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Vegas Golden Knights 2017-2018 Season Preview

vegas_golden_knights_logoVegas Golden Knights

0-0-0, 0 points, 1st in only existing on paper as an expansion team

Additions: F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, D Jake Bischoff, F William Carrier, F David Clarkson, G Oscar Dansk, F Reid Duke, F Cody Eakin, D Deryk Engelland, G Dylan Ferguson, G Marc-Andre Fleury, D Jason Garrison, F Mikhail Grabovski, F Nikita Gusev, F Erik Haula, D Brad Hunt, F Tomas Hyka, F William Karlsson, G Maxime Lagace, F Brendan Leipsic, F Oscar Lindberg, F Jon Marchessault, F Stefan Matteau, D Brayden McNabb, D Jonathon Merrill, D Colin Miller, F James Neal, C Tomas Nosek, F David Perron, G Calvin Pickard, F Teemu Pulkkinen, D Griffin Reinhart, D Luca Sbisa, D Nate Schmidt, F Vadim Shipachyov, F Reilly Smith, D Clayton Stoner, D Shea Theodore, F Paul Thompson, F Alex Tuch, F T.J. Tynan

Subtractions: D Trevor van Riemsdyk (traded to CAR), D David Schlemko (traded to MTL), D Marc Methot (traded to DAL), D Alexei Emelin (traded to NSH), F Connor Brickley (signed with FLA), F Chris Thorburn (signed with STL), G Jean-Francois Berube (signed with CHI)

Still Unsigned: None

Offseason Analysis: The Vegas Golden Knights are set to make their NHL debut as the league’s 31st and newest franchise and fans are ready for action on the ice in the Sin City. With so many offseason transactions, it’s almost like George McPhee was trying to build a team or something! Oh, wait, that’s what he was supposed to do?

Love them or hate them (and really, who could hate the Golden Knights, because they just might have one of the best social media teams in the league), Vegas is here to stay and they came to play.

James Neal, David Perron, Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault (51 points in 2016-2017, led the Florida Panthers in scoring) look to lead their veteran core of forwards, while their 2017 1st round pick, Cody Glass, hopes to crack the NHL roster. Oscar Lindberg beckons to breakout, while Vadim Shipachyov aims to leave fans wanting more in his NHL career debut as a 30-year-old after having been a vital part of the KHL (26-50-76 totals in 50 games) last season.

Colin Miller looks to step up his role on the blue line and improve off of an impressive couple of seasons in Boston, while being surrounded by a bunch of other respectable top-4 defensemen.

Arguably their only weakness from the offseason, the Golden Knights have a defense with an average age of 27. That’s with the 11 defensemen currently on the roster before training camp, mind you, and it sounds about right for a team looking to hit the ground running with a defense in its prime.

However, McPhee selected Trevor van Riemsdyk from the Chicago Blackhawks, Alexei Emelin from the Montreal Canadiens and Marc Methot from the Ottawa Senators (three solid defensemen that would make a good core) only to trade them all away to Carolina, Nashville and Dallas, respectively.

It’s fair to say the 2017 Expansion Draft was the most expansion franchise friendly draft of it’s kind in NHL history.

It’s also fair to say the Golden Knights were average at robbing the 30 other teams in the league making their selections. Sin City’s adopted son, Deryk Engelland, is 35 and is not getting any younger. While he’s sure to attract the local crowd, Gerard Gallant cannot rely on him alone to carry the defense,

And Clayton Stoner and Jason Garrison’s combined salary cap hit of $7.850 million doesn’t look spectacular with the likes of Jon Merrill, Miller and Shea Theodore as pending-RFAs. Then again, despite their age (32) Stoner and Garrison are pending-UFAs themselves at season’s end, so it looks like everyone is playing for 1) their jobs in Vegas or 2) their next contract somewhere else.

Vegas’s defense is not bad, just not great.

Though the likes of Jake Bischoff and 2017 draft pick, Nicolas Hague, look promising down the pipeline.

Finally, there’s no question regarding their starting goaltender. Marc-Andre Fleury will surely be true to form in the regular season as one of the NHL’s top-notch goalies. Calvin Pickard is no competition for the starting job, but should perform much better than last year with the Colorado Avalanche because, at least this season, he’ll have a team defense in front of him.

Yet, the biggest question surrounding Fleury’s playing ability for the first time on a team not named the Pittsburgh Penguins concerns just how much playing time he’ll see.

Capping Fleury off around 50 games seems fair, given he’s no Braden Holtby (super elite, 70-plus games-a-season) and he hasn’t reached Henrik Lundqvist status (beginning to age out of playing 1,000,000 minutes– give or take– for the New York Rangers). But even leaving 32 games for Pickard to prove he’s worthy of future starter consideration seems a bit much.

Clearly McPhee identified something in Pickard that he wants him to be part of the team, but with a change of scenery for Oscar Dansk from the Columbus Blue Jackets– where Joonas Korpisalo is the surefire stellar backup to two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky— to the open skies of Vegas, there’s a chance Pickard might have a run for his money.

In fairness, Dansk has yet to appear in a NHL game, but one thing’s for certain– the Golden Knights have a wide open opportunity to foster goaltending depth via healthy competition.

There’s really no telling how the team in Vegas will do in their first year of play. Owner, Bill Foley, expects to be a competitive team out of the gate, while reality might say otherwise (give them two or three years). Nevertheless, their offense is strong, their defense has room to improve and their goaltending is world-class.

One thing is certain, they won’t finish 31st in the league, but they might finish last in the Pacific Division.

Offseason Grade: B

They get a little extra credit for having built one of the better expansion teams on paper since the modern era (1990s).

Numbers Game: The Inaugural Vegas Golden Knights Season

The NHL’s newest franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights, are set to begin play in the 2017-2018 season and T-Mobile Arena is sure to be packed with 17,500 fans in the stands cheering on the league’s 31st team.

vegas_golden_knights_logo

But how many times will Golden Knights fans be on their feet in euphoria after a goal, big save or otherwise amazing play?

After careful consideration, Vegas selected their team from the other 30 NHL teams at the 2017 Expansion Draft, the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and via free agency, both before July 1st and since July 1st.

And after further careful consideration, I once again navigated Microsoft Excel to project some stats for the 2017-2018 Vegas Golden Knights roster. Players that have yet to play a game in the NHL are not included, since it wouldn’t feel right to predict something at a level of play that they’ve never seen before, so hold yourselves back a moment, Vadim Shipachyov fans. Give it until at least 20 games into the season, thanks.

Or at least until I can figure out how to use the forecast function for a player who’s yet to see the NHL a formula for KHL players bound for the NHL– or anyone that’s making their NHL debut.

Sample size must be kept in mind when approaching these projections. A player who scored one goal in six career NHL games over the last two seasons, having spent last season primarily in the AHL or as a healthy scratch is for some inexplicable reason, going to look promising on paper before an 82-game season begins because that’s just the way Microsoft Excel works.

This is by no means a shot at the professional ability of a player, as someone like *ahem, if you look at the chart* Brendan Leipsic. It is always plausible that Leipsic could pan out and make enough of an impression to stick around with the Golden Knights NHL roster and amass at least ten goals.

As always, keep in mind that I am no math major and you’re (probably) not a general manager, head coach, assistant coach or whatever might give you some credibility for statistical reasoning in hockey.

But if your name is George McPhee or Gerard Gallant and you’re reading this… ‘Sup? *slides résumé across the table*

And if your name is Jon Marchessault, then you’re in for a very fun season with an excellent followup to a 51-point season. Marchessualt is projected to amass 28-22-50 totals in his first season as the pinnacle of Vegas Golden Knights prime-age-driven offensive production.

Only James Neal (30-27-57 projected totals) is bound for a better season at the age of 29, which, for all intents and purposes of the today’s NHL is on the older side of a youth-driven offense, but still in the arch of a player’s prime. With only a projected six-point difference between Neal and Marchessault in expected scoring for Vegas, we’re all in for a treat in Sin City’s intra-roster battle for lead scorer.

The ever efficient, Reilly Smith, is in for a quietly successful season with 18 goals and 26 assists (44 points) in the latest projections (a seven-point improvement from 2016-2017 with the Florida Panthers). Smith’s familiarity and chemistry with teammate, Marchessault, fits brilliantly in the design of McPhee’s Golden Knights, especially with Gallant at the realm behind the bench.

While Smith provides an underrated star quality to the roster, David Perron looks to keep pace with last season’s 46-point year in his 2nd stint with the St. Louis Blues, by bringing in a 19-28-47 expected totals for Vegas in 2017-2018. Injuries aside, Perron puts up quality consistency for two or three seasons in a row and is in the midst of just that as the Golden Knights get out of the gate in their first season.

From the 2008-2009 season through the 2014-2015 season, Perron recorded 40-plus points a season with only two exceptions– an injury shortened 2010-2011 season, in which Perron only played 10-games as a 22-year-old member of the Blues and the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season, where Perron amassed 25 points in 48 games played for St. Louis.

In 2014-2015, mind you, Perron combined 5-9-14 totals in 38 games for the Edmonton Oilers and 12-10-22 totals in 43 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 41-point effort in 81 games played that season. And in 2015-2016, the now 29-year-old split time among the Penguins and the Anaheim Ducks, so he’s been around the league enough to know how to bring some of the intangibles (a.k.a. veteran leadership/a locker room presence) to the expansion team in Vegas.

Check out what to expect from everyone on the Vegas Golden Knight’s inaugural season’s roster below!

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Down the Frozen River Podcast #54- Master Predictor

Nick and Connor discuss the lack of NHL players in the 2018 Winter Games, Brad Marchand and his antics, the battle for the final playoff spot and a Western Conference playoff prediction edition of the podcast. Calgary Flames puns are made and a feeble attempt at becoming commentators of The Masters are included.