By NHL Public Relations February 23, 2024

The Golden Knights (34-18-5, 73 points), Kings (32-19-7, 71 points), Kraken (32-19-6, 70 points) and Oilers (31-19-8, 70 points) all take to the ice Thursday as the race for top spot in the Pacific Division features four teams separated by three points. Top-seeded Vegas, which clashes with Calgary on ESPN, holds a game in hand on both Los Angeles and Edmonton.  

* The Golden Knights, who have held top spot in the Pacific Division for 115 days this season and every day since Feb. 7, return to T-Mobile Arena with a seven-game point streak (5-0-2 since Jan. 28). Reilly Smith (19-19—38 in 57 GP) leads Vegas with 19 goals in 2022-23 and sits one shy of his third 20-goal campaign with the franchise – a feat only two others have accomplished.

Anze Kopitar (19-32—51 in 58 GP) – within striking distance of a 12th 20-goal campaign – and the Kings have sat atop the division for one day in 2022-23 (Jan. 27). The longtime captain has found the back of the net in each of his past three games and can join a 37-year-old Luc Robitaille (4 GP in 2003-04) as just the second player in franchise history with a four-game goal streak at age 35 or older.

* The Kraken have held the second-most days atop the Pacific Division in 2022-23, doing so for 14 days and 10 consecutive from Jan. 28 to Feb. 6.Meanwhile, Matty Beniers (18-22—40 in 55 GP) leads all rookies in goals and can be the first to reach 20 in 2022-23 – a mark at least one rookie has reached in every campaign since 2013-14. A 10th consecutive season played with at least one rookie 20-goal scorer would be the third-longest stretch in NHL history behind 1967-68 to 1993-94 (27) and 1995-96 to 2011-12 (16).

Connor McDavid (44-61—105 in 58 GP) leads the Oilers into action after reaching the 800-point milestone in his last contest and now sits one tally shy of establishing a single-season career high in goals (also 44 in 2021-22). Edmonton, which occupied top spot in the Pacific on Oct. 12, 2022, sits three points back of Vegas after trailing the top-seeded team by as many as 13 points this season and can become the first team to overcome a double-digit point deficit to finish atop a division since Florida (17 points, Atlantic) and Anaheim (16 points, Pacific) in 2015-16.

Source: NHL Morning Skate – Feb. 23, 2023

NHL Pacific Division Reset: Vegas Golden Golden Knights

Golden Knights turn to Cassidy as coach after disappointing season

Replaces DeBoer; KHL import Manninen adds depth at forward

by Jackie Spiegel @jackiespiegel93 / Staff Writer

2021-22 season: 43-31-8, fourth in Pacific Division; did not qualify for Stanley Cup Playoffs

Key arrivals

Sakari Manninen, F: The 30-year-old signed a one-year contract July 14 after playing four seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League. He had 32 points, including a team-high 19 goals, in 38 regular-season games for Salavat Yulaev Ufa last season and scored the winning goal for Finland in the 2022 IIHF World Championship final against Canada. … Bruce Cassidy, coach: Hired June 14 to replace Peter DeBoer, the 57-year-old coached the Boston Bruins for six seasons until he was fired June 6. He was 245-108-46 with Boston, winning the 2020 Jack Adams Award voted as NHL coach of the year. The Bruins qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each season, including a seven-game loss to the St. Louis Blues in the 2019 Final.

Key departures

Max Pacioretty, F: Was traded with Dylan Coghlan to the Carolina Hurricanes on July 13 for future considerations to create space under the NHL salary cap; he has one season remaining on a four-year, $28 million contract ($7 million average annual value). Pacioretty was limited to 39 games because of a lower-body injury and wrist surgery. He had 37 points (19 goals, 18 assists) in 39 regular-season games last season. … Evgenii Dadonov, F: Traded to the Montreal Canadiens on June 16 for defenseman Shea Weber, whose career could be over after not playing in 2021-22 because of a foot/ankle injury. Dadonov had 43 points (20 goals, 23 assists) in 78 games last season. … Mattias Janmark, F: Signed a one-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers on July 17 as an unrestricted free agent. He had 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 67 regular-season games last season. … Dylan Coghlan, D: Had 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 59 games last season. … Peter DeBoer, coach: Fired on May 16 after the Golden Knights missed the playoffs for the first time since joining the NHL in 2017-18. Vegas was 98-50-12 under DeBoer, who was named Dallas Stars coach June 21.

On the cusp

Logan Thompson, G: The 25-year-old was 10-5-3 with a 2.68 goals-against average, .914 save percentage and one shutout in 19 games (17 starts), and 13-9-4 with a 2.77 GAA, .920 save percentage and two shutouts for Henderson of the American Hockey League last season. With Robin Lehner having shoulder surgery May 4 and Laurent Brossoit a medical procedure for an undisclosed injury after last season, Thompson could see considerable playing time this season. … Kaedan Korczak, D: The 21-year-old, a second-round pick (No. 41) in the 2019 NHL Draft, made his NHL debut Feb. 1 against the Buffalo Sabres. He had 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) in 47 AHL games last season. … Pavel Dorofeyev, F: The 21-year-old had no points in two NHL games last season. Selected in the third round (No. 79) of the 2019 draft, Dorofeyev led Henderson with 52 points (27 goals, 25 assists) in 63 games last season. … Brendan Brisson, F: The 20-year-old was the No. 29 pick of the 2020 NHL Draft and signed a tryout agreement with Henderson on April 12 after his sophomore season at the University of Michigan. Brisson had eight points (three goals, five assists) in seven AHL games and signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Golden Knights on April 30.

What they still need

Vegas still must re-sign restricted free agent forwards Nicolas Roy and Keegan Kolesar (arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 10) and top-pair defenseman Nicolas Hague. Vegas should be able to create some cap space once Weber is moved to long-term injured reserve at the start of the season, but there are still question marks around the availability of Lehner, Brossoit and forward Mark Stone (back) after each had offseason surgery.

They said it

“We want to put teams on their heels. We want to score goals but not at the expense of firewagon hockey. So it’s check well, check as a group, be connected to get pucks back so that we can get going the other way and use our skill. There’s a lot of skill up and down our lineup, so we want to make sure we take advantage of that, and players know that.” — coach Bruce Cassidy

Fantasy focus

The Golden Knights have a void at left wing after trading Pacioretty and Dadonov. They re-signed Reilly Smith, a consistent fantasy producer through the years, and have Roy as a potential deep sleeper if he lands on the top unit with elite forwards Stone and Jack Eichel. But the safest option for that spot could be elevating Jonathan Marchessault, who’s been one of the most underrated fantasy category coverage players in the NHL playing mostly on the second line. Marchessault leads the Golden Knights in goals (122), assists (169), points (291), even-strength points (221), power-play points (70) and shots on goal (1,208) since they began play in 2017-18 and has more than a hit per game (401 in 356 games) in that span. — Pete Jensen

Projected lineup

Chandler Stephenson — Jack Eichel — Mark Stone

Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith

Sakari Manninen — Nolan Patrick — Nicolas Roy

William Carrier — Brett Howden — Keegan Kolesar

Nicolas Hague — Alex Pietrangelo

Brayden McNabb — Shea Theodore

Alec Martinez — Zach Whitecloud

Robin Lehner

Laurent Brossoit