Well ladies and gentlemen, the day is finally upon us. Officially tomorrow night during the NHL awards, the roster of the 31st and newest NHL team will be revealed. Now I’m not a huge fan of revealing the roster during the awards show, but hey I’m not the commissioner(at least last I checked). Obviously 30 players is too large for an NHL roster, so I highly doubt 30 players are chosen as there are reports that Vegas has made at least six trades in advance of their selections. But without further ado, here are my selections for the Vegas Golden Knights, from most obvious to least.
DUCKS: D Sami Vatanen(UC) 26 YO. Vatanen is a perfect example of the new age of NHL defensemen, small, quick, talented offensively and solid defensively. At 26, he’s just entering his prime and is easily a top-pair defenseman.
PREDATORS: LW James Neal(UC) 29 YO. Perhaps the most talented forward of unprotected players, this was an easy call as Neal showed he could be a top line winger with his solid performance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Still relatively in his prime, Neal should be one of the top scorers on the Golden Knights.
PENGUINS: G Marc-Andre Fleury(UC) 32 YO. Yes I understand he’s older but Vegas needs a solid, experienced goaltender if they are hoping to be competitive in the Western Conference. Fleury has had his struggles but I think this choice couldn’t be more obvious.
SENATORS: D Marc Methot(UC) 31 YO. Not a flashy name by any means but a very solid player who you know will bring it every night. Vegas knows what Methot can do and in my opinion is possibly one of these players that are sure bets. Good defenseman to pair with Vantanen.
LIGHTNING: RW J.T. Brown(UC) 26 YO. Brown has some of the best upside of any unprotected player and plays a heavy style that would definitely work with Neal on the first line. Had a down year this season but that was common for any Lightning player not named Nikita Kucherov.
AVALANCHE: G Calvin Pickard(UC) 25 YO. Now I know what you’re thinking, how did I possibly choose a goalie who lost 31 games a season ago? Well, for one he played on one of the worst teams I’ve ever seen in recent memory and is indeed a product of a bad team. At 25, he’s still developing and could certainly develop into a franchise goalie in the next few seasons but right now is a more than capable backup.
WILD: D Matt Dumba(UC) 22 YO. One of the most desirable d men in the game, Dumba is very similar to Vatanen but is a better all-around player that is going to be superstar very soon in this league. Dumba can do everything you ask him to do and more and is a perfect fit for an expansion team.
PANTHERS: C Jonathan Marchessault(UC) 26 YO. This little-known center put up 30 goals last season and is primed to explode onto the scene in Vegas and honestly Vegas would be crazy to pass up on a player this talented. One of the most underrated players in hockey.
DEVILS: D Ben Lovejoy(UC) 33 YO. Maybe not obvious to the naked eye but the Devils roster doesn’t hold many assets and if I’m being perfectly honest I might pass on the Devils if that was possible. Lovejoy played a big part on the Penguins 2016 Stanley Cup team and still is a very solid veteran who would help younger players.
RANGERS: RW Michael Grabner(UC) 29 YO. Amazing how this guy is still just 29, I still remember him when he was putting up big numbers with the Islanders. He’s isn’t the guy he once was but he’s a lock for 20 goals and should be a second line fixture. Not much to choose from on the Rangers roster which made this an easy selection.
BRUINS: D Colin Miller(UC) 24 YO. Another product of a roster that doesn’t give you much to work with. Not to discredit Miller by any means, who could prove to be a very talented player with some good coaching. A lot of potential here, but I’d be surprised if he saw much ice time in Vegas next season.
STARS: C Cody Eakin(UC) 26 YO. Another good young player with a ton of potential. A very high motor type player who will easily become a fan favorite in Vegas. Numbers aren’t gaudy but he’s a hard worker.
COYOTES: LW Teemu Pulkkinen(RFA) 25 YO. Not much is known about this Finnish winger but he seemed like a better option than some of the higher-paid unprotected players on Arizona’s roster because of his age and his contract. I’d be surprised if the Golden Knights kept him around for more than a few days.
SABRES: LW Matt Moulson(UC) 33 YO. A guy who like Grabner can score goals in bunches, but it wasn’t an easy call because of some of the other protected players on Buffalo’s roster. But with goal scorers at a premium in this player pool, you can’t go wrong with someone like Moulson who has an impressive track record.
BLACKHAWKS: D Trevor Van Riemsdyk(UC) 25 YO. Very similar player to Colin Miller but a little more well-rounded. TVR is young player still with a lot of potential which made me choose him over Marcus Kruger who’s ceiling isn’t very high.
HURRICANES: LW Joakim Nordstrom(UC) 25 YO. To some, Carolina would’ve been one of the easier teams to select as their aren’t many desirable pieces on their unprotected players list. Lee Stempniak was the obvious choose but Nordstrom isn’t as big of a cap hit and is Stempniak’s junior by nine years. I wouldn’t expect Nordstrom to last but he’s still got some decent potential as he played all 82 games for the Hurricanes last season.
BLUE JACKETS: RW Josh Anderson(RFA) 23 YO. Another extremely inexpensive player who had a breakout year last season. For a player making under a million dollars last season, Anderson looked right at home on the ice. I debated taking Sam Gagner but Anderson’s potential is through the roof.
RED WINGS: D Xavier Ouellet(RFA) 23 YO. A lot of good choices on that Detroit roster but a it’s very hard to pass up on another younger defenseman who could be a building block in a few years. Ouellet is very inexpensive which made this a relatively easy pick.
OILERS: D Kris Russell(UFA) 30 YO. Believe it or not I could’ve taken another young, talented defenseman in Griffin Reinhart here but you also need some solid veterans on D. I’d be surprised if Vegas didn’t hang on to the 30 year who is one of the best defensive defensemen in the league.
FLYERS: C Jordan Weal(UFA) 25 YO. A slightly difficult selection with some goalies that were temping but I stuck with Weal here because Vegas will definitely be in need of some playmaking centers who still have some potential. With the right development, Weal could be a special player but that remains to be seen.
BLUES: C Jori Lehtera(UC) 29 YO. There were not a lot of options at the center position to begin with, but a first line center was a totally different animal. Lehtera may have been one of the only players available that could fill the void. His numbers aren’t outstanding but he would be the perfect center to play with James Neal and he’s in his prime as well. I debated taking Nail Yakupov but he’s been way too inconsistent in his NHL career.
MAPLE LEAFS: G Curtis McElhinney(UFA) 34 YO. There were some decent offerings from the Leafs group of veterans but McElhinney is a solid goalie and you know what you’ll get with his game. I’d be shocked however, if Vegas kept him on the roster as he’s an unrestricted free agent but he’d be good insurance if Fleury or Pickard got hurt.
CANUCKS: D Luca Sbisa(UC) 27 YO. Another somewhat experienced player, Sbisa is a very durable player who appeared in all 82 games for the Canucks last season. A dependable player who should get a decent amount of ice time if someone was to get injured.
JETS: C Marko Dano(UC) 22 YO. You really can’t have enough young talented forwards and Vegas will get just that in Dano who is just 22 but still has a ton of potential. Toby Enstrom was an option but he’s aging and has a pretty sizable cap hit. Dano will be a good fit that could see some decent ice time.
FLAMES: RW Troy Brouwer(UC) 31 YO. I went back and forth on who I wanted as a third line winger as it was between Lee Stempniak and Brouwer but I ultimately settled on the latter because of his playoff experience and younger age. Brouwer has a Stanley Cup title to his credit and is a great locker room guy.
KINGS: C Trevor Lewis(UC) 30 YO. It was either Lewis or Brayden McNabb that I deciding between but I chose Lewis based on the fact that he’s another decent center in a pool that didn’t have a lot to begin with. Lewis is a two-time cup winner in LA and brings some much-needed grindage(yes I made up that word) to the Vegas roster.
CANADIENS: LW Daniel Carr(UC) 25 YO. I really wanted to take Brian Flynn here but Carr was under contract for 2017-18 which made him a little more valuable. There were some other decent options but most of them were all far too expensive for what I was looking for.
ISLANDERS: D Thomas Hickey(UC) 28 YO. Maybe the most difficult pick I had to make. Originally I took Calvin De Haan but I changed my mind because Hickey is a little more experience at the NHL level and also was under contract. Vegas would’ve had to pay De Haan as he is a free agent and he would be in line for a hefty raise.
SHARKS: LW Mikkel Boedker(UC) 27 YO. This was another tough call to make with the Sharks having left Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau unprotected. But I chose Boedker because he was the far young option and he was also under contract. I’d expect him to slide in on that second line and fit rather well.
CAPITALS: RW Jay Beagle(UC) 31 YO. Philip Grubauer certainly would’ve been a sexy pick here but it’s too difficult to pass up on another hard-working player like Beagle. He surprisingly can score a decent amount of goals making him a very valuable addition.
$66.7 million out of $73 million salary cap
17 Forwards, 10 Defensemen, 3 Goaltenders
24 under contract for 2017-18, 3 UFA’s, 3 RFA’s
C: Lehtera, Marchessault, Lewis, Eakin, Dano, Weal
RW: Brown, Grabner, Beagle, Brouwer, Anderson
LW: Neal, Boedker, Moulson, Carr, Pulkkinen, Nordstrom
D: Sbisa, Methot, Hickey, Lovejoy, Dumba, Russell, Ouellet, Van Riemsdyk, Miller, Vatanen
G: Fleury, Pickard, McElhinney
NHL PROJECTED 23-MAN ROSTER
Extras: Weal, Pulkkinen, Nordstrom, Miller, Van Riemsdyk, McElhinney
UC-UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2017-18
UFA-UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT
RFA-RESTRICTED FREE AGENT