After the busiest NHL offseason in recent memory, the Vegas Golden Knights are ready to take the ice as the 31st team in the league. The Golden Knights assembled their team through the NHL Expansion Draft as well as trades, and free agency, looking to build for the future success of their franchise. Here is the Vegas Golden Knights 2017-2018 season preview.
The Golden Knights took a very youthful approach to building their new team. Along with the many unproven forwards that were taken in the expansion draft, Vegas also took a few players that have shown they have the talent to produce at the NHL level. The largest name on the roster is James Neal, who was claimed from the Nashville Predators. The 29-year-old put up 23 goals and 18 assists for 41 points last season while helping the Preds make a run to their first ever Stanley Cup Final. The sniper will likely be among Vegas’s most productive players this year. Along with Neal, Vegas took Jonathan Marchessault, who will look to build on the breakout season that he had last year. In his first full-time NHL stint the 26-year-old led the Panthers in goals (30) and finished third on the team in points (51) behind Vincent Trocheck and Aleksander Barkov.
Vegas also signed Russian forward Vadim Shipachyov who will look to have an immediate impact in the NHL. Shipachyov has spent his entire career thus far playing in the Kontinental Hockey League, finishing third in scoring behind KHL legend Sergi Mozyakin and teammate Ilya Kovalchuk last season. Other forwards picked up by Vegas that may have significant impacts next season include Eric Haula (From Minnesota), David Perron (From St. Louis), Riley Smith (From Florida), and William Karlsson (From Columbus).
The Golden Knights will come into the season without any bona fide studs on the blue line. They picked up many young defenseman with potential upsides such as Collin Miller who was selected from the Bruins in the Expansion draft, Brayden McNabb who was taken from the Kings, and Nate Schmidt formerly of the Washington Capitals. Last Season Schmidt posted a +22 rating and 17 points in 60 games with the Caps and should be one of the top defensemen on Vegas this season.
Other young talent on the squad includes Shea Theodore, Anaheim’s first round pick in 2013, who has shown his potential in the AHL with 57 points in 76 games over parts of the last two seasons. In the NHL he has put up 17 points in 53 games and is expected to improve upon these numbers. Other D-men picked up by Vegas include Jason Garrison, Griffin Reinhart, Brad Hunt, Jon Merrill, Luca Sbisa, and Clayton Stoner, and Deryk Engelland
Goaltending will be the strength of the Vegas next season. As expected the Golden Knights selected 3-time Stanley Cup Champion Marc-Andre Fleury from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fleury, played well in the playoffs for the Pens when Matt Murray succumbed to injury through the first two rounds. During the regular season Flower posted a 3.02 GAA and a .909 Save percentage. Despite these regular season stats Fleury has shown that he can be a serviceable number one goaltender.
The Golden Knights also selected Calvin Pickard from the Colorado Avalanche. Pickard struggled last year while playing on the NHL’s worst team posting a 2.98 GAA and .904 save percentage. The 25-year-old has had success at the NHL level in a backup role though. In 36 games during the 2014-15 and 2015-16, Pickard posted a .927 Save percentage and a 2.46 GAA while serving as Semyon Varlamov’s understudy in Colorado. Pickard should be able to handle the backup role again this season, while continuing to develop towards being a number one goaltender.
Vegas Golden Knights 2017-2018 Season Preview: Overall Outlook
The Vegas Golden Knights 2017-2018 season preview sees that the team is clearly building for the future. While there is a lack for established NHL talent, the young players who are just starting to break into the league, along with the prospect pool and picks they have acquired make the future look promising. Don’t look for Vegas to be a top team in the league this year. It is likely that they wont make the playoffs, but they should be able to play competitive games against most if not all teams. I would predict for them to finish in the lower parts of the standings next season with steady growth over the next few years.
- Vegas has taken a patient and youthful approach to starting their franchise
- Goaltending will be the strongest part of Vegas’s game, featuring Marc-Andre Fleury and Calvin Pickard
- The Golden Knights currently lack star players that can take over a game