NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the Vegas Golden Knights.
[Golden Knights 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]
1. How will Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone look for a full season?
The Golden Knights signed Stastny as an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2018; acquired Pacioretty in a trade from the Montreal Canadiens on Sept. 10, 2018, and signed him to a four-year contract extension that day; and acquired Stone in a trade from the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 25 and signed him to an eight-year contract March 8.
Stastny (32) and Pacioretty (16) each missed games because of injuries last season. Stone was in the lineup only for the stretch run and the Western Conference First Round against the San Jose Sharks.
But each showed what he could do during a 10-1-1 run from Feb. 26 to March 23, when Stastny had 12 points (three goals, nine assists), Stone had eight (four goals, four assists), and Pacioretty had seven (four goals, three assists). In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Stone had 12 points (six goals, six assists), Pacioretty had 11 (five goals, six assists), and Stastny had eight (two goals, six assists) in seven games.
Healthy and adjusted, they should form an excellent line for the Golden Knights.
Video: 31 in 31: Vegas Golden Knights 2019-20 season preview
2. Which young defenseman will make the team?
The Golden Knights have several up-and-coming defenseman prospects, including Nicolas Hague, Zach Whitecloud, Jake Bischoff, Dylan Coghlan and Jimmy Schuldt.
It was a reason they felt comfortable trading defenseman Erik Brannstrom, the No. 15 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, for Stone. It also was a reason they traded Brad Hunt to the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 21 and Colin Miller to the Buffalo Sabres on June 28.
"There's going to be a lot of competition, but we'll have at least one of them playing for us this season," Vegas general manager George McPhee said June 29. "And that's a healthy thing for the organization."
3. Who fills out the bottom six?
The top six are set. Cody Eakin and Alex Tuch are penciled in on the third line. William Carrier and Ryan Reaves could skate on the fourth.
Who else plays on the third line? Candidates include Cody Glass, Brandon Pirri, Tomas Nosek and Valentin Zykov. The Golden Knights are eager to see what Zykov can do with an expanded opportunity. The 24-year-old went from the Carolina Hurricanes to the Edmonton Oilers to the Golden Knights via waivers last season and had five points (two goals, three assists) in 28 NHL games, including two goals in 10 games for Vegas. But he has skill.
Who replaces Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who played center on the fourth line and killed penalties for Vegas the past two seasons before signing with the Colorado Avalanche as an unrestricted free agent July 1? Nicolas Roy might be ready. The 22-year-old has played seven NHL games and helped Charlotte of the American Hockey League win the Calder Cup last season.
Roy and a fifth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft were acquired in a trade from the Hurricanes for forward Erik Haula on June 26.
Video: Glass joins the show to discuss his prospect ranking