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Brendan Leipsic is in a tough spot on the Golden Knights’ roster

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What do you do when you’re just outside the top-nine but not a fourth-line kinda guy?

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Vegas Golden Knights Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

For all intents and purposes, Brendan Leipsic is an NHL player. He proved that last year as the Toronto Marlies’ alternate captain when he tallied 51 points in 49 AHL games. He has proved it somewhat as well during his brief NHL tenure, notching seven points in 14 games between the Maple Leafs and the Vegas Golden Knights. He has even produced a strong Corsi For Percentage (CF%) as an NHL’er, 53.3 to be precise, despite not playing with elite linemates.

This all begs the question: Why has he been a healthy scratch the past five games?

Picking forwards is not simply deciding on your best four centers, left and right wings and slotting them in. There are chemistry decisions abound and ideas of different roles within a lineup. Vegas’ top nine forwards have been, as ranked by ice time: Reilly Smith, David Perron, Cody Eakin, William Karlsson, James Neal, Jonathan Marchessault, Erik Haula, Alex Tuch and Oscar Lindberg.

Fine. I am willing to concede that those players are, at least as of today, comparable or better options than Leipsic. However, the 23-year-old winger is surely a more talented player than any of Tomas Nosek, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare or William Carrier. However, those three men have played each of the Golden Knights’ 13 games.

I mean, could you imagine any of them pulling this off?

Note the finisher on that highlight-reel goal: Lindberg. Now, the sample size is criminally small, at a mere 11 minutes and 22 seconds, but that pair has a 62.96 CF%. Apart, they each dip below 48 percent.

Leipsic’s most common fellow Golden Knights winger has been Alex Tuch, whose game differs from than of Leipsic in almost every facet. They complement each other well stylistically and in terms of shot data, posting a 55.22 CF% across 30:49 when paired.

A Leipsic-Lindberg-Tuch line could be dynamite, and has been in the past, albeit for a minuscule 8:46. Check this out:

Leipsic/Lindberg/Tuch Data

Player 1 Player 2 Player 3 GP CF CA CF% SCF SCA SCF% HDCF HDCA HDCF% OZ%
Player 1 Player 2 Player 3 GP CF CA CF% SCF SCA SCF% HDCF HDCA HDCF% OZ%
Brendan Leipsic Alex Tuch Oscar Lindberg 4 15 6 71.43 11 2 84.62 7 1 87.5 50
Brendan Leipsic Alex Tuch w/o Oscar Lindberg 4 22 24 47.83 13 13 50 3 4 42.86 76.92
Brendan Leipsic w/o Alex Tuch Oscar Lindberg 8 2 4 33.33 2 2 50 0 0 0 0
Brendan Leipsic w/o Alex Tuch w/o Oscar Lindberg 8 41 46 47.13 19 18 51.35 4 7 36.36 42.31
w/o Brendan Leipsic Alex Tuch Oscar Lindberg 9 48 47 50.53 18 19 48.65 4 7 36.36 45.45
w/o Brendan Leipsic Alex Tuch w/o Oscar Lindberg 9 1 5 16.67 1 1 50 0 0 0 33.33
w/o Brendan Leipsic w/o Alex Tuch Oscar Lindberg 13 82 108 43.16 39 46 45.88 17 15 53.13 37.14
w/o Brendan Leipsic w/o Alex Tuch w/o Oscar Lindberg 13 336 372 47.46 180 201 47.24 71 82 46.41 43.8
Table by Dalton Mack, data from Natural Stat Trick

Couple that with the fact that Leipsic’s 5v5 points per 60 minutes (3.12) is second-best on the team, and you have got a strong case that Leipsic should not be relegated to the press box.

Unfortunately, the impetus for his entry into the lineup will likely be an injury to a top-9 forward. Given the rough and tumble nature of hockey, that is due to happen sooner rather than later. At least Vegas will be in good hands if a forward goes down. Heaven knows they cannot afford another goalie injury.