Are there 50 goals in Mark Stone’s stick?
Hard to believe that, with his hair-trigger release and nose for the net, Stone has never come close to even a 40-goal season. In his first five full NHL years, Stone has averaged 25 goals. The best came last season when he scored 33 goals – 28 times in Ottawa, then another five in Vegas. He followed that up with six goals in seven playoff games. With the Golden Knights for a full season and sure to get quality playing time on a roster that includes playmakers such as William Karlsson, Paul Stastny and Jonathan Marchessault, Stone is bound to push through career highs in goals and assists. He’s a good bet to reach 40 goals. Don’t be surprised if 50 is within his reach.
Will a lack of depth on the blueline hurt?
The Golden Knights were in salary-cap trouble all summer and had to offload proven veterans in order to allow players on previously signed contracts to fit under the $81.5-million mark. Colin Miller, the franchise leader in career points for a defenseman, was pedalled to Buffalo, and it looked like there wasn’t going to be room for leader Deryk Engelland. For the longest time, Vegas had just five NHL D-men under contract until 37-year-old Engelland took a huge haircut to $700,000 (although easily attainable bonuses should double that number). The Golden Knights had no room for other veteran free agent support on the blueline, meaning rookies such as Nic Hague will be relied upon.
Will Marc-Andre Fleury ever show signs of aging?
He’ll probably have that boyish face for another decade or two, but as he hits his mid-30s, surely Fleury has to start playing like a goalie a little past his prime, no? Remember when the Pittsburgh Penguins chose to protect young Matt Murray over Fleury before the 2017 Vegas expansion draft because the latter was on the downward slope from 30 – and no one was questioning that decision? All Fleury has done since is be a guiding light for the upstart Golden Knights and finish fifth and fourth in Vezina Trophy voting in back-to-back years. He turns 35 in November, and his new three-year contract is just kicking in. Take that, Father Time.
Stanley Cup Odds: 9/1
Cody Glass has a higher ceiling, but Nic Hagueis four inches taller and 35 pounds heavier. It would be natural to pick Glass for this slot, yet what’s holding him back is the Golden Knights have 14 forwards under NHL contract already. Hague, on the other hand, is virtually a lock to make the team on ‘D.’