The 2017 NHL Expansion Draft has come to an end and the Vegas Golden Knights roster has come to fruition, for now. The focus tonight was clearly on stockpiling defensemen and establishing Marc-Andre Fleury as the face of the franchise. Between the 2017 NHL Entry Draft on Friday and the multiple trades that will surely come, the roster will most likely look different come October. But for now, here is how the Expansion Draft went down.
Entering tonight, George McPhee and the Golden Knights had to select one player from each club for a total of 30 players. Within those 30, they had to choose at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen, three goaltenders, and four additional players from any position. There were a lot of trades that accompanied those picks as well.
Vegas Concentrates Marc-Andre Fleury and blue line in Expansion Draft
Keys to the Draft
When looking at this draft, it is important to think past immediate success or gratification in the upcoming season. George McPhee and the front office must think about conserving cap space, accumulating draft picks, drafting valuable assets for trades, drafting young core players to build around, be at least respectfully competitive now, and think long-term development and growth. The respectful competition will come about during this opening season. What is evident now is the amount of draft picks and ability to trade players. There were 14 forwards, 13 defensemen, and three goalies drafted. Plus, there were five more forwards, two more defensemen and ten draft picks acquired via trade.
Marc-Andre Fleury is the New Face of Vegas
To no surprise at all, Marc-Andre Fleury is among the top names drafted. Fleury is a 32-year old three-time Stanley Cup Champion who has only played for Pittsburgh since being drafted first overall in 2003. Having a veteran goaltender between the pipes is definitely a huge necessity for both immediate success and future growth as a team. While this one goalie pick was not surprising, what is a little shocking is the fact that only three goalies were drafted total. Some believed that Vegas planned on drafting a handful of goalies, such as Petr Mrazek or Antti Raanta to then use as trade bait. Clearly they have full confidence in Fleury to lead them and plan on focusing trades elsewhere.
A large part of a goalie’s success comes from those in front of him. Fleury’s historic reputation in Pittsburgh may not matter if he has no one protecting him in front. McPhee ended the night with 13 defensemen drafted and another two acquired by trade. As seen throughout the 2017 playoffs, a strong blue line can take you very long way. With this stockpile of defensemen, McPhee defintely has a few trades in mind. One of which already heavily rumored is sending Colin Miller to Toronto. Marc Methot is also among talks to be flipped in the next couple of days.
With a loaded defensemen line-up, it is a little difficult to see who may or may not be leading the blue line come this fall. For now, Alexei Emelin and Trevor van Riemsdyk will be two guys relied heavily on. Van Riemsdyk won a cup with Chicago back in 2015. Jason Garrison is another veteran defenseman that Vegas will either look to trade or lean on as a leader.
Who is up front for Vegas?
The biggest name comes with no surprise at all, as former Nashville Predator James Neal was selected. He will definitely be expected to step up, both on and off the ice, as a leader. Other offensive notables include David Perron, Jon Marchessault, and Cody Eakin. All three names were surrounded with rumors before the expansion draft occurred.
Marchessault, however, was rumored to be involved in a trade with Florida to protect him. He is coming off a 30-goal season with the Panthers and is only 26-years old. If these four forwards do not get traded in the next couple of weeks, they will need to be an integral part of the Knights offense if they are to find any initial success.
Trades on Trades on Trades
The biggest story of the night was the countless trades that occurred. There were a total of ten trades throughout last night, along with seven players acquired through trades. The premise of most of these was for teams to avoid losing a certain player, or players, and a way for Vegas to gain valuable draft picks both on Friday and in the future.
Vegas currently has 12 total draft picks in 2017, three of which are in the first round (6th, 13th, and 15th overall). Some of the names mentioned will very likely be involved in trades as well. The NHL trade freeze ends at 8 AM eastern standard time on Thursday, so we can expect a very interesting 24 hours before the entry draft.
As mentioned above, this is only a first look at the Vegas Golden Knights Roster. Within the next 24 hours, many names will be changed and moved around. Nonetheless, welcome to the NHL Vegas.