The break could not have come at a better time for the Vegas Golden Knights. After losing four games in a row prior to the long break, the team needs to hit the reset button. While also being down key players with injuries, they will want those guys healthy for the stretch run. With the Pacific Division tightly contested, they will need to right the ship fast. One player that needs to get going is Vegas Golden Knights centre, Jack Eichel.
Vegas Golden Knights Jack Eichel Needs To Produce
When it comes to this core group, depth is at its finest. The back end is deep with Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Alec Martinez, and Zach Whitecloud. Up front is just as lethal with star talent in Mark Stone, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, and Chandler Stephenson. Add a producing fourth line and a contributing bottom six and it’s in good shape, especially when healthy.
Bruce Cassidy on Jack Eichel: “He hasn’t been the driving force for us he was at the beginning of the year at both ends of the ice.”
— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) January 20, 2023
But most of all, this team has a franchise centre in Jack Eichel. They knew what they were getting when they acquired him. He has the skill and a lethal shot. However, he has not been on his game and the month of January was not very kind to him. Eichel played in all 11 games during the month and posted two goals, three assists, and five points. In addition, he was a -10. This is not ideal from your top centre and the head coach has taken notice. Once the break is over, he is one player they need to get going.
Jack Eichel Needs To Take Charge
The Hockey Gods robbed everyone of the long-term line of Max Pacioretty, Eichel, and Stone. Arguably that could be been one of the best lines in all of hockey. But salary cap issues and health played a factor in making that not happen. Health still remains a factor for this team now.
Stone is currently sidelined with a back injury, which puts a monkey wrench in the line combinations. But when healthy, Vegas has one of the best lines in hockey with Stone, Eichel, and Stephenson. Among all lines that have played 150 minutes together, they have the 12th-best expected goals percentage (61.2%). This shows how much they’ve generated as a line. In addition, as a line, they have scored 18 goals and average 4.26 goals for per 60 minutes. But with Stone hurt, it has thrown off the dynamic of things.
Stephenson has had to move to centre, which is also one of his natural positions. He suits better on Eichel’s wing but to round out depth it’s helped. Bruce Cassidy has had to shake things up a bit to get Eichel into a successful situation.
Vegas Golden Knights Need Wingers
Eichel is just one of many centres on this team. Depth on this team lies down the middle. Aside from Eichel, there is William Karlsson and Nicolas Roy to anchor the middle of the ice. But depth on the wings is a major issue for this team. In the past we have seen them trade calibre talent in Pacioretty and as well as Alex Tuch (part of the Eichel trade). And aside from Smith and Marchessault, it is thinner than in the past.
Cassidy has had to shuffle things, even breaking up the “Misfit Line” of Marchessault, Karlsson, and Smith. Which is fine to bolster Eichel, but that line is huge for them. They’ve played the most minutes and they have an xGF% of 58.3%. They have four fewer goals than the big line, proving they can carry the heavy load. But for Eichel, it has been slim pickings for wingers as he has not found chemistry with anyone.
Eichel’s New Linemates
Eichel has seen his fair share of wingers since Stone went down and Stephenson had to centre a line. He’s spent time alongside Michael Amadio, Phil Kessel, and Smith for a time being. Not a knock on Amadio, but he is not a top-six winger. For six games he was paired up with Paul Cotter, and Roy. In hindsight, those guys are great depth players, but maybe not top-six material matching up against the opponent’s best pairs. Of all these line combinations, there’s not much production to show for it. And it goes to show that a healthy Mark Stone and addressing the winger position is key going forward.
Management Needs To Get To Work
Vegas Golden Knights Jack Eichel needs to get going. As the leader of the team, it’s up to him to take charge and produce at a higher rate. But given the way the roster is constructed, they should look to getting another elite winger to pair with him.
Even with the salary cap issues, the team is no stranger to making a big-time move. A lot of the plan hinges on if Mark Stone returns to the team this season, but given the names that are on the market, the team could use the boost to make a move.
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