With Vegas Golden Knights training camp getting underway on Thursday, players and personnel from around the organization are heading down to City National Arena throughout the week in preparation for the upcoming preseason. The Golden Knights will play their first preseason game against the Colorado Avalanche on Sept. 25, with their regular season beginning on Oct. 11 against the Los Angeles Kings.
After an eventful offseason that was headlined by the departure of Max Pacioretty and Evgenii Dadonov, the Golden Knights are heading into the 2022-23 season with a new offensive look. Between landing Phil Kessel, entering their first full season with Jack Eichel, and managing a number of critical injuries, there are a lot of uncertainties in terms of how this lineup will look and perform.
Here are some of the most important narratives to follow, and why they have the possibility of making or breaking the Golden Knights this season.
Staying healthy has been an issue that has plagued the Golden Knights over the past few seasons, and it doesn’t look like that is changing anytime soon. General manager Kelly McCrimmon confirmed on the opening day of training camp that goaltender Robin Lehner and defenseman Shea Weber are not going to be playing this season, and added Nolan Patrick to that list as well. Patrick has unfortunately dealt with a list of serious injuries throughout his young career, and this is extremely tough news to hear for the former second-overall pick in the 2017 Draft.
Mark Stone is another major question mark for the Golden Knights. After missing most of the 2021-22 season and having back surgery in the offseason, he is actively participating in training camp in a red non-contact jersey. When at his best, he is an incredible two-way player that finds a way to make an impact at both ends of the ice, but right now, staying healthy is going to be his best ability. Stone has had continuous back issues dating back to his time in Ottawa, and monitoring his recovery closely will be a major priority for Vegas leading up to the regular season.
With the announcement that Robin Lehner will be missing out on the entirety of the 2022-23 season due to a necessary hip surgery, the Golden Knights went out and acquired Adin Hill from the San Jose Sharks in search for more insurance between the pipes. With the tandem prior to the trade being 25-year-old rookie Logan Thompson and backup goalie Laurent Brossoit, adding Hill to the mix makes for a solid trio of goaltenders who all could contribute until there is a duo that head coach Bruce Cassidy decides to go with.
All three of these goalies recorded 10 wins each this past season finishing with a combined 30-25-7 record between the Golden Knights and Sharks, with a combined .905 save percentage (SV%) and 2.74 goals-against average (GAA). While these numbers don’t instill a high amount of confidence in the current goaltending core, keep in mind that scoring across the NHL had drastically increased this past season, with a league-wide average of 3.10 goals-per-team per-game. This isn’t to say that these three goaltenders together should be considered above-average, especially considering the low workload they had, but more to showcase that Thompson, Brossoit and Hill should be an adequate trio to work with for the time being.
Despite having the least amount of NHL experience, Logan Thompson should be the guy that all eyes are on to start Game 1 of the regular season. He’s performed exceptionally well in the American Hockey League (AHL) over the past two seasons, most notably winning the Aldege Bastien Memorial Award for best goaltender in the league for the 2020-21 season after putting up a .943 SV% and a 1.96 GAA. On top of this, his limited but impressive showing at the NHL level shows that we could potentially have an intriguing competition in net moving forward.
The Jack Eichel experience as a member of the Golden Knights is about to finally get underway. While he managed to put up 25 points through the 34 games he played in the conclusion of the 2021-22 season, the stakes were not nearly as high as they are now.
After the blockbuster trade that sent Peyton Krebs and Alex Tuch along with a firs- and second-round pick to Buffalo last season, Eichel became Vegas’ highest paid player with a $10 million cap hit. This trade seemed to be a huge win for a Golden Knights team that was missing a true first-line center, and it still could be, but there are still things to be concerned about.
Despite the impressive regular-season resume that he has built over his seven years in the NHL on a lacklustre Sabres roster, Eichel has yet to make an impact on a team that contends in the postseason. While this was almost entirely out of his control, there is an expectation for him to be productive in the regular season, to be a major factor in leading them back to the playoffs, and to be an offensive contributor there as well. There’s no doubt that he is talented and capable enough to do these things, especially with the talent surrounding him, but it is a lot to ask. Especially for someone who has not been able to play a full 82-game season yet in his career.
With the regular season fast approaching, it’s only a matter of time before many of these questions will be answered. There is a lot of potential in this group to rebound and make another run in the postseason next spring, but there seem to be just as many reasons to believe that they may fall short. If there is one thing that’s for sure, it’s that the 2022-23 season is going to be an exciting one.
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Eric is a recent graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University’s Sport Media Program and is covering the Vegas Golden Knights with the Hockey Writers