What could the Golden Knights playoff lineup look like with Mark Stone?

EditorLast Update :
What could the Golden Knights playoff lineup look like with Mark Stone?

LAS VEGAS — How deep could the Golden Knights lineup be entering the playoffs?

Pavel Dorofeyev has scored 13 goals, including eight in his last 19 games, and there’s a chance he will end up as a healthy scratch in the postseason. It’s not an indictment on Dorofeyev, who has been good in his first full NHL season, but it speaks volumes about Vegas’ forward depth when healthy.

The team isn’t at full health yet, but is getting closer than it’s been all year. Captain Mark Stone joined the Golden Knights at practice Friday morning for the first time since lacerating his spleen on Feb. 20. He was wearing a red jersey to designate no contact, and coach Bruce Cassidy insinuated his timeline for return is still foggy, but it’s obviously a major step in his recovery process and signals he is getting much closer to playing.

Alex Pietrangelo has missed 10 of the last 12 games with an illness, and still hasn’t returned to skating according to Cassidy.

“He was in (the practice facility) this morning,” Cassidy said Friday. “He’s got to wait a certain period of time before he gets clearance for re-engagement.”

William Carrier hasn’t played since suffering an upper-body injury on March 25, but Cassidy said there’s hope he’ll join the team at some point. Outside of that Vegas is completely healthy, and looking as deep as it’s looked all season.

“We’re as healthy as we’ve ever been for the most part,” Cassidy said following Friday’s 7-2 win over Minnesota where seven different Golden Knights scored.

With the possibility of adding Stone, Pietrangelo and Carrier for the playoffs, what would the lineup look like at full health? Let’s take a shot at projecting it based on how the players have been used this season, each player’s linemate history and recent comments by Cassidy that could provide some hints.


Left Wing Center Right Wing

Ivan Barbashev

Jack Eichel

Jonathan Marchessault

Chandler Stephenson

Tomas Hertl

Mark Stone

Michael Amadio

William Karlsson

Anthony Mantha

William Carrier

Nicolas Roy

Keegan Kolesar

The top line of Jack Eichel, Jonathan Marchessault and Ivan Barbashev is set. Not only have they played together more than any trio this season in Vegas, but they were dominant in last year’s Cup run and will undoubtedly line up together this postseason.

They are one of only 19 lines in the NHL to play at least 400 minutes together this season, and outscored the opposition 21-14 at even strength. Eichel’s speed and playmaking is a perfect match with Marchessault’s shooting and Barbashev’s physicality on the forecheck and in front of the net. There’s no reason for Cassidy to go away from this combination.

The second line is where things get fun. Cassidy has already hinted that he likes the newest addition, Tomas Hertl, alongside Chandler Stephenson. They’ve played together in each of the two games that both have played in since Hertl’s return from knee surgery.

“They’re probably going to play together,” Cassidy said. “Who is going to be in the middle? We’re probably looking at both here for a bit, but if they can find some chemistry. I liked the way they looked tonight. That’s the natural fit for him.”

Hertl and Stephenson have alternated at center and wing, but based on Hertl’s play style and faceoff prowess he is more likely to end up in the middle long term. Dorofeyev played on the right wing Friday night, but when Stone returns this is likely where he’ll slot in. Stephenson has played a whopping 2,231 minutes of even-strength ice time with Stone since coming to Vegas in 2019, by far the most of any teammate. Stephenson’s speed complements Stone’s vision well. Hertl adds an exciting wrinkle to that duo with his ability to win battles near the crease.

“Net-front presence,” Cassidy said of Hertl. “He’s a puck recovery guy. He’s a big man so he can establish position in there and fend people off. That’s where he’s going to be. That’s where we need him to be. That’s an area that we were looking for someone who is a natural at.”

It appears William Karlsson and deadline acquisition Anthony Mantha will play together on the third line. They’ve skated alongside each other in each of the last nine games, combining for six goals and 13 assists during that span.

“Anthony seems to be a better fit for Karly,” Cassidy said Friday, “so that’s kind of how it’s shaken out here.”

Of those nine games, Dorofeyev has played on the opposite wing of Mantha in eight of them. He’s been a good fit with offensive-minded players all season, and when he’s in the lineup this is his most likely landing spot. However, Cassidy did suggest there’s a chance he won’t play in all of the playoff games.

“Pavel is a young player,” Cassidy said Friday. “Some games, the heavy games, you’re sort of like, ‘Can he handle it? Will he be able to handle it?’ With our depth, he doesn’t have to play every second night all the time. If he can help us on nights of fatigue, we have some other wingers. He just can’t not play at all. You can’t say he’s not ready. These are good tests for him.

“With Pav, if he can keep it up, I think he’s going to complement heady players. It’s just going to be the strength issue for him, and we’ll see. Right now I can’t tell you who would be in the lineup for Game 1, but he’s not hurting himself, that’s for sure.”

With the fourth line pretty much set — more on that later — it leaves Cassidy with three other options to fill the final spot on the third line: Michael Amadio, Paul Cotter and Brett Howden. Amadio leads the group in goals (13) and points (26) this season, and played in 16 of the 22 playoff games last season. He’s probably the favorite to play on this line, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see a rotation of several of these players depending on how they perform in the playoffs.

Finally, the fourth line of Nicolas Roy, Keegan Kolesar and Carrier is almost a certainty assuming Carrier returns. The trio have skated together 20 times this season — second most of any line on the team — despite Carrier playing in only 39 games. They were a strong fourth line during last year’s playoff run, and give Vegas a nice depth edge against most teams. If Carrier can’t play, Cotter is the most likely to fill his spot.

It’s a pretty impressive group from top to bottom. On paper it’s one of the strongest center groups in the NHL, if not the strongest. This Golden Knights team hasn’t played up to its potential for very many stretches this season, but if they get healthy at the right time like they did last summer, they’ll be an incredibly tough matchup. Especially considering the defense is just as deep as the forward group.


Left Defense Right Defense

Alec Martinez

Alex Pietrangelo

Noah Hanifin

Nicolas Hague

Brayden McNabb

Shea Theodore

The defensive pairings are a bit more difficult to project because there have been more combinations used throughout the season, but if Cassidy opts to go for a balanced lineup this is the most likely setup, at least to start the playoffs.

Alec Martinez has struggled this season. His on-ice expected goal share of 45.04 percent is the worst of any Vegas defenseman, and he’s sat a few times down the stretch while dealing with injuries. Still, considering his playoff pedigree and Cassidy’s tendency to lean toward veterans, expect him to be in to start the playoffs.

Martinez has played with Pietrangelo for most of his time in Vegas, and the two served as the top pair for last year’s playoff run. Not only is their familiarity, but it also allows Vegas to have one of Pietrangelo, Noah Hanifin and Shea Theodore on the ice at all times.

This lineup leaves Zach Whitecloud and Ben Hutton out, but both are certainly capable of stepping in when needed. If the playoff run is as long as the Golden Knights hope, they’ll likely need more than six defensemen. Having full-time NHL players of this caliber waiting in the wings is a big luxury.


The biggest question mark in the Golden Knights playoff lineup could be in net. Cassidy still doesn’t seem decided on which goalie will start Game 1, and beyond that.

Adin Hill had a brilliant start to the season, leading the league in save percentage over the first half, but suffered several injuries and hasn’t looked the same over the second half. He is 4-9-0 with an .876 save percentage and -9.09 goals saved above expected since Feb. 12.

Logan Thompson has been better as of late, going 7-2-0 with a .924 save percentage in his last nine starts. However, Hill led the team to the Stanley Cup last season while Thompson has yet to make his playoff debut, and that holds some weight for Cassidy.

“Adin, we know, has been there and done it, so we’re trying to get him the starts that he needs to get there, but the clock is ticking,” Cassidy said. “Ideally you’d like them both to find their games where they both feel good about it, then go from there and make a decision.

“I can’t tell you how it’s going to play out because Adin has missed time so he needs to play, and yet we’re in a situation where Logan has played more so is he the better option? We’re going to sort through that.”

There are still three regular-season games remaining to help Cassidy and goalie coach Sean Burke with the decision. It’s also important to note that whichever goalie starts the playoffs isn’t locked in as “the guy.” Cassidy was clear that he has no problem rotating the two depending on performance.

“Once we get to Game 1 we’ll make a decision, and Game 2 will be the next decision,” he said. “That’s okay. I think we’re going to see more of the league (do that).”

(Photo of Pavel Dorofeyev and Mark Stone: Stephen R. Sylvanie / USA Today)