2017-18 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS PREVIEW
2016-17 record: First season. Welcome, neighbo(u)r!
2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs: N/A
Corsi-for rate: N/A
Hello, blank canvas. The Vegas Golden Knights enter the National Hockey League as the 31st club, and for a Los Angeles team that has two teams within a one-hour flight and another team separated by 40 miles of terrible traffic, the geographic proximity is welcome.
It’s up to the Golden Knights to turn T-Mobile Arena into an inhospitable environment, but the actual product on the ice during the early throes of expansion should make that difficult. Eventually, Vegas, which predictably and impressively leveraged the expansion draft into a surplus of draft picks through the remainder of the decade, should boast a talented crop of impressive young players, but as of now, those players are simply part of a burgeoning young prospect pool.
The team is essentially one big question mark. The most certain bet for the Golden Knights is that they will receive consistent goaltending that should keep them in most games, but top-flight scoring and quality defense will likely be an Achilles heel during their inaugural season. There’s good feistiness, and the prospect of David Perron, Cody Eakin, James Neal, Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland getting onto the ice at the same time could go a way towards setting a model of competitiveness for many young teammates to follow, but this defensive group should have a rough go, even if Shea Theodore is a bright young offensively inclined puck-mover and the versatile Nate Schmidt was a fine expansion addition from Washington.
It’s still early to get a sense of how this group will align and who among the glut of defensemen will open the season with the club, but for a Golden Knights preview (and an early look at the team Vegas should bring to El Segundo for next week’s rookie games), Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal joined LAKI to share early impressions of Los Angeles’ newest divisional rival.
Photo credit: Jeff Vinnick/NHLI