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Knights’ left wing depth chart: Who replaces Max Pacioretty?

The Golden Knights have grown accustomed to an excellent left wing duo in their top six.

Jonathan Marchessault and Max Pacioretty were first and second among the team in goals and points the past four seasons. Marchessault was first in points (216) and second in goals (95), and Pacioretty led the way in goals (97) but not points (194).

Now, they’ve been broken up. Marchessault remains with two seasons left on his contract, but Pacioretty was traded with defenseman Dylan Coghlan to Carolina. That creates a void that won’t be easy to fill.

“You’re going to miss especially his five-on-five scoring,” coach Bruce Cassidy said at the Knights’ development camp. “I’m not saying you just automatically replace him, but maybe it’s by committee.”

The Knights have options to address Pacioretty’s absence. Here is a look at their potential depth chart at left wing:

Marchessault

The Knights’ all-time leader in games (356), goals (122), assists (169) and points (291) is a good place to start.

Marchessault always has been one of the team’s most consistent players and is coming off a banner season. He was an All Star for the first time and tied his career high by scoring 30 goals. The 31-year-old should have one of the top-six spots locked up.

The centers

There isn’t an obvious successor for Pacioretty’s spot as the Knights’ other top-six left wing. But there are several options they could try in training camp.

One is moving a center over. William Karlsson spent time at left wing last season and could again if Cassidy is willing to split up the “Misfit line” of Karlsson, Marchessault and right wing Reilly Smith. Cassidy said the three probably will begin camp apart but could be reunited.

Chandler Stephenson also has experience at left wing. He played with center Jack Eichel for 148 minutes at five-on-five last season, and the Knights outscored opponents 11-2 in that time. Eichel said after the season he thought he played better with Stephenson than anyone else.

Potential bottom-six centers Brett Howden and Jake Leschyshyn could move to the wing, too.

William Carrier

Carrier can be written in pen for the bottom six.

The speedy, gritty winger scored a career-high 20 points in 63 games last season. He also played a career-high 11:37 per game. His tough, direct style makes him one of the most physical forwards on the roster.

The prospects

The Knights, beyond shifting centers over, have a few young players they could call up as needs arise.

Pavel Dorofeyev was the Silver Knights’ leading scorer last season with 27 goals and 25 assists in 63 games. The 21-year-old can also play on the right side despite being a left shot. He appeared in two NHL games last season but played only 13 minutes.

Paul Cotter appeared in seven games for the Golden Knights and scored two goals. He also had 19 goals and 15 assists in 59 games in Henderson. The 23-year-old could provide bottom-six depth again if injuries arise.

The new veteran

The Knights added an intriguing player this offseason who could factor in at left wing.

Sakari Manninen, a 30-year-old who spent the past four seasons in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, signed a one-year, $750,000 contract with the team. He had 19 goals and 13 assists in 38 games last season for Salavat Ulaev Ufa. He also was part of Finland’s Olympic- and World Championship-winning teams.

The 5-foot-8-inch forward could earn playing time if he shows well at camp.

Outlook: The Knights have two left-wing locks, reasonable depth and a huge question at the top of the lineup.

Whoever they tab with Pacioretty’s spot won’t necessarily be tasked with filling his role — the team hopes to make up his goal scoring through development from young players, increased power-play production, a full season from Eichel and more —but they will have large skates to fill.

Karlsson and Stephenson would be capable options if they can adapt to a full season on the wing. Otherwise, the Knights might be looking at outside help by the trade deadline.

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

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