The fantasy season is upon us. Another year of tears of joy and heartbreak.
To help you along, here’s your fantasy outlook for all 32 teams.
Vegas Golden Knights
Last season: 43-31-8, 4th Pacific, 17th overall. GF: 12th, GA: 15th, PP: 25th, PK: 21st
One of the questions every tourist in Vegas inevitably asks themselves when they’re in the middle of a maze of slots with no sense of time is this:
“How did I get here?”
We could point to a myriad of reasons Vegas is where they are. An obsessive need to grab every shiny toy on the market when there’s no room left on the shelf. Lack of patience. Toxic relationships. Maybe alcohol was consumed.
For the first time in the team’s five-year history, the Knights had missed the playoffs and no part of their season was really good. Many of their best players missed half the season or more. The defense was thin, and so was the prospect pool that had been depleted for expensive win-now assets, and those same assets handcuffed them from doing any significant deals. Even their salary dumps didn’t go right after the league overruled their trade to send Evgenii Dadonov to the Ducks because his no-trade clause wasn’t properly observed.
They now enter the 2022-23 season with a healthy amount of skepticism, especially after Robin Lehner was ruled out for the season, leaving the Knights with two young, relatively inexperienced goalies during a time when they’re supposed to be contenders. They’ve been forced to jettison good veteran players for almost nothing to alleviate themselves from cap trouble, and to this day it could be argued that their most consistent players are still William Karlsson, Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault.
Best Fantasy Option: Jack Eichel, C
In terms of upside, nobody else has more than Eichel. Mark Stone is a fantastic two-way player but his on-ice impact does not translate well to fantasy, and the rest of the team is littered with second-line players. Eichel is their most talented forward in franchise history, a potential franchise center that many other teams lack and desire. He has certainly lost a lot of shine after a serious neck injury and a 34-game preview that left people more curious than excited, but no one else is likely to challenge him for the top spot. It wasn’t too long ago Eichel was considered one of the best in the league, and a lack of finishing wingers and a moribund power play didn’t help his production.
Eichel will be turning only 26 this season, giving him plenty of time to get on track, and if the Knights decide the best way to win is to score their way out of trouble given their lackluster goaltending, Eichel will be the spearhead of their offense. With his current ADP of 42.7, even if he comes close to returning to form, that’s an excellent value pick, giving first-round upside for fourth-round value. The Pool Guide is projecting Eichel to score 80 points, 20 more than Marchessault, Stone and Chandler Stephenson, who are all projected to score 60.
Hidden Gem: Jonathan Marchessault, LW/RW
Normally, this spot would go to Chandler Stephenson, but with a healthy lineup, I expect his ice time to decrease and be used in fewer scoring situations. Marchessault isn’t exactly hidden as one of the original “Misfits,” but I do find it’s easy to forget how effective he’s been. In his five seasons with Vegas, Marchessault ranks 44th in the league with 291 points and eighth in shots with 1,208. At 0.82 P/GP, he’s basically in the top 50 (min. 200 GP), and it’s actually better than the likes of Pacioretty (0.80) and Nikolaj Ehlers (0.79), all of whom are held in higher regard. If you’re looking for depth scoring, look no further than Marchessault, who scores at a 60-point pace like clockwork.
We can give a shoutout to Phil Kessel, who is on track to set a new NHL iron man record and is bound to improve from last season’s career-low 4.6 S%, but he’s part of their big middle class of forwards and at 35 years old doesn’t provide a lot of upside.
This is inevitably where the Knights will run into trouble. With Lehner out for the year and Laurent Brossoit’s return date unknown, they will presumably go into the season with Logan Thompson and Adin Hill. Thompson was excellent as a pinch starter last season and was one of the reasons why their playoff hopes remained alive until the very end. The problem is that he’s very inexperienced and the pressure will be immense with the Knights expected to improve and contend for the division title. This has been the franchise’s lofty standard since their inaugural season.
Hill was a cast-off from the Sharks, who are more likely to bottom out than contend for a playoff spot, which tells you something about Hill’s value. He’s coming off a poor season with a .906 Sv%, failing to make much of an impression after a promising start in his career with the Coyotes. Given Thompson is the incumbent and Hill’s recent performance, expect Thompson to be the starter going into the season, but it’s going to be a very fluid situation. Young goalies rarely hold the starting job for an entire season, and there’s always a chance Hill improves. If that’s the case, Hill will immediately eat into Thompson’s playing time. It’s worth noting that Thompson is exempt from waivers, so if Brossoit returns from injury and the Knights don’t want to carry three goalies or risk losing Brossoit or Hill to waivers, Thompson will be the most logical choice to send down to the minors.
The Knights are the Leafs of the West, in the sense that both teams are expected to be very competitive, but all of their goalies have middling value because they’re simply not good enough. It’s anyone's guess who will be in their crease in Game 82 of the season, and the safest strategy in these situations is to simply roster the starter and the backup and hope th
This is going to be a very interesting season for the Knights, and we shall see if they make a big panic trade if they stumble out of the gates. A healthy Eichel, Stone, and Alec Martinez should change a lot, but what the hockey gods giveth, they also taketh away, so we’re left with a good team that looks good on both offense and defense but completely lacking in goaltending. Based on the Pool Guide’s projections, this will be the first time the Knights have had at least four 60-point scorers (Eichel, Marchessault, Stone, Stephenson) since their inaugural season. The only holdover from that first group is Marchessault, which is again a testament to his overlooked longevity and consistency. There are good options, but perhaps no team in the league comes into the season with more variable outcomes than the Knights.