Crystal ball: 20 predictions for the Vegas Golden Knights’ inaugural season

Photo: L.E. Baskow

First goal: David Perron

(October 6 at Dallas) The 29-year-old has played especially well in the preseason.

First assist: Cody Eakin

(October 6 at Dallas) Eakin scored the first preseason goal at T-Mobile Arena, and the guess here is he’ll find Perron to put the pair in the trivia books with the first regular-season tally in team history.

First win: Dallas

(October 6) The Stars should be a far better team than the Knights this year and will likely make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but Vegas has momentum like no team in league history.

First loss: Arizona

(October 7) Look for the Golden Knights to come up short in the second game of their first-ever back-to-back.

First home win: Arizona

(October 10) There won’t be a regular season NHL game with a more emotional atmosphere than the Golden Knights’ home opener. T-Mobile Arena will be packed to the rafters, and the Golden Knights will feed off it.

First fight: Deryk Engelland

(October 10 vs. Arizona) In case we’d wondered who the Knights’ enforcer would be, Engelland reminded us during the preseason home opener on September 30. When the Kings’ Kurtis MacDermid laid what Engelland deemed a cheap shot on teammate Tomas Nosek, Engelland dropped the gloves and threw down.

First home loss: Boston

(October 15) The Bruins may not be what they were a few years ago, but they’re still playoff contenders in the Eastern Conference and should handle the Knights in teams’ first-ever meeting.

First shutout: Marc-Andre Fleury

(October 27 vs. Colorado) The three-time Stanley Cup Champion goaltender will surely be peppered with more shots this season than he has been the past few years with Pittsburgh, but the Avalanche is on par with the Golden Knights when it comes to talent.

Final record: 29-40-13

(71 points) The sportsbook over-under for the Golden Knights’ win total was 26.5 at press time. I say they eclipse that thanks to an early-season, excitement-fueled surge.

Home record: 17-17-7

The Golden Knights will have a fuller arena and a louder crowd than nearly every team in the league, particularly among teams out of playoff contention. They’ll do much better at home than on the road.

Away record: 12-23-6

The team will put less talent on the ice than most opponents, so they’ll especially struggle to win on the road.

Season leader, goals: Jonathan Marchessault

(28) Marchessault scored 30 last year—tied with Connor McDavid, just three behind superstar Alex Ovechkin—and he’ll likely be playing on the top line for the Golden Knights most nights.

Season leader, assists: Vadim Shipachyov

(34) The 30-year-old Russian has yet to play in the NHL, but he’s been a phenomenal playmaker in Russia for the past seven years. Shipachyov had 97 points last season with SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League, including 65 assists. Playing as the first-line center man for the Knights with Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault on his sides should give to plenty of assist opportunities.

Total goals scored: 203

That would have ranked seventh-worst in the NHL last season, about what can be expected from a team lacking true superstars. The Golden Knights will play an exciting brand of hockey, but they don’t have elite goal scorers to put the puck in the net consistently.

Total goals allowed: 245

Only four teams in the NHL allowed more goals than 245 last year. The Knights have talent on defense, but many of their best defenders—Colin Miller, Nate Schmidt, Shea Theodore, Jason Garrison—are offense-minded and will leave openings behind them.

League finish: 29 out of 31

About what you’d expect from an expansion team, but the future is bright.

2018 draft position: 1st

The Golden Knights should have better luck in the lottery than last year, when they fell to sixth. They could also trade up if need be.

Best selling jersey: Marc-Andre Fleury

(No. 29) A runaway. The goalie has quickly become the face of the franchise.

Unexpected fan favorite: Brayden McNabb

You might not know his name yet, but his bone-crushing hits and occasional fights should make him popular.

Longest concession line at T-Mobile Arena: Shake Shack

It’s packed at every boxing match, UFC fight and concert—why would it be any different for Golden Knights games?

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