The Vegas Knights have been focused on getting their players back quick and healthy, but there are many bright spots in the current lineup.
The Vegas Golden Knights have obviously had to go through a lot of adversity. As a terrific organization, you expect nothing but the best from your team, coaches, and front office. With that being said, the Knights have been focused on giving their injured players their undivided attention. Everywhere you look, it’s always talking about the injuries but there is a lot of good going on with their current team. With the injuries everyone seems to be overlooking Chandler Stephenson’s season.
The Knights, going into the season, had one of the best lines in hockey. With Mark Stone, Chandler Stephenson and Max Pacioretty, they have undoubtedly one of the best. However, after being able to complete the first game this season together, Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty went down with lower-body injuries. As you can probably figure, without those two, Chandler Stephenson is the last remaining part of that line. Now Stephenson has never really been considered a top player, in fact it’s often said that Stephenson is carried by Stone and Pacioretty. So far this season, he is proving everyone said that wrong.
Chandler Stephenson’s Previous Season’s
2017-18; Washington Capitals
Looking at Chandler Stephenson’s playing history, let’s just start by saying that it’s not great statistically. Stephenson’s first real shot in the NHL came in the 2017-18 season with the Washington Capitals in which he played in 67 games for them. In those 67 games, Stephenson had six goals, and 12 assists, a +/- of +13, and eight penalty minutes. Now although he didn’t perform statistically offensively he did contribute defensively and was extremely efficient. Stephenson had six goals, but he had 36 shots on goal. Looking at his defensive stats he was able to total 33 blocks, 26 hits, and create 24 takeaways. All of this was while only averaging 11:52 minutes on the ice. Obviously, people wish he could’ve been more productive, but he wasn’t.
2018-19; Washington Capitals
After looking at his first season in the league, you’d expect to see some growth in year two. Well, you may want to lower your expectations a little bit. Stephenson went into year two probably hoping to take another step forward in the right direction, but that wasn’t quite the case. In the 2018-19 season with the Capitals he played in 64 games, in which he had five goals and six assists. Obviously you can see he took a step back in his already low production. However, that’s not the worse of it. Stephenson had a +/- of -13, and defensively he had 33 blocks, 38 hits, 24 takeaways, and his faceoff percentage dropped 5.3 percent. He took a step back for sure in his second year, so what does that mean moving forward? Let’s take a look at those seasons.
2019-20; Washington Capitals/Vegas Golden Knights
So if you can’t tell by the title above, he was in fact traded to the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2019-20 season. After having yet another slow start to his season, he was on the trade block. The Knights recognizing the potential there decided to capitalize of his low value to get themselves a center to play in their top six. However let’s take a look at the stats between the two.
With the Washington Capitals, Stephenson played in 24 games in which he totaled three goals and one assist along with a +/- of +5. To go with that low end offensive production, he had 12 blocks, 20 hits, 13 takeaways and had a faceoff percentage of 50.3 percent.
After getting traded to the Vegas Knights, things really started to click with him. Playing in only 41 games with the Knights, he was able to record eight goals and 14 assists for his highest point total since entering the league. Along with the offensive production he also showed what he could do defensively having 20 blocks, 32 hits, and 24 takeaways.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that there was something about the way the Knights went about things that was taken to heart by Stephenson. Even with only playing in a quarter of the total games, he was able to total more points than he did in any of his other seasons in the NHL.
2020-21; Vegas Golden Knights
Looking into last season, it was a shortened season and effected a lot of the players around the league. Even with that though, Stephenson was able to take another step up as a player. After only playing in 51 games, he was still able to put up 14 goals and 21 assists for the Knights along with a +/- of +22. Now obviously you can argue the +/- has to do with the fact that he had a terrific defense backing him and a hall-of-fame goalie but Stephenson contributed to that as well. On the defensive side of the puck Stephenson had 35 blocks, 43 hits, and 23 takeaways. It was clear as day that the Knights were starting to get the best out of the center, but that is nothing compared to how he is starting this season.
Chandler Stephenson’s Breakout Season
After recapping how his career has been rejuvenated since the trade to the Knights, let’s get into the purpose of this article. As I stated earlier in the article, the Knights season has been very hard to endure after the loss of so many impactful injuries. Stephenson’s line-mates: Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty are currently out leaving Stephenson to develop chemistry with a completely different line. However, Stephenson’s performance is being shadowed behind all the injuries they’ve bee dealing with.
Stephenson so far has played in eight total games which, in case you were curious, is every game they’ve had this season. So within those eight games, he has four goals and five assists for nine total points. As you can see by that sentence not only are those great statistics through eight games, but, you have to recognize the fact that he’s averaging a point per game. To go along with averaging a point per game, he also has eight blocks, 12 hits, two takeaways, and 45.2 faceoff win percentage.
Stephenson has never even really come close to averaging a point per game before, but it’s still early. However that’s not what needs to be recognized and honestly it’s not anything about his production at all per say. When you look at his game logs, you’d realize that the strides he’s taken in his game this year has been without Stone or Pacioretty. He’s thrived without them in the lineup. So has Stephenson really found his mark with not just himself but the organization? It appears that way. However, as I’ve already stated, it’s early and he’ll have to continue playing that way even when they come back. He’s having a great start to his season though, and will be fun to see if he can keep this up.