In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2019-2020 standings. I will first note some ongoing trends that are happening in the league. Goals scored per game went up for the fourth consecutive season (at 3.01 goals per game last year), shots against finally dipped last season to 31.3 per game after increasing for four consecutive seasons previously. It’s clear the league’s push towards offense is yielding its intended effect.
Fifteenth up are the Las Vegas Golden Knights who are in their 3rd season as an NHL team. They have made the playoffs in EVERY SINGLE YEAR that they have existed. All two of them.
2018 – 2019 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 15th
- Goals for Rank: 13th
- Goals against Rank: 10th
- PP Rank: 25th
- PK Rank: 12th
Projected 2019-2020 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 15th
- Western Conference Standings: 7th
- Pacific Division Standings: 3rd
- Coach: Gerard Gallant (3rd season with Golden Knights; 164-94-56 regular season; 16-11 playoffs; Career 246-197-4-45 regular season; 18-15 playoffs)
On offense, they are great at creating turnovers and generating shots. They had the 2nd most shots for in the NHL. They struggled on converting that into goals, especially on the Power Play where they were 25th. This was massively down from having the 10th best Power Play unit in 2017-2018 season. I think there was some carry to the home ice advantage during their first year; call it the Vegas Flu, call it the excitement and rally cry from the fans who had a new team, either way I think that came down to earth a bit in season two. Jonathan Marchessault who had a respectable year, William Karlsson came down from a 43 goal campaign to a more understandable 24 goal 56 point season. I think the Mark Stone addition gives them a very strong first line. Their second line is interesting with Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and Alex Tuch has a high ceiling and low floor between the ages, play styles and attitudes. Reilly Smith and Brandon Pirri give them great depth on offense.
Defensively, they are above average. They allowed the 5th fewest shots against in the league last season while also allowing the 10th most goals against. Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore are very strong, I like Brayden McNabb’s defensive positioning. Shea Theodore might just be a top 5 defensemen, I’m not sure yet and need another season to watch and have him show that it wasn’t a short term hot streak. He is young and put up 37 points including 12 goals (13th among defensemen), 202 shots on goal (9th among defensemen) and four power play goals (12th among defensemen). He is also just 24 years old and still has room to grow and mature.
In net, Marc-Andre Fleury was a foundational leader to the Las Vegas Golden Knights coming from the Pittsburgh Penguins where he won three Stanley Cups. I find it amazing he has played as well as he has the last two seasons. Last season he had a 2.51 GAA (13th in the NHL) and .913 SV% (21st in the NHL). Obviously given his stature on this team he carries more than just his stats in net but I expect more of the steady regression that we saw last season vs. his first season with the Golden Knights from Marc-Andre in the future. They showed two years ago they could go five deep in the goaltending depth chart and still produce decent results so maybe Malcolm Subban will see some more time.
Behind the bench, Gerard Gallant is an interesting tale to me. He struggled with an early Columbus Blue Jackets team (who was not overtly talented), he had a sizable up and down two years in Florida where he went from last to first in his first two years only to be fired 22 games into his third year where the team sat at .500. Then he comes to Las Vegas and instantly takes his team to the finals, and then repeats it with another playoff trip. I think he has learned quite a bit over the years and really implemented decades of experience. I like the system he runs and think it bodes in an excellent fashion come playoff time, the big question is how much it could wear on a team over the course of 82 games.
- Mark Stone
- Colin Miller
Prospects and Picks
Cody Glass — Taken with the 6th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Cody was one of Las Vegas’s three first round picks (the other two being Nick Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom). He spent most of last season in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks only spending six games in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves where he scored three goals and had five points in the regular season before going on and scoring seven goals and 15 points in 22 playoff games. He was one of seven WHL players to make the 2019 National Team Canada Junior team.
Sleeper Fantasy Asset
Jonathan Marchessault — He’s 28, right in the prime of his career, fresh off a year where he had 27 goals and 75 points alongside William Karlsson in 2017-2018 season. Last season he scored 25 goals with 59 points and while it’s not massive, I think he rises back above 70 points this year now having Mark Stone on his line.
Cap Situation: (per CapFriendly)
$80.4MM Spent; $1MM in Cap room; 22 players signed.