The injury bug has bitten the Vegas Golden Knights once again. After a disappointing 2021-22 season that saw the majority of the lineup decimated by injuries, the Golden Knights were hoping to make it through the 2022-23 season relatively unscathed. However, just past the season’s first quarter, Vegas has already had its fair share of players on the injured reserves. Goaltender Robin Lehner was the first loss, followed by defensemen Zach Whitecloud, Shea Theodore, and Alec Martinez, as well as forwards Jack Eichel, Paul Cotter, Brett Howden, and Jonathan Marchessault. With seven lineup players currently out of commission, Vegas is looking for new blood to create opportunities for themselves in a more significant on-ice role.
Michael Amadio may be the best example of a player stepping up due to injury. When center Jack Eichel was placed on IR on December 13th, Amadio was moved up the lineup to play next to Mark Stone and Chandler Stephenson on the first line. Amadio has capitalized on the opportunity, scoring three goals in his last five games, and is currently on a five-game point streak. This five game point streak is the longest of Amadio’s career, and he is already halfway to his career high point total.
Through the last five games, the line of Amadio, Stephenson, and Stone have combined for 21 total points, as compared to the eight points from the second line of William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, and Phil Kessel. Stephenson and Stone are two of the fastest, most dynamic players in the league, and Amadio has done well to keep up with them. His positioning has been excellent, meaning that he has been able to take advantage of rebounds, loose pucks, and passes to create chances for both himself and his teammates.
On the Blue Line
With Alec Martinez out day-to-day as of December 29th, Vegas is playing without half of their starting defensemen. They have had to rely on talent from the AHL affiliate, the Henderson Silver Knights, to fill the gaps, and Russian native Daniil Miromanov has been excellent. In the thirteen games since his debut on December 3rd, Miromanov has had two goals and three assists, falling behind only Pietrangelo and Theodore in goals from defensemen so far this season.
The 6’4” defenseman provides a much-needed physical presence down the lineup with Nicholas Hague playing on the first pair, and he’s been impactful as a playmaker on the second power play unit. For a Vegas blue-line that has always been more offensively minded, Miromanov is a good fit, and head coach Bruce Cassidy is confident that Miromanov has potential to become a more permanent NHLer, saying that “he’s got the offensive side of it…He’s playing to his strengths.”
Of course, no conversation about players stepping up due to injury would be complete without discussing Logan Thompson. When it was announced that Robin Lehner would be out for the entirety of the 2022-23 season, the idea that Vegas would place its lofty hopes on the shoulders of a 25-year-old rookie seemed preposterous. Thompson came into the season with only nineteen games of NHL experience, and many were concerned about his ability to handle the demands of a full time starter at the NHL level. So far, Thompson has exceeded all expectations.
His 16 wins are the third most in the NHL, tied with 2020 Vezina winner Connor Hellebuyck, and he sits 16th overall with a .916 save percentage. He has never allowed a goal in overtime and has stolen a few games for the Golden Knights this season in the shootout. He has been the biggest surprise of the season for the Golden Knights and continues to make a case for himself to stay starting goaltender, even upon Lehner’s return.
Being bitten again by the injury bug is frustrating for the Golden Knights, especially for a team that had been generating excellent results through the first part of the season. However, the replacements have stepped up, showing what they could be capable of. Obviously, the Golden Knights are hoping to have their top players back as soon as possible, but in the meantime, they aren’t doing half bad.