At last night’s NHL Awards in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena, the new expansion Vegas Golden Knights revealed the 30 players they selected along with some trades that allowed them to stockpile draft picks for this weekend and 2019.
While the award show itself was the usual assortment of odd humor and forced jokes including the line of the night from Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne to co-presenter Aly Raisman, “Look at those legs,” which drew the usual overreaction, at least they got the winners right.
To quickly recap, Connor McDavid swept the Pearson and Hart while Sergei Bobrovsky won the Vezina, Brent Burns the Norris, Patrice Bergeron the Selke, Johnny Gaudreau the Byng, John Tortorella the Adams and Auston Matthews the Calder. The biggest highlights were the emotional moments for Bryan Bickell and Craig Anderson along with Deanna Laing. Nick Foligno was recognized for the King Clancy and Messier Leadership Award. Travis Hamonic won for the NHL Foundation Player Award.
All were very deserving and gave good speeches with Anderson’s exceptional after receiving the Masterton with the likable Ottawa goalie saluting wife Nicholle in overcoming her cancer fight. Bickell’s farewell with wife Amanda was very emotional. He paid special thanks to the Blackhawks where he won a Cup.
As for the expansion draft, breathtaking host Kathryn Tappen revealed the players selected in segments with Darren Millard, who definitely was nervous making some mistakes. If you saw how wonderful Tappen looked, it could explain why.
Among the biggest reveals were Marc-Andre Fleury, who received thunderous applause from excited Vegas fans. He was so cool showing off his new Golden Knights threads after being taken from the Penguins where he won three Stanley Cups. Fleury is just a classy dude. He should do well.
The Panthers lost Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith, who they traded to Las Vegas. The Islanders lost J.F. Berube and dumped Mikhail Grabovski’s contract along with first and second round picks to clear room to acquire Jordan Eberle in a deal completed today with Edmonton for Ryan Strome. They’re after Matt Duchene with Hamonic on the block.
The Devils lost defenseman Jon Merrill, who was replaced by recent acquisition Mirco Mueller. Nothing else to report on the Devils for now with them slated to take either Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick first overall in Friday’s first round.
As for the Rangers, they wound up losing center Oscar Lindberg. A underrated checking pivot who raised his game in the postseason, he is now a Golden Knight. For Vegas, it made sense with Lindberg a solid two-way center who is strong on draws and a diligent forechecker. He definitely didn’t get used enough in his second year under Alain Vigneault. Don’t forget it took Lindberg a while to get full healthy and recover from hip surgery. He should fit in nicely under new Vegas coach Gerard Gallant.
The Golden Knights also made a splash by tabbing ex-Predator James Neal. A capable scorer who plays with edge, he’ll be reunited with Fleury after losing to his former team for the Cup. Most interesting was the odd bromance between Carl Hagelin and Sidney Crosby. They sure make a good Odd Couple. I was glad Hagelin stayed with Pittsburgh for now. That doesn’t mean he won’t get moved.
I thought Las Vegas GM George McPhee did a good job adding defensemen. He was able to land Shea Theodore and acquire Clayton Stoner so the Ducks could retain Sami Vatanen and Josh Manson. He also drafted Alexei Emelin from the Canadiens and Marc Methot from the Senators. A tough loss for Ottawa. They opted to keep Cody Ceci.
One player McPhee took but didn’t keep was ex-Hawk Trevor van Riemsdyk. He sent him to the Hurricanes today. Former Devil David Schlemko is now a ex-Shark joining the Golden Knights. Apparently, he’s not staying in Vegas going to the Canadiens for a 2019 fifth round pick.
Aside from Fleury, who naturally was the home run pick, the Golden Knights took former Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard and Berube as their other goalies. They passed on Petr Mrazek, whose stock plummeted on Detroit slipping to third on the depth chart after signing a new contract. He’ll probably get moved.
Two other veteran D Las Vegas added are Deryk Engelland and Jason Garrison. Engelland plays tough and can fight while Garrison hopes to rediscover his offense with Vegas if he stays. I liked the Brayden McNabb pick from the Kings, who got plenty of jeers along with the Blackhawks and Flyers. I guess hate travels.
Colin Miller and Luca Sbisa were also taken. Two younger right defenseman. Former Cap Nate Schmidt was the final selection. I have to believe they’ll keep him as he’s a solid D. Islanders failure Griffin Reinhart was also added for depth.
Some of the other forwards taken who should comprise the top four lines included Cody Eakin, William Karlsson, David Perron, Erik Haula, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Chris Thorburn and Teemu Pulkkinen. The rest included William Carrier, Brendan Leipsic and Tomas Nosek.
With some trades having taken place already, there’s sure to be plenty of player movement. The activity over the next 72 hours should be fast and furious.
With the Islanders making upgrades, it’ll be interesting to see what the Rangers do. Will Jeff Gorton pull off a blockbuster for a badly needed right defenseman? They currently don’t have one and Brendan Smith remains unsigned. The Rangers have been linked to Arizona and Winnipeg hoping to land Jacob Trouba. Derek Stepan is coveted by the rebuilding Coyotes. Who else goes in a package if that happens? Antti Raanta didn’t get drafted. I have to think he’ll be moved.
Stay tuned for plenty more this weekend with the NHL Entry Draft this weekend.