Thanks for joining us for our August 31-in-31 series! Every day this month we will be taking a look at each team and diving into their prospect depth charts, risers and fallers, graduating prospects, and top ten prospects in the system.
After their miraculous inaugural season, is it possible to imagine that the Golden Knights could get any better heading into their second season? That is a far more difficult question to answer than ask. How many predicted Vegas to even make the playoffs last season, let alone storm their way to the Stanley Cup Final? On paper, they looked like a mediocre team at best, but by April nearly every player had finished a career best season that extended well into the playoffs. Even if we could say the team is better on paper heading into October, it’s hard to imagine they can repeat last year’s success.
The biggest losses for the Golden Knights came with veteran leadership and significant point production moving on in the free agent market as James Neal signed with the Calgary Flames and David Perron made his way back to the St. Louis Blues after a career season posting 66 points in only 70 games played.
Vegas is hoping to capitalize on some minor free agency acquisitions and rely on the rest of the roster to take another step forward in order to fill the gap that Neal and Perron have created. They added a quality pivot in Paul Stastny and defensive depth in Nick Holden, along with some depth options in Daniel Carr and Brandon Pirri. It was a relatively quiet off-season, and the rest of the noise that was made was with the re-signing of a slew of their own restricted and unrestricted free agents: William Karlsson (one year), Marc-Andre Fleury (three years), Colin Miller (four years), Ryan Reaves (two years), Tomas Nosek (one year), William Carrier (two years), Oscar Dansk (two years), and Maxime Lagace (one year).
With only two entry drafts under their belt, the Golden Knights currently have the smallest prospect pool in the NHL. They’ve made quick strides to improve their system and will look to do so once again next year with 10 picks in the first six rounds. The problem with the expansion process, if one can even call it a problem for Vegas, is that it left the Golden Knights with an abundance of NHL-ready talent and very little room for prospects to make the jump to the top level. It was expected that Vegas would move many of their players at the deadline to help bulk up their prospect pipeline, but with Vegas’ improbable run last year they weren’t in a position to be sellers at the deadline, which would have opened the door for a few of their prospects at the top level. In fact, it was almost surprising to see Vegas without a draft pick until late in the second round when they chose Ivan Morozov with the 61st pick. Patience is a virtue in terms of prospect development, so it will only help the team in the long run.
Vegas can thank Minnesota for that same patience that they are u