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Nicolas Roy Has Been Quite Good for Vegas Golden Knights

Dallas Stars v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

Nicolas Roy scored his 6th goal and 15th point of the season during Tuesday evening’s 4-3 loss vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning in his 29th game of the season. By doing so, Roy tied his career high in both goals and points, a mark he set last season in 50 games played. This season Roy has been a strong performer for the Vegas Golden Knights, and has been one of the team’s top bottom-six contributors.

Roy is averaging 16:46 a game thus far for the Golden Knights, which is 3:45 more than he did in 2020-21. As of this writing, Roy is 7th among skaters on Vegas with an xGF% of 53.86, 9th with a CF% of 52.82, and 10th with a GF% of 58.04. Here’s a look how he stacks up in RAPM, with this visual via Evolving-Hockey.

This season Roy has averaged 9.81 shot attempts per 60 at 5v5, which is up from 9.06 last season. He’s got a 0.96 G/60, up from 0.62 last season, and an ixG/60 of 0.92 which is up 30 basis points from the prior year. In total he’s got a 2.25 points per 60, up a whopping 91 basis points from 2020-21.

In terms of goals above replacement, Roy ranks 10th with a GAR of 2, but he has the potential to be even better for Vegas. When looking at Roy’s line, here’s how he stacks up in each individual category of GAR.

  • Even Strength Offense — 4.6 (4th)
  • Even Strength Defense — -1.6 (22nd)
  • Power Play Offense — 0 (18th)
  • Shorthanded Defense — -0.2 (21st)
  • Penalties Taken — -0.2 (24th)
  • Penalties Drawn — -0.6 (26th)
  • Total Offensive GAR — 4.7 (5th)
  • Total Defensive GAR — -1.8 (22nd)
  • Penalties — -0.8 (27th)

The TL/DR here is that Roy is giving the Golden Knights some significant value with his offensive game, but not a lot defensively. Roy is 6’4”, 207 lbs. and typecast as an empowering center who will crash the net and create chances. That was something said about him during his draft year, in which he ultimately was selected 96th overall in the fourth round by the Carolina Hurricanes.

Via Elite Prospects:

An aggressive power center who has the ability to dominate on the forecheck. The first thing you will notice about Nicolas Roy is that he is a full-framed figure who powers through his strides and finishes his checks. Subsequently, you will notice his nose for the net; he cannot be knocked off stride easily and has a good set of hands around the net. All-in-all, a big-bodied, imposing presence on the ice who threatens the opposition with his deadly medley of size and skill.

This description seems fair, and some of this was on display during the goal I mentioned in the opener.

Roy gained the zone with some speed, and was in the middle of four Tampa Bay Lightning skaters, but still found a way to score. The best part of his goal was when he waited out a back-skating Victor Hedman, a pretty good defenseman if I say so myself, and quickly moved from forehand to backhand, and back to the forehand before quickly riffling it by Andrei Vasilevskiy. It was an impressive one, and speaks to the confidence Roy is playing with this season.

Roy playing this way, with more ice time, is important for the Golden Knights, and will make things interesting once Jack Eichel is added to the active roster. Currently the center depth consists of Chandler Stephenson (31 points in 31 games), William Karlsson (7 points in 17 games), Roy (15 points in 29 games), and Brett Howden (8 points in 23 games). I wrote about Howden’s solid start earlier this week, and mentioned how he could be the odd man out when Eichel returns, and how that could push Roy down. But it may not even be as simple as that.

New Vegas Golden Knights Player Jack Eichel Visits Youth At Ball Hockey Rink In North Las Vegas Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Eichel and his $10 million cap hit are currently on long-term injured reserve, and will join the Golden Knights’ active payroll when healthy. That means the Knights will need to move some salary out, and while it is too early to definitively say who is going to come off the books, Roy and his $750,000 price tag will become even more valuable on the team during the cap crunch.

With the breadth of talent on the wings, who’s to say that Roy can’t slide into a No. 2 center spot if needed? I only say this because if the Knights were to break up the “misfits” line by trading Reilly Smith and his $5 million cap hit, they could potentially move Karlsson down a spot to give him a chance to play against weaker competition in order to get his game going.

Karlsson had a career year in 2017-18 when he finished with 43 goals and a 0.95 points per game average, and since then his total numbers have declined. In the years since, Karlsson’s posted points per game averages of 0.68, 0.73, 0.70, and is at 0.41 this season. All of that said, it is early to get into these hypotheticals, but that’s just a thought.

What is important though is Roy’s stellar play gives the team options. Offensively he’s doing the things you want to see, and while the defensive game could be better, that can come in time. Roy will turn 25 in February, and this is only his second “full season” in the NHL. In the month of December he’s tallied four goals and two assists for six points in 10 games while averaging 15:51. Roy has the potential to do more for the Knights, but for the time being it is hard to ask him for more.

Stats via Evolving-Hockey unless otherwise noted.