In this edition of Vegas Golden Knights News & Rumors, goaltender Robin Lehner appears to be ready to go for 2021-22, as he came into camp in great shape this season. In other news, his teammate in Mark Stone was forced to leave Sunday’s preseason tilt versus the San Jose Sharks due to injury. Meanwhile, management was able to sign Daniil Chayka to an entry-level deal. Last but not least, Colorado Avalanche’s Mikko Rantanen was complimentary in a recent interview towards the style of game the Golden Knights play.
Lehner Slimmed Down
Over the past years, Lehner told media that he had been heavy. (from ‘David Schoen: ‘He look’s awesome’: Lehner trimmer, faster as Knights open camp’ , Las Vegas Review Journal , 09/24/21). The 30-year-old said that while he could continue to play at that weight, for now, it left him more open for injury, and may have affected his long-term future in the league, which is why he decided to make the change.
“People can debate it, but the last three years I’ve been heavy,” Lehner said. “Here in Vegas they like it flashy, so I need to be a little faster. We’ll see what I can do.”
Lehner said he has once again been doing MMA training, something he did a ton of prior to the 2016-17 season, one in which he put up a very impressive 2.68 goals-against average along with a .920 save percentage on a struggling Buffalo Sabres roster. His hard work is paying off, as his head coach Pete DeBoer said he could tell immediately upon seeing him that he trained intensely this offseason.
“He looks awesome. You can tell how hard he worked,” said DeBoer. “I didn’t see him all summer. He walked in the door, looked like a different guy. So you can see he’s put in the work.”
The pressure will be on Lehner, who is the undisputed number one in Vegas now after the team chose to trade fan-favorite Marc-Andre Fleury this offseason. He has proven in the past that he is capable of being one of the league’s best starting goaltenders, and there is no reason to expect anything else in 2021-22 playing behind what should be one of the league’s best teams.
Stone Leaves with Injury
On Sunday in a preseason game against the Sharks, Stone was forced to leave the game early after taking a puck to the side of the head (from ‘Jesse Granger: Potential injuries are Golden Knights’ biggest concern after preseason loss to Sharks’ , The Athletic, 09/27/21). The 29-year-old didn’t return to the game, which caused grave concern from the Golden Knights’ fanbase, however, DeBoer didn’t appear to be too worried in his post-game comments.
“I don’t think it’s anything serious,” DeBoer told media. “But you never know. Overnight sometimes, these things can get worse so we’ll see.”
Hopefully, that turns out to be the case, as the Golden Knights rely heavily on Stone, who is not only their leader but arguably their best all-around player. In 55 games last season, he scored 21 goals and a team-leading 61 points.
Chayka Signs Entry-Level Deal
On Sunday, the Golden Knights were able to sign Chayka to a three-year, entry-level deal. The 18-year-old defenceman was taken in the second round (38 overall) in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
Due to the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) season being cancelled in 2020-21, Chayka suited up for 11 games in the KHL with CSKA Moscow. He was able to chip in with a goal and an assist, which is very impressive for a player of his age. He is expected to return to the Guelph Storm for the 2021-22 OHL season.
Rantanen Believes Avalanche Need to Follow Golden Knights Style
Early into the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Avalanche were on a roll and had many thinking they would go on to win it all. That never ended up being the case, as they were eliminated by the Golden Knights in the second-round despite having a 2-0 lead in the series. The 24-year-old Rantanen believes he knows exactly why that was the case.
“We lost to their physicality,” the Finnish superstar said. “I think that’s my take from the series. Just the next step, we have to be ready for playoff hockey. It’s way different than regular season.”
This is an interesting quote from Rantanen, as it seems to suggest he believes the Avalanche did not have enough physicality throughout their lineup to compete with the Golden Knights last season. However, they were able to add some grit this offseason, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if we see these two meet up in the playoffs once again when the 2021-22 regular season has concluded.