Easily the biggest pleasant surprise this season has been the Vegas Golden Knights. The franchise is off to a 7-1-0 start and won again on Tuesday despite missing starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) and backup Malcolm Subban (lower body). Oscar Dansk more than held his own against Chicago, stopping 29 of 31 shots to lead Vegas to the victory. With Subban out for four weeks and Fleury sidelined indefinitely, those hurting for a goaltender might want to consider Dansk as a stopgap option.
Not everything has gone according to plan for Vegas though. The hope was that Vadim Shipachyov could be a major contributor in the NHL after scoring 26 goals and 76 points in 50 KHL contests last season. Instead he’s played in just three games with Vegas thus far, scoring a goal over that span, and is now back in the AHL. Part of the problem is that the Golden Knights have something a roster headache due to the Frankenstein nature of their largely expansion draft constructed team, so it’s convenient to store Shipachyov in the minors simply because he’s waiver-exempt. That’s not what he signed up for though and it’s led to speculation about him potentially being dealt. Vegas has reportedly given him permission to seek a trade and while might not happen, perhaps there is a better opportunity for him elsewhere.
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He’s not the only skilled forward that’s in a less than desirable position right now though, even if he is the most extreme example. Joshua Ho-Sang was recently sent to the minors too. He’s a far different story given that he’s still just 21-years-old, but it’s a shame because he is already capable of chipping in offensively. He has four assists in six games with the Islanders this season despite averaging a modest 13:28 minutes per contest so once he does earn a regular spot with the team, he should have some fantasy value. Obviously with him now in the AHL, that time isn’t imminent.
Kailer Yamamoto is another young forward that’s struggled to secure a spot with his team. The 18-year-old got a chance to get minutes with Connor McDavid while Leon Draisaitl was sidelined, but he wasn’t able to make himself indispensable with the struggling Oilers. With Draisaitl once again healthy, Yamamoto is projected to be scratched on Thursday and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Oilers eventually return him to the WHL. He can play in up to nine games without this counting as the first season of his entry-level contract though and he’s currently logged seven games with Edmonton, so the Oilers can wait a bit longer before making a decision.
Mitch Marner is another player that falls into this theme even if his situation is somewhat different. He was one of the NHL’s top rookies last season with 19 goals and 61 points in 77 contests, but recently he’s found himself on the Maple Leafs’ fourth line. That partially speaks to Toronto’s depth, but it also has to do with Marner underperforming so far this season. He did look good on Monday though and registered two assists in the process, so hopefully he’ll be able to play his way off the fourth line sooner rather than later.
The rest of the Maple Leafs’ largely haven’t shared in Marner’s struggles. After managing to squeeze into the playoffs last season on the back of strong rookie performances, Toronto has jumped out to a 7-2-0 start this season. While Marner’s sophomore campaign hasn’t been ideal, they have gotten seven goals and 12 points out of Auston Matthews as well as three goals and nine points out of William Nylander. Meanwhile fellow sophomore Connor Brown has been a valuable part of the supporting cast with his three goals and five points. Toronto is going to have its cold patches, but there’s a lot to love about this offensive group and as long as this core can remain healthy, the Maple Leafs should be one of the NHL’s leaders in terms of goals scored.
Shifting back to forwards that aren’t in great positions right now though, Ryan Hartman practiced on Chicago’s fourth line on Thursday after playing predominantly alongside Patrick Kane up until this point. That’s particularly disappointing because Hartman got off to such a great start this season with his five-point opener, but he’s cooled down with a goal and no assists over his last five games.
Richard Panik is taking Hartman’s spot on the Kane line, but he had previously been playing with Jonathan Toews so that’s not a huge upgrade for him. Alex DeBrincat is arguably the bigger winner as this shakeup involves him moving up from Chicago’s third line to the Toews line. DeBrincat is another highly skilled forward, so even though he has just a goal and four points in 10 games thus far, he’ll be worth keeping an eye on now that he’s in a top-six situation. Chicago will play against Nashville on Friday, so that will be the first test for these new lines.