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Everything you need to know for the NHL’s Expansion into Las Vegas


Photo courtesy of Prayitno via.

After years of speculation and debate, the NHL has finally settled on the location of their 31st franchise: Las Vegas. The announcement was made this past June, but with the team announcing their nickname and logo on November 22nd, it is time to start thinking about how the Las Vegas Golden Knights team will be formed, and what it will look like for years to come. The teams’ owner, Bill Foley, has already announced his general manager; George McPhee. McPhee was with the Washington Capitals from 1997 to 2014, and during that span he was able to win seven division championships as well as drafting franchise players such as LW Alex Ovechkin, Defenseman Nicklas Backstrom, and Goalie Braden Holtby, who all remain as key pieces to the Capitals today. McPhee has the role of creating the Vegas Golden Knights team from scratch, as the NHL announced that it once again would hold an expansion draft that will take place from June 18th-20th in 2017. The team has not yet hired a head coach, as they are possibly waiting to see if any current head coaches will be relieved off their duties at some time during this season. One coach that has already been fired, Gerard Gallant of the Florida Panthers, would definitely be a suitable option for the Golden Knights if he is still available come their hiring process. Las Vegas is expecting the Spring is when they will announce their head coach according to McPhee.

During the process of choosing the next expansion team, the NHL narrowed down the possible destinations to either Las Vegas or Quebec City. Quebec City had a team up till 1995, named the Quebec Nordiques, before they were moved to Colorado where they now play as the Colorado Avalanche. Many people saw Quebec as the better option for an expansion team, as people believed the fan base in Quebec would be much better than the one in Las Vegas, as Vegas is known as a town for tourists. It was announced just a few weeks ago however that the Vegas Golden Knights had already sold 14,000 season tickets, and George McPhee in an interview with Sportsnet in Canada this past week stated that over ninety percent of those season ticket purchasers were residents of Las Vegas, and not ticket brokers like many people assumed. Overall, the fan base in Las Vegas should be better than many people expected, as more than a million people live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area year round.

With the team nickname and logo revealed, along with the opening of the T-Mobile Arena, which they will call home, the only thing left for the Vegas Golden Knights is to first hire a head coach, and then form a team this upcoming summer. There will be essentially two drafts: the normal Entry Draft where all NHL teams participate, and the Expansion draft where only the Golden Knights draft.

The NHL Expansion Draft will occur June 18th-20th, and the NHL has already announced how the expansion draft will work. The Vegas Golden Knights will choose one player from each of the current thirty teams in the National Hockey League, but Vegas can’t just choose any player from each team. Every current NHL team is allowed to protect players through two methods, where the teams choose which one they want: 1) Either seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie are protected, or 2) protect eight total skaters (forwards/defenseman) and one goalie. Teams must protect players with no movement clauses in their contract, and those players will count towards the teams’ list for protected players. In addition, all first and second year players are exempt from the expansion draft, but these players will not count towards the team’s protection list. With these rules in place, the Golden Knights will obviously not have an ideal team to begin with. Current NHL teams are trying to do everything they can now to not give up a player who they deem as vital to their team, and therefore force McPhee and the Golden Knights to choose a player who they may not want…but have to take. The NHL Entry Draft will have to be where the Golden Knights will draft their franchise players. It is very unlikely the Golden Knights will get a franchise player in through the expansion.

With the NHL Entry Draft, the NHL chooses their entry draft order based on a lottery-type system with the teams finishing with the worst point totals having the greatest odds of getting the first overall pick. The Golden Knights will participate in this year’s draft, and will be given the same odds in the draft lottery as the team who finishes with the third least points, which gives them a real good chance of getting a great draft pick, maybe even the 1st overall.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights are off to a good start in being the 31st team in the National Hockey League. They have hired a very capable general manager in George McPhee, as well as appealing to a fan base which seems to be excited about the Golden Knights starting their inaugural season next fall at the T-Mobile Center. The next six months will be relatively quiet for the Vegas Golden Knights, but they will become the focus of attention in the NHL next June when the expansion draft takes place, which is when we will be able to know who will play for the Las Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural season in the Fall of 2017.

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Everything you need to know for the NHL’s Expansion into Las Vegas