Vegas Golden Knights: Looking at early line combinations for 2020-21 season

Alex Pietrangelo #27 of the St. Louis Blues poses for a portrait ahead of the 2020 NHL All-Star Game. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Alex Pietrangelo #27 of the St. Louis Blues poses for a portrait ahead of the 2020 NHL All-Star Game. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /
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Let’s take an early look at what the Vegas Golden Knights could look like on the ice in 2020-21.

It has been a wild off-season for the Vegas Golden Knights so far, who finally captured their White Whale in stud defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.

Pietrangelo’s arrival automatically elevates this roster to elite status, and the 30-year-old will form a lethal tandem with potential future Norris Trophy candidate Shea Theodore.

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However, in order to facilitate the blockbuster signing of Pietrangelo, the Golden Knights had to trade veteran center Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets and defenseman Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks in order to create cap space.

As such, the Golden Knights now lack depth at center and the lack of secondary scoring that plagued them on so many occasions in 2019-20 will remain a concern going forward.

However, this roster is talented enough and boasts enough stars that the Knights should be considered one of the best teams in the National Hockey League and, when fully healthy, they will be able to roll out one of the most intimidating lineups in the league.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at how the Golden Knights could look in the 2020-21 season and then break down the lineup by position…

Potential 2020-21 Lineup

Max PaciorettyWilliam KarlssonMark Stone

Jonathan MarchessaultCody GlassReilly Smith

Chandler StephensonNicolas RoyAlex Tuch

William CarrierTomas NosekRyan Reaves

Brayden McNabb – Alex Pietrangelo

Alec Martinez – Shea Theodore

Nick HoldenZach Whitecloud

Robin Lehner

Marc-Andre Fleury

Healthy Scratches

Peyton Krebs (F), Nic Hague (D), Carl Dahlstrom (D)

William Karlsson #71 of the Vegas Golden Knights.
William Karlsson #71 of the Vegas Golden Knights catches the puck against Joe Pavelski #16 of the Dallas Stars. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Forwards

Despite losing Paul Stastny, the Golden Knights still boast one of the most explosive top-six forward units in the entire National Hockey League, and a full season with Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson and Mark Stone on the top line could reap rich dividends.

The loss of Stastny could be quickly forgotten if Cody Glass can bounce back from a disappointing rookie season and build on the flashes of promise that he displayed in 2019-20.

Glass has reportedly piled on the muscle during the off-season and the center has the talent to be a 50 or 60 point player in the NHL, especially considering that he will have Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith as line mates.

There are question marks lower down the lineup with the Golden Knights hoping that Nicolas Roy can establish himself as a third-line center, with the forward recording 10 points (5 G, 5 A) in 28 regular season games in his rookie year in 2019-20.

It could well be that Roy is more suited to a fourth-line role, however, and that case could become stronger if Peyton Krebs, the 17th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, can impress in Training Camp and win a roster spot.

Krebs’ elite playmaking ability would prove beneficial to Alex Tuch who will be hoping for a big and healthy 2020-21 season, with the forward easily able to provide secondary scoring from the third-line if he can stay on the ice.

Chandler Stephenson proved to be a perfect fit in Vegas following an early season trade from the Washington Capitals, while you know what you are getting from both Ryan Reaves and William Carrier.

Alex Pietrangelo #27 of the St. Louis Blues skates in warm-ups prior to the game against the Vancouver Canucks
Alex Pietrangelo #27 of the St. Louis Blues skates in warm-ups prior to the game against the Vancouver Canucks in Game Five. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images) /

Defensemen

The blockbuster signing of Alex Pietrangelo radically changes the makeup of the blueline for the Golden Knights, and the elite defenseman should slot in on the top pairing alongside Brayden McNabb.

Pietrangelo can do it all and he can also eat monster minutes, so expect him to be Vegas’ go-to-guy in all situations, including on both the power play and on the penalty kill.

The presence of Pietrangelo will take some pressure off the shoulders of Shea Theodore, who seems to be riding a rapid ride to becoming one of the best offensive defensemen in the entire NHL.

Theodore, who had a career-high 46 points (13 G, 33 A) in 71 games in 2019-20, will continue to spearhead offense from the blueline from the Golden Knights, while he developed real nice chemistry with veteran Alec Martinez on the second pair.

Theodore will also man the first power play unit and, with Pietrangelo likely to quarterback the second unit, the Golden Knights all of a sudden have two elite weapons that can really drive their special teams.

As for the bottom pairing, expect veteran Nick Holden and young talent Zach Whitecloud to start the season together, with both blueliners enjoying impressive seasons in 2019-20.

Whitecloud in particular really flourished under Head Coach Pete DeBoer, averaging 14:19 minutes of ice time and recording an impressive 61.2% CF% in 16 regular season games.

The Golden Knights will have options on the backend, though, with prospects Nic Hague and Dylan Coghlan expected to battle for a roster spot in Training Camp, while Carl Dahlstrom, who was acquired from the Winnipeg Jets as part of the Paul Stastny trade, could prove to be a solid seventh defenseman.

Robin Lehner #90 of the Vegas Golden Knights.
Robin Lehner #90 of the Vegas Golden Knights makes the save against Jamie Benn #14 of the Dallas Stars. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Goalies

There is no doubt in my mind that the Golden Knights will start the 2020-21 season with Robin Lehner as their undisputed starter, providing that there are no complications in his recovery from off-season shoulder surgery.

Lehner was elite for the Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, going 9-7-0 with a 1.99 Goals Against Average and a .917 Save Percentage to go along with four shutouts.

That earned the 2018-19 Vezina Trophy finalist a five-year, $25 million extension this off-season, and Lehner quite clearly gives the Golden Knights their best chance to win in the eyes of the front office.

Despite a plethora of reports that he could be traded, face of the franchise Marc-Andre Fleury will remain a Golden Knight heading into 2020-21 and, despite a shaky season last year, the future Hall of Famer still has plenty left in the tank and he will give Vegas one of the best goalie tandems in the NHL.

With a truncated schedule likely in 2020-21 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Golden Knights could have an immediate advantage due to the fact that they will be able to split the workload between both Lehner and Fleury, who will no doubt become the envy of a boatload of other teams.

Next. Grading the Knights' Free Agency moves. dark

Overall, the Vegas Golden Knights boast an abundance of riches on this roster as it is currently constituted and, provided everyone can stay healthy, their lineup on Opening Night in 2020-21 should strike fear in the other 30 teams in the National Hockey League.