We all know Mark Stone is at the very peak of his powers and it appears that the rest of the NHL shares the same opinion about the Vegas Golden Knights forward.
Stone has always been an elite player in the NHL and he went on an absolute tear last year despite being on an average Ottawa Senators roster for the vast majority of 2018-19, a team that was going through a turbulent transitional period. He of course benefitted from having better weapons around him when he did eventually join up with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Although he didn’t have many high-end pieces around him, Stone still managed to rack up 28 goals and 34 assists for 62 points in 59 games, including 17 power play points and 88 takeaways.
He was of course traded to the Vegas Golden Knights at the Trade Deadline, with prospect Erik Brannstrom, forward Oscar Lindberg and Dallas Stars’ second round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft heading in the opposite direction, and carried on where he left off in Sin City.
Stone finished strong down the stretch with five goals and six assists for 11 points in 18 games, before going on to dominate the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 12 points (six goals, six assists).
He was a finalist for the Selke Trophy – awarded annually to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game – after leading the NHL in takeaways with 122, in addition to dishing out 72 hits and blocking 71 shots.
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And, if that wasn’t enough, Stone then headed to the IIHF World Championships and absolutely dominated on the international stage, leading Team Canada to a Silver Medal and being crowned the tournament’s MVP as a result after potting eight goals and tallying six assists for 14 points in 10 games.
There is no doubt that the Vegas Golden Knights are a much better outfit with Stone on the roster, and the imagination goes wild at the tantalizing thoughts of the damage the two-way forward can wreak in a full year in Sin City with much better weapons around him.
He is slated to start the regular year on a top line with Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny, which is exciting given that the trio formed perfect chemistry together during the postseason, combining for 31 points (13 goals, 18 assists) in just seven games against the San Jose Sharks.
That line has the potential to be explosive to say the least and, when you consider that the Golden Knights will now bump Reilly Smith, William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault down to the second line, the Knights have enough firepower in the top six alone to sink a small fleet of battleships.
And, when you consider what else Stone brings to the table in terms of his prowess along the boards and in his own zone, then Vegas can boast a true gamechanger and one of the true great players currently plying their trade in the NHL.
Experts in and around hockey certainly agree with that sentiment. The NHL Network, who are currently running through their top players in the league right now, named Stone as the 35th best player in the NHL recently.
Now, and yes maybe we are biased, but we disagree with that particular ranking and think that Stone should be higher given his overall body of work in the NHL, the fact he still put up astonishing numbers while on a beleaguered Ottawa team and considering some of the players above him on the list, including the likes of Sebastian Aho and Mikko Rantanen who, while both are elite players, haven’t produced the goods for a lengthy sample size and don’t excel in both zones like Stone does.
However, there has been some vindication thanks to TSN who this week revealed their Top 50 player rankings ahead of 2019-20.
Stone was ranked No. 27 in that list which is much better, although you could still make a strong argument that he should be higher.
Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid was predictably named at the top of that list, with Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Tampa Bay Lightning stud Nikita Kucherov rounding out the top three.
And when you consider that Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov, another player who excels with his two-way play, was ranked No. 10, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see Stone in and around that area given his superior body of work.
It is fair to say that Stone is slightly under-rated in the NHL and that could boil down to the fact he has spent most of his career with an irreverent Ottawa Senators team.
But, if Stone can put up another Selke Trophy-caliber season in addition to putting up monster offensive numbers and help the Vegas Golden Knights win the Stanley Cup, then you can bet that he’ll be a lot higher on similar lists this time next year.