It is no secret that last year’s Vegas Golden Knights season ended in disappointment. Having assembled the greatest lineup in their short history, many fans and hockey analysts slated the team as having the ability to go all the way to capture Lord Stanley’s Cup. Alas, a third-round exit at the hands of the Cinderella-story Montreal Canadiens was all that would come out of last season. That, and a Marc-André Fleury Vezina Trophy win.
Now, we can stay stuck in the past and talk about “what could have been,” or we can look forward, forget about last season, and discuss some of the events we can expect to take place in 2021-22. Compared to last season, the Golden Knights’ lineup looks about the same as it did last season, with the exception of trading away Fleury, and acquiring Nolan Patrick in exchange for Cody Glass.
With an almost identical lineup being put out onto the ice, as well as the NHL returning to its usual playing style (no more intra-division play only), I was curious about what the Golden Knights would be able to accomplish this season. After some in-depth thought, I came up with five bold predictions for the Golden Knights 2021-22 season. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in and analyze my five bold predictions for Vegas’ upcoming season.
Mark Stone Top 3 in Hart Trophy Votes
If it wasn’t for Connor McDavid’s absolutely ridiculous season last year, in which he scored a mind-blowing 105 points in 56 games, then I would have put Mark Stone into the conversation for the Hart Trophy. Although he didn’t play well enough towards the end of the year, his early-season play certainly had him in the conversation for the trophy awarded to the NHL’s most valuable player.
Last season, Stone potted home 61 points in 55 games and finished ninth in Hart Trophy voting, as he was only able to procure about 3.9 percent of votes (most of which were fourth and fifth place votes). As I said earlier, Stone enjoyed a marvelous beginning to his season but cooled off towards the end, and especially in the playoffs.
As the captain of this team, I’m expecting Stone to bounce back this season and deliver his best season yet. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him lead the team in points, as well as rack up a career-high in point totals (I’m predicting 75-90 points). If Stone can carry this team like all Golden Knights fans know he can, then I wouldn’t be surprised if he can eke out a top-three finish in the Hart Trophy voting.
Stone always plays with emotion and intensity, and if he can stay healthy, then expect him to want to make up for last season’s slow play towards the end of the season and carry this team to new heights.
Nolan Patrick Finally Establishes Himself
You can say all you want about the 2017 second overall pick; he’s had a lengthy injury history, he hasn’t done well with the minutes given to him, and he’s not a true first-liner. All of these up until this point are valid and should be considered. But what’s also worth considering is that the young center still hasn’t gotten a clean, fresh slate during his NHL career.
After a couple of “grim” years within the Philadelphia Flyers organization, Patrick has the chance to revive his career with the Golden Knights. Currently, he should slot into the third-line center role, as Mattias Janmark and Evgenii Dadonov are great scoring wingers he can feed. The Winnipeg, Manitoba native hasn’t had a bad career by any stretch of the imagination, as he has put up 30-or-more points in two of his three seasons, but for a number two overall pick, that’s a big underachievement.
The reason why I make this prediction is that everyone deserves a fresh start, even an underachieving second overall pick. The young center oozes potential, and I really do think that he can reach it as he gets a fresh start within this “misfit” attitude the Golden Knights have employed since their inception into the league.
As we said earlier, Patrick should occupy the third-line center role, which is the best spot he can get. The third-line center role allows him to play his game, create chances and opportunities but not feel as much as the pressure as top-six minutes would bring. I could definitely see Patrick having a season similar to the one Erik Haula had in 2017-18, where the Finnish center put up a career-high 55 points. Maybe the point total won’t be that high, but I can definitely see Patrick potting home 40+ points, as well as establishing himself as Golden Knights fan favorite.
Golden Knights Finish First in Goals For
Last season, the Golden Knights were flying high, potting home a total of 190 goals in only 56 games. That came out to an average of 3.39 goals for per game. Sadly, this wasn’t enough to occupy the first spot held by their division rival, the Colorado Avalanche. At the end of the season, the Golden Knights would end up finishing third in goals for on the season.
Last season there were a handful of games where the Golden Knights slacked off and many games where their offense took nights off and instead relied on the stellar play of Fleury to win the game for them. The Golden Knights have some of the best offensive weapons in the game, and in my opinion, have the best depth in the NHL. Their offense even stretches to their defense, as they have offensive superpowers such as Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore patrolling the blue line. It doesn’t hurt that Nic Hague has a bomb of a shot as well.
If the Golden Knights go out and give their all every single night of the season, then they should have no problem occupying the top spot for goals-for at the end of next season. With names such as Stone, Max Pacioretty, Alex Tuch, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, and Evgenii Dadonov occupying spots in the lineup, it would be hard to argue against it.
Pete DeBoer Is Fired Mid-Season
As we have seen over the past few years, there are many ups and downs that come with an 82 game schedule. Although I do think the Golden Knights will go on to have great success next season, I do see some roadblocks up ahead, particularly with their head coach, Pete DeBoer.
From the team heavily faltering in the playoffs last season to DeBoer not allowing Cody Glass to get the proper minutes to try and establish himself, it seems his time is running thin, and that his way of doing things is even thinner. I honestly think his coaching strategy runs out this year, and that Vegas management will have seen enough. Hopefully, the Golden Knights can go on a run like the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins did after they fired their coach.
Alex Pietrangelo Wins the Norris
It’s no surprise that Pietrangelo has long been a marquee NHL defenseman. However, he has been snubbed for the Norris Trophy more times than not. Having crossed the 50-point mark four times in his career, it has been a huge surprise to me that he hasn’t even received consideration for a Norris Trophy in his career.
Last season Pietrangelo’s production slowed down, as it looked like he was trying to get accustomed to his new surroundings in Vegas. Nonetheless, his slow regular season play paved the way for him to enjoy one of the finest post-season performances I have seen from him, as he potted home 12 points in 19 games and was often the best player on the ice for the Golden Knights.
If Pietrangelo can get back to his usual high-scoring ways and use the momentum from last year’s postseason, then I believe he is a shoo-in for the Norris Trophy. In the past eight years, the Norris Trophy has been won by a defenseman who can score upwards of 50 points in a season, and he is more than capable of doing that. That, paired with his innate defensive ability, will allow the former St.Louis Blues captain to fight for a spot in the Norris Trophy voting system.
Some smaller predictions I have are that the Golden Knights will end up winning the division, as well as the team making a deep playoff run next season. And there we have it, my five bold predictions for next season.
What do you think of these predictions? Are they feasible? What are some of your predictions? Let me know in the comments below!
Michael Vidakis is a Montreal native who writes for the Vegas Golden Knights team here at The Hockey Writers. In his spare time, he enjoys the finer things in life such as Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, staring aimlessly outside windows and tangerines.