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.
Jonathan Marchessault is a player Vegas has relied on throughout franchise history. Marchessault scored 27 goals as a first-line wing in 2017-18 and has remained a vital fixture in the top six in every season with Vegas. He has retained that role because he does one thing at a consistent, high level: score goals. His goals-per-game pace has remained at 0.3 or above in each season, hitting 0.33 last year.
Season in review
Marchessault was third on the team in goals last season with 22 in 66 games, six of which came on the power play, which tied for second on the team. He added 25 assists for a total of 47 points in the regular season. He took the second-most shots (235) on the team after Max Pacioretty and was also second to Pacioretty in expected goals (21.46). Marchessault generates shot pressure. That’s just what he does.
But Marchessault also can maintain possession. While his goal share (49.37 percent) and high-danger goal share (46.94 percent) were sub-par, that was more because of his incredibly poor PDO of 0.986. That was a trend among Golden Knights players last season: good performances with very little to show for it because of bad luck.
Marchessault still had a 54.59 percent Corsi, 54.92 percent expected goal share and 50 percent high-danger share. Those numbers are much better than the real results. That fits in with Marchessault’s five expected goals above replacement to 2.4 real goals above replacement last season. That means Marchessault still has a sizeable, positive impact.
Additionally, the power play was much better with Marchessault than without, by a wide amount:
More shots from the net-front and the royal road — that stretch of ice extending vertically from the crease — are likely results of Marchessault’s presence.
Aside from goal-scoring, there are areas of Marchessault’s game that could use some improvement, however. Marchessault had his lowest points-per-game pace of his Golden Knights career in 2019-20 despite an uptick in goals; that’s because his assist rate continues to plummet (down to 0.38 from 0.41 in 2018-19 and 0.62 in 2017-18).
Perhaps that’s in part because William Karlsson, Marchessault’s primary centerman, continues to see a decline in scoring. But Reilly Smith scored a career-high 27 goals, and he plays with Marchessault as well. There are assists out there waiting to be collected.
Marchessault also could have been better in the playoffs.
The 5-foot-9 winger scored just 10 points, a 0.5 point-per-game pace, his worst in Vegas. Just three of those 10 points were goals, and he scored just one after the round robin ended (in Game 2 against Vancouver, though it was a game-winner). In fact, Marchessault scored just three points after the first round against Chicago.
Marchessault had his best defensive impact for Vegas, just 1.1 percent worse versus other Vegas forwards:
Overall, it was a positive season for Marchessault, although there is still room to improve, especially when it comes to playmaking and playoff performance.
Marchessault scored his first career natural hat trick against the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 3, 2019. It was his second hat trick with the Golden Knights, his first coming on Jan. 19, 2019 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This one came in the third period of a 4-3 win. Prior to Marchessault’s hat trick, scored in the span of just over 8:35, the Golden Knights had been trailing 2-1.
The three goals were scored in typical Marchessault fashion: deflections on the first two and persistence on the third, as he collected his own rebound on the power play to put one past Mackenzie Blackwood.
Marchessault remains a key part of Vegas’ top six and is entering the third season of his six-year, $30 million contract signed almost exactly three years ago. He’s already off to a great start this season after scoring the fastest season-opening goal in Knights history last week against the Anaheim Ducks, and he’ll look to build on that as the season progresses.
He’s proven repeatedly that he’s capable of scoring goals at a high clip in the regular season, and there’s no reason to believe he’ll do otherwise this year. While nearing 30 goals may not be possible given the shortened season, hitting his points-per-game pace of at least 0.3 is very probable, and it’s possible an uptick in assists will go along with it.
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