One year ago today, the National Hockey League awarded the city of Las Vegas its first professional sports franchise. Since that day, the development of the Las Vegas Golden Knights franchise has come full circle when they drafted 30 players in the Expansion Draft at the NHL awards this past Wednesday.
The Golden Knights franchise quickly grew as they announced their new sports complex to be built along the strip, named the teams General Manager, George McPhee, and the head coach, Gerard Gallant (former head coach of the Florida Panthers), and released the teams official jersey and uniform.
The Golden Knights roster became official March 6th, 2017 when the franchise signed its first player, Reid Duke. Duke, a star for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League. Duke, drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the 2014 NHL Draft, signed an entry level deal with the Golden Knights, becoming the first player in the franchise's history.
Although the first player in the organization's history, Duke would not be the star nor the face of the Golden Knights team. Abiding by the rules of the Expansion Draft, each of the 30 pre-exisitng teams would submit a list of 11 players they wished to protect from being drafted by Las Vegas. Many teams around the league used a 7-3-1 protection plan, protecting 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, and one goalie. This meant that the Golden Knight's inaugural roster would be primarily comprised of players left unprotected by their teams, as well as players traded for prior to or after the draft.
On Wednesday at the NHL Awards, hosted by Las Vegas in their new sports complex, T-Mobile Arena, the Golden Knights would finally reveal the 30 players they chose from the unprotected lists. The Knights would choose one player from each team, keeping the newly increased $75 million salary cap in mind.
Their were many familiar faces on the list of available players including T.J. Oshie of the Washington Capitals, Bobby Ryan of the Ottawa Senators, James Neal of the Nashville Predators, and Marc-Andre Fleury of the 2017 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Fans watched anxiously as some of their favorite players were picked right of the roster to be added to the Golden Knights.
Once all said and done, the Golden Knights drafted 14 forwards, 13 defensemen, and three goalies. Some of the more notable names added to the Vegas roster were forwards James Neal, Jonathan Marchessault, defensemen Jason Garrison and Marc Methot, and arguably the most prominent name on the roster, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. In the following day, the Golden Knights have made a number of trades in an attempt to acquire more draft picks and add to the salary cap space they had left after the expansion draft.
With their roster partially finalized, the Golden Knights are officially NHL ready.
They continue to make trades in preparation for both the NHL Draft this coming Friday as well as their inaugural tilt against the Dallas Stars on October 6th. How the Golden Knights will perform is still highly debatable as their roster coming out of the expansion draft was nothing short of mediocre. However, with an experienced coach like Gerard Gallant behind the bench the performance of the players will not be the cause of concern for the franchise. The "if" that still remains in the success of the Las Vegas franchise is if General Manager George McPhee can utilize the team's draft picks as well as the players acquired in the Expansion Draft in order to assemble a roster worthy of competing in the NHL.