We’ve hit the quarter pole of the Golden Knights first season in franchise history. With it comes no better time to begin what’s going to become a staple here at SinBin.vegas, the Expansion Draft Report Card. There will be a total of three report cards each year until it becomes unnecessary. Preseason, post-deadline, post free agency. This serves as the preseason one for year one.
Each selection is graded based on value. Factors taken into consideration rank as follows: Play of player selected, impact on franchise currently, impact moving forward, and other options that were not taken.
So here we go…
Selection: Clayton Stoner
**TRADE: Golden Knights receive Shea Theodore for Expansion Draft considerations**
Theodore remains the most talented defenseman on the roster and despite the early “number decision” stint in the AHL, he appears here to stay. He’s taken over the main defenseman spot on the power play and even tallied his first goal in a recent game. This guy should be a Golden Knight for a long time and his future looks incredibly bright. It’ll be an A+ if he turns out to be what we expect, but at this point, he’s still finding his place. The grade also has to take a bit of a knock because of all the other options from the Ducks. Oh, and Stoner is likely not going to play for the Golden Knights at all. Grade: B+
Selection: Teemu Pulkkinen
The hard-shooting winger couldn’t crack the team out of camp. He’s currently tearing up the AHL with the Wolves, but has yet to get the call back to Vegas. The options were thin from the Coyotes so it’s hard to give a terrible grade here, but it doesn’t seem as if Pulkkinen will ever fit with what Gerard Gallant is looking to do with his team. If he gets recalled at some point things may change, but at the moment, it appears to be a pick that won’t ever pay dividends for the Golden Knights. Grade: D
Selection: Colin Miller
First off, Miller has been excellent in Vegas as a consistent source of offense plus a weapon at the blue line on the power play. But in addition to Miller the Golden Knights were able to claim Malcolm Subban off waivers. It’s possible McPhee and Co. decided to go with Miller because they knew they might have a chance at Subban. It happened, and now they’ve got both. Each are young and under Golden Knights control for at least another year. This is a good one and could turn out to be great. Grade: A
Selection: William Carrier
**TRADE: Golden Knights receive 6th round pick for Expansion Draft considerations**
I know everybody loves them some “fourth” line, but Carrier’s ceiling is a bit of a concern for the future. He shows the flashes of brilliance specifically with his speed and fearless attitude, but his hands are just not good enough to turn the chances he creates into goals. He’s just 22-years-old so there’s still time for him to develop, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he remains a low minute energy guy throughout his career. For the 2017-18 team, he’s a nice guy to have to fill a role, but moving forward, he may become expendable. The grade does get a huge bump from the fact that there’s not another option even close to Carrier that could have been taken from the Sabres. Grade: B+
Selection: Deryk Engelland
This is a really tough one to grade. It starts out tough because the fact of the matter is this wasn’t an expansion selection. Engelland was signed as a free agent and the “negotiating window” they used to do it during the Expansion Draft was unnecessary because Engelland was going to be a Golden Knight on any date if they’d have him. The next tough portion is his age. He’s 35. Who knows how much hockey is left in him, so the long-term grade is low. All this being said, he’s having the best season of his career, and he’s a stalwart in the locker room. I want to give it a lower grade, but he’s been so solid on the ice, and ridiculously amazing off it, it’s nearly impossible to question the decision. Grade: B+
Selection: Connor Brickley
**TRADE: Golden Knights receive 5th round pick for Expansion Draft considerations**
Brickley was a UFA when selected and did not sign with the Golden Knights. It’s unclear if the trades (see Chicago) were related to the “punt” the Golden Knights took in the Expansion Draft. So, it’s awfully tough to grade. Looking at the other available options, there wasn’t much there, so punting to ensure no funny business got in the way of a pair of trades was probably the right move. The grade should be blah but instead, it’s… Grade: C
Selection: Trevor van Riemsdyk
**TRADE: Golden Knights receive 2nd round pick and 5th round pick for Trevor van Riemsdyk, Marcus Kruger, and 7th round pick**
The pick was made to trade the player and the Golden Knights also worked out a deal with Chicago to get Marcus Kruger for nothing in which they flipped for a 5th round pick. Neither van Riemsdyk nor Kruger has done a ton statistically for Carolina and the player many believed Vegas would have chosen if not for van Riemsdyk, Ville Pokka, has yet to make an NHL appearance. When all is said and done the Chicago expansion pick will forever be tied to Jake Leschyshyn, but until we see what he can be, Vegas made two picks out of Chicago’s pick. Draft Grade: B+
Selection: Calvin Pickard
**TRADE: Golden Knights receive Tobias Lindberg and 6th round pick for Calvin Pickard **
This will be a tough one to judge for quite a while. The cupboard wasn’t stocked very well for options from Colorado, but when we look at what the ultimate haul was from this pick it’s a 6th round pick and a player we don’t expect much from. That’s not much, so a lower grade is necessary, and it can really only go down if Pickard ends up turning out to be something in Toronto or elsewhere. Grade: D
Columbus Blue Jackets
Selection: William Karlsson
**TRADE: Golden Knights receive David Clarkson (LTIR), 1st round pick, and 2nd round pick for Expansion Draft considerations**
It doesn’t get much better than this. First off, Vegas ate the salary of Grabovski for one year, and were rewarded with a 1st and a 2nd and a prospect that looked okay in camp. Then, they picked a player that has turned out to be the best player on the team to this point. Karlsson has been an absolute stud scoring goals, killing penalties, and playing on the forward line with the most defensive responsibility. Karlsson appears to be a major part of the Golden Knights long-term plans, and at this point appears to be a shoe-in to represent Vegas at the All Star game in Tampa. The player they were told to lay off of per “Expansion Draft considerations” was likely Joonas Korpisalo, who has played just four NHL games this year and has a 1-3 record in them. Oh, and by the way, Oscar Dansk was a property of the Blue Jackets during the Expansion Draft, he came to Vegas on July 1st as a UFA. Grade: A++
Selection: Cody Eakin
Eakin is a bit of a tough one to grade as he’s had somewhat of an up and down season to this point. At the beginning of the year he was great as the top line center, but since moving to play with Alex Tuch he’s been hit or miss. He seems like the perfect third or fourth line center for a solid to good team, but unlike many Golden Knights, he hasn’t risen his game with the added opportunity. He’s slightly overpaid for the next three years, but with the Golden Knights cap situation, it shouldn’t be a problem. Not a great player, not a bad player, but definitely a trustworthy player, which is always good to have. Grade: B
Detroit Red Wings
Selection: Tomas Nosek
Nosek will forever be in the record books as the player to score the first goal in T-Mobile Arena history. He’s been a surprisingly strong penalty killer and has brought a bit of offensive flare to the “fourth” line. However, like Carrier, I’m not sure the ceiling is much higher than what we’ve seen to this point. Petr Mrazek, Riley Sheahan, and Darren Helm were the other options from Detroit and none have really done much. It’s a passing grade for now, with the arrow pointed in the right direction if I’m wrong about Nosek’s development. Grade: B
Selection: Griffin Reinhart
At this point it seems rather clear what the Golden Knights got from this selection: not much. I see where McPhee was going with Reinhart trying to find one of his future stay at home defensemen, but he swung and missed on a guy that many have missed on before. Meanwhile, Jujhar Khaira might be just what McPhee was looking for. Doesn’t seem like there’s a place on the Golden Knights for Reinhart, and it doesn’t appear they’ll be getting any value out of him before his contract expires. Grade: F
Selection: Jonathan Marchessault
**TRADE: Golden Knights receive Reilly Smith for a 4th round pick**
The Golden Knights basically took a 2nd line from the Panthers and then threw Karlsson in the middle of it, now it looks like something resembling a legitimate top line, something no one thought Vegas would have in year one. Smith’s contract has him seemingly in Vegas for a while, but Marchessault is an unrestricted free agent in seven months. This season, these picks are a home run, but the future doesn’t look as great if Marchessault walks. McPhee could decide to trade Marchessault before the deadline as well. The future of this pick is up in the air, but the present is awesome. Grade: A-
Los Angeles Kings
Selection: Brayden McNabb
Like Edmonton, McPhee was looking for a bigger bodied defenseman that can mesh well with all the puck movers he selected. With McNabb, he got a serviceable one. He’s not great, he has some rough games sometimes, but he’s good enough that you can certainly live with him in one of your three D pairings. He is also a UFA heading into the offseason, so we’ll have to wait and see how that shakes out. If Vegas wants to keep him, he’ll probably still be around, but I’m not so sure they will considering the other potential UFA options that can fill that role. Grade: C-
Selection: Erik Haula
**TRADE: Golden Knights receive Alex Tuch for 3rd round pick**
Similar to Florida, the Golden Knights were able to get two good players from the Wild. Haula has turned out to be a top six forward and Tuch may just be the future captain of the franchise. Haula signed an extension before even making it to Vegas while Tuch is young enough that he’s under Golden Knights control for quite a while. This year, they are both great, for the next three they probably will be as well. Plus, that Dumba guy everyone was so pumped about isn’t exactly tearing it up in Minnesota. Grade: A+
Selection: Alexei Emelin
**TRADE: Golden Knights receive 3rd round pick for Alexei Emelin**
Emelin was never going to play for the Golden Knights. He’s just not the right fit and a player that had value to other teams, even with Vegas’ surplus of defensemen. McPhee was able to extract a 3rd out of Nashville in 2019, we’ll have to wait and see what they end up doing with that pick in a few years. Charles Hudon is a name to keep an eye on though when revisiting the Expansion Draft. the 23-year-old could end up turning out to be something, and the Golden Knights elected a 3rd round pick rather than him. Grade: C+
Selection: James Neal
The Real Deal turned out to be just that over the first 20+ games of the year. He was scoring at an insane pace to open the season including three straight game-winners, and he hasn’t slowed down too much. His name will continue to circulate throughout the next few months as the deadline approaches. It seems though that McPhee is in a win-win on Neal though. If he trades him, it should return a 1st round pick. If not, he’s got an elite scorer on a team that’s probably heading to the playoffs. No matter what happens, including if he stays in Vegas til the end of the year and then walks, McPhee didn’t overthink this one. Grade: A
New Jersey Devils
Selection: Jon Merrill
One of the challenges the Golden Knights front office identified in the Expansion Draft was the fact that they were going to be forced to take a glut of one position. They opted to go for defensemen because the saying in hockey is that every team can use another good defenseman. Unfortunately, in doing so McPhee created a surplus that got in the way of him getting maximum return in trades. Merrill wound up being one without much value, hasn’t played well for the Golden Knights, and has become the consistent healthy scratch. There weren’t really any other better options, but McPhee could have “punted” here and he may have gotten more value for Methot, van Riemsdyk, or Emelin. Instead, he’s still stuck with a guy in Merrill that can’t seem to stay on the ice. Grade: D
New York Islanders
Selection: Jean-Francois Berube
**TRADE: Golden Knights receive Mikhail Grabovski (LTIR), Jake Bischoff, 1st-Round Pick, and 2nd-Round Pick for Expansion Draft considerations**
The Islanders were the only team in the NHL to protect five defensemen, likely because they already had a deal in place with Vegas. The surprising part is the incredible haul McPhee was able to bring in to lay off whoever New York chose and take on Grabovski’s contract. The 1st round pick turned into Erik Brannstrom and the 2nd comes up in two years. Bischoff could possibly turn himself into an NHLer at some point, but everything rides on Brannstrom, and in the short time we saw him in Vegas at Development Camp, he was spectacular. Grade: A
New York Rangers
Selection: Oscar Lindberg
After a solid start to the season, Lindberg has kind of lost himself in the shuffle of the Golden Knights line combinations. He’s found himself demoted to the third and then the “fourth” line and has even been a healthy scratch multiple times. He has another year left on his deal and it’s probable McPhee thought Lindberg could potentially turn into a top six forward with added opportunity. That hasn’t happened and now it has us looking at names like Jesper Fast and Michael Grabner as what could have been. To this point, he looks like he might be a bust, but I’m not completely giving up on him yet. Grade: C-
Selection: Marc Methot
**TRADE: Golden Knights receive Dylan Ferguson and 2nd round pick for Marc Methot**
It was a highly criticised move at the time when McPhee was only able to fetch a 2nd round pick for a player who had made a big splash in the playoffs the previous year. However, Methot hasn’t been a great fit in Dallas to this point and the player Vegas kept to fill the role Methot would have been in, Luca Sbisa, has been excellent. Ferguson stepped in for a minute but we still have no clue what we’ve got with him. The pick isn’t until 2020 either. Not feeling the loss of Methot is a huge plus in the grade, but it’s still certainly incomplete. Grade: B-
Selection: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
The “fourth” line center and penalty killer has been everything and more that the Golden Knights could have asked for out of that position. He’s fantastic in the locker room, has found a way to put up a bit more offense than most expected, and he’s been arguably the Golden Knights best penalty killer. Bellemare basically embodies the spirit of the Golden Knights. He’s been given more opportunity and he’s run with it. Is he the future of the Golden Knights, no absolutely not, but he’s been big in doing the dirty work that has helped get this team off on the right foot. He’s going to have value to other teams, the question is does he have more value over the next year and a half in Vegas. Grade: B+
Selection: Marc-Andre Fleury
**TRADE: Golden Knights receive 2nd round pick for Expansion Draft considerations***
That’s right, don’t forget that the Golden Knights were actually given an additional pick to select Fleury. Of course, he’s only played in four games to this point, but with the team looking like a playoff contender his value for the present has skyrocketed. Whenever he does return from the concussion, the Golden Knights will have an above average to great goaltender between the pipes. They are currently 12-5-1 without Fleury, which leads you to believe the record could be even better with him. He’s got value currently, he could become a trade chip moving forward, and he came with a 2nd round pick, doesn’t get too much better than that. Grade: A
San Jose Sharks
Selection: David Schlemko
**TRADE: Golden Knights receive 5th round pick for David Schlemko**
This is how you “punt” an Expansion Draft pick. McPhee saw little to nothing from the Sharks, so he took a player he could move and at least get something out of. It’s not much, just a 5th round pick, but he’s not stuck with a player he didn’t want and he got value without having to keep the player around. That being said, we’re still talking about a 5th round pick in 2019 so I’m not going crazy with the grade here. Grade: B-
St. Louis Blues
Selection: David Perron
At the time this pick was made it seemed like a bit of a stretch. Somewhat of a journeyman who has shown the ability to score at times, but had lapses which led him to have a hard time staying with one team. The other options were Nail Yakupov and Dmitrij Jaskin, so that makes Perron look good before we figure in his play. In Vegas, he’s been an offensive constant for the Golden Knights enough to the point that I think there’s a real shot he re-signs after the year is over. If not, he’s in a similar spot as Neal. He may pull in something valuable, or he’ll be at the front of the Golden Knights warmup line leading them onto the ice for a playoff series. Win-win. Grade: A-
Tampa Bay Lighting
Selection: Jason Garrison
**TRADE: Golden Knights receive Nikita Gusev, 2nd round pick and 5th round pick for Expansion Draft considerations**
The 2nd round pick eventually turned into Keegan Kolsesar, a player that could very well end up in the NHL within the next year or two. Garrison was brought to the Golden Knights due to his massive contract which comes off the books at the end of the year. The crux of this deal though was getting Gusev, a Russian player that was drafted in the 7th round. He’s highly skilled but may never decide to make the jump over to North America. He’s also a linemate of Vadim Shipachyov, which could make things a bit more challenging. Garrison could certainly find his way back into the Golden Knights lineup if/when injuries happen, but he’s not likely going to have a huge impact and is almost certainly not sticking around next season. There is just so much up in the air on this one that it’s nearly impossible to grade at this point. If Gusev or Kolesar turn into NHL players, the grade will go up in a hurry. Grade: C
Toronto Maple Leafs
Selection: Brendan Leipsic
Leipsic found himself on the wrong side of some lineup changes when Tuch came up from the AHL and Haula and Marchessault came off IR, but his game seemed to go up a notch when he got back in the lineup. Since returning, playing with Tuch and Eakin, he’s done just about everything but get on the scoresheet. The defensive portion of his game has gotten better as well but he can still use a little more development there if he wants to maintain the trust of Gallant. All this being said, the upside is clearly there, he’s making an impact, and he’s only 23-years-old and has a few years left on his entry level contract. McPhee may have found a diamond in the rough with Leipsic. Grade: B
Selection: Luca Sbisa
If we were just judging based off the importance to the team in 2017-18, this would be an easy A, but his long-term future remains a question mark as he’s set to hit free agency on July 1st. Sbisa has been essentially the Golden Knights shutdown defenseman and they’ve missed him while he’s been out. Nate Schmidt looks great while playing with Sbisa and Luca has a calming voice in the locker room that’s been helpful in correcting mistakes. He’s probably not going to fetch as much in a trade as Neal or Perron could but there’s certainly value there if McPhee chooses to take it. Of all the UFAs, he may make the most sense financially to bring back. Grade: B
Selection: Nate Schmidt
It should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that George McPhee was able to find a gem from the team he managed for 17 years. Schmidt is exactly that. His increased ice time has shown he has the ability to be a top four defenseman if not a top pairing guy. Plus, his personality is infectious and has definitely been an important part of developing the locker room. They passed on Philip Grubauer which now looks like an easy decision, but it certainly wasn’t back in June. Schmidt is likely a long-term piece of the Golden Knights core, and that’s an excellent sign for the future in Vegas (and for anyone covering the team). Grade: A
Selection: Chris Thorburn
**TRADE: Golden Knights receive 1st round pick (#13) and 3rd round pick for 1st round pick (#24)**
The Golden Knights gave the Jets a pass on the Expansion Draft in exchange for a 3rd round pick and a nine spot jump in the first round of this the Entry Draft. That nine spot jump got the Golden Knights Nick Suzuki. It’s going to take a while before we know what Suzuki ends up being, but he appears to be a good one. Of course, all the credit doesn’t go on Winnipeg as the original pick came from Columbus. Nonetheless, moving up in the first round is always valuable and there wasn’t much else there from Winnipeg to take a look at. Grade: B+
Overall Grade: B+
A – 9
B – 12
C – 5
D – 3
F – 1
Great write up. At least for this season at this point it looks like McPhee did great.
Even on one of your B+, Carrier, he got a 6th round pick to go with him, to avoid Ullmark. So even if Carrier is a short term option, it shows the decent Job McPhee did.
Thanks man. Added that trade, not sure how I skipped over that one.
You guys are doing great work with the hockey info. You’re last podcast was great. Keep it all up.
Awesome write up. Thanks!
Too many variables to really quantify (as you point out) and much is yet TBD.
BUT if we make the playoffs (good chance) AND get a first round pick (from an Eastern Conf team) for one of Neal or Perron or Marchessault (better than 50/50) it’s hard to complain. Can’t wait to see how this draft class evolves to compliment the Tuch’s and Theodore’s. Should be interesting.
I think Kudos should go to the Scouting department also, they helped unearth some of these gems. Keep up the good work.
Great article and I think you’re grades were fair and accurate. Looking forward to the next installment at the halfway point. I was talking with someone at work today about Engelland. I see him signing another 1 year deal and then retiring as a Knight. I think he will then take a roll in the organization as a community ambassador.
Great article! I understand that Neil has great trade value but unless Knights totally collapse and will not be a playoff contender, trading Neil away is insane. Power forwards like him dont become available EVER.
There’s going to be a lot of cap space at the end of the year. They can always resign anybody they trade. If they trade at the deadline I think they still can make the playoffs. If they just trade Neil and Peron and keep the March line intact.
Small nitpick, I think it was David Clarkson’s (long, massive) LTIR contract we took from CBJ not Grabovski. That justifies the A++ grade instead of the A+++ grade.
Always so down on Pulkkinen, he can’t be any worse than Carrier, Bellemare, Leipzic, etc on the bottom two lines. He will get called up when they move out Perron/Neal etc at the deadline. He is a talented right-handed offensive player, skated hard in the preseason, even brought a physical element. With a good attitude, what’s not to like? Wasting him imo
You must not have paid any attention to him when he played in Detroit, Minnesota, and Arizona.
He is not an NHL player.
Signed, guy who followed his NHL career.
I think you have to give McPhee an A+ considering there was no roster and no team this time last year.
Yeah you can nitpick some misses like Shipachyov but all those who were proclaiming this team would be one of the worst in history (you know who you are) should acknowledge McPhee and Gallant have put in dazzling work.
Mark Van Hengel
What’s amazing is how much cap space the Knights have, which is a sign McPhee knew what he was doing. We have $11 million this year — with a lot of guys playing for contracts — and about $35 million next year. We’ll be a plum place for any free agent to land.