Despite only Reid Duke and Vadim Shipachyov under contract, and misfortune regarding the draft lottery the NHL’s newest team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights will be a prosperous NHL expansion team. Here are a few reasons as to why the Golden Knights have the potential to be somewhat successful in their inaugural season:
The current General Manager of the Golden Knights is George McPhee, the former player turned general manager, who is notable for his successfulness of laying the groundwork of the future playoff juggernauts, Washington Capitals. After becoming GM in the midst of a post-season drought, McPhee tore down the organization, trading notable players like Sergei Gonchar, Michael Nylander, and Jaromir Jagr. McPhee also instilled a youth movement starting by selecting highly touted prospect Alexander Ovechkin 1st overall in the 2004 NHL entry draft. Despite the Golden Knights falling to 6th in this years draft, McPhee’s track record with the Capitals proves he’s an expert at building a franchise from the ground up, and that he is a perfect fit in Las Vegas.
Many were surprised to see Florida Panthers head coach, Gerard Gallant relieved of duties this passed NHL season. One of which was former head coach, and hockey analyst Don Cherry who during one ‘Coaches Corner’ segment dubbed Gallant’s firing, as “the worst firing in the history of (the NHL)”. After leading the Panthers to their winningest regular season, Gallant was let go this past year. Gallant is a proven winner behind the bench, leading the Saint John Sea Dogs to back to back to back CHL finals, two of which resulted in Memorial Cups. Although he has struggled to find playoff success in the NHL with both Columbus Blue Jackets, and the aforementioned Panthers, his regular season record is sure to gradually translate to playoff success. Gallant also has experience coaching young prospects, such as Aaron Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov, and Jonathan Huberdeau, which bodes well for him moving forward in Las Vegas.
Although the Golden Knights roster is incredibly vacant as it stands presently, the two components that make it up are very promising. Reid Duke, who just completed his fifth full season in the WHL has developed into a gifted scorer at the junior level, potting 30 goals in his last two years with the Brandon Wheat Kings. Duke, a sixth round pick in 2014, can not be expected to make an immediate impact in the NHL, but he has shown that he can be an reliable contributor offensively. Despite the auspicious career that lies ahead of Duke, the cornerstone of the two man Golden Knights roster, is Russian Vadim Shipachyov. A nine year veteran of the KHL, Shipachyov has progressed into an incredibly solid, if not spectacular player for St. Petersburg SKA. Shipachyov has averaged over a point per game in his last three years in the KHL, including being a large factor in his teams playoff runs, which ended in two Gagarin Cup (KHL championship) trophies. Shipachyov is not a prospect by any means, at 30 years of age he would not even be eligible to win the Calder Trophy given to the NHL’s rookie of the year. However Shipachyov brings a collective package of skill, experience and championship winning caliber that could prove vital in the first few years of the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
4. Expansion Draft Class
The most prominent component of Las Vegas’ team, will be the expansion draft class that the Golden Knights will have to pick from. Although teams protect any NHL standouts, Las Vegas will still be able to obtain very solid role players, as well as younger players with the possibility of blossoming into the aforementioned standouts. Many hockey analysts that some of the more notable players that Las Vegas will be able to acquire are the likes of Matt Moulson, Vladimir Namestnikov, and Jonas Brodin. However, the forwards and D-men are just the tip of the iceberg regarding potential acquisitions. Out of the goalies that McPhee and his team will select, many have the capability of being a number one goalie in the NHL. Antti Ranta, one possibility has been brilliant at times for the New York Rangers, and others like Joonas Korpisalo are young net minders ready to take on a bigger role. The players that Las Vegas may select are the largest key to their success next year.
In general, the Las Vegas Golden Knights have the makeup both on and off the ice to be one of the more successful teams in NHL expansion history. With George McPhee leading a stellar managerial team, and Gerard Gallant leading a start up team that is bound to be filled with experienced role players, and talented up and comers, with an excellent goalie the sky is the limit for the Las Vegas Golden Knight’s inaugural season.