Jack Eichel is the toast of Las Vegas right now, and rightfully so. But for as fun as it is watching the newest Vegas Golden Knight crank the siren to a raucous ovation at T-Mobile Arena, the surgery-bound star center won’t be suiting up for the black and gold for at least three months.
So, how about the rest of the MASH unit in Vegas? Eichel is far from the only Golden Knight who is currently missing in action. In fact, there are so many players in the organization currently on the sidelines that Nicolas Roy has stepped in as the de facto No. 1 center to play in the middle of Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith, while William Carrier has been bumped all the way up to the second line.
Even as the Golden Knights seem to be treading water nicely with three wins in their past four games, it goes without saying that a return to health from some of their key players would be welcomed. Sure, many returnees will bring about further cap finagling to be done by general manager Kelly McCrimmon, but it would be a worthwhile trade-off to get talent and depth back in the lineup.
Now seems like a good time to check in on Vegas’ lengthy injured reserve group and when Knights fans might be seeing them back on the ice.
Mark Stone (Lower Body)
The Golden Knights’ captain is back on the ice (from “Mark Stone skates with Golden Knights for 1st time since injury,” Ben Gotz, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 11/9/21)! But while Stone’s presence at practice on Tuesday was undoubtedly encouraging, head coach Pete DeBoer offered a buzz-killing outlook that “the finish line is still a ways out” for the return of the first-line winger.
Stone suffered the lower-body injury in just the second game of the season – a 6-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. He took a shot on Kings goalie Cal Peterson in the second period and immediately doubled over in pain, needing to be helped back to the locker room. While injury details have been sparse, he didn’t require surgery and now looks a little closer to returning.
Return Timetable: Unknown
Max Pacioretty (Fractured Foot)
Eichel’s out, Stone’s out and Max Pacioretty is out. For those keeping track at home, that’s the entirety of what is eventually expected to be Vegas’ potent top line on the sidelines right now.
Pacioretty fractured his foot while blocking a shot during the same nightmare-ish Kings’ tilt that brought on Stone’s injury. The break is unfortunate, but it does offer a more straightforward recovery layout for the 32-year-old former Montreal Canadien than Stone has encountered. That type of fracture typically warrants a six-week recovery timeline, which would keep him sidelined for another two weeks or so.
Return Timetable: Late November
William Karlsson (Fractured Foot)
Guess there’s a downside to having a slew of defensive-minded, two-way forwards after all. Like Pacioretty, William Karlsson suffered a broken foot while blocking a shot. The Swedish center’s injury occurred during the Golden Knights’ 5-4 win over Anaheim on Oct 29th, so his return will come slightly further down the line from Pacioretty.
The absence of Karlsson has left a big hole between Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault, although Roy has filled in admirably with a goal and four assists over his past four games. It’s possible that we’ve seen the last of that well-established second line, as cap constraints will eventually demand outgoing salary and it’s easy to imagine Smith, on an expiring $5 million deal, being cast off.
Return Timetable: Mid-December
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The silver lining through the dark cloud of any injury is the opportunity it presents for a player further down the lineup to prove themselves. But while Nolan Patrick really ought to be one of the chief beneficiaries of such an opportunity, particularly with the void left by Karlsson down the middle, he’s unfortunately also on the shelf.
Patrick hasn’t played since tallying his first goal for the Golden Knights in their 5-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. There aren’t many details available regarding the nature of the former Philadelphia Flyers’ injury, although it’s been identified as upper body and the 23-year-old has been placed on injured reserve. When he does come back, Patrick will need to prove his value with the Eichel trade deepening Vegas down the middle.
Return Timetable: Unknown
For a steady defenseman accustomed to operating under the radar, the last week of October was a surprisingly newsworthy one. During the Oct 22 loss to the Oilers, Zach Whitecloud was sidelined with an upper-body injury. Six days later, the injured blueliner had inked a new, team-friendly six-year contract extension with the Golden Knights.
Just days before putting his signature on the long-term deal, Whitecloud was forced to leave the ice after blocking a shot. Although the puck appeared to catch the 24-year-old in the hand, his absence has been blamed on a lower-body injury. Now, he’s once again back outside the spotlight waiting to be able to return to the ice. For now, he is considered week to week.
Return Timetable: Unknown
So there you have it. Not only a lot of banged-up hockey players, but also plenty of uncertainty surrounding when Vegas might be able to dress a fully healthy lineup. In the meantime, the remaining healthy Knights face the pressure of keeping the club afloat in the Pacific Division while McCrimmon determines how to eventually fit all these guys under the cap. Right now, that feels like a nice problem to have.
I may be a Leafs fan at heart (I’ve witnessed their highs and lows first-hand as a Scotiabank Arena employee), but I’m also a veteran freelance sportswriter who loves a good story. And there’s been no better story in hockey over the past few years than the Vegas Golden Knights. I’m excited to be covering the NHL again on the Golden Knights’ beat.