Last night, the NHL had its Expansion Draft for the Las Vegas Golden Knights, and along with picking one player from each of the 30 other NHL teams, the Golden Knights pulled off 10 trades in the process. Las Vegas already had the sixth overall pick in Friday’s NHL Entry Draft, but they also acquired the 13th and 15th overall picks. But let’s cover who the Golden Knights added while looking at the potential fantasy impact of these players.
James Neal (Nashville)
Jonathan Marchessault (Florida)
David Perron (St. Louis)
Erik Haula (Minnesota)
Reilly Smith (Florida) via trade
These five forwards will be the men up front putting pucks in opposing nets, and will also play a lot of tightly contested defensive games simply due to the fact Las Vegas does not have a legit number one center. James Neal isn’t in his prime anymore, but he does have an 80-point season under his wing and will be relied on every night to be the number one goal scorer. He will again secure top line minutes at even strength and the power play. Marchessault is coming off his best season as a professional with a 30-goal, 51-point campaign in Florida, and he filled in admirably for injured stud forwards Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau during their extensive absences. Las Vegas may be lacking a number one center, but with three first round picks, a stocking of the shelves will be happening tonight. This year’s entry draft may not contain Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine caliber players, but there are about 12-15 Matthew Tkchuck skill leveled players and it’s going to be great to look back ten years from now and see how these young men have panned out. If Vegas really wants a number one center, remember that the Islanders' John Tavares is a UFA at season's end and is just turning 27 this season.
Colin Miller (Boston)
Nate Schmidt (Washington)
Brayden McNabb (Los Angeles)
Alexei Emelin (Montreal)
Lucas Sbisa (Vancouver)
Shea Theodore (Anaheim) via trade
Jason Garrison (Tampa Bay)
Jon Merrill (New Jersey)
As with the forward group, nobody here is a stand-out Norris Trophy winning defenseman. But all eight of these players are good and young, minus Garrison and Emelin who are going to be 31 when the season opens. I’m positive I also used each one of these skaters as a cheap DFS option last season on DraftKings while I was loading up on stud forwards. Under Head Coach Gerard Gallant, this Vegas team will be a tight checking team that will win or lose many games 2-1 and 3-2. There are also a few real nice defensemen out on the unrestricted free agent market on July 1, such as Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzer. Merrill was a shutdown stud at the University of Michigan, Nate Schmidt has piled up plenty of quality minutes each of the past two seasons as the Washington Capitals' regular defensemen were dinged up for long spells like John Carlson was two seasons back and Brooks Orpik was this past season. Getting Shea Theodore in a trade from the Anaheim Ducks was such a brilliant move by GM George McPhee. Theo was just the odd man out in a corps of stud rearguards in SoCal and will become the Golden Knights' future number one defenseman.
Marc Andre-Fleury (Pittsburgh)
Calvin Pickard (Colorado)
With the three-time Stanley Cup netminder running the shop in Fleury, Vegas can really focus on playing tight defense around him, while knowing that rushing an extra defenseman into an offensive rush will not kill them all that often with Flower in the pipes. Calvin Pickard played very solid for a very bad team, and Colorado leaving him unprotected was the best thing that could have happened to him. In 50 games played this past season, Pick posted a 2.98 GAA (Goals Against Average), and a .904 Save Percentage for the league’s worst team. Learning from one of the better netminders over the past ten seasons will be a dream for Pick.
There were of course other players picked by Las Vegas, but these will be the legit fantasy options, along with the three first rounders Vegas will take tonight. I do not want to jinx the Red Wings though and have Vegas snatch either of the two I love for Detroit, Cody Glass and Tri-City Americans (Western Hockey League) 6’6” 220-pound center Michal Rasmussen.
Las Vegas will not win a playoff spot next season, but I’d bet my entire 401k that the Golden Knights will finish higher than Vancouver, Colorado and Arizona.
Let’s talk hockey @PolkaPat and be sure to read more of my thoughts at Fighting Chance Sports.