Now, it's time for their encore. What could they possibly have up their sleeves for their second season on the strip?
The expectations are likely going to be through the roof for these Golden Knights, since they made the NHL look like a cake walk last year, but as strong as they may be as a unit, teams are going to pick up on their strengths, like their hard work and their skating ability, and find a way to defend against it. It's the nature of sports nowadays.
So, with all of that being said, I'm taking their production from last season and tempering some of those expectations. It's not to say that I don't think the Golden Knights could do it all over again, all they did last season was prove the doubters wrong all year, but it will be much more difficult to do so is all I'm saying.
The off-season was an interesting one for this team, where they saw a few players take off to unrestricted free agency, but they also added a couple of names, players that they will hope leads them to the promised land. Will those guys be enough? How high are your expectations for this team?
Table last updated on August 13th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
Speaking of encores, how is Marc-Andre Fleury going to handle year number two in Vegas? Fleury played out of his skin through the playoffs last year and cemented himself well in the role as the leader from the crease of this team.
If the Golden Knights are going to be anywhere near the team that they were through the 2018 season, they will have to lean heavily on their number one goalie, since teams will really be gunning their top spot in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference.
First Round Picks
With all of that being said about Fleury, I do believe that he will excel in year number two, to the point that he should be considered a 1st round pick. His injury-shortened season last year kept his numbers down, but assuming he can stay healthy, he should be able to put up points, like the rest of the top goalies.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
The forward group really came out of nowhere (or so it would seem) last season, especially the likes of William Karlsson, who had a monster season. Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Erik Haula and Tomas Tatar have all made the cut in this year's list after some strong campaigns and the Golden Knights are certainly hoping that Paul Stastny can bring a little bit more to the table to get them over the top and into a championship.
Other Pool Worthy Defensemen
The blueline for the Golden Knights is also pretty well-rounded, led by Nate Schmidt, who will look to improve upon a great season last year. Colin Miller and Nick Holden have also cracked my list of possible blueline options in my projections. Miller led the defensemen for the Golden Knights last season, while Holden bounced around a bit last year, but landed a free agent deal with Vegas this summer.
Thanks to injury, the Golden Knights really had to dig deep into their stable of goalies to keep their season afloat and it was amazing how well that worked. I don't think we can assume that will happen again, so we'll just go with Malcolm Subban as the number two guy and I would imagine that he would see a good amount of ice and win his fair share of games.
Team to Pick From Late?
If the work ethic from last season is any indication, this team is going to be good from top-to-bottom, which makes them a good team to take some sleeper picks from. Alex Tuch or Cody Eakin up front, Brayden McNabb on the blueline... these could be reasonable options, if you're looking for a skater late on. I'm not sure that everyone is going to be able to replicate their great 2018 seasons, but if you like what you see from Vegas, these might be your guys.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
The Golden Knights do have one more key restricted free agent still to be signed this summer, defenseman Shea Theodore. Once he signs on with his new deal, I would imagine you could add him to the list of pool worthy defensemen, as his projection will be in the 30-point range. The Golden Knights are not hurting for cap space at the moment, still holding onto $10.7 million in space, with a 24-man roster.
It doesn't look like the Golden Knights have much for injury issues to contend with at the start of training camp. David Clarkson is still on the roster, but he isn't expected to resume his career, he'll just be eating up cap space for another couple of years.