Imagine being in a position where it is almost impossible to fail; the only direction is up. You have a choice of more quality players than any team in the history of expansion, and you're in Las Vegas. The man in the middle of what will soon become hockey's biggest conspiracy theory is George McPhee, an undrafted player who signed on with the New York Rangers in 1982, and played with courage and tenacity. Though his playing days were largely unremarkable, he has had a very successful managerial career. He was with the Canucks when they made their run to the 1994 Stanley Cup and then moved on to Washington. He put together a lineup that would take the Caps to their first Stanley Cup, and continue a long run of divisional championships while continually reinventing his team. His boldest move was unloading key veterans and fan favorites which allowed the Capitals to draft Alexander Ovechkin. Later, he hired and introduced AHL super coach, Bruce Boudreau.
Now he finds himself in a brave new hockey world, where the flashing red lights won't necessarily mean a goal. If he brings success like he has everywhere else he's been, he should enjoy rewards beyond what most cities could offer. He'll have the 3rd pick of the draft to start (possibly first, as Vegas is eligible to win the lottery), he's already signed Reid Duke, a hard nosed young player cut in the same mold of himself, and he'll pick players from deep, successful teams that will have an immediate impact. His team will have players that imitate his character as a player, but he'll also start building with numerous first round picks buried on deep rosters. So what will he do? He'll bring a crew to Vegas that could be in reach of the playoffs their inaugural season.
15 Anthony Duclair via Expansion Draft
14 Trade For Malcolm Subban
13 Anders Lee
The Islanders are a perfect team to capitalize on. They have many players with no movement clauses, some good young players, and this will be enough to confuse Garth Snow and leave Lee exposed. McPhee will be laughing when he picks the young, rough, talented goal scorer to add to his forward lines. He's big, 6'3", he's heavy, 220 pounds, and he plays a power game. He's a solid 25 goal scorer, crashes the net, and is just the type of player the Golden Knight fans will love.
12 Patric Hornqvist via Expansion Draft
11 Hunter Shinkaruk via Expansion Draft
Here we go again, with another team having to debate whether they cut ties with an underachieving early pick or stick with players who impact their current lineup, like a Micheal Ferland. The Flames have a solid core of players who know their roles, complement each other, and have that all elusive chemistry. Shinkaruk has not been able to crack the lineup, find a role, and is definitely on the outside looking in. The Flames also have their share of smaller forwards and defensemen that will be protected. Why expose Ferland who is bigger, finding his game and roll, and is succeeding.
10 Phillip Danault via Expansion Draft
9 Brenden Dillon via Expansion Draft
8 Trevor van Riemsdyk via Expansion Draft
Chicago, like many teams, is going to have a player selected they don't want to lose. Though van Riemsdyk's numbers don't leap off the page, he's playing more than 20 minutes a game on a Chicago team as deep as any. He can't crack special teams play in Chicago, but he's more than capable in Vegas. He is a right handed shot which is always valuable, he has good size, is young, and would pair up nicely with Dillon. Right now, the 3rd year pro hasn't shown offensive upside, but he can skate, pass, and shoot. Without Keith, Seabrook, Campbell, and the others in front of him, he'll get a real chance to open up his offensive game. When you look at the Golden Knights now, there's youth, speed, grit, and offensive upside on offense, and now from the rearguards.
7 Acquiring Ryan Kesler, Naming Him Captain
Anaheim has the most difficult choices of any team to make. Most think because of Kesler's no movement clause and league rules he won't be moved or exposed, and instead the Ducks will say goodbye to a younger forward like Jakob Silfverberg. If so, he is a no brainer, but that's just nonsense. Instead, in a league with more gray areas in the rule book than perhaps the NFL, Anaheim keeps the young, complete player and Vegas walks with a great veteran presence. The Ducks are stuck with Getzlaf and Perry, overpaid and declining vets who no team will take. They also have young, talented forwards and defensemen any team would want. Do they really expose the latter? When the cards are down, they fold.
6 Matt Dumba via Expansion Draft
5 Brooks Orpik
Though Dmity Orlov could also be available, in which case Vegas takes him, the Caps expose Orpik and Vegas gives him the A. Look at this defense group now, with the guys we've projected heading to Vegas. You've got two right handed offensive defensemen now paired with defensive defensemen who can still skate and be physical presences. Though Orpik is getting older, he can close angles, kill penalties, and makes every team he plays for better. His experience alone with winning the cup in Pittsburgh and playing with the elite in Washington will serve Vegas well.
4 Derek Forbort via Expansion Draft
How imposing will this defense look with the 6'4", 215 pound, 25-year-old who is already playing consistent minutes on the Kings? Another first round draft pick, his offensive game has a way to go, but he can skate, hit, and clean up bodies in front of the net. He's gaining confidence in his passing, defensive skills, and physicality. But what's most impressive is at this age he doesn't really panic and make mistakes. He clears the zone, doesn't overstay his shifts, and can shut down other teams' better forwards.
3 Jason Demers via Expansion Draft
Florida joins the club of having to make some tough decisions, especially on defense. They have no choices up front, because they have some of the best, young talent in the league. They're deep on defense too, but something's got to give. Though they would hate to lose Demers, it just comes down to odds and value. Though Demers is just 28, Florida has younger defensemen with that highly sought after right handed shot. This means Demers is exposed, and Vegas grabs him to pair with Forbort. He's got a little edge in that 6 foot frame, but more importantly he's finding his shot and his goals and production has increased every year.
2 Jimmy Howard via Expansion Draft
When it comes down to the most important position on the team, Vegas takes the net minder that in many ways fits perfectly for this expansion team. Of course, and he'd probably have it no other way, Detroit will give up on Howard and expose him. He's had a few rough seasons with injuries as he ages, but he's also been banished to the dog house under Jeff Blashill. One of the more underrated goalies in the league, he's the ultimate competitor despite his size. He's athletic, incredibly focused, and never gives up on the puck.
He’d also be a great mentor for Subban and would be able to teach the youngster how to be more positionally sound and move more efficiently.
1 Signing Ben Bishop
The only whole that Vegas will have to sure up is in goal, as in bringing in competition to cover them in net. This will also be McPhee's only real test. Subban isn't ready yet and Howard is on the verge of being an old 32. He can either claim a back up like Al Montoya who can also start for short periods of time, or he can put his chips on the table and go for it via free agency. Though McPhee generally doesn't chase the market, Ben Bishop could be had for over $6 million a year. Though Bishop isn't probably worth it - he's terrible with his stick, pucks get caught up in his feet, and he often gets injured - he has shown he can be that lock down goalie every team needs. He's won in the playoffs, has gaudy regular season stats, and this team will be good enough they can't afford any questions in goal.
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