Golden Knights may net young ros­ter, fran­chise goalie in draft

McPhee ready to build team

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY STEPHEN WHYNO

Ge­orge McPhee can’t wait to fill up the white board, the one in the Vegas Golden Knights’ ex­pan­sion draft room. On Wed­nes­day night, the staff will start ad­ding the names of play­ers who will be­come part of the ex­pan­sion team for its first NHL sea­son.

“We’re go­ing to put our team to­gether and we’ll watch it come to life in front of us,” McPhee said.

What will that team look like when it takes the ice in early Oc­to­ber? It won’t have all the topend tal­ent avail­able be­cause side deals will al­low Vegas to stock­pile draft picks and prospects for the fu­ture, but it will prob­a­bly be the most com­pet­i­tive ex­pan­sion team in the league’s his­tory.

“I’m re­ally pleased with what’s avail­able,” McPhee told re­porters in Las Vegas on Sun­day. “This has worked out very well for the Vegas Golden Knights, and we ex­pect to put a good, en­ter­tain­ing club on the ice.”

Here’s a pro­jec­tion of who the in­au­gu­ral Golden Knights might snap up by Wed­nes­day night:

Goaltenders (min­i­mum 3)

Sure bet: Three-time Stan­ley Cup cham­pion Marc-An­dre Fleury seems like the most re­li­able pick on the board, a rec­og­niz­able face of the fran­chise who can eas­ily start 50-60 games and give the Golden Knights chances to win. Fleury waived his no-move­ment clause so the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins didn’t have to

force another trade, and the 32-year-old can go back to be­ing a clear No. 1 goalie.

Worth the gam­ble: Fleury could be joined by an es­tab­lished 20-some­thing backup, like Philadel­phia’s Michal Neu­virth, Detroit’s Petr Mrazek, Colorado’s Calvin Pickard or New York’s Antti Raanta.

McPhee and Vegas goal­tend­ing coach Dave Prior have con­nec­tions to Neu­virth and Grubauer from draft­ing them with the Cap­i­tals. McPhee de­scribed Neu­virth as “al­most tech­ni­cally per­fect.”

“It was just about him grow­ing up and ma­tur­ing,” McPhee said at the scout­ing com­bine. “We thought that when that hap­pened, he’d be an out­stand­ing goal­tender. And he’s at that point now. He can be re­ally good.”

Rolling the dice: Maybe Vegas wants to groom its starter of the fu­ture, in which case Grubauer, Boston’s Mal­colm Sub­ban, Detroit’s Jared Coreau or Toronto’s An­toine Bibeau could fit the bill.

Don’t sleep on: Vegas con­trols the trade market and can make some ex­tra picks to flip a goalie or two. Ari­zona and Philadel­phia are in need of starters.

De­fense­men (min­i­mum 9)

Sure bet: As­sum­ing Ana­heim has al­ready worked out a trade to keep Vegas away from Sami Vata­nen and Josh Man­son – per­haps at the cost of a first-round pick – there are still plenty of young, af­ford­able de­fense­men to choose from along with some veter­ans. Dion Pha­neuf re­fus­ing to waive his no-move­ment clause forced Ot­tawa to pro­tect him and ex­pose 31-year-old Marc Methot.

Min­nesota’s plethora of blue lin­ers made Matt Dumba, 22, and Marco Scan­della, 27, avail­able un­less the Wild is willing to fork some­thing over, and 25-year-old right-shoot­ing Trevor van Riems­dyk from Chicago seems tick­eted for the Golden Knights.

Worth the gam­ble: With speed, skat­ing and puck-mov­ing skills a pri­or­ity, Tampa Bay’s Slater Koekkoek (23 years old), Detroit’s Xavier Oul­let (23), Wash­ing­ton’s Nate Sch­midt (25) and Mon­treal’s Nikita Nes­terov (24) all could fit well. Want some more size and phys­i­cal­ity? Vegas could look at Boston’s Colin Miller (24), Edmonton’s Grif­fin Rein­hart (23) and Buf­falo’s Zach Bo­gosian (26).

Rolling the dice: Pend­ing free agent Kevin Shat­tenkirk of the Cap­i­tals wants to be a No. 1 de­fense­man and could get that role in Vegas.

“It’s a very in­ter­est­ing sit­u­a­tion,” Shat­tenkirk said. “Usu­ally, you’re talk­ing to teams or think­ing of teams and you have some sort of idea of how they’re built or their his­tory or what­ever it may be, and they are com­pletely fresh.”

Don’t sleep on: The Golden Knights will be young, but San Jose’s David Sch­lemko (30) and Paul Martin (36) and New Jer­sey’s Ben Love­joy (33) are veteran op­tions.

For­wards (min­i­mum 14)

Sure bet: This is where elite tal­ent al­ready un­der con­tract is hard to find, out­side of maybe Nashville’s James Neal, a 10-time 20-goal scorer, and 32-year-old Min­nesota cen­ter Eric Staal. Vegas could use free agency to stock its top for­wards, as it al­ready has by sign­ing Vadim Shipa­cy­hov out of the KHL.

Worth the gam­ble: Among es­tab­lished NHL for­wards, Vegas has the pick of two 26-year-olds from Florida: right winger Reilly Smith and cen­ter Jonathan Marches­sault, who set ca­reer highs with 30 goals, 21 as­sists and 51 points last sea­son and is the big­gest bar­gain in the league at $750,000. With so many Cup teams built down the mid­dle, Dal­las’ Cody Eakin (who McPhee also drafted), Min­nesota’s Erik Haula and St. Louis’ Jori Le­htera could help both present and fu­ture.

Rolling the dice: Vegas can build a young nu­cleus with some in­trigu­ing possibilities, as­sum­ing Colum­bus has per­suaded McPhee not to take 17-goal scorer Josh An­der­son and the New York Is­lan­ders have worked out a way to keep 56-point pro­ducer Josh Bai­ley. One-time prospects Marko Dano from Win­nipeg, Mikhail Grig­orenko from Colorado and Nail Yakupov from St. Louis might ben­e­fit from big­ger op­por­tu­ni­ties un­der coach Ger­ard Gal­lant.

Don’t sleep on: If Vegas is in­deed get­ting Black­hawks cen­ter Marcus Kruger, he’s a nice depth player at 27, and Mon­treal’s To­mas Plekanec, who is 34, sat­is­fies a veteran com­po­nent and could fit per­fectly as the fran­chise’s first cap­tain.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pitts­burgh Pen­guins goalie Marc-An­dre Fleury could be taken in Wedned­say’s ex­pan­sion draft.

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