Since beginning their inaugural season the Vegas Golden Knights have been turning heads. Whether it be their success in net despite having to use five different goalies or getting production from all parts of their lineup, the Golden Knights are in a good place heading into the holidays.
Even with a positive outlook, almost no one could have predicted that Vegas would be tied for first in the Pacific Division heading into the holidays. There a multitude of reasons for their success so far, but as of right now I would say that they certainly have the ability to push for the playoffs in their inaugural season.
You can’t talk about the Golden Knights without speaking about the hurdles they’ve overcome with their goaltenders. After face of the franchise Marc-Andre Fleury went down with a concussion, the Golden Knights went so far into their system that they had to recall and play 19 year old Dylan Ferguson who is currently playing for the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League. After surviving that low point in terms of injuries, the Golden Knights have slowly been getting their goaltending healthy while continuing to stay successful in the Pacific Division.
For starters, Vegas has one of the highest scoring offenses in the league averaging 3.44 goals a game putting them fourth in league standings behind only the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs. Unlike on those three teams where there are clear, defined point scorers (Stamkos/Kucherov, Tavares, Matthews) the Golden Knights have been able to get scoring all throughout their lineup.
While veterans such as James Neal and David Perron continue to impressive posting solid numbers, the two biggest surprises for me have been William Karlsson and Alex Tuch. Karlsson, 24, was drafted 53rd overall by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2011 NHL Draft and had spent the last three years playing with the Columbus Blue Jackets before being claimed by Vegas. Karlsson had previously set his career high last season netting 6 goals and 25 points in 81 games. However, 27 games into the season and Karlsson is on pace to blow those numbers out of the water. Karlsson not only leads the Golden Knights in goals with 14, but is currently sitting second overall in team scoring behind only Jonathan Marchessault. Considering that he is only signed for the rest of the season, Karlsson is a player that the Golden Knights will likely be re-signing to a long term deal come the summer.
Alex Tuch has been another early success story for Vegas. Tuch, 21, was originally drafted 18th overall by the Minnesota Wild and after spending two years at Boston College, made his transition into pro hockey through the American Hockey League. After a successful first season netting 18 goals and 37 points in 57 games, Tuch was traded to the Golden Knights for a third round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. After beginning the 2018 season in the AHL, Tuch was eventually called up to Vegas and has made his mark ever since. While being one of the youngest players on the team, Tuch has totaled 6 goals and 13 points in 23 games and should be on pace to finish with around 15 goals and 40 points by season’s end. Not bad for a first year rookie. He also scored a shootout beauty for Vegas against the Anaheim Ducks last night.
Vegas also has seemingly found another gem in goaltender Malcolm Subban. After Marc-Andre Fleury went down with injury, Oscar Dansk did a formdiable job holding down the fort winning all three games he played in with a 1.78 GAA and .946% save percentage. However, Dansk also bit the injury bug which inevitably led to the Golden Knights claiming Subban off of waivers from the Boston Bruins. Subban, 23, was drafted 24th overall by the Bruins in the 2012 NHL Draft and had trouble solidifying a position in the NHL behind Tuukka Rask and while simultaneously not putting up great numbers for the Bruins’ AHL affiliate. Despite this Vegas took a chance on Subban and it’s paid off in dividends so far. After earning his first NHL win against his former club, Subban has amassed a 6-2 record with a 2.26 GAA and .923% save percentage. At just 23 and signed until the end of next season, Subban has the chance to legitimize himself into staying in the NHL and being an excellent backup netminder to Marc-Andre Fleury.
With Fleury’s return on the horizon and the team’s consistent play, there’s no reason to say that the Golden Knights won’t be competing for a playoff spot come April. Many people wouldn’t have a thought an expansion team in their first year, regardless of who is on the roster, would be capable of battling for the top spot in their division, but yet the Vegas Golden Knights continue to do so.