As the Vegas Golden Knights continue to grow as a franchise, so too have the young players on team's roster furthered their growth as full-time NHLers.
Forward Alex Tuch and defenseman Shea Theodore cemented their spots in the Vegas lineup last season, and both set career-highs in scoring during the 2018-19 slate. Forward William Carrier had a breakout season for the Golden Knights while forward Valentin Zykov got his feet wet with his new team.
Tuch, 22, signed a seven-year extension with the Golden Knights in October and spent the 2018-19 campaign building on the success he had as a rookie during Vegas' inaugural season. In 74 games, Tuch notched a career-high 52 points (20G, 32A) and showed his versatility within the Vegas lineup. No matter the line that Tuch was slated on for any given game, he wanted his contributions to be part of the overall success of the group.
"This year was a lot of fun," Tuch said. "It had its ups and downs, but we stuck together as a team."
Video: SJS@VGK, Gm4: Tuch slides shot five-hole to pad lead
For Theodore, 23, growing as a player in all three zones was important to his development with the Golden Knights. He too signed a seven-year contract at the beginning of the year and provided 37 points (12G, 25A) during the season. Theodore was the highest-scoring defenseman for Vegas in the regular season and playoffs as he posted eight points (1G, 7A) during the postseason.
Theodore found a balance of reliability in the defensive zone and firepower on the offensive end of the ice. His willingness to join the rush allowed him to score some impressive goals against difficult opponents.
Video: SJS@VGK, Gm4: Theodore splits defenders and scores
"You want to have a good season personally to add to the team's success," Theodore said about the season. "At the end of the day, it's all about winning in here."
While Tuch and Theodore honed their offensive abilities, Carrier, 24, became one of the most difficult players to play against as he expanded his physical presence on the ice. In just 54 appearances, Carrier registered 277 hits which ranked fourth in the NHL. He averaged 5.1 hits per game in addition to burying a career-best eight goals. Carrier has struck a happy medium on the ice between
"It's fun scoring goals and it feels like I've got the hitting part down pretty well," Carrier said. "I want to keep bringing some offense."
Video: VGK@NYR: Carrier buries patient wrister on the rush
Zykov, 23, suited up for 10 games for the Golden Knights and notched two goals. He was claimed on waivers by the Golden Knights on Dec. 29 and spent the bulk of the year adjusting to Vegas' systems. In a small sample size, Zykov was able to show what he can bring to the Golden Knights. On Feb. 5, Vegas was trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third period when Zykov netted his first goal as a Golden Knight.
Video: VGK@TBL: Zykov nets Karlsson's feed to tie game
The growth of these young players was a stamp of success that the Golden Knights can put on the 2018-19 season. President of Hockey Operations George McPhee said that the year was a learning curve for these players but that it will be useful to them as their careers progress.
"We have some really good depth in young players, and we like the way this team competing," McPhee said. "These guys played their guts out. I like the way they competed for this organization, for this city."