It’s been a huge week for the Vegas Golden Knights, who expanded their first-year roster from three players to more than 40. The team snagged 30 players from existing NHL teams in the June 21 expansion draft, then added 12 junior players through the June 23-24 entry draft.
The Knights’ wheeling and dealing is far from done, but here’s a quick introduction to some of the key acquisitions to the first major-league sports franchise in Las Vegas history.
James Neal (right wing)
The 29-year-old has been in the spotlight recently after helping guide the Nashville Predators to its first Stanley Cup Finals appearance. Neal scored six goals in the playoffs, including two game winners, and he has been a definition of consistency during his NHL career, scoring at least 20 goals in 10 of his 11 seasons. He wore the “A” on his chest as an alternate captain for the Predators this year and should instantly become a leader for Vegas.
David Perron (left wing)
Likely to be among the Knight’s leading goal scorers, this former St. Louis player has 159 career goals and 219 career assists. At 29 years old, Perron could ultimately start on the first line for Vegas. The Blues likely left the winger unprotected in the expansion draft due to his drop-off in the playoffs, when he didn’t score and recorded just one assist in 11 games. The Knights will be Perron’s fifth team in five years, though he played all 82 games this year for the Blues.
Jonathan Marchessault (center)
The former Florida Panther finished tied for eighth in the NHL with 30 goals this past season (matching league MVP Connor McDavid in that category). Prior to 2016, however, the 26-year-old had only eight NHL goals on his résumé. Time will tell if Marchessault’s super season was an outlier or a sign of what’s to come; the guess here is it’s the latter.
Shea Theodore (defenseman)
Knights GM George McPhee seems set on building for long term, not the short, and he showed it when he netted this defensive prospect in a deal with the Anaheim Ducks. Vegas could have easily selected veteran defenders Josh Manson or Sami Vatanen instead but passed on them to acquire Theodore, a 2013 first-round selection. The 21-year-old has appeared in only 53 games for the Ducks, but scouts believe he has the potential to be an offensive blue liner. If developed properly, Theodore could be a dangerous weapon on power plays for years to come.
Marc-Andre Fleury (goaltender)
It takes longer to pronounce Marc-Andre Fleury’s French-Canadian name than it did for the three-time Stanley Cup champion to become the face of the Golden Knights. Before all five syllables had been announced Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena, the place erupted in excitement. And with good reason: During his 13 seasons with Pittsburgh, Fleury helped lead the Penguins to three championships, include the 2016-2017 title. His career goals-against-average of 2.58 is impressive, but what he’ll bring off the ice is more important. Fleury is one of the most respected players in the league among players and coaches, and he has already begun reaching out to the local community.
Deryk Engelland (fan favorite)
This bearded, hard-hitting, 35-year-old defenseman is everything local fans could want in a hockey player. Not to mention, he’s a former Las Vegas Wrangler, having played for the Vegas minor-league squad in 2003. The free agent, who has maintained residency here ever since, signed with the Golden Knights in order to finish his hockey career in his adopted hometown.
Three talented teens (future stars)
The Knights entered last week’s entry draft with an unprecedented three draft picks among the first 15. McPhee used them on 18-year-old Cody Glass and 17-year-olds Nick Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom. The trio likely won’t contribute for at least two or three years, but they could big pieces when the team begins competing for a place in the playoffs. For now Glass, Suzuki and Brannstrom will remain on their junior teams and get their feet wet with the Knights’ minor-league affiliates—the Chicago Wolves and Quad City Mallards—before stepping up to the NHL.