The Golden Knights are loaded with high-ticket talent and proven leaders. When Jack Eichel makes his Vegas debut the 31st franchise will be one of the league’s most dangerous teams. Tonight’s opponent, the Anaheim Ducks are skilled but built much differently. Through the draft the Ducks became younger, cheaper and much more competitive than they had over the last few seasons. For instance, Anaheim had an eight game win streak, one of their players string together a sixteen game point streak, and currently sit one point above the Golden Knights in the standings. It’s a bit of a shock to fans of teams in the Pacific Division.
Since their arrival, Vegas is 18-3-0 all-time against Anaheim. The Golden Knights have outscored the Ducks 79-41 and allow only 1.95 goals per game. It’s been a one-sided series to say the least. This season the two teams met in late October and as usual the Vegas won 5-4. However, the box score won’t tell you Vegas blew a 4-1 lead in the 3rd period, or Anaheim scored three unanswered goals in a five minute span, or the game was decided in shootout.
If it wasn’t clear before, trading for Eichel was clear sign the Golden Knights are in a full win-now mode. Whereas the Ducks are playing without any organizational pressure. It’s all about building chemistry, experience, and making an unsuspected run towards the playoffs. Of course, every team desires deep playoff runs but few are constructed well enough to win a Stanley Cup. Vegas is one of them. Anaheim is showing early signs they could be in the future.
Currently, the Golden Knights have six players selected in the first round, including three lottery picks. Eichel was selected 2nd overall behind superstar Connor McDavid in the 2015 draft. Alex Pietrangelo (#4 overall) was part of one of the deepest drafts in NHL history, featuring All-Stars Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson and John Carlson in 2008. The Montreal Canadiens used their 2007 first round selection on future captain Max Pacioretty before moving him to Vegas for another first round player. Brett Howden was taken 27th in 2016, and Nolan Patrick is hoping to live up to the expectations of being the second selection in the 2017 draft. And I’m sure it sickens the Ducks every time they see their 2013 first round pick Shea Theodore in a Golden Knights jersey.
While the Golden Knights have six, none of them their own, the Ducks have 12 first rounders on this season’s roster, all but one of them their own. Even with 36-year old captain Ryan Getzlaf in their lineup the Ducks are one of the youngest rosters in the league. After a few lean seasons and some wise drafting Anaheim developed a core that surprisingly came to life ahead of schedule.
It’s possible regular season matchups become more competitive and the Ducks steal some points but we’re some time away from heated playoff series. Anaheim shows a lot of promise, but they’re not quite in the same class as Vegas. Each have high level talent, elite goaltenders in place, but beyond a few players the Ducks are largely inexperienced. Vegas’ championship window is 2-3 seasons, possibly more. Anaheim’s is barely cracked. The Golden Knights hope to worry about them after winning a couple of Stanley Cups.