The Vegas Golden Knights recorded 82 points during the 2021 shortened 56 game season. This tied for the highest mark in the league with the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche were awarded the Presidents Trophy, the trophy given to the league's best regular season team, due to a tiebreaker. Colorado had 35 regulation wins compared to Vegas' 30.
After coming close in 2021, the Golden Knights are once again amongst the favorites to lay claim to the Presidents Trophy. They currently have the fourth best odds at +650. The Avalanche, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs have slightly better odds.
What's changed for Vegas?
Most NHL teams go through some turnover during the offseason. Vegas' management did a good job of keeping the core of the team together, but there was one very significant move.
After serving as the face of the franchise for the first four years of Golden Knights' history, Vegas traded goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to Chicago. Fleury won the Vezina trophy as the league's best goalie last season. Robin Lehner will take over as the number one goalie in Las Vegas, and there's reason to believe he'll do just fine.
Vegas returns their top ten point producers from last season. Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty and company are back to lead the charge offensively. Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore are both number-one options on the backend.
One big offseason acquisition for the Golden Knights was Evgenii Dadonov. Dadonov scored just 13 goals last season, but Ottawa was a mess. In the three prior seasons with the Florida Panthers, Dadonov scored 78 goals. Dadonov adds a scoring threat to an offense that has had problems scoring in the past.
This is a very good team. BetMGM has them with the third best odds to win the Stanley Cup at +850.
The Pacific Division is....not good
With the pandemic causing divisional realignment in 2021, the Golden Knights were placed in a division with the Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues. This level of competition is much higher than what the Golden Knights will deal with in the 2022 season.
NHL divisions have returned to what they were prior to the pandemic. The Arizona Coyotes were moved from the Pacific Division to the Central Division. Replacing Arizona in the Pacific Division are the expansion Seattle Kraken.
Of the eight teams in the Pacific Division, only two made the playoffs last season; Vegas and the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton was swept in the first round of the playoffs.
The three California teams in Los Angeles, San Jose and Anaheim are all in varying stages of the rebuilding process and finished amongst the bottom seven teams in the league last season. Calgary and Vancouver finished 20th and 24th respectively. Seattle is an expansion team, and while we can't dismiss the chance of a repeat of Vegas' first season, conventional wisdom tells us they will struggle.
Vegas will play 26 games against the rest of their division. This should give them the ability to stockpile wins. The Golden Knights are -165 favorites to win their division, and despite the heavy juice, I think that's a line worth investing in.
However, for a better potential payout, I'd look for Vegas to potentially ride their divisional schedule to the league's best record during the regular season. Vegas sits at +650 to win the Presidents Trophy. They came very close last season in much tougher circumstances.