The Vegas Golden Knights will be making history when they step on the ice for the first time this season. It will be their inaugural season, and there now will be 31 NHL teams. The Golden Knights had a very successful first offseason, signing Russian star Vadim Shipchyov, and picking stars like James Neal and Marc-Andre Fleury in the expansion draft. Here\’s a look at their inaugural team.
Here are my projected forward lines.
Jonathan Marchessault – Vadim Shipachyov – James Neal
David Perron – Cody Eakin – Reilly Smith
Teemu Pulkkinen – Erik Haula – Alex Tuch
Pierre-Edouard Bellmare – William Karlsson – Oscar Lindberg
Marchessault and Neal were two really good expansion pickups by Vegas. Shipachyov will be a 30 year old rookie coming from the KHL, and should be very good. Perron and Eakin are two more good draft picks. Smith was acquired from the Panthers in an expansion draft trade (like Tuch) and is pretty elite. Tuch, the former first rounder, will finally get a chance to start. Brandon Leipsic and Will Carrier will start in the AHL, but will also be call-ups.
Here are my projected defensive pairs.
Jason Garrison – Nate Schmidt
Jon Merrill – Luca Sbisa
Brayden McNabb – Deryk Engelland
Schmidt was another good pickup. While Garrison wasn\’t a great pickup, he\’s still their best defenseman. Sbisa could be a trade candidate this year, and so could McNabb. Basically everyone is fighting with Shea Theodore, Colin Miller, Clayton Stoner and Griffin Reinhart for a spot.
A three time Cup champion, Fleury will start the first game in history. Pickard struggled as starter in Colorado when Semyon Varlamov was injured, but has been good in his career as a backup.
As an expansion team, the Knights are bad. I predict they won\’t finish last in the league or their division, but the will have high odds for the first overall pick in the draft lottery.