So the NHL decided to expand once again. The last time they did this we got respectable franchise in Columbus, Ohio and a triumphant return to Minnesota. Solid. But no, this time they didn’t go to the hockey loving Quebec City, Quebec or massive sports town Seattle, Washington. Nope, they went to casino capital of the world Las Vegas, Nevada. More hockey in the desert, yay.
Why? We may never know. Is it a good idea to put pro athletes with lots of money and little self control in a city where they can gamble every other night with ease? Probably not. But hey, it gives us sports writers something to do.
And that’s where we are today folks. The most important for a hockey team to compete is a team. Every expansion team gets to select one player from every other team in the league. And to make sure the Golden Knights aren’t an All-Star team, each team selected a protected list of either 7 forwards, 3 defenseman and a goalie or 8 skaters and a goalie that they can’t select from and the Golden Knights select 14 forwards, nine defenseman and three goalies. Simple.
And guess what, new GM George McPhee, I’m doing your job for you.
The lists were released only a few days ago and with the expansion draft taking place tomorrow in Vegas, let’s choose who they should select from every team.
So let’s hop to it.
Anaheim Ducks: Sami Vatanen, D
The “Vatman” is sturdy offensive d-man who is still only 26. He will be a strong addition to Vegas’ blue line. He is a little undersized but a very skilled defender who can help on both sides of the puck.
Arizona Coyotes: Louis Domingue, G
Arizona lacks a lot of talent in terms of skaters, so it’s easy to turn to their young goalie with a ton of potential instead. He’s only 25 years of age and owns the Coyotes rookie win record in a season. He has a bright future and it should be as the top goalie for the Golden Knights one day.
Boston Bruins: Adam McQuaid, D
Though a little on the older side, he will bring quite the edge to the Vegas’s defenses. He’s a tough grinder who has heavy playoff experience as shown by his glory run with the Bruins in 2011. Darth McQuaider will have instant impact on the hits category for Vegas.
Buffalo Sabres: Matt Moulson, LW
Moulson has had a solid career and is only 31 points away from the 400 career points mark. He’s a gifted goal scorer and will be handy in sparking Vegas’s developing offense. Oh yeah, and his brother-in-law is Jonathan Quick. He also has that.
Calgary Flames: Troy Brouwer, RW
Brouwer is a seasoned player with a sound resume. He’s a 40 point season level player and was a key cog in the Blackhawks Cup run in 2010. He will bring more championship experience and a level point scoring reputation to Vegas.
Carolina Hurricanes: Klas Dahlbeck, D
Dahlbeck is a reliable defender with smooth skating skills and a physical mentality. He plays hard and is still the ripe age of 25. At six foot three inches, he’s everything Vegas could need in a top 6 defensemen. He will be a great player to develop for the future and who can set the example now.
Chicago Blackhawks: Trevor Van Riemsdyk, D
Yeah, I know, Vegas should take center Marcus Kruger. But amidst the supposed trade in place for him, there’s no point in predicting him to be taken when he was already traded there. So next best man is the young defenseman Van Riemsdyk. He’s a concrete shot blocker and a overall a firm consistent defender. TVR can very well be groomed into a potential top 4 player one day.
Colorado Avalanche: Mikhail Grigorenko, C
Grigorenko is a tough, tough grinding center who stands a mighty six foot three. He’s physical and a sound scorer and is only a raw 23 years of age. He will be an important piece of Vegas’ future and is already more than capable of contributing already.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Jack Johnson, D
Johnson is quietly one of the most consistent players in the entire NHL. He has always near or at the top of hits and blocks for the Blue Jackets and even was an Olympian for USA in 2010. And at still only 30, the Golden Knights will still plenty of positive contributions out of John Joseph Louis Johnson III.
Dallas Stars: Jamie Oleksiak, D
The 24 year old has a massive frame, standing at an intimidating six foot seven and having 255 pounds on said frame. He’s a fluid skater and with his size, is a hard defenseman to play against and will be able to anchor Vegas’ blue line.
Detroit Red Wings: Riley Sheahan, C
Sheahan is a sizable center with a noticeable nose for the goal. He’s still only 25 and is going to have impact for a long time from here on out. Nearly hitting his prime, Vegas will have a strong second line center for years to come.
Edmonton Oilers: Bogdan Yakimov, C
This one is a bit of a risk, but the 22 year old Russian has a ton of upside. He has only played in a single NHL game but he has oodles of potential. Vegas needs a prospect to groom and from the otherwise barren Oilers, there’s no one better than Yakimov.
Florida Panthers: Reilly Smith, RW
When it comes to goal scoring, especially in the clutch, 26 year old Smith is for sure in the conversation for being among the top spots. The two time 50 point scorer always comes in when needed, something Vegas’ is going to drool over. Being an agile skater and a natural scorer means he’s going to be one of the top scorers for the Golden Knights for years.
Los Angeles Kings: Dustin Brown,RW
Former captain of Stanley Cup champions LA Kings brings both consistent scoring input and a strong leadership presence in the locker room. His numbers are never impressive but it’s the things that don’t show up on the stat sheet is why he is a crucial part of any franchise. Few players are as big of leaders has Brown is.
Minnesota Wild: Erik Haula, C
Haula is a valuable offensive cog with silky hands and a great shot. At only 26, he still has his best years ahead of him. Who knows how much he can grow offensively given the chance in Vegas.
Montreal Canadiens: Brandon Davidson, D
Davidson is an absolute fighter in every sense of life. He fought his way up from being passed up in the Western Hockey League Bantam draft, being a 6th round scrub to beating testicular cancer. He was diagnosed and then returned that same season to play a total of 37 games with two different minor league teams. He is a highly talented d-man with a great shot from the point, but it’s his drive that Vegas’ just can’t pass up.
Nashville Predators: James Neal, RW
Having the alternate captain of a team that recently played in the Stanley Cup Final is always a plus for any squad. He is far from the worst scorer in the league but his leadership is invaluable for any new expansion franchise.
New Jersey Devils: Beau Bennett, RW
Bennett is famed for being the first Californian, born and trained, to ever win the Stanley Cup. His point totals have increased for the past four years and at only 25, he still has a lot of room to grow.
New York Islanders: Brock Nelson, C
Brock Nelson has soft hands and a hard shot. He’s a brilliant goal scorer who was at one point leading the league in goals in 2015. Vegas’ has one of their top offensive players in the 25 year old Nelson.
New York Rangers: Jesper Fast, RW
As his name suggests, Fast is FAST. A swift skater with high hockey sense, he can smash defending teams before they even know what hit them. Fast will bring another dynamic to the Golden Knights offense.
Ottawa Senators: Bobby Ryan, RW
Ryan is a former All-Star and member of the All-Rookie team in 2009. Despite hitting the 30 years mark, he is continually a highly productive scorer with a career high of 71 points. He will lead this Vegas offense with his highlight reel tendencies and goal scoring prowess.
Philadelphia Flyers: Michael Del Zotto, D
Del Zotto is a wonderfully talented two way defenseman, skilled in both shot blocking and scoring. His versatility is heavily desired by any defender and Vegas can’t pass up his levels of adaptability.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury, G
And for the starting goalie, how about the two time All-Star and 2011 team MVP? Fleury has consistently been one of the top goalies in the league for years and who else would you want to anchor the newest NHL team than a three time Stanley Cup Champion?
San Jose Sharks: Mikkel Boedker, LW
Boedker is easily one of the fastest players in the entire NHL. His speed has led him to plenty of success in the league, he even dropped a 50 point season in 2014 with the Coyotes. His speedy nature is without a doubt adored in Vegas.
St. Louis Blues: Dmitrij Jaskin, RW
Russian Jaskin is a player with a tough mean streak. He’s not afraid to bully people off the puck and start fights whenever he wants. With the amount of skill players Vegas has so far, Jaskin is a welcome change to the roster so far.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Cedric Paquette, C
Paquette has an absolute reputation in the league and despite only being 23 years of age, his gritty nature is known across the land. With Stanley Cup Final experience and his hard-nose style, he will be a heavy impact player immediately.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Joffrey Lupul, LW
Lupul is a consistent goal-scorer and a season veteran who will bring an excellent offensive mindset to Vegas. With the offensive firepower this team possesses, Lupul will for sure be one of the top contributors.
Vancouver Canucks: Luca Sbisa, D
Sbisa is a contact loving defenseman who who brings quite the edge to a defense. He will bring nice size (six foot 2 inches, 209 pounds) and a solid offensive presence to Vegas’ blue line.
Washington Capitals: Kevin Shattenkirk
Shattenkirk is a former All-Star and is only 28 years of age. He is consistently one of the better defensemen in the entire league and will bring a strong defensive foundation to the latest expansion franchise.
Winnipeg Jets: Michael Hutchinson, G
Hutchinson is a raw goalie, a rare right handed catcher and a pretty butterfly goaltender. He’s hitting his stride at the age of 27 and will be a steady backup for Vegas.