During the NHL Awards last night the world saw the formation of the 31st NHL team in the Vegas Golden Knights. Three days ago we saw the lists of protected players from the other 30 and therefore saw those who Vegas could select. Immediately the names of Marc-Andre Fleury and James Neal seemed destined to move to sin city but who else would be chosen and what side deals would be made to protect unprotected players.
The roster looks like this as of 6/22/17
Goalies: Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT) Calvin Pickard (COL) JF Berube (NYI)
The goalie situation for the Knights couldn’t have gone better. They were able to select a bonafide number one goalie who has the experience of taking a team to the cup. Not only that but he could also help sell jerseys and merchandise and for a new team that is very important. Calvin Pickard played very well when representing Team Canada at the IIHF World Championships in route to a silver medal and has the potential to close the door in case of a Fleury injury. JF Berube is a exciting goalie prospect who can help the Golden Knights build for a strong future.
Defensemen: Luca Sbisa (VAN) Jon Merrill (NJD) Brayden McNabb (LAK) Jason Garrison (TBL) Deryk Engelland (CAL) Colin Miller (BOS) Marc Methot (OTT) David Schlemko (SJS) Griffin Reinhart (EDM) Alexei Emelin (MON) Clayton Stoner (ANA) Trevor van Riemsdyk (CHI: Traded to CAR) Nate Schmidt (WAS) Shea Theodore (ANA: Trade) Jake Bischoff (NYI: Trade)
Now this is where the Knights really blew my socks off. This is almost too good of a defensive core of players for an expansion franchise. Firstly, i’m gonna address my Boston Bias and say that it’s pure crap that Colin Miller wasn’t protected by the Bruins when Kevan Miller was, Vegas was smart to jump at that selection. Secondly, I LOVE that Alexei Emelin was picked from Montreal. I couldn’t stand watching that wide-eyed muskrat play against the Bruins five times a year and I’m happy he’s in the western conference now. Thirdly, They managed to select a bunch of strong players with a defensive mindset who can immediately contribute such as Marc Methot, Brayden McNabb, Jason Garrison and Clayton Stoner. I see these picks as the reason they will be in the top half of the league in goals against.
Forwards: Teemu Pulkkinen (ARI) William Carrier (BUF) Cody Eakin (DAL) Tomas Nosek (DET) Jonathan Marchessault (FLA) Connor Brickley (CAR) Chris Thorburn (WPG) Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (PHI) James Neal (NSH) Brendan Leipsic (TOR) David Perron (STL) Oscar Lindberg (NYR) Erik Haula (MIN) William Karlsson (CBJ) Alex Tuch (MIN: Trade) David Clarkson (CBJ: Trade but really a Salary Cap dump) Mikhail Grabovski (NYI: Trade) Nikita Gusev (TBL: Trade) Reilly Smith (FLA: Trade)
Now this is where I see the problem with the Golden Knights. Other than Marchessault, Neal and Perron, I do not see this team having production on the offensive side. They do not have a center capable of producing number one center points and we’ve learned that having centers that can be physical and produce chances to score can really have an impact in the western conference (See Los Angeles Kings of 2014). They managed to select some exciting prospects that will now have a chance to be successful as they are not stuck behind bigger names in the lineup anymore. Players like Brendan Leipsic, William Carrier, Alex Tuch and Tomas Nosek now have a better opportunity to show that they should have never been left unprotected.
Now, I doubt that this will be the exact team that Vegas goes into the season with. However, I do see this as a step in the right direction and it’s a great starting roster for an expansion team.
PS: If you thought anyone but Connor McDavid was gonna be the NHL 18 cover boy you were kidding yourself. The NHL loves this guy and he will be the most marketable star the NHL has seen and will be bigger than Crosby in two years time.
Follow Pat Foley on Twitter: @foleypz16