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Grading the 2020-21 Golden Knights

Updated July 6, 2021 - 10:50 am

The Golden Knights likely are watching the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Final wondering what could have been.

The Knights were on the cusp of returning to hockey’s biggest stage for the second year in a row. Like the season before, they fell short despite being favorites.

The loss leaves the Knights in an interesting place. They weathered so many storms during the regular season — a nine-day COVID-19 pause, a delayed outdoor game, numerous injuries — and finished tied for the most points in the NHL. They defeated a good Minnesota team and the Presidents’ Trophy winners in Colorado in the playoffs.

Yet the Knights also lost to a Montreal team that finished 18th in points percentage and stopped scoring at the most important time. All of which makes general manager Kelly McCrimmon’s job difficult as he tries to come up with the right tweaks to get the team the Stanley Cup.

That starts by evaluating the roster. Here’s a look at each player’s performance and their future outlook:

Forwards

(Listed by regular-season points)

Mark Stone — He had an excellent regular season and a rough last round of the playoffs. The team’s captain isn’t going anywhere with six years remaining on his contract and a no-move clause.

Max Pacioretty — He led the Knights in goals for the second straight year and had a Willis Reed moment in Game 7 of round one. He has two years left on his deal with a $7 million cap hit.

Jonathan Marchessault — He was one of the team’s most consistent forwards and had some huge goals in the playoffs. He is under contract for three more seasons.

William Karlsson — He had another solid regular season and led the Knights in playoff scoring by four points. He is signed for as long as Stone, with a modified no-trade clause.

Chandler Stephenson — The 27-year-old had a career season as the Knights’ first-line center. His contract runs for three more years at an affordable $2.75 million cap hit.

Alex TuchHis defense and physical play improved to help him become a more complete player. The 25-year-old still has five seasons left on his contract.

Reilly Smith — His scoring took a dip in the regular season compared to previous years. He’s heading into the last year of his deal.

Tomas Nosek — He set a career-high in points despite only appearing in 38 games. He’s an unrestricted free agent.

William Carrier — His line didn’t control possession like it did in years past, but he was on pace for a career offensive season. His contract has three years remaining.

Nicolas Roy — The second-year center didn’t start well but was effective in the playoffs. He has one year left on his deal before becoming a restricted free agent.

Keegan Kolesar — The rookie created scoring chance after scoring chance for himself and earned a role on the team. He has one year left before becoming a restricted free agent.

Cody Glass — The 2017 sixth overall pick had 10 points in 27 games and spent the last parts of the year in the minors. His role with the team is a question mark.

Mattias Janmark — The trade-deadline acquisition looked well worth his price tag when he scored a hat trick in Game 7 against Minnesota. He’s heading to the market as an unrestricted free agent.

Ryan Reaves — He was a healthy scratch four times in the playoffs, raising questions about his future. He has one year left on his contract with a $1.75 million cap hit.

Dylan Sikura — He played well with the Silver Knights and was useful NHL depth. He appeared in two playoff games. He’s a UFA.

Tomas Jurco — Like Sikura, he was ready when called upon and appeared in eight games. He’s a UFA.

Peyton Krebs — The 2019 first-round pick played four games before fracturing his jaw. Expect him to compete for time next year.

Patrick Brown — The Silver Knights’ first captain played in 12 playoff games. He’s a UFA and could look for an NHL opportunity.

Grade: Three out of five sticks

The Knights’ forwards had another productive regular season, but for the second year in a row so many went silent in the NHL semifinals.

The team’s top six scorers — Stone, Pacioretty, Marchessault, Karlsson, Stephenson and Tuch — had one goal on 61 shots against the Montreal Canadiens. It came from Pacioretty. Stephenson missed three games with an upper-body injury.

The Knights simply need more from players being paid to score. Otherwise, it’s going to be difficult for them to get back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Defensemen

(Listed by regular-season points)

Shea Theodore — He finished tied for the seventh-most points among defensemen and was a team-high plus-25 at five-on-five. He has four years left on his contract.

Alec MartinezHe excelled at both ends of the ice in his first full season in Las Vegas. He’s a UFA and should be in demand.

Alex Pietrangelo — He started slow but was the Knights’ best skater by the end of the season. He’s locked in with six more years on his deal and a full no-move clause.

Nic HagueThe second-year player made strides, even if he sat for nine playoff games. He has one year left on his entry-level contract.

Zach Whitecloud — He’s been smart, poised and consistent since the Knights called him up last season. He’ll be an RFA in a year.

Brayden McNabb — He played his usual stalwart defensive role despite missing time with a lower-body injury. He’s entering the last year of his deal, which has a $2.5 million cap hit.

Dylan Coghlan — His hat trick in Minnesota will be a moment the rookie will remember forever. He’s an RFA this offseason.

Nick HoldenHe was a key contributor in the playoffs after playing sparingly in the regular season. He has one year remaining on his contract at a $1.7 million cap hit.

Grade: Four out of five pucks

The Knights’ defense was excellent all season and even stepped up to shoulder more of the scoring load against the Canadiens.

The blue line finished with eight goals against Montreal and 14 in the playoffs. The New York Islanders rank second in goals by defensemen this postseason with seven.

The group also defended well, as the Knights allowed the third-fewest scoring chances per 60 minutes at five-on-five in the playoffs.

Goaltenders

(Listed by appearances)

Marc-Andre Fleury — The 36-year-old had perhaps the best season of his career and won the Vezina Trophy. He has one year left on his contract with a $7 million cap hit.

Robin Lehner — He missed time with a concussion but still finished 13-4-2. He has four years remaining on his contract with a $5 million cap hit.

Oscar Dansk — He started one game but wasn’t on the postseason taxi squad. He’s a UFA and could look for another opportunity.

Logan Thompson — The American Hockey League goaltender of the year appeared in one game and dressed for two playoff games. He has one year left on his entry-level deal.

Grade: Five out of five nets

The Knights’ goalie tandem was the best in the NHL in the regular season and had a good playoff run as well.

Fleury and Lehner combined to give up 44 goals in 19 games with a .912 save percentage. Removing Lehner’s 7-1 loss in Game 1 to Colorado, those numbers improve to 37 goals in 18 games with a .920 save percentage.

The duo was 9-0 in the playoffs when the Knights scored at least three goals. They were 1-9 when the team did not.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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