The National Hockey League is what they call a copycat league, where teams mimic how the most recent Stanley Cup-winning clubs are constituted. With the Vegas Golden Knights one win away from their first Stanley Cup, teams are looking at what GM Kelly McCrimmon added over the last couple of years to get them to the precipice of a championship.
Up front, the Golden Knights took a risky big swing on Jack Eichel, hoping that he would fully recover from an experimental neck surgery to be able to give Vegas an answer to counter other Western Conference clubs with top-line centers like Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon. The risk paid off and gave them the depth up the middle with William Karlsson and Chandler Stephenson, and three effective forward lines with Jonathan Marchessault, Mark Stone, Ivan Barbashev, and Reilly Smith on the wings.
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McCrimmon went into free agency to get the Golden Knights a top-pairing blueliner in Alex Pietrangelo, who captained the St. Louis Blues to a Cup in 2019. To go along with Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, Nicolas Hague, Zach Whitecloud, and Alec Martinez, Vegas has the biggest defense and has been able to limit or neutralize the likes of McDavid, Jason Robertson, and Matthew Tkachuk in the last three rounds, and limit chances on their third-string goalie in Adin Hill.
Sabres Have Some Of The Pieces
The Buffalo Sabres already have a number of the pieces already in-house that make up what Vegas has. Tage Thompson has stepped into the top-line center role vacated by Eichel and youngsters Dylan Cozens, Casey Mittelstadt, and Peyton Krebs appear capable of providing quality depth at center. Wingers Jeff Skinner, Alex Tuch, Jack Quinn, J-J Peterka, Jordan Greenway, and Victor Olofsson give Buffalo the makings of three solid scoring units.
On defense, the Sabres have an advantage over the Golden Knights are two top overall picks with the talent to be #1 defensemen in Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power, a big body top-four blueliner in Mattias Samuelsson, and a depth defender in Ilya Lybushkin, but Buffalo comes up short in the lower half with defenders like Jacob Bryson and Henri Jokiharju who do not play an overly physical brand of hockey.
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GM Kevyn Adams reportedly is looking to upgrade on defense during the summer, which will be imperative if they continue to stick with the plan of going with two young goaltenders in Devon Levi and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. If the Sabres add an experienced netminder, it will still be necessary to add size and experience throughout the lineup to be tougher to play against.