The Vegas Golden Knights are off and running with four wins through their first six games. Since a two-game hiccup against the Boston Bruins and Arizona Coyotes, the Golden Knights have riled off two straight wins, with commanding victories over the Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings.
Now while the 2019-20 season is still in its infancy, the Golden Knights are cruising and living up to a lot of the hype they generated heading into their third season. The club is playing strong at both ends of the ice, and while the playoffs are still roughly six months away, a chance of redemption certainly seems to be in the cards for Vegas.
Of course, all of this foreshadowing and optimism comes with the belief that several players are ready to take the next steps in their progression and lift their play to another level. Here are three players that, through the first handful of contests, are showing they’re primed to have a breakout season.
Stone likely isn’t the player that first comes to mind as far as players expected to break out. The 27-year-old has already shown he can dominate the game on both sides of the puck. Through his first five full seasons in the NHL, Stone has eclipsed the 60-point plateau four times, including a career-best 73 points across 77 games split between the Ottawa Senators and Golden Knights last season.
However, it’s his play with Vegas in the playoffs last season and through the first six games of this season that gives the impression that Stone still has another gear. He dazzled in his first playoff run with the Golden Knights last season, tallying six goals and six assists in just seven games. It was also here that the incredible chemistry between linemates Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty was truly put on display.
In just one round, the Golden Knights’ dynamic trio combined for a whopping 31 points. Now through six games, the three have combined for 23 points. Stone leads the way with his nine points, which are just three off the early league-lead. If this chemistry continues to fire at a similar clip, the team’s power play (which has an early success rate of 30 percent) remains hot, and Stone stays healthy, it seems like a mere formality that the former sixth-round pick will hit career highs in nearly all offensive categories.
Since becoming a regular NHLer two seasons ago, Nosek has really made a name for himself by doing all the little things well. He’s been among the team’s most trusted centres in the faceoff circle, with a success rate of 55.7 percent since 2017-18, the highest among all Golden Knights centres. Nosek has also been a regular on the Golden Knights’ penalty kill, a unit that through the first six games leads the NHL with a success rate of 95.5 percent, having allowed just 1 goal on 22 opportunities shorthanded.
Last season, Nosek set career highs in both goals and points with just 8 and 17 respectively, in 68 games. This season he already seems destined to eclipse those numbers. Through six games, Nosek has tallied three goals and an assist, thanks in large to a two-goal, one-assist outing against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 4.
In the early going, Nosek is averaging 0.6 shots per game more than he did last season and is averaging more individual scoring chances and high-danger scoring chances per game. Of course, he still remains slotted on the club’s fourth line so he will need to take advantage of the limited ice-time he’ll receive. But if he can continue to capitalize on his chances and create more with what he has, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see the Czech native eclipse the 20-goal threshold.
Call it a breakout, call it a great start, call it what you want, but Cody Glass appears to be on his way to a fantastic 2019-20 season.
The first draft pick in franchise history is off to a roaring start through his first six games in the NHL. He’s already landed himself a spot on the team’s second power-play unit and has quickly put himself on Calder Trophy watch.
Of course, none of this should come as a huge surprise as the 20-year-old has had success at almost every level of hockey he’s played. Last season he put up 69 points in 38 games with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. Then, once he made the leap to the American Hockey League, he recorded three goals and five points in six regular-season games and added another 7 goals and 15 points in 22 playoff contests.
Through the first six games, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which the Golden Knights would return the high-flying center to the AHL. However, early it’s become evident that Glass will need to improve on the opposite side of the puck. Glass has a 40.98 goals-scoring chance percentage and a 37.5 high-danger scoring chance-for percentage. In layman’s terms, the Golden Knights give up more scoring chances and high-danger scoring chances than they generate when he is on the ice.
That being said, Glass’ skills are evident. He has all the tools to produce at the NHL level: a great shot, vision, speed, and a high hockey IQ. Expect great things from the youngster this season.
Expectations are high or the Golden Knights this season, as many expect them to claim the Pacific Division title. The pressure will certainly be high on Vegas in just their third season, but with a strong nucleus of stars up and down their lineup and these three players expected to elevate their games, there’s no reason to think a second division title in three years is not attainable.
(Advanced Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick)