March 24, 2023

The Vegas Golden Knights missed the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last season, but so far, they have bounced back nicely in 2022-23. One of the main contributors to those successful early playoff runs is having a bit of a resurgence himself.

William Karlsson was one of the Golden Knights’ expansion draft gems in 2017, scoring more than 40 goals in that inaugural season. The last three campaigns haven’t been as kind, with 41 goals over 186 games. He turns 30 this season, and here’s a look at how Karlsson has recovered his goal-scoring touch.

Vegas Wins Big With Karlsson in Expansion Draft

When Karlsson arrived in Vegas for the 2017-18 season, he was a middling player for the Columbus Blue Jackets, who scored only 18 goals in his first 183 NHL games. In his first two seasons with the Golden Knights, he never missed a game and scored 63 goals – including 43 in that inaugural campaign when he also won the Lady Byng Trophy. Only Alex Ovechkin (49) and Patrik Laine (44) had more goals than Karlsson that season.

William Karlsson
William Karlsson in Vegas’ inaugural season.

The club famously lost in the Stanley Cup Final in that thrilling first campaign and has failed to advance out of the first round only once since then. On the back of those first two seasons, Karlsson became one of the best players in Vegas’ young history, second only to Jonathan Marchessault in games played, goals, and points. He’s also third in assists behind Marchessault and Shea Theodore.

Related: Golden Knights’ William Karlsson Top 3 Performances

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His 43 goals and 78 points in his first season in Vegas are all still career highs, and his plus-49 rating led the NHL, as did his shooting percentage of 23.4 percent. He finished sixth in voting for the Hart Trophy. But things slowed down after that, as his point totals have declined every season.

Cassidy’s Style Helps Karlsson’s Solid Start

Karlsson has four goals and three assists through 10 games this season and has two goals and an assist in his last three games. Last season, he didn’t score his fourth goal until the 21st game, and it took him 17 games to get that many in 2020-21. The addition of new head coach Bruce Cassidy can’t be overlooked here; he came to Vegas after a pretty successful run with the Boston Bruins.

Bruce Cassidy Vegas Golden Knights
Bruce Cassidy, Vegas Golden Knights (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Cassidy likes to defend first and then break out of the zone, and that fits Karlsson’s style of play. The center has great vision coming out of the zone, and he jumps on the puck when it’s in the offensive zone. After being predominantly an even-strength scorer for the bulk of his career, he already has a power-play goal and short-handed assist in this young season. He’s also been great on faceoffs, winning 59.1 percent.

Reunion of Misfit Line Propels Production

Karlsson centers the Golden Knights’ second line that includes the top three goal-scorers in franchise history. Cassidy reunited the Misfit Line of Karlsson, Marchessault and Reilly Smith seven games into this season. All three played an integral role in the Golden Knights’ inaugural success, and the line’s name comes from that 2017-18 team that called itself the “Golden Misfits.”

William Karlsson Golden Knights
William Karlsson (Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)

Cassidy wasn’t going to put them back together if it wasn’t the best move for the team, but Vegas hasn’t lost since they were reunited. Those three have combined for three goals and six assists during the team’s current four-game winning streak, and the group has played more than 300 games together. But we’ll see how long Cassidy keeps that line intact.

Vegas had one of the best starts as an expansion team in NHL history, and they’re off to a great start this season after missing the 2022 Playoffs. With an 8-2 record, they are at the top of the league standings, tied with the Bruins with 16 points. Karlsson has been a big contributor to their success so far, and the Golden Knights will need him to continue playing at that level if they want a long postseason run.

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