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Grading Golden Knights through ‘1st period’ of season

Updated December 13, 2021 - 1:47 pm

The Golden Knights sit exactly in the middle of the NHL’s standings one-third of the way through their fifth season.

Their 16-11-0 record and .593 points percentage ranks 16th, fourth in the Pacific Division and eighth in the Western Conference. It’s not where the team wants to be.

It’s disappointing that the Golden Knights, the Westgate SuperBook’s preseason co-Stanley Cup favorite, are barely clinging to a playoff spot through 27 games.

But it’s also remarkable that they would still make the postseason after the first two months they’ve had. Injuries and COVID-19 protocol-related absences have forced the Knights to use 33 players, two off the team record. They have survived despite going long stretches without key players.

Their start, while not spectacular, also hasn’t put them in a deep hole with 55 games to go. The Knights are only five points back — with three games in hand — of the Pacific-leading Anaheim Ducks. All their goals are still well within reach.

With that in mind, here are their grades for the first third of the season:

Forwards

Listed by points

Center Chandler StephensonHis four-assist performance Sunday gave him 26 points in 26 games. His career high is 35, which he set last season. He continues to show he has as much talent as anyone on the Knights.

Right wing Reilly Smith — The pending unrestricted free agent is on pace for a career-high 30 goals. He’s bounced back nicely from a down season despite speculation about his future.

Right wing Mark Stone — He’s fourth on the team in points with 19 despite missing 12 games. He’s a point-per-game player at even strength alone (16 points in 15 games).

Left wing Jonathan Marchessault — His consistency shouldn’t be overlooked. He has at least a point in 12 of the Knights’ last 16 games.

Left wing Max Pacioretty — His start to the season, despite a broken bone in his foot that caused him to miss 17 games, has been spectacular. He has 10 goals in 10 games. That’s one off the team lead and is tied for the 41st-most in the NHL.

Right wing Evgenii Dadonov — He hasn’t made his mark on the power play, where he has three points. But his 24-goal pace means he’s still providing the scoring impact the Knights were hoping for when they traded for him.

Center Nicolas Roy — He’s already two points away from his career high of 15. He fared well moving into the top six for a stretch. That development is key for the team’s center depth.

Left wing Mattias JanmarkAn early bout with COVID-19 affected his conditioning, but lately he’s looked more like the speedy player the Knights acquired last trade deadline. He has seven points in his last 11 games.

Center/right wing Keegan Kolear — He’s been effective at times, but his finishing holds him back. He has one goal on 39 shots for a 2.6 shooting percentage. The NHL average this season is 9.3 percent.

Left wing William Carrier — His offense has ticked up with six points in 19 games. The Knights are plus-three with him on the ice at five-on-five, which is tied for the fifth-best mark among the team’s forwards.

Center Brett Howden — He’s been decent in the 18 games he’s played with five points. He’s injured and likely will have to fight for a lineup spot when he’s healthy.

Center William Karlsson — He has played only 12 games thanks to a broken foot and has five points. A key for the Knights is getting him back up to speed.

Right wing Michael Amadio — The waiver claim seems to have found a groove on the fourth line, with three points in his last six games. His shot has impressed.

Right wing Jonas Rondbjerg — He looked good his first 13 NHL games and scored four points. It wouldn’t be surprising if the rookie got another look at some point.

Center Jake Leschyshyn — He averaged 12 minutes of ice time his first 18 games, the most among players who made their NHL debuts this season and more than several veterans. It shows the trust he earned from the coaching staff.

Left wing Paul Cotter — He scored two impressive goals in his first six games. He’s sure not lacking for confidence.

Center Adam Brooks — The waiver pickup has one goal in five games. He’s fighting to stick on his third NHL team this season.

Center Nolan PatrickThe offseason trade acquisition played four games and scored a goal before suffering an upper-body injury. It’ll be interesting to see how he fits once he’s healthy.

Left wing Sven Baertschi — The depth signing appeared in one game Nov. 18 against Detroit.

Left wing Peyton Krebs — He played nine games and didn’t score a point before being traded to Buffalo. He has 16 points in 14 games with the Sabres’ American Hockey League affiliate.

Left wing Ben Jones — He played two games thanks to the team’s absences but averaged just 8:03 of ice time per game.

Left wing Pavel Dorofeyev — He stuck on the opening-night roster and played his first NHL game thanks to some salary-cap maneuvering by the Knights. He played only 4:07.

Grade: Five out of five sticks

The Knights have scored the fourth-most goals per game in the NHL (3.48) despite having four members of their top six in Stone, Pacioretty, Karlsson and Marchessault miss five or more games. That’s a testament to this group’s depth and the number of players up and down the lineup (or even in Henderson) who were able to handle expanded roles.

Defensemen

Listed by points

Alex Pietrangelo — He had zero points and was minus-6 at five-on-five the Knights’ first seven games. In their next 20 he scored 19 and was plus-10. There’s a reason he was one of Canada’s first three picks for its Olympic roster.

Shea Theodore — He’s remained effective despite switching between playing on the left and right. One quirk: He hasn’t scored a power-play goal since March 1, 2020.

Nic Hague — He’s played alongside Pietrangelo most of the season and largely held his own. He has taken 14 minor penalties, tied for the most among NHL defensemen.

Zach Whitecloud — He missed 12 games thanks to a hand surgery but is tied for the team lead in goals among defensemen with five. He only had two goals entering the season.

Brayden McNabb — He is tied for fourth in the NHL in blocked shots (61) and his open-ice hip checks remain devastating. He’s continued to be a solid defensive presence on the blue line.

Dylan Coghlan — The second-year skater has six points in 19 games and is minus-1 at five-on-five. He’s one of only two defensemen on the team below even.

Alec Martinez — He has played only 11 games after signing a contract extension in the offseason because he took a skate to the face Nov. 11 against Minnesota. The Knights miss him in all situations.

Ben Hutton — The midseason free-agent signing is minus-3 at five-on-five in 10 games. He’s shown some bite by fighting twice in his brief time with the team.

Daniil Miromanov — The onetime forward in junior continued an impressive rise by playing his first three NHL games. He got an assist but was only trusted to average 11:21 of ice time per game.

Grade: Three out of five pucks

Many of the Knights’ mainstays have been solid, but the depth hasn’t been as impressive as it’s been up front. This isn’t all on the blue line, but the team does rank 25th in shot attempts, 27th in scoring chances and 30th in high-danger scoring chances allowed per 60 minutes. There is still work to do to tighten up defensively.

Goaltenders

Listed by starts

Robin Lehner — He’s been decent overall. His 3.7 goals saved above expected ranks 19th in the NHL, according to MoneyPuck.com. But it’s hard to look past his allowing three goals or more in four of his past five starts.

Laurent Brossoit — His first six starts have been interesting. He’s been great in four (save percentages of .923 or better) and not so great in two (save percentages of .862 and .840). It’s likely been tricky for him to manage a sporadic workload.

Grade: Three out of five nets

Lehner said it best Sunday. “It’s been too many goals,” he said after a 6-4 win against the Minnesota Wild. “End of story.” The Knights’ defense has been leaky, but their .901 team save percentage ranks 23rd in the NHL. They ranked second at .920 last season. They are going to need more saves from their goalies moving forward.

Special teams

Power play — The questions about this unit won’t go away. It ranks 28th in the NHL at 15.9 percent and has only scored in seven of 27 games.

Penalty kill — The league’s top-ranked unit a year ago has tumbled into a tie for 22nd at 78.8 percent. The Knights’ six short-handed goals, tied for the most in the NHL, mean they’re minus-11 on the PK. That’s tied for 10th-best.

Grade: Two out of five penalty boxes

The Knights, once they got close to full health, became one of the best five-on-five teams in the league again. But too often they’re not getting help from their special teams.

They’re tied for 19th in special-teams goal differential at minus-2. That’s propped up by their plethora of short-handed goals. They could be in real trouble if those dry up and everything else stays the same.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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