While the Vegas Golden Knights lost in Jack Eichel’s debut managed just one shot, there were plenty of encouraging signs from the talented center. In his first game since March 2021, the 25-year-old never looked out of place and made a few head-turning plays.
Eichel skated in between sniper Max Pacioretty and winger Evgenii Dadonov. The trio made up the Golden Knights’ first line on Wednesday night with captain Mark Stone was moved on long-term injury reserve.
“I thought he worked hard. After 11 months off, to jump into the middle of the season against arguably the best team in the league is a big ask. I thought he did a good job. You saw flashes of what he’s going to be able to do for us. He made some really good plays to some people. He did a lot of good things. It was a great first step.”Vegas Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer on debut of Jack Eichel, via The Athletic
They played 11:43 together at 5-on-5, getting outshot 4-2 and outscored 1-0. While those numbers aren’t terrible, Eichel’s performance against the Avalanche’s top players tells a more concerning story.
In the 5:04 of 5-on-5 ice time against Nathan MacKinnon, he had a 7.69 CF% and the Avalanche outshot the Golden Knights 5-1. The numbers were similar for Eichel against the rest of the Avalanche’s top line, as well as against defensemen Cale Makar and Devon Toews.
While a one-game sample is too small for drawing conclusions, the previous top line of Pacioretty, Chandler Stephenson, and Stone has been great all year for DeBoer. Perhaps the best idea would be to find Eichel his own line with a different set of wingers.
Here are three different options that the Golden Knights could go with a healthy roster.
- Jack Eichel stats (2019-’20): 36 goals, 42 assists, 11 PPG in 68 games
Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone
The most obvious position for Eichel would be to place him on the top line with Pacioretty and Stone. DeBoer is almost certain to try this combination when everyone is healthy. However, it does make things awkward for Chandler Stephenson since he is taking a big step forward this season.
Stone is the best playmaker on the Golden Knights and it’s easy to imagine him setting up Eichel for countless goals. Stone is averaging 1.89 primary assists / 60 mins at 5-on-5, a full primary assist more than anyone else on the team.
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This trio would instantly be considered one of the most talented lines in the NHL. However, it would leave the Golden Knights more top-heavy than other combinations with all this elite talent consolidated on one line.
Mark Stone and Mattias Janmark
By playing Eichel in between Stone and winger Mattias Janmark, the Golden Knights would have three lines with lots of scoring potential. Stone and Eichel is a fearsome duo, “the Misfits Line” is always solid, and Pacioretty could stick with Stephenson.
Since we’ve already discussed how Stone is likely the perfect linemate for Eichel with his superb passing ability, let’s take a look at what Janmark would bring to the table. He’s also a good passer with solid vision and strong skating ability.
This line would be fast and give Eichel two different players on his line that are great at passing the puck. It also keeps the talent more evenly distributed across the Golden Knights lineup.
Reilly Smith and Keegan Kolesar
One name that hasn’t been mentioned yet that would be an intriguing fit alongside Eichel is Reilly Smith. Once thought to be a potential casualty of the Golden Knights’ tricky salary cap situation, Stone’s move to LTIR means that they might be able to keep him.
Smith is a smart player that could play well beside Eichel. Fourth on the team in 5-on-5 assists / 60 minutes, Smith could easily see his offensive numbers jump if he played beside Eichel. This would mean breaking up the “Misfit Line”, but it would keep the team’s current first line together.
- Keegan Kolesar stats: 48 GP, 4 G, 12 A, 16 PTS, 41 PIM
Kolesar would add an interesting dynamic to this line. He’s a bigger player, standing 6’2″ and weighing about 225 pounds, and would help the line retrieve pucks deep in the zone. He would also provide a net-front presence that would help create some chaos.