Vegas Golden Knights Joust Their Way To A Succesful Expansion Draft

This past Wednesday night, the Las Vegas Golden Nights took part in an NHL Expansion Draft, making them the 31st team to enter the NHL. This draft was full of twists and turns, as well as a plethora of surprises, including a number of trades on draft night. Let’s take a statistical look at their very successful draft:

 

James Neal, LW via Nashville Predators

580bacfaba5c9.image
Photo Credits: NHL.com

In an expansion draft in which teams could either protect 7 forwards and 3 defensemen or 8 skaters, teams were quick to lock up their top-scorers, leaving little options for Vegas’s offense. However, Vegas drafted an absolute stud in James Neal, who is one of the NHL’s top sharp-shooters and most potent offensive scoring threats. Neal has tallied at least 20 goals along with a shooting percentage of at least 10% in each of his 9 seasons in the league, which should provide substance to Vegas’s offense from Day 1.

Neal is a very durable player as well, as he logged over 1000 minutes of ice time in 8 of his 9 seasons thus far. Unlike some other sharp-shooters, Neal is anything but a liability when he is on the ice, as his relative Fenwick % (% team differences in shots+misses when on ice) and relative Corsi % (Fenwick % with blocks as well) have been positive for each of the last 7 seasons. Neal, one of the premiere scorers in the league, is also responsible for 58.5 point shares, which averages out to an impressive 6.5 point shares per season.

 

Marc Methot, D via Ottawa Senators

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Tampa Bay Lightning
Photo Credits: NHL.com

While high-scoring forwards are a very protected asset in an expansion draft, potential first-pair defenders are too, which makes it surprising that Methot was on the chopping block for Ottawa. Methot has consistently proven himself to be a lockdown, first pair defender who is capable of shutting down some of the league’s most prolific scoring threats, just ask Sidney Crosby.

Methot is an absolute tank, as he has logged at least 920 minutes of ice time in each of his 9 seasons in the league, and has recorded at least 90 hits in 8 of the 9 as well. Over the past 3 seasons, Methot hasn’t tallied a plus-minus less than +12, showing that he is very positively contributing to his team while on the ice, despite oftentimes facing the opponents’ top line. Methot is also responsible for 29 point shares, which is somewhat impressive for a defenseman who doesn’t produce offensively.

 

Marc-André Fleury, G via Pittsburgh Penguins

marc-andre-fleury-nhl-nashville-predators-pittsburgh-penguins-1.jpg
Photo Credits: AP Photo

In possibly the most anticipated move regarding the Vegas Golden Knights this off-season, the Knights selected Fleury just days after winning his 3rd Stanley Cup. Despite losing his job to Matt Murray earlier this season, Fleury fought hard to gain his job back and was instrumental in the Penguins’ Stanley Cup run, showcasing the amazing goalkeeping talents he still has.

Over his 13 season career, Fleury has a .912 Save % and 2.58 GAA, which easily put him among the league’s top tier of goaltenders. Admittedly, Fleury has aged a bit and is likely more of a middle tier goaltender going forward. However, with Fleury, the Vegas Golden Knight will be getting a seasoned veteran with extensive playoff experience and multiple Stanley Cups under his belt. Fleury is also responsible for 120.3 point shares, which is the good for the 89th most in the history of the league.

 

David Perron, LW via St. Louis Blues

4edad5621f29c.image

David Perron, Vegas’s pick from St. Louis, is simply a grinder and embodies the tough-as-nails style of play that Vegas is going to play with. Perron has recorded at least 1000 minutes of ice time in the last 5 of 6 seasons, which is seriously impressive given his aggressive style of play. Over the past 4 years, Perron has made his presence felt by averaging 129 hits per season, which is practically unheard of for a forward.

With that being said, Perron can also produce on the offensive side of the ice as well. In the past 10 seasons, Perron has finished with at least 36 points in 7 of them. Additionally, Perron has a 12% shooting % over the course of his career, which makes him a legitimate scoring threat if he shoots more. As “irrelevant” as some might think he is, Perron is responsible for a solid 42.4 point shares in his career.

 

Alexei Emelin, D via Montreal Canadiens

emelin.jpg
Photo Credits: NHL.com

Alexei Emelin, Vegas’s pick from the Montreal Canadiens, bears striking resemblances to David Perron in his style of play. Just as Perron, Emelin is a very physical player, who embodies that grinder and tough-as-nails style on the blueline. Emelin is a very solid, yet physical defender and has recorded 189 hits or more in 5 of the past 6 seasons. What is the lone exception you might ask? It was the 2012-13 season where he only played in 38 games.

Emelin is a trooper as he has recorded 1130 minutes of ice time in 5 of the past 6 seasons, with one again, the lone exception being in 2012-13. Emelin has proven in the past that he can be a lock-down defender with a very physical edge, and should be a valuable edition to the Vegas Golden Knights’ roster. Emelin has recorded 14.5 point shares over the past 5 seasons, which is impressive for a non-producing (offensively speaking) defenseman.

 

Jonathan Marchessault, C via Florida Panthers

jonathan-marchessault-panthers-nhl-1300.jpg
Photo Credits: Sports Illustrated

The Florida Panthers’ logic going into this expansion draft was quite questionable, as they left an absolute young stud in Jonathan Marchessault. Marchessault is a young, rising star with serious goal-scoring potential and should provide an immediate offensive boost for Vegas.

Marchessault recorded 51 points last season via 30 goals and 21 assists, which is a seriously impressive mark for such a young player. Marchessault is also a power play threat, as he tallied 18 power play points via 8 goals and 10 assists. He played 1268 minutes last season, which is quite a large amount for a young player as well, and shows that he can be heavily utilized in Vegas. Marchessault was responsible for 6.2 point shares last season, which is quite notable also.

 

Data courtesy of ESPN, Hockey Reference, NHL.com, CBS Sports, and Sports Illustrated. Thanks for reading!

Written by Jason Platkin

Cover Photo Credits: NHL.com

 

Advertisements

‘King Henrik’: A Generational Talent Gone To Waste

Most hockey fans would have no difficulty saying that Henrik Lundqvist is a great goalie, probably even the best of the post-lockout era (2005-present). However, when the conversation arises about Lundqvist being elite, people are generally a lot more hesitant to throw him into that “club”. Although I am likely a bit biased as a Rangers’ fan, I have some difficulty seeing where they are coming from. Hear me out here, I am going to list some of his remarkable achievements, and it is going to be shocking to that he is not considered an elite goalie.

  • Fastest goalie in NHL history to 400 wins
  • 1st goalie in NHL history to have 20 wins in each of his 1st 12 seasons
  • 1st goalie in NHL history to finish top-6 in Vezina voting in each of his 1st 10 seasons
  • Most wins by a European-born goalie

Pretty remarkable, right? However, it was just 2 short months ago that every Rangers’ fan was wondering whether Henrik Lundqvist, New York’s undisputed sports hero, still had a spot in New York after a series of poor performances. Antti Raanta, New York’s talented backup goaltender, had made a number of impressive starts while filling in during Lundqvist’s drought, and some questions started to arise about Lundqvist’s future in New York.

Well, let’s just say that Henrik Lundqvist did what Henrik Lundqvist does best: prove all the haters wrong. After a string of weak starts, ‘The King’ bounced back better than ever, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind that he is the best goalie in New York, and probably even the NHL. Over the 14-game stretch following his drought, the Rangers’ went 10-3-1, led by a stellar performance in net by Lundqvist, in which he allowed 2 goals or less in 10 of the 14 games. Additionally, he did not allow more than 3 goals in any game during that stretch, guiding the Rangers’ back towards the top of the Metropolitan Division. While just 15 games ago his future in New York was unknown, Lundqvist has reasserted himself as the undisputed ‘King’ both of New York, but also this generation of hockey.

Before we move on further, let’s just make something clear: Henrik Lundqvist is the undisputed best goalie of this generation (post-lockout) and belongs in the conversation for one of the best goalies to ever play the game. If you don’t believe me (which most non-Rangers fans likely won’t), let’s take a look at his numbers against Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, and Dominik Hasek, arguably the 3 best goalies in NHL history.

Record Points per 82 Games GAA Save %

Lundqvist

402-244-74 100.0 2.31

0.920

Brodeur

691-397-105 102.2 2.24

0.912

Roy

551-315-131 101.4 2.54

n/a

Hasek 389-223-82 101.6 2.20

0.922

In the chart shown above, Lundqvist, Brodeur, Roy, and Hasek all appear to be in a very similar class, as their numbers are virtually identical. Admittedly, Lundqvist only has one Stanley Cup appearance (compared to Brodeur’s 3, Hasek’s 4, and Roy’s 5) and is a bit weaker in the points per 82 games category, in which he averaged 1.4 fewer points per season than his next closest competitor. However, these can both be explained by Lundqvist’s somewhat weak teams where he has lacked a championship-caliber supporting cast, as Brodeur, Hasek, and Roy all benefitted from being on much better teams, both offensively and defensively.

In New Jersey, Brodeur had the luxury of playing behind Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer for 11 years, both of whom are in the Hall of Fame now, and surely boosted Brodeur’s stats. Even adjusted for age, Brodeur’s stats dropped off the cliff after he lost these two stud defensemen.

In Colorado, Roy had Chelios, Robinson, Bourque, and Blake all at the same time, which proved to be a lethal offensive and defensive combination. On top of that, Roy played behind some of the best teams in recent history in Colorado, which surely inflated his goaltending statistics.

In Detroit, Hasek had possibly one of the best teams in NHL history, as he played behind Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Pavel Datsyuk, and Chris Chelios all at the same time, which undoubtedly had to make Hasek’s job one of the easiest in the NHL.

On the other hand, Lundqvist’s teams have severely lacked star power, especially for scoring goals up front, as the Rangers consistently have had problems scoring ever since Lundqvist came along. While the other 3 goalies have benefitted by playing with Hall of Famers in their prime, New York has time and time again brought in out-of-prime players who used to be really good but are no longer productive. Additionally, during his time in New York, Lundqvist’s 2 best defensemen have been Girardi and McDonough, both of whom are barely considered elite in today’s league, not to mention NHL history.

Unlike the other 3 goalies who were on teams that likely would have been quite good without them, Lundqvist has single-handedly made alright Rangers teams into very competitive ones. Additionally, Lundqvist’s historically clutch performances in Game 7’s have advanced the Rangers much further than they should have gone in the playoffs in recent years, yet another thing that gives him a slight edge over Brodeur, Roy, and Hasek. In any case, the Rangers are wasting his finite talent, and better get a move on it before it all goes to waste. Let’s look at their current situation:

There is no point in pretending that the Rangers have a realistic chance winning the cup this year without making some major changes. The only way the Rangers can fix their path to ultimate destruction in the future is by taking a more futuristic approach that still has a win-now mentality. Let’s be real here … although he appears like an immortal at some times, Lundqvist is NOT going to last forever. At best, Lundqvist has 3 to 5 years left in his prime and likely has about 7 to 9 productive years left in his career, and if the Rangers have any chance of winning the cup in the near future, it’s going to be when Lundqvist is still in town.

So you might ask how the Rangers would go about this approach? The Rangers need to transition from a line-up of players who are old and out of their prime (ex: Rick Nash) to a line-up of young, dynamic players (ex: Chris Kreider), and if they want any chance of winning soon, they need to do it fast. Dumping cap space by cutting players such as Rick Nash, Marc Staal, and Dan Girardi, and resigning players such as Mika Zibanejad, is imperative to the Rangers’ success in the future. Targeting young free agents, such as Kevin Shattenkirk, in the off-season, and not making other poor decisions (Duclair/Yandle trade, St. Louis/Callahan trade, Stralman non-signing, Hagelin trade, Talbot trade) is key to the Rangers’ success in the future.

While things and people can always change, in all honesty, this situation is not going to (or at least without shocking the world). Lundqvist is a once-in-a-generation player and unfortunately, his talents are likely going to go to waste, as if nothing major changes in the next couple of years, he is going to retire without winning a Cup.

 

Data courtesy of ESPN, NHL.com, Hockey Reference, thehockeynews.com, and theglobeandmail.com. Thanks for reading!

Written by Jason Platkin

Cover Photo Credits: Getty Images