Of all the questions surrounding this year’s Golden Knights team, there’s a quiet confidence that Nicolas Roy will not be one of them.
The 23-year-old will enter this third NHL season later this week, and presumably his first crack at full-time duty. He’s a veteran of 35 career games, and after a strong postseason and training camp, looks ready to make an impact on the Golden Knights.
“I feel more confident than last year, coming over from a new team. I was kind of nervous at the start of the season,” Roy said. “It’s really different, but I’m really excited to start the camp with everything that’s been going on. It’s been good so far.”
Roy came to the Golden Knights in a June 2019 trade with Carolina in exchange for center Erik Haula, who was stretching the Vegas salary cap. Roy started the year with AHL Chicago before becoming a mainstay in the lineup by the end of the year, playing in all 20 postseason games.
It’s working out well, to say the least.
Roy fit in well on the fourth line, centering bruising wingers William Carrier and Ryan Reaves. While it looks like he’ll start the season away from them, he could always come back.
“He’s got some good skills. He can score goals and make some plays,” Carrier said. “It’s nice when I get a chance to play with him, but he’s been doing pretty well for himself.”
The stereotypical fourth-line player is the traditional “dump-and-chase” forward or brings grit on the so-called “energy” or “checking” line. The sport is trending away from that, and with so much skill in the league, teams are loathe to concede an entire line to just checkers.
Even though Carrier and Reaves are physical players, they still combined for 15 goals.
Roy was a perfect example of that. He fit in well between Carrier and Reaves, but was still able to hold his own playing up the lineup, where it appears he will begin this season.
“For a guy who plays on the fourth line a little bit, he’s got some really good hands,” Reaves said. “He holds the puck longer than most fourth-line guys. He can carry it through the neutral zone by himself. He adds a little bit of that offensive balance. I thought he did a great job last year and I expect the exact same this year.”
Roy has been skating on the third line alongside center Cody Glass. Alex Tuch had been the right wing, but has missed the last few days of practice. Regardless, Roy’s placement on a higher line speaks to the trust the Golden Knights have in him.
“He can move up and down your lineup,” Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said. “He’s skilled enough to play with skilled players and not slow them down, and he’s big enough to grind with third and fourth lines and be hard to play against. When you start throwing all those things out there, he’s a valuable guy for us.”
Roy isn’t likely to figure into the power-play rotation, but DeBoer intimated he wouldn’t be afraid to use him as a net-front option with the extra man “if we get into a jam.” While special-teams work has not been visible to the media in practices yet, it’s likely Roy will be a major factor on the Knights’ penalty kill.
He’s the kind of player every good hockey teams needs. They’re not asking him to score 50 goals, but he did have eight points in 20 playoff games, so the offensive potential is there.
Roy last year was the new guy just trying to grab a spot on the team. He’s locked into one now, and the Golden Knights are going to rely him more and more as the season — and his young career — goes on.