I remember it like yesterday, writing articles about meetings The Creator was having with the league making presentations in conjunction with Quebecor trying to sell the idea of expanding the league. Now, I’m about to take a shot at picking the 23 players who are going to make the roster when the Vegas Golden Knights play the first regular season game in franchise history. Crazy.
Enough about me, let’s cut some guys!
Vadim Shipachyov, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, David Perron, Cody Eakin, Erik Haula, Oscar Lindberg, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, William Karlsson, Teemu Pulkkinen, Alex Tuch, William Carrier, Tomas Hyka
Due to the fact that the Golden Knights are expected to keep eight defensemen, there are some tough decisions on the back end of this list. The first nine are pretty well set in stone, the final four will be selected from a pool of seven.
The first who makes the list is Pulkkinen, and that has a lot to do with this skill set. His shooting ability is borderline elite in the NHL and he’s never really had a lot of time to prove himself in the league. However, the reasoning for his inclusion is more in the fact that he sticks out as a different style of player than the rest of the group. There are fast guys, there are big guys, but there’s no one else quite like him.
Next is Tuch. This one has a lot to do with the way he’s been playing on the ice, but it has even more to do with the fact that he’s one of the very few Golden Knights George McPhee paid to bring in. McPhee gave up a 3rd round pick to get Tuch from the Wild and he’s done everything in his power (including attending Development Camp) to make the roster. Wouldn’t be completely stunning if he’s sent to Chicago, but it would be a bit of a surprise.
That brings us to the final two spots. I selected Hyka and Carrier out of the group including Brendan Leipsic, Tomas Nosek, and Tyler Wong. Hyka has been playing great hockey both in game action as well as in practice. It seems like every time the puck is near him he’s making things happen. That was also the case for Wong in the preseason game, and in rookie camp, but hasn’t been quite as apparent since the veterans showed up. Leipsic is an incredibly similar player to both Hyka and Wong, but simply hasn’t flashed throughout camp or in the one preseason game in which he played. For smaller speedy players, they should stick out like a sore thumb on the ice, skating by people and scoring goals. One of these three did that better than the other two. Hyka has also never played an NHL game, which represents massive upside for a guy who’s had this much success in camp and was singled out by the Golden Knights prior to the Expansion Draft. It’s a risky move considering McPhee would have to hope Leipsic can sneak through waivers without losing him, but Hyka deserves the spot more than Leipsic at this point, so it’s worth the risk.