Brayden McNabb took a phone call Tuesday night that for most players will never come. He had been selected in an expansion draft by the Vegas Golden Knights, the NHL’s 31st team.
“Rob Blake called me, and then [Vegas GM] George [McPhee] called me and asked me if I could come, and obviously I was more than willing to come,” he said.
And so continued the journey of the humble, likable and heavy hitting former Kings defender who amassed six goals, 42 points, a plus-23 rating and 198 penalty minutes over 201 games with Los Angeles since joining the organization in a deadline day trade with Buffalo in 2014. While joining a divisional rival, he’ll also say good bye to a number of close teammates with whom he assimilated well after switching conferences. There are mixed emotions that come into play in this unique situation, McNabb said.
“You build a lot of great relationships with guys on your team,” he said. “You obviously want to stay there when you’re on a team, but I knew there was a possibility to be able to be selected, and it’s been a whirlwind, and now it’s kind of starting to set in, and I’m excited.”
Perhaps his calling card to his old teammates will be his familiar hip checks versus those who enter his territory with their heads down. In all likelihood, there will be a healthy rivalry between the two teams separated by 280 miles of desert, a notion underscored by the surly response from the T-Mobile crowd upon hearing “Los Angeles Kings” announced over the public address shortly before the defenseman’s name was called.
“It’s an honor,” McNabb said of being selected by Vegas. “It’s a great franchise. They made a lot of great picks and got a lot of good draft picks. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun, and I know everyone’s pretty excited.”
On having played in Las Vegas and T-Mobile Arena:
It’s a beautiful rink. You guys have all seen it. It’s great. This is going to be a great atmosphere. There’s a big buzz around the city, and I think everyone’s looking forward to it.
On whether he had a feeling he’d be selected:
Yeah, you have feelings and people talk about it. I knew it was a possibility.
On any feelings towards being exposed by Los Angeles:
Yeah, definitely. Obviously when you’re with a team you want to stay with the team, and when you are exposed, then there’s an opportunity that you can go. I realize that, but I want to thank the LA Kings – Dean Lombardi and Rob Blake – for getting me into the league and getting the ball rolling, so I owe a lot to them. And now, it’s a fresh start and I’m excited.
On the Golden Knights:
I think we’re going to be competitive. There are a lot of good players we selected and some young guys too. We’ve got great goaltending, so it starts there. So it’ll be fun.
On whether he has met his teammates:
Yeah, I met a couple of ‘em. They’re backstage, so.
On Bill Foley:
It’s been good. I just met him, and he’s really excited, and so are we. I’m excited to build a relationship with him.
On whether Gerard Gallant has spoken with him about his role:
No, I haven’t talked to coach much about that, anyways. That’s probably further down the line.
On the balance between building a competitive team and accumulating draft picks:
It’s great. We’ve got, I think, quite a few draft picks, so the future’s going to be bright here. It starts right off the get-go, so I think everyone’s looking forward to it.
On whether he has been assured he’ll remain with the team past the lifting of the trade freeze:
I mean, that I don’t know. That’s a possibility too. You kind of just go with the flow. I hope to be here, but if not, that’s part of it.
On any stigma or excitement of playing in Las Vegas:
I mean, it’s a fun city, obviously, but it’s new and exciting. I’m looking forward to it if I’m going to be here.
On the Golden Knights’ jersey:
It’s nice. Real flashy – just like Vegas.
On Gerard Gallant:
I’ve heard nothing but good things about himn. If I get achance to play for him, I’m really excited.
On facing the Kings within the division:
Yeah, exactly. I’ll be a rival with my own team.
On being selected in the expansion draft versus being selected in the NHL Draft:
Yeah, I think it’s a little different. When you get drafted you’re a little younger, and it’s kind of like the same excitement, but you’ve been in the league for a few years now, and you kind of know what everything’s about. I think this is a little different that way.
-stick tap to Sheng Peng for providing audio