The Vegas Golden Knights are in the most interesting position of any team in the NHL. There are not many expectations put on them by the league.
Yes, there are expectations from owner Bill Foley who described his relationship with his players as a “benevolent dictatorship”. Yes, there are expectations and pressure from Gary Bettman who allowed for the most opportunistic expansion draft the league has ever seen.
Bill Foley paid $500 million to get Vegas on the map in the NHL. Vegas had a grand total of zero points last year.
At this time of year twelve months ago, Vegas did not even have a logo, an arena, a practice arena, a single hockey player on their roster or a head coach. To preview this year for the Golden Knights is a complete gamble, but there is a chance that this season is a massive success.
Everybody. All 35 names on the official roster are additions, but there are a few names that stick out when talking about additions.
James Neal (LW/RW)
The ten-year NHL veteran spent the last three seasons with the Nashville Predators where he reached the Stanley Cup Finals once, last year. Last campaign he had 41 points in the regular season and 9 points in the post-season.
Known as a sniper, he has a strong shot and soft hands. The former Penguin has scored over 20 goals in nine of his ten season in the league. Additionally, Neal has had one 31-goal season as well as a 40-goal season with Pittsburgh in 2011.
The 29-year-old should be the cornerstone for this start up franchise, but don’t hold your breath on him, he will be the talk of most trades for this team.
David Perron (LW)
This 11-year NHL veteran had bounced around for a while since being drafted in the first round by St. Louis. Perron spent his best years with the Blues, in two different spells. Most recently last season.
Last year, the 29-year-old was a pillar of stability in the Gateway City as he played all 82 games, scored 18 goals and accumulated 46 points. In his career, he has scored 159 goals in total, as well as 378 points.
Perron won’t be the best on the team in terms of scoring, but his experience and leadership should do the Vegas Golden Knights well. Not to mention he is one of the many players on the roster to have a French-Canadian background. There will be a very strong Franco-Canadian presence in Vegas this season.
Marc-Andre Fleury (G)
With something to prove and an emotional season behind him, Vegas should find out quickly if Fleury is the starter that they need.
His success throughout his career is undeniable, but he is at the crossroads of his career and whether or not he is with the Golden Knights for the long haul or just making a pit-stop will most likely be determined in year one.
With 375 wins, 691 games, three Stanley Cups, a 2.58 GAA, and .912 SV% under his belt, he will be the portrait of leadership and hopefully stability for not only the on ice product of the Vegas Golden Knights but the off the ice community as well.
There are too many additions to profile but there are more names that you will recognize than you might think. Vegas played their cards perfectly in this year’s expansion draft. Here are some of the other names on the roster:
Jonathan Marchessault (C)
Vadim Shipachyov (C)
Cody Eakin (C)
Reilly Smith (RW)
Erik Haula (LW)
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (LW)
Brayden McNabb (D)
Shea Theodore (D)
Nate Schmidt (D)
Jason Garrison (D)
Deryk Engelland (D)
Calvin Pickard (G)
It is hard to establish the impact of the subtractions such as Marc Methot or Trevor van Riemsdyk. However, no one had a better or busier 2017 NHL Entry Draft than the Vegas Golden Knights. Here are a few of the names you should expect to see on the Vegas roster in a season or two.
Cody Glass (C)
A mainstay on the Portland Winterhawks first line in the Western Hockey League of the Canadian Hockey League, and the first ever draft pick at 6th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Glass has a chance to be an impact player in the league.
Kids who get drafted to the NHL couldn’t care less who calls their name. For Glass, he wasn’t naive to that fact that Vegas would be special. He described it as surreal and expressed his excitement in an interview he did with the NHL;
“I saw those guys going to Vegas, I saw the jersey and I was thinking maybe it could happen to me. ‘m so thrilled. When I interviewed with Vegas at the combine – it was my best interview. I left the room thinking I’d put my best foot forward. I really liked the guys in the room and I started to think I could trust them with my career and where I want to go and what I want to accomplish in hockey.”
That is high praise for a team that has never played a game. Glass is a two-way center who is known for being a student of the game. He is quick and has a strong transition game. Last season he had 94 points in the WHL.
Expect to see Glass in Golden Knights jersey in the next two or three years. If he reaches his potential, he could be a top forward in the league in the not so distant future.
Erik Brannstrom (D)
Brannstrom, a Swedish defenseman, has the chance to be a star. A very, very good hockey player with the offensive potential of someone like Erik Karlsson or Kris Letang. A power play quarterback and a player a team could build their blueline around.
Brannstrom was drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights 15th overall and could end up being the steal of the draft in a few years time.
He will play for Husqvarna Vätterstad 1971 in the Swedish Hockey League this coming season.
Last season he played for the HV71 J20 team, where he was the captain and also played 35 games for HV71 senior team at the age of 18.
He turned heads at the development camp this June in Vegas and if and when he comes over to play hockey in North America he has the chance to make an impact. Expect him to be in a Vegas uniform in 2020.
Nick Suzuki (C)
The 5’11” center from London, Ontario was the 13th overall pick for the Vegas Golden Knights.
He has spent the past two seasons playing for the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario hockey league. Last year, in 65 games, Suzuki had 96 points, including 45 goals. His biggest weapon is his speed, which in a game based on that attribute, will serve him well.
Overall, this is another player that Vegas will keep an eye on as a cornerstone for their franchise in the future. Give him time and he has the chance to develop into a go to player for Vegas.
What can they achieve this season?
The biggest and most important aspect of this season will be generating an excitement about the game. What happens on the ice directly correlates with who comes to hockey games but was easy to see that the Vegas and the Rockies are excited about hockey in Sin City.
This will buy the Golden Knights time and let them develop slowly, effectively and efficiently.
Realistically this team will have trouble scoring and their defensemen are about as average as they come. Shea Theodore has a chance to really impress this year, so keep an eye on him.
Their goaltending is as strong as any team in the league and that will keep them in a lot of hockey games. As far as goaltending, this year will be critical for both goaltenders as both are playing for a long-term spot. For the time being, give Fleury the upper hand, but Pickard is a wildcard that could sneak up quickly.
Vegas is a wildcard as a whole. They could be awful, there is a solid chance that they are… actually. They could also shock 90 percent of the hockey world and be a lot better than most think. If they catch a good wave and put together some wins, don’t be surprised if they shake the hockey world and aren’t as far out of the playoff picture as you would assume.
I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they can wind up anywhere from 60 to 70 points this season.
A lot of this is based on that fact that adrenaline will win them a few games at the start of the season. They will be able to stay in a lot of games that they have no business being in and with a team like this one, you just can’t really tell what they are capable of.
A logical prediction would place them either 31st, 30th, or maybe 29th in the league.
I’ll go out on a limb and say they will gel better than we expect and end up around 25th overall in the league.
They will finish ahead of Vancouver in their division and give Arizona and run for their money. They are better than New Jersey and the Red Wings in my opinion and the rest is completely up in the air.
It will be an exciting year in Vegas no matter what.
Here’s to hoping they are better than we expect and give Vegas and their sports fans a year to remember.
Do think Vegas will have a successful season? Are the players they have good enough to compete? Tell us in the comments section below.
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