Golden Knights 2022 Season Preview

  • October 12, 2021, 01:02 PM (update October 12, 2021, 01:15 PM)
  • Daniel Randolph
The Knights go into season five with expectations of a Stanley Cup or Bust.

The Vegas Golden Knights are coming into half a decade since its inception in the National Hockey League. Most expansion teams take a few years to get their footing, but Vegas was different.

They have found great success for an expansion team, making the playoffs in each of their first four years. Three of those seasons found them within the final four left in the playoffs, last year included.

The Knights have their eyes set on finally claiming the Cup after a disappointing ending to last year's bid, losing to the Montreal Canadiens in devastating overtime. They will have to do so with changes to key pieces to the core of the team.

The story of the offseason was the departure of face of the franchise Marc-Andre Fleury. The 17 year NHL veteran was a fan favorite for Vegas but was traded away to the Chicago Blackhawks for salary cap reasons. 

The loss of the reigning Vezina Trophy winner is certainly a big hole for the team to fill, especially for a team with deep playoff aspirations. Backup Robin Lehner will slide into the starting spot, a role he hasn’t held full time since 2018.

Lehner was given a 25 million dollar deal over the 2020 offseason, so the team has a belief that he can perform. 

“Robin’s our rock. He’s proven that since he’s been here,” right wing Mark Stone said. “It’s a big opportunity for him. I know he’s going to take it and run.”

While the goalie situation is in the midst of a transition, the rest of the core is staying in place. The Knights still boast one of the deepest forward rotations, which helped lead them to being the third highest scoring team in the entire league.

The duo of Stone and Max Pacioretty are back and hope to have the same dominance they have shared the past two seasons. The two have occupied the roles of being the top scorers for the Knights in back to back years and all signs point to Vegas leaning on the duo again. 

The depth continues on, with the likes of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith. The Knights will be without Alex Tuch to start the year, as he was placed on the long term injury report after getting surgery on his shoulder. The injury is expected to keep Tuch out until December.

Even after ranking as one of the best offenses in the league during the regular season, the Knights did have their struggles. They ranked in the bottom-10 in powerplay efficiency, which accumulated in the playoffs where they had a power play percentage of only 9%.

To address these issues, the Knights dealt defenseman Nick Holden and a third round draft pick to the Ottawa Senators for Evgenii Dadonov.

Dadonov is coming off a down season on the Senators, but was an offensive powerhouse in his time with the Florida Panthers. In his final three seasons in Florida, he scored 81  goals, with 25 of them coming on the powerplay. The Knights hope that his arrival can help with fixing their poor power play efficiency.

Las Vegas made another trade in the offseason, acquiring former number two overall pick Nolan Patrick from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Cody Glass. Patrick is coming off a 2020 campaign that saw him miss most of the year due to migraines.

The trade is a buy-low move for a young Patrick who has the tools to be a solid center for  a Knights team that has never strongly prioritized the position. General Manager Kelly McCrimmon coached Patrick in the Western Hockey League, so the reunion could shape up for Patrick to turn his career around in Vegas.

Another area the Knights shine in is their defensemen lineups, which lead them to boasting the top goals against rate in the league with only 122. 

A first line led by Alec Martinez and Alex Piertrangelo is one of the best in the league. Being backed up by Brayden McNabb and Shea Theodore makes this group the gold standard in the league.

Even with the big departure of Fleury, the Knights still come into the season as one of the favorites to win it all this year. The Pacific division is one of the weakest in the league, so the Knights should be expected to run away with it. It is the competition after that that is the real test.

The pieces are all still there for the Knights with the Stone and Pacioretty duo leading the way. It comes down to if the Knights can improve their powerplay performance and Lehner can fill in the gap left by Fleury in front of the net.

If those things can’t be shored up, Vegas could be in store for another disappointing playoff exit. On the flip side, if things fall in the Knight’s favor and the defense can stay at the level it has been at, this could be the year the Cup is finally hoisted by Sin City.

Team Floor: Second Round Exit

Team Ceiling: The Cup Championship

Daniel Randolph

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