By Thomas Jeffrey
Last summer the NHL conducted an expansion draft to fill the league’s newest member, the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Hockey fans were just excited to get a new team, especially in a big city like Las Vegas. However, none of those fans expected the Knights to win 51 games and the Pacific division.The Golden Knights have put together arguably the most debut season for a new franchise of any sport in history, and here’s how they did it.
In order for a hockey team to have a chance at being successful, they have to have a good goaltender. And the Knights struck gold between the pipes. The defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins decided to not protect longtime tendy Marc-Andre Fleury after Matt Murray played well in the playoffs. Vegas swooped in and acquired him, and that very well could be their best decision of the draft. Fleury has the experience and winning history that a brand new teams. Fleury had over 1200 saves and was a key piece in the Knights’ success.
To complement Fleury’s experience, the Golden Knights brought in some young, fresh talent. Most notably, they drafted center William Karlsson from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Karlsson was productive in Columbus, but he really thrived in his first season as a Golden Knight. Karlsson led the team with 78 points, and he was also the third-highest goal scorer in the NHL with 43, only behind Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine. He also led the league with a plus/minus of 49. Karlsson proved to be a promising young talent and a future star. He especially showcased his talent with a filthy between-the-legs shorthanded goal against the San Jose Sharks. With plays like that, Karlsson could continue to be a dangerous offensive weapon for the Knights.
Although Karlsson has the potential to be a superstar and is at the top of the league in many categories, he might not be a superstar yet. And that’s what possibly makes Vegas so special. They don’t have a Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, or Alex Ovechkin, so they play extremely well together as a team. Solid players like James Neal, David Perron, and Jonathan Marchessault all contribute in different ways that make the Knights such a complete and successful team.
The Las Vegas Golden Knights surprised and impressed so many in their first season. Nobody predicted them to really do anything special, but they defied the odds and won their division and also swept their first playoff series in history. Yes you read that correctly, they swept the Los Angeles Kings in their first playoff series in team history. It will be very interesting to see what the Knights do in the rest of their postseason and if they continue their success in the future. But if this season is any indication of the future, then the Las Vegas Golden Knights will be a force to be reckoned with in the NHL.