When the Golden Knights return, they’ll do so in bigger numbers than before.
The NHL is planning for expanded rosters in the postseason, having reportedly told general managers that 28 players will be eligible, but that’s not finalized. That also doesn’t include goaltenders, as teams will not be capped on the number of goaltenders they carry.
Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon said he was planning for 28-man active rosters until he heard otherwise. He’s yet to determine how exactly he would use the five extra slots.
“Once we know those numbers for sure, we’ll make a decision for sure,” McCrimmon said. “Those are discussions that are ongoing once we get some more information from the NHL.”
Let’s dive into what the Golden Knights’ roster could look like with 28 skaters and unlimited goaltenders.
A lot of players are obvious. As for forwards, the top six of Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith and Paul Stastny aren’t going anywhere.
Ditto for Nick Cousins, Chandler Stephenson, William Carrier, Ryan Reaves, Nicolas Roy and Tomas Nosek, regardless of how they line up. Alex Tuch, who missed 29 games with injury this season, is also healthy and expected to play.
The Golden Knights will be without Cody Glass, whom McCrimmon confirmed would be unavailable for the postseason.
That’s 13 healthy forwards, one more than the team can dress on gamedays but fewer than they can keep on the roster.
On the blue line, eight defensemen are sure-things: Shea Theodore, Nate Schmidt, Brayden McNabb, Alec Martinez, Nick Holden, Zach Whitecloud, Jon Merrill and Deryk Engelland.
That’s 21 skaters, which would make for the whole playoff roster in a normal postseason. The fun begins with the ability to add seven extra skaters.
Nicolas Hague feels like a lock to make it considering he played 38 regular season games. Brandon Pirri had a down season in 16 games this season but, with a shortage of scoring wingers, he could be used in a pinch. The Golden Knights seemed to forgive Valentin Zykov’s drug suspension, recalling him for eight December games after his time was up, so he’s likely to be there in the postseason.
That leaves four more spots for, coincidentally, five more players still in the organization that played at least one game with the Golden Knights this season: Jake Bischoff, Gage Quinney, Patrick Brown and Keegan Kolesar.
An interesting wrinkle could present itself if Jack Dugan is ruled eligible. The NHL has stated an intention not to allow players who signed contracts during the pause to play.
The Golden Knights held off on announcing in which year Dugan’s two-year entry-level will begin. It’s likely going to begin next season, but if he’s ruled eligible, Vegas could choose the first year of his deal to activate him for this postseason.
In net, Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner will be on the roster. The only other question is how many backups the Golden Knights want for practice.
The only limit they might have to deal with is how many people teams can bring to the hubs. There’s expected to be a hard cap on total number of personal per franchise, including players and staff. Every extra goalie is therefore technically one less employee that can come.
Teams are likely to prioritize on-ice personnel, though, and two practice goalies would be helpful to keep Fleury and Lehner fresh.
The Golden Knights will surely bring either Oscar Dansk or Garret Sparks, and it’s probably more likely both are included.
That totals out to 18 forwards, 10 defensemen and four goalies for a total of 32 players. Only the customary 20 will be allowed to dress for games, so below is a projected lineup for Game 1 of the postseason.
Brown, Kolesar, Nosek, Pirri, Quinney, Zykov
Bischoff, Engelland, Hague, Merrill