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Vegas Golden Knights Newcomers Impress In the Early Season

The Vegas Golden Knights have a core group that is aging. Alex Pietrangelo, Alec Martinez, and Jonathan Marchessault have all been in the league for a long time, cementing their legacies as NHL superstars. The Golden Knights relied on that experienced core for much of their Stanley Cup run last season, with Marchessault winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the team’s MVP. However, through two games of the 2023-24 season, it’s the newcomers who have impressed. 

Vegas Golden Knights Newcomers Impress Early 

Injury Bug Bites Early

Hockey has been back for three days, but the Golden Knights are already a bit beat up. Defencemen Alec Martinez and Zach Whitecloud were both injured in the pre-season and are expected to be week-to-week. Forward William Carrier went out with an injury in the first game of the season, and forward Brett Howden was suspended for two games after an illegal check to the head on Seattle’s Brandon Tanev. All of this meant that Vegas went into their second game of the season down four mainstays in the lineup. However, the replacements stepped up to the plate in a 4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks. 

On the forward side of things, Pavel Dorofeyev replaced Brett Howden on the third line beside William Karlsson and Michael Amadio, and Jonas Rondbjerg slotted onto the fourth line with Nicolas Roy and Keegan Kolesar. Both were noticeable throughout the game, matching their more seasoned linemates easily and looking comfortable out on the ice. Both players recorded a primary assist on the night. Rondbjerg made a strong pass through the neutral zone to find Nicolas Roy for Vegas’ second goal. Dorofeyev set up another newcomer, defenceman Brayden Pachal, two minutes into the third period. 

For Rondbjerg and Dorofeyev, the most important thing is showing that they can handle the minutes on the ice with the big boys. Dorofeyev had seven goals in 18 games with the Golden Knights last season. Rondbjerg played just thirteen games with the big club last year, and has just two career goals. However, depth has become a hallmark of Vegas’ identity. Roy said “I think it’s one of the strengths of our team. We can roll four lines. You know anybody’s able to score some goals. We can rely on that, for sure.” 

Young Defencemen Creating Offence 

Vegas also had two young defencemen create opportunities on the ice. Brayden Pachal had the fourth goal for Vegas, playing on the third pair in place of Zach Whitecloud. The 24-year-old ripped a wrist shot from the right side for the first goal of his NHL career. Nicholas Hague also had a goal and an assist while filling in for an injured Alec Martinez on Vegas’ top pair. 

The injuries to Martinez and Whitecloud are projected to be more long-term than the losses on the forward side. The strong play from Hague and Pachal should give Golden Knights fans hope for the next few weeks. However, Alex Pietrangelo was hit with a shot late in the third period, and left the ice bleeding. It will be a tough ask to replace three of Vegas’ top defenders if Pietrangelo has to miss any ice time. 

A System That Works

The success of Vegas’ depth pieces also speaks to the level and type of development going on within the Vegas program. And for the Vegas Golden Knights newcomers, they’ve been great. For a team that has been criticized in the past for their willingness to trade away prospects and draft picks, they’ve managed to nurture diamonds in the rough and turn them into the players that are needed at any given time. Players like Zach Whitecloud, Logan Thompson, and Brayden Pachal have all gone undrafted, earning their playing time by simply putting in the work. Clearly, Vegas’ strategy of using their more high-profile prospects to gain more experienced talent and then developing their young players into dependable NHLers is working. 

Main Photo: Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports


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