Mark Stone gives something special to his Golden Knights teammates each game.
It’s not the obvious — his widely praised ability to create turnovers, his shot or his skating.
Instead, it’s an intangible. It’s his attitude.
The star right wing, who is the highest paid player on the team, may also be the most competitive. Nashville Predators captain Roman Josi learned that firsthand when the two fought Tuesday. The Ottawa Senators, the Knights’ next opponent, also knew that before trading him Feb. 25.
Now Stone and the Senators will meet for the first time since then at 7 p.m. Thursday at T-Mobile Arena.
“I think that’s just him,” center Paul Stastny said. “He just loves winning and loves being positive. He loves seeing everyone in a good mood. I don’t think he notices, but it’s very contagious. Sometimes when we (saw) it on TV last year when he was playing for Ottawa, you’d always want to make fun of him. You’re like, ‘What’s this guy doing?’ And then when he’s on your team and you realize he does that all the time, you feed off that. You feed off that positive energy, off that excitement.”
Stone’s competitive streak dates back to childhood, when he and his brother Michael played every sport imaginable in Winnipeg, Manitoba. And they played hard.
“A lot of going home not talking to each other,” said Michael Stone, now a defenseman for the Calgary Flames.
That drive powered Mark Stone after the Senators drafted him in the sixth round, 178th overall, in 2010. He turned himself from an awkward skater with an uncertain future to one of the best two-way forwards in the league.
By the time he was traded to the Knights, he was worth the cost: 2017 first-round pick Erik Brannstrom, forward Oscar Lindberg, a 2020 second-round pick and an eight-year contract extension with an average annual value of $9.5 million. And he immediately led his new team to 10 wins in his first 11 games.
“He brings a lot of confidence to our group,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “I know guys love playing with him. And he’s a good hockey player. He does the right things on the ice for you. He’s a star player, and he does it every night for us. He’s consistent.”
He’s gotten even better since joining the Knights. His 10 points through seven games this season are a career high. Entering Wednesday that total had him tied for sixth in the NHL with Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak.
Stone, who finished second in the Selke Trophy (best defensive forward) voting last season, is generating more offense too. He’s putting three shots on goal per game, up from 2.58 last year and 2.28 in 2017-18.
“I haven’t really tried to change anything,” Stone said. “I’ve just been getting more chances, I guess.”
Now he can show off his new tricks to his old team, one he continues to praise. He and the Senators organization decided it was time for both sides to move on. Ottawa was getting younger,and Stone, 26 at the time and in the prime of his career, wanted to compete, as he always does.
“The timing was right for me to go to a place that was going to give me that best chance (to contend),” said Stone, who’s now an alternate captain for the Knights. “As you go through the prime of your career, you want to be competing for a Stanley Cup. So I’m excited to be with the group that we have in here.”
Who: Golden Knights vs. Senators
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: T-Mobile Arena
TV: AT&T SportsNet (Cox 313/1313, DirecTV 684, CenturyLink 760/1760, U-verse 757/1757, Dish 414/5414)
Radio: KRLV (98.9 FM, 1340 AM)
Line: Knights -270, total 6½ o-115