If you had to choose a single player that the Vegas Golden Knights could ill afford to lose from the lineup, it would likely be center William Karlsson. The Golden Knights are already dealing with injuries to Alex Tuch, Max Pacioretty, Nolan Patrick, and Mark Stone, but were likely weakest overall at the center ice position. Now Karlsson, after playing more than 19 minutes in his last game, will miss roughly six weeks with a broken foot according to Jesse Granger of The Athletic.
Granger suggests that it will be Nicolas Roy that moves up to play between Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault, but notes how much pressure this will put on Chandler Stephenson, the team’s de facto first-line center. Even up until the last little while Stephenson’s success in Vegas was regarded as a product of his linemates, though he has played so well with Stone and Pacioretty on the sidelines that many have changed their minds.
The problem is, it’s not only the even-strength lineup that’s affected, given how much Karlsson plays on both special teams. In 2020-21, no Golden Knights forward saw more short-handed ice time than Karlsson, and only Stone and Pacioretty averaged more with the man advantage. He takes a huge number of the team’s draws as their best option in the faceoff dot, and drives play between two other “original” Golden Knights–those selected in the 2017 expansion draft.
Karlsson likely has been the biggest success story from that process, as he went from a career-high of nine goals to scoring 43 in his first season with the Golden Knights. Over 291 regular season games with Vegas, he has 222 points.
Now without him for six weeks, the Golden Knights must find another way to fill out the middle of the ice and continue their charge up the Pacific Division standings. The team has won their past three contests, evening their record at 4-4 and climbing to fifth in the divisional race.