Former Panthers star isn’t sorry he landed in Vegas — and maybe the Stanley Cup finals.
Jonathan Marchessault was left unprotected in the expansion draft by the Florida Panthers, who seemed to determine his breakout season was a fluke. Oops. The Vegas Golden Knights selected Marchessault and he averaged nearly a point a game in the regular season, and leads the team with eight goals and 17 points in the playoffs. He needs two goals to tie the NHL record for the most by a player in his club’s first postseason appearance.
Marchessault scored twice to lead the Knights to a 4-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets in Game 3 of the Western Conference final Wednesday night. Vegas took a 2-1 series lead and is now two wins from advancing to the Stanley Cup final.
“Yeah, I’m satisfied with my game,” he said.
Florida was not satisfied, apparently, even though he scored 30 goals in his first full season and had one year left on his contract for a relative bargain of $750,000.
“I was surprised at the decision,” he acknowledged. “I had a great season. I think I was one of the top four players at the forward position there, but they did the best decision for their organization. It’s been like that my whole career. It was a reality check. Just when you think you can be a little bit comfortable, you can’t.
“After I heard I was unprotected, I moved on and hoped that Vegas would pick me and they did.”
When the Golden Knights saw up close
When I saw [Vegas] wanted to keep me, I was happy because I wanted stability in my life.” Jonathan Marchessault
how good Marchessault was as their leading scorer in early January, they signed him to a $30 million, six-year contract extension. He could have gambled on his future and cashed in even more on free agency this summer, but chose to stay with a team that finally believed in him.
“It was not a tough decision,” said Marchessault, 27, who finished the regular season with 27 goals and a career-high 75 points. “When I saw they wanted to keep me long term, I was happy because I wanted stability in my life. It’s been a roller-coaster career. I was just happy to be able to buy a home and stay there.”
The 5-foot-9, 174-pound Marchessault, married with three young children, bounced around earlier in his career after being undrafted.
“First time I saw Marchy, he was a skilled guy who stayed on the outside. Didn’t really battle,” said Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant, who had Marchessault on his team in Florida before being fired. “The reason why he’s a 30- to 40-goal scorer now is because he’s more competitive. He’ll go to those hard areas to score some goals. He plays a good, strong game. Small guy, but very competitive.”
Before his 51-point season with the Panthers last season, he had a total of 19 points in parts of the three previous seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I was always the underdog because of my size,” he said.
The Golden Knights host Game 4 tonight.
Jonathan Marchessault of the Vegas Golden Knights celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal on Wednesday against the Winnipeg Jets in Game Three of the Western Conference Finals at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Jonathan Marchessault skated past Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba to score on goalie Connor Hellebuyck in the first period of Wednesday’s win over the Jets.