By: Dylan Perego
The NHL is hosting its annual awards show tonight in Las Vegas, but this year’s holds significance for a different reason.
The Vegas Golden Knights, the NHL’s latest expansion franchise, will take a crucial step in its development by announcing its official roster of players selected in this week’s expansion draft.
In order to make players available for the new franchise, each of the 30 NHL teams were required to submit a list of protected players.
Teams were only permitted to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, and only players with two-or-more years of experience were made available.
The Golden Knights’ selection process, headed by general manager George McPhee, began Sunday and wrapped up yesterday. The official results will be announced during the awards show tonight.
The Golden Knights will be the first expansion franchise to enter the league since the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild were welcomed into the league in 2000.
The Atlanta Thrashers, who were brought into the league in 1999, relocated to Winnipeg to form the Winnipeg Jets in 2011, but still operate as the same franchise despite relocation and name change.
McPhee outlined his plan for the drafting process earlier in the week to NHL.com, saying that he would use every bit of time given to him right up until Wednesday morning’s deadline.
“What we’ve told everyone today is that [Monday] will be the last day that we’re going to have those discussions, that we are going to pick our team [Tuesday],” said McPhee. “We want to have a discussion with the League [Tuesday] night about what our team is going to look like to make sure we meet all the requirements, and then if everything’s oK, I’ll sleep on it and then just send it in Wednesday morning.”
Sean O’Leary, NHL writer and editor at theScore, sees more potential in the Golden Knights than past expansion franchises, largely due to increased finances.
“I think since Vegas has much more money to work with than expansion teams of the past, they’ll immediately have a better start as a franchise,” he said. “It’s doubtful they make the playoffs in year one, but if they use the expansion and entry draft properly to load up on assets, they can be competitive faster than many think.”
When it comes to the draft, O’Leary says the Golden Knights should look for offense, but heed caution when it comes to biting off more than they can chew on the salary front.
“Vegas obviously needs to find some scoring in the expansion draft, but they should avoid contracts with too much term,” he said. “As for all the reported side deals George McPhee is working out, I think it’s best to accumulate as many picks as possible because you can’t win in today’s NHL without homegrown talent.”
As far as the Las Vegas market is concerned, O’Leary sees potential success based on the popularity of the city.
“Adding a professional franchise to one of the most popular cities in the world should be a big enough draw in itself, but from an outsiders perspective, Vegas has always become quite likable, and I think the city will feed off that for years to come,” he said.
O’Leary’s opinion is not alone. Hockey fan Justin Cabral, who has played competitive hockey his entire life, also believes that Las Vegas has a fighting chance to hit the ground running.
“Expansion teams generally fare poorly in the first season but in true form the odds may be in Vegas’ favor this year,” said Cabral. “Times have changed since the last expansion and since then every team’s magic word has been depth. Now Vegas gets to walk in on probably the best talent pool any expansion team has ever seen.”
Despite the abundance of positivity surrounding the Golden Knights and its roster reveal Wednesday, not all fans are willing to jump on board right away.
“Only time will tell how well a Vegas-based hockey team will do,” said longtime hockey player and fan Andrew Hill. “All I know for sure is that the jerseys are awful and they need to wear black hockey gloves.”
A full look at our new jerseys:
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) June 21, 2017