Ottawa completes the circle of assets for Marc Methot, as the Golden Knights claimed the defender from the Senators in the 2017 Expansion Draft, then traded Methot to the Stars for Dylan Ferguson and a 2020 2nd round pick.
Oh, also, the Sens got rid of their top three scorers in a span of three days leading up to and including the deadline day itself.
But for Vegas, Stone, 26, joins the Golden Knights riding a career-high 28 goals and 34 assists (62 points) in 59 games played this season. He’s reached the 20-goal plateau in five consecutive seasons and had a career-high 42 assists last season, amassing 20-42–62 totals in 58 games.
Short of Alex Ovechkin‘s ability to score almost 50 goals a season for the last decade (basically), Stone is perhaps the most consistent goal scorer– and he’s only just reaching the arch of his prime.
As such, Vegas was quick to get Stone to agree to terms on a contract extension that he cannot technically sign until March 1st. The expected deal will be an eight-year contract worth $9.500 million per season, as first reported by TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
Stone has 123-188–311 totals in 366 career NHL games with Ottawa and five goals and eight assists (13 points) in 27 career postseason games. He was originally drafted by the Senators in the 6th round (178th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft.
Should the Golden Knights start to peak at the right time, they’ll look to be as much of a force– if not better– than they were last season in their run to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.
Tobias Lindberg, meanwhile, rejoins the Golden Knights family after previously being acquired by Vegas– along with a 2018 6th round pick– in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs for Calvin Pickard on Oct. 6, 2017.
The 23-year-old spent the entire 2017-18 season with the Chicago Wolves (AHL), but was later traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 23, 2018. On Dec. 5, 2018, Lindberg was once again on the move, this time being traded to the Senators.
He has appeared in six career NHL games with the Maple Leafs during the 2015-16 season and recorded two assists in that span. He had 5-7–12 totals in 34 AHL games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Belleville Senators this season.
While Oscar Lindberg, 27, is a current NHL roster player in the deal, the biggest piece in return to the Senators is Brannstrom.
The 19-year-old defender was drafted by the Golden Knights in the 1st round (15th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and recorded seven goals and 21 assists (28 points) in 41 games with the Wolves this season.
He also had 2-2–4 totals in five preseason games for Vegas this season and most recently captained Team Sweden in the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship to a perfect 4-0-0-0 preliminary round record, while leading all defenders in the tournament in scoring with four goals in five games.
In the long run, Brannstrom might be the perfect replacement for Erik Karlsson (traded in the offseason to the San Jose Sharks) on Ottawa’s blue line as a puck moving, offensive minded, defender.
The elder Lindberg, on the other hand, is in his sixth professional season, having recorded 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 35 games this season for the Golden Knights.
In his career, Lindberg has 34-37–71 totals in 232 games with Vegas and the New York Rangers. He was claimed from the Rangers in the 2017 Expansion Draft by the Golden Knights and has three goals and two assists (five points) in 17 career Stanley Cup Playoff games.
He was originally drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes (now Arizona Coyotes) in the 2nd round (57th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft.
While Sens fans may be disappointed to see the last of their top scorers be dealt to a playoff contender, at least the return on the Stone deal was close to what it should’ve actually been compared to previous high-profile trades out of Ottawa.
Though they really could’ve gotten at least another draft pick, if not a first round pick in this deal for someone of Stone’s caliber.
Last season, the Winnipeg Jets added Paul Stastny from the St. Louis Blues for their deep run into the 2018 Western Conference Finals.
Though things came up short in five games to the Vegas Golden Knights– who would go on to sign Stastny in free agency– the Jets are ready to go at it again and push further.
This season, Winnipeg has acquired Kevin Hayes from the New York Rangers in exchange for Brendan Lemieux, a 2019 1st round pick and a conditional 2022 4th round pick.
The Jets’ 2019 1st round pick in the trade is Top-3 lottery protected on the off chance Winnipeg skids off the runway to the postseason over the next month. If that happens, the Rangers will receive Winnipeg’s 2020 1st round pick instead.
If the Jets win the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, then New York will receive Winnipeg’s 2022 4th round pick.
Hayes, 26, is a native of Dorchester, Massachusetts and has 14 goals and 28 assists (42 points) in 51 games this season for the Rangers. Hs has 87-129–216 totals in 361 career games with New York and was originally drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1st round (24th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft.
As with last season’s acquisition of Stastny, Hayes adds to the strength down the middle for Winnipeg’s top-six forwards, likely suiting up on the second line with Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers.
Hayes is a pending-UFA at season’s end with a cap hit of $5.175 million.
Lemieux, 22, has nine goals and two assists (11 points) in 44 games with the Jets this season and currently leads NHL rookies in penalty minutes with 64.
Originally drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2nd round (31st overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft, Lemieux made his NHL debut with the Jets on Oct. 20, 2017 after previously being dealt to Winnipeg on Feb. 11, 2015 as part of the Sabres/Jets Tyler Myers–Evander Kane trade.
In 53 career games, Lemieux has 10-2–12 totals with a plus-12 rating and 85 penalty minutes. He is a pending-RFA at the end of the season.
New York currently has five picks in the first two rounds of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, the Vegas Golden Knights (32-25-5, 69 points, 3rd in the Pacific Division) have 20 games remaining in the 2018-19 regular season.
These aren’t your father’s Golden Knights, as production is down from their inaugural season in just their 2nd season of existence.
Though Marc-Andre Fleury (29-18-5 record, 2.60 goals against average, .908 save percentage in 52 games played) remains Vegas’ starter on an almost nightly basis, backup goaltender, Malcolm Subban (3-6-0, 2.76 GAA, .912 SV% in 10 GP) has struggled to carry his own weight.
Despite bringing in Paul Stastny via free agency and Max Pacioretty via trade, the Golden Knights haven’t been immune to the injury bug this season.
Stastny and Pacioretty themselves have joined Reilly Smith and others throughout the lineup on the injured reserve or out of playing action for various points of the season.
While the Pacific Division title might be out of reach for Vegas this season, a divisional spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs is all but assured as long as the floor doesn’t fallout from underneath Gerard Gallant and his players.
Of note, the Arizona Coyotes are emerging once again with a late season push for the playoffs– and this time around, they’re doing it without their starting goaltender, Antti Raanta (out for the season due to injury).
Plus the Vancouver Canucks are still in contention and, well, that’s about it, realistically among Pacific Division teams that still have a chance for the last divisional spot and/or a Western Conference wild card berth.
Anyway, back to the Golden Knights.
Here’s a look at the latest Vegas forecast– keeping in mind there are many variables that can and will effect the final outcome, such as injuries and/or being called up, assigned, traded, lucky or unlucky.
This forecast is just an educated guess. It’s a glimpse of what could be or could’ve been by the end of the regular season.
As always, my degree is in communication– not math– and hockey is naturally steeped in context and holistic unpredictability. Nothing can account for sheer puck luck, the odd bounce or a blown call.
If a player reaches the expected outcome, they’ve met expectations. If said player exceeds the forecasted stats, they’ve exceeded expectations (naturally). Of course, if a player does not perform, then they did not live up to expectations.
On a game-to-game basis, whatever’s on the scoresheet can indicate general trends that can be further broken down into an educated forecast.
At best, it’s a guess. At worst, well, it doesn’t really matter– it’s not like Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee is reading this and making his roster decisions based on what’s here, right?
If he is, I’d like a job, please. Thanks.
Vegas Golden Knights Forecast Through 62 Games (20 Games Remaining)
Among forwards, Vegas’ consistent first line last season of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Smith hasn’t had as much consistent luck and skill this season.
Though Smith has battled injury this season, Marchessault remains one of the Golden Knights most consistent performers expected to lead his team in goals (25) and points (54) with 25-29–54 expected totals.
Now what about Karlsson?
Good question, what about him? Things haven’t gone exactly as planned in terms of capitalizing on his breakout season last season with a new contract in the offseason and higher expectations for this season.
Karlsson’s bridge, one-year, extension last summer coming off the backs of a 43-goal season has only managed 18 goals thus far– including four goals in the last 22 games for the Golden Knights.
Given his current trend, Karlsson is expected to amass 21-23–44 totals. He’d be tied with Pacioretty for 2nd place in expected goals (21) and 3rd in expected points (44) on the roster, but nowhere near the emergent star in the making that he was last season.
While he very well could bounce back– similar to Smith in nature, following a good-year, bad-year, good-year, bad-year pattern– the phrase “what have you done for me yesterday” won’t help him in his next contract negotiation this summer unless McPhee gives him the benefit of the doubt.
Meanwhile, Alex Tuch is expected to finish the season with a career-high 20-33–53 expected totals.
That’s comforting to hear for a team that needs to rely on secondary scoring in the midst of a recession in primary production.
Tuch is expected to lead in assists (33), followed by Smith (30) and Marchessault (29), while Marchessault is destined to lead in points (54) over Tuch (53) and Karlsson (44).
On defense, Vegas’ blue line will finish off the season being led by Shea Theodore (11-21–32 expected totals), followed by Colin Miller (30 expected points) and Nate Schmidt (25 expected points despite missing the first 20 games of the season while serving a suspension for testing positive for a performance enhancing drug).
In net, Fleury looks like he’s bound to break under the weight of all the minutes he’s been playing and will play this season. A 2.74 expected GAA and .909 expected SV% is not starting goaltender material, unless we’re talking about Sergei Bobrovsky with the Columbus Blue Jackets or something.
But it’s not like Gallant can really count on his current backup to offset some of Fleury’s load. Subban’s expected 2.70 GAA and .912 SV% isn’t tremendous either.
If anything, it’s an indication that McPhee could help bolster his team with the acquisition of an extra goaltender by the trade deadline.
Someone like Ryan Miller, 38-years-old, could help steal some crucial points for the Golden Knights down the stretch if the San Jose Sharks aren’t already in the process of completing a trade for the goaltender with the Anaheim Ducks.
Growing pains are a fact of life– especially in sports– and Vegas is going through puberty already in its 2nd season. This season’s been full of highs, lows and awkward phases that hopefully will end in a glow up.
Otherwise we’ll all be looking back at this season shaking our heads at how it could pull off that much denim or something back in the day.
Nick and Connor talk the latest trades, Torts drama (and latest record), Casey DeSmith’s extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins, as well as a tribute to the careers of Rick Nash and Josh Gorges who both announced their retirement this week.
Additionally, what’s up with the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues this season and why can’t they just pick a side? Plus, it’s time to hand out awards for being slightly more than halfway through the 2018-19 regular season. #FlamingNotToFlamingHot
It’s not the most recent forecast, since the Vegas Golden Knights played Game 41 of their 2018-19 regular season on Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings.
Nevertheless, it’s time to take a quick check of the pulse of the Golden Knights– how their season has progressed so far and where it appears to be going from here.
Thanks to some extenuating circumstances, perhaps Vegas fans will forgive me for not being able to get around to their quick forecasted glance after 20 games played this season.
Why? Because it would’ve been pretty dismal and you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
Although, now at the halfway mark (officially after the game against the Kings, technically unofficially as of this forecast), things have improved, but with a few concerns remaining.
Nate Schmidt served his 20 game suspension for a performance enhancing drug and for the most part, Vegas’ blue line got the job done.
The team’s record wasn’t desirable, but guys like Shea Theodore and Colin Miller continued to rise past expectations in their ability– even more so now that Schmidt is back and solidified the defensive zone for the Golden Knights.
One thing that has plagued the team all season is subpar goaltending.
Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t getting any younger and Malcolm Subban regressed quite a bit from his debut season as a backup netminder at the NHL level last season.
Managing playing time in the crease is something to keep in mind and we’ll take a closer look in a minute.
For now, Vegas stands in a divisional spot in the playoffs in the Pacific. Not nearly as dominant as last season, but keeping up with the legitimate(?) playoff contenders in an otherwise weaker division compared to the rest of the league.
Without further ado, here’s a look at the remaining 42 games (now 41) on the season and what to expect from the latest forecast.
Keep in mind, there are many variables that can and will change what goes down from now through the end of the regular season in April, like trades, injuries, general lineup changes, roster moves and anything else unbeknownst to the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that generates this forecast.
My degree is in communication– not math. It’s “not my fault”.
If a player meets the forecasted stats, then they’ve met expectations. If they exceed their forecasted stats, then they’ve exceed expectations.
And of course, if a player does not live up to the latest forecast, then something went awry (the player could’ve been injured, been unlucky or regressed– a.k.a. didn’t meet expectations).
Puck luck cannot be predicted, but general trends and estimated gut feelings can indicate a sense of what’s to come based on the results of each and every scoresheet night-in and night-out.
Vegas Golden Knights Forecast Through 40 Games (42 Games Remaining)
Every set of blessings comes with a set of curses and this year, that rings truer more than ever before for the Golden Knights. Of course, it’s only their second season in franchise history, but it’s still true.
William Karlsson (24-26–50 expected totals) is having a “down” year compared to last season’s breakout career-year of 43 goals and 35 assists (78 points). Reaching the 50-point plateau is still respectable, but doesn’t scream any guarantees of being on the first line should the postseason roll around.
Head coach, Gerard Gallant, has enough top-six forward depth to play around with if Karlsson starts to head south, considering Alex Tuch‘s expected 22-28–50 totals, Paul Stastny‘s expected 14-22–36 totals and Max Pacioretty‘s expected 21-22–43 totals.
Despite the ever-consistent qualities of Jonathan Marchessault (27-33–60 expected totals) and Reilly Smith (17-32–49 expected totals), this year’s Golden Knights team point spread is more spread out.
As it is, while Marchessault should lead in goals (27), assists (30) and points (60) and Karlsson should be second in goals (24) and points (50), one would think Smith would be second or third in whatever stats Marchessault and Karlsson aren’t leading in.
However, Tuch’s expected point outcome (50) is tied with Karlsson for the second-most points behind Marchessault and Tuch is expected to rank third on Vegas’ roster in goals behind Marchessault and Karlsson with Smith a distant 5th behind Pacioretty’s 21 expected goals this season.
While the offense isn’t as impactful from the forwards, the blue line has really come into its own in Vegas.
Shea Theodore’s expected 8-29–37 totals will be the best of his teammates and fellow defenders in a Golden Knights uniform, leading Colin Miller (5-27–32 expected totals) and Nick Holden (7-17–24 expected totals).
Nick Holden. That’s right. Holden is ahead of Nate Schmidt (5-18–23 expected totals) in the latest forecast.
But that speaks to Holden’s resiliency in his career and the chemistry Gallant has found in his pairing every night– coupled, of course, with the fact that Holden is seeing more time on the ice (in the literal “games played” sense) than he has the last couple of seasons with the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins.
He is a durable top-four defender that’s still in his athletic prime and it is exactly that kind of depth that can take teams deep into a Stanley Cup Final run.
In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury should land around a 2.61 goals against average and .911 save percentage in a season in which he has been overworked thus far.
He will continue to be overworked unless Malcolm Subban regains his footing, Gallant argues for calling someone up from the Chicago Wolves (AHL) or Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee makes an acquisition for a suitable backup option if all else fails.
Fleury has played in 35 of the 40 games up to this forecast. He’s since played in 35 out of the 41 games played by the club this season.
Subban has played in six games and is 0-5-0 in that span. His expected outcomes are a 2.76 GAA and .907 SV%– both below average goaltending the backup role.
Whereas if Vegas wanted to try Oscar Dansk or Maxime Lagace without the pressures of coming into the dressing room in an emergency recall situation– unlike last season– a little healthy competition for the backup role might nudge Subban in the right direction and take off some of Fleury’s workload.
It’s not that Fleury can’t handle 50-plus games anymore as a starting goaltender, but rather, it’s just that he shouldn’t be relied on for about 85% of the games in the regular season as is his current going rate.
Nick and Connor rant about retired numbers, anniversary patches, showing emotion in hockey, the Toronto Maple Leafs and William Nylander, coaches that might get fired, “the code” and Mike Matheson’s antics.
John Tavares and Patrice Bergeron both had hat tricks in the last week, so Nick and Connor discuss hat trick ethics and more, since celebrations are hot topics these days. Also, everything else that happened in the first week of regular season action.