The NHL recently announced the expansion of its 30-team league to Las Vegas, a city the Golden Knights will reside. This creation of the 31st team is the first expansion in the NHL since 2000 when the league welcomed the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets. The Golden Knights are the first professional sports team to call “Sin City” home. This is because professional sports leagues are wary of expanding into an area notorious for sports betting. Aside from the risks to the integrity of the game, Las Vegas is a huge tourist destination and many residents work night shifts to cater to the entertainment district which are two possible obstacles to creating a strong, supporting home crowd. These obstacles seem to be insignificant as the Golden Knights have already sold 14,000 season tickets.
Instead of recruiting players themselves, the Golden Knights will be able to pick their team from the rosters of all 30 of the other NHL teams. Before the Vegas Golden Knights can pick their players, every other team has the opportunity to protect their franchise players. The other teams can either protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender; or they can protect an eight-player mix of skaters with the addition of one goaltender. The Golden Knights must choose 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders. These are some of the big pick-ups I believe the Golden Knights will have in the expansion draft:
The B’s will protect forwards Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci, David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, Dominic Moore and Ryan Spooner. The defensemen Torey Krug, Brendon Carlo and Kevan Miller will be safe as well. Zdeno Chara has been the Bruins centerpiece on defense but is five years past his prime. The Bruins will let Chara go to alleviate his overpriced contract of $45,500,000/seven years.
This high-powered offense currently sits in first place in the Central Division. They will opt to protect at least six forwards and at least two defensemen. On defense, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will be safe, as the duo has registered 32 points together this season. On offense, the Blackhawks will save Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik. This leaves Marcus Kruger, who has been stellar in the faceoff circle this year, winning 50 percent of the draw. On top of his work as a center, Kruger has amassed 88 points in his NHL career, 15 of those coming the playoffs with a few game-winners.
Detroit Red Wings
This is one team that might opt to protect eight forwards and zero defensemen. The Red Wings’ best D-man is Mike Green, who has racked 13 points and 16 penalty minutes. His plus/minus stat, perhaps the most telling statistic of defensemen is at a dismal 0. That means he has been on the ice for the same number of goals for and goals against. In comparison, the best defenseman in the league currently, Shea Weber, has a plus/minus of 18, meaning he is able to generate offense on the ice while allowing relatively few goals. The 11-10 Red Wings allow 2.54 goals per game. If the Red Wings don’t protect their defense, the Golden Knights might snatch up either Mike Green, Danny DeKeyser or Niklas Kronwall.
The Penguins have seven double digit point offensive scorers in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist, Conor Sheary, Chris Kunitz and Matt Cullen. They will all be safe. Their three top defensemen, Kris Letang, Trevor Daley and Maine native Brian Dumoulin will also be safe. That leaves D-man Justin Schultz for the Golden Knights. He has an impressive 10 plus/minus and has tallied eight points this season. Another possible pick would be goal scorer Scott Wilson. Wilson has three goals and three assists this season while only skating an average of 19 shifts a game. Compare that to the league leading 33 shifts a game and Wilson’s stats are impressive.
The Golden Knights need to pick pick three goalies. They are most likely to choose either Matt Murray from the Penguins, University of Maine alum Jimmy Howard of the Red Wings or Karl Legtonen of the Dallas Stars or Brian Elliott of the Calgary Flames. All four have been outstanding backups to their first-string teammate.
The Vegas Golden Knights are set to start play in the 2017-2018 season. Ground has already been broke on the AT&T Arena. This expansion will be here sooner than we think.