What is going on in Vegas?

With the odds of success by expansions teams looking bleak in the past, Vegas has bet against the odds and is running away with their winnings. The last two expansion teams were the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild in the 2000-2001 NHL season. Columbus finished with a record of 28-39-9-6 (71 points) and Minnesota recorded a record of 25–39–13–5 (68 points), however the Las Vegas Golden Knights already have a record of 32-12-4 (68 points). This Vegas team fueled by young talent and a tremendous veteran presence in Marc Andre Fleury has beaten the odds set by onlookers of the NHL.

The success of the Vegas Knights begins with GM George McPhee and the draft. Each team could protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender, as well as first and second year players; players with no movement clauses were already protected. This left Vegas with the ability to select 2nd or 3rd line skaters. An argument can be made that Las Vegas has the most talent-balanced lines in the NHL because all their players are 2nd to 3rd line talent. In comparison, some teams are very top heavy and then have a gap in their talent on the 3rd and 4th lines.  While it hurts not to have a “star” player to carry the rest of the roster like the many of the teams in the league are built, this could provide an advantage when rotating through lines.

Vegas struck gold when selecting Marc Andre Fleury from the Pittsburgh Penguins, who additionally gave up a 2020 second round pick. Fleury in 25 games has a record of 17-6-2 and posted a 2.07 GAA and a .932 Save Percentage, both of which are above his career average. In addition to Fleury Vegas has 8 players who already have career highs, William Karlsson (49 points in 56 games), Colin Miller (31 points in 56 games), Alex Tuch (25 points in 52 games), Nate Schmidt (26 points in 56 games), Shea Theodore (18 points in 41 games), Brendan Leipsic (13 points in 43 games), Brad Hunt (13 points in 32 games), and Tomas Nosek (9 points in 42 games). These players are all highly motivated to get more playing time with a change of scenery after being castaways from their old teams.

Vegas already passed the 1993-1994 Anaheim Ducks who held the record for 33 wins for a team in their inaugural season, but that record isn’t what is driving them. The Las Vegas Golden Knights look once again to bet against the odds and try to hoist the Stanley Cup, a feat that hasn’t been done by an expansion team.

References

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