In the 2019-20 Player Review series, we revisit and evaluate the individual performances of Vegas Golden Knights players from last year’s regular season and extended playoff format. NOTE: Only skaters who played in at least 20 games will be included.
There have been several contenders, but arguably the biggest move in Vegas Golden Knights history was the acquisition of Mark Stone at the 2018-19 trade deadline. The Knights sent a package including prospect Erik Brannstrom, forward Oscar Lindberg and a 2020 second-round pick to Ottawa in exchange for the pending unrestricted free agent, who was promptly signed to an eight-year extension. The contract, which carries an AAV of $9.5 million, will keep Stone in Sin City through the 2026-27 season.
It was a bold move for a team likely headed to its second straight postseason appearance after falling short in the Stanley Cup Final in the club’s inaugural season. The Knights already had a talented team and no pressing top-six needs, but Stone wasn’t just a rental, he was a franchise player.
Season in review
Stone’s impact in Vegas was immediate, and he’s a likely candidate to become the first captain in franchise history.
Originally drafted in the sixth round (No. 178 overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Stone has developed into one of the best two-way forwards in the game, and last year, Stone’s first full season in Vegas, was no exception.
Stone was a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 2018-19 as the best two-way forward in the game, and he finished fifth in voting this past season. It’s hard to imagine he won’t continue to be among the highest vote-getters in the category moving forward.
But he wasn’t just effective in the defensive zone.
In fact, his presence offensively was a major boost for the Knights throughout the season.
The following heat maps are almost comical, though some credit is owed to the top line’s performance as a whole (particularly the Stone-Max Pacioretty duo). The breadth and sharpness of red indicating when Stone was on the ice is glaring, as is the net-front location of the deepest color.
Stone produced at almost a point-per-game pace, finishing the season with 21 goals and a team-leading and career-high 42 assists for 63 points in 65 games. His 63 points trailed only Pacioretty (66) in team scoring.
It was Stone’s fifth season with 60-plus points and his sixth 20-goal season. Though his shooting percentage (12.5 percent) was better than it had been when he joined Vegas for the final 18 games of the 2018-19 regular season (9.26), it still fell far below his career average of 15.2 percent.
Among regular skaters, Stone finished sixth in the NHL in Corsi For percentage at 5-on-5 (57.74), second in expected goal share (61.47 percent) and fifth in high-danger Corsi (62.05 percent). His 78 takeaways at all strengths tied for first in the league, while his 3.71 takeaways per 60 ranked second overall.
The 28-year-old finished first on the team in most per-60 categories, including Corsi (69.97), shots (39.24), expected goals (3.25), scoring chances (36.01) and high-danger Corsi (14.8), all at 5-on-5.
He had three games with four-plus points and 17 multi-point efforts, including the first three games of the regular season. He recorded 17 points in 12 games from Dec. 10 to Jan. 2, and all three of his games with four-plus points came in the span of nine games at the end of the season prior to his season-ending injury in the Feb. 26 game against Edmonton.
Come playoff time, Stone picked up right where he left off, scoring 17 points in 20 playoff games.
But like most of the team, his offense ran dry at the end of the Vancouver series and into the matchup against Dallas. In fact, he recorded just three points in the final eight games of the postseason, only one of which was a goal.
That’s not to underestimate Stone’s value, however. Not everything can be judged in terms of production, though it was Shea Theodore who truly stepped up when the team most needed a goal.
However, Stone’s leadership and elite ability were and remain crucial assets to this team, and he’ll be a cornerstone of this franchise for years to come.
There were a few particularly meaningful moments for Stone this past season when he faced Ottawa, the team that drafted him and for whom he played his entire career before Vegas. Stone certainly can’t be categorized as a “Golden Misfit,” but that doesn’t diminish the significance of playing against one’s former team.
The Knights won both meetings, and Stone found the scoresheet in each. The Winnipeg, Manitoba native tallied an assist in the first meeting, a 3-2 shootout win; notably, the point was the 200th assist of his career.
One of the most intriguing games of the season was the Jan. 16 contest in Ottawa. It was Pete DeBoer’s Vegas coaching debut and Stone’s return to Canada’s capital. Stone scored this wraparound goal and finished the game with two points in Vegas’ 4-2 victory, the team’s first in five games.
Stone had prettier, more memorable plays, though.
For one thing, the behind-the-back feed to Pacioretty with less than a second left against Nashville was a beauty.
But perhaps his most gorgeous move of the season came in a 7-2 thrashing against the Florida Panthers in which the Stone, Pacioretty and Chandler Stephenson line had a night to remember, combining for eight points. Stone tied a franchise record with a five-point effort, including this dazzler.
Go off, Mark Stone.— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) February 7, 2020
For good measure, here’s another impressive goal with a good dose of Expressive Mark Stone.
You might think you love Mark Stone goals more than Mark Stone, but you'd have to prove it pic.twitter.com/ChCdFfHFvs— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 29, 2019
Stone will continue to be one of the best players in the Knights organization and one of the best forwards in the game. He will remain a top-line fixture regardless of what happens elsewhere on the roster, and he’ll wear some sort of letter this season; whether or not it’s the “C” versus an “A” remains to be seen.
Stone is an integral part of this franchise.
Even when he wasn’t scoring in the playoffs, his play-driving ability, two-way dominance and leadership were critical during the Knights’ run. He serves as a mentor to the young players and plays with his heart on his sleeve every night. It’s crystal clear how significant a force he is for this team both on and off the ice, and he’s certainly not the type of player one has to worry about going through any sort of slump.
Mark Stone will continue to be a phenomenal hockey player and teammate, and Vegas is a significantly better team with him in the lineup.
How would you grade Stone in his first full season as a Knight?
This poll is closed
A+ or A
B or B-
C- or below