The Vegas Golden Knights had last season completely derailed by key injuries, and the only thing keeping it from happening again is the big lead they built up at the beginning of the year. The club issued updates on three key players today, indicating that Jack Eichel is day-to-day, Shea Theodore is week-to-week, and Zach Whitecloud is out on a month-to-month basis. The latter has been moved to long-term injured reserve, joining Shea Weber, Robin Lehner, Brett Howden, and Nolan Patrick with that designation.
One of the things that made Vegas so dangerous early on was their defensive depth, with some calling the duo of Whitecloud and Nicolas Hague the best third pairing in the league. Now, that depth will be seriously tested, given the injuries and absence of Alex Pietrangelo for personal reasons.
In Sunday’s game against the Boston Bruins, Ben Hutton ended up playing more than 20 minutes due to Whitecloud’s early departure, something that the team probably doesn’t want to see every night. Young Kaedan Korczak and Brayden Pachal were recalled yesterday to give the group some additional help on the back end, though asking either of them to fill Whitecloud’s shoes will be difficult.
The 26-year-old Whitecloud has turned into a very reliable member of the Golden Knights blue line, recording six points in 30 games during the first season of a six-year extension signed last fall. He was supposed to be the player they could lean on in the absence of Pietrangelo and Theodore but now it looks like a huge chunk of his year will be spent rehabbing. Vegas can ill afford more injuries on the back end, while they try to hold off the surging Seattle Kraken in the Pacific Division.