Parade of forwards at top of NHL draft

Posted June 25, 2017

George McPhee can't wait to fill the white board, the one in the Vegas Golden Knights' expansion draft room.

With the No. 15 pick, the Golden Knights chose defenseman Erik Brannstrom.

There was every expectation that the greatest names in the game would end up with lounge act status to the main showroom Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft. Even after winning consecutive Stanley Cups, it was clearly something important to him.

The very first selection made was from the Colorado Avalanche.

The New Jersey Devils have selected center Nico Hischier with the No. 1 overall pick in the National Hockey League draft.

General manager George McPhee turned his 30 picks into an impressive haul that includes a 30-goal scorer (Jonathan Marchessault), a former 40-goal scorer (James Neal), a top-pairing physical defenseman in Marc Methot, a three-time Stanley Cup winning goalie (Marc-Andre Fleury), plus two extra first-round picks in Friday's National Hockey League and multiple picks over the next three drafts.

It had been a long 12 months for the Vegas Golden Knights general manager, who had spent the past year running countless mock expansion drafts in preparation for this moment.

It is reasonable to assume that Marc-Andre Fleury will be their No. 1 goalie, James Neal will be their top-line right winger and, barring a trade, Marc Methot will be on their top defensive pair.

That said, the breadth approach to the 2017 NHL Draft has given the Golden Knights a dozen prospects who, with some luck, can hopefully step into the lineup in two years just as the team's young core begins to evolve into a more composed and mature team.

Fleury has admitted it will be hard to say goodbye to Pittsburgh.

Forward James Neal and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury were introduced as part of the Vegas Golden Knights inaugural squad as the National Hockey League held its first expansion draft in 17 years. Seven teams opted for the latter approach; one of them, the New York Islanders, were the only team to protect five defensemen. "We contemplated doing a few different things and using a second round pick to do it, but we ended up getting the guys we wanted to get so we didn't have to do that so we're really happy about that". "I'm not looking for this".

What's odd to me is how many people who should and maybe do know better are blowing smoke up your ass and saying this team might be good now.

It was thought that Vegas might load up on goalies, but McPhee passed on intriguing options like Philipp Grubauer, Petr Mrazek and Antti Raanta and instead went for a surplus of defencemen _ and more apparent trade value. Also in that group: Vegas resident Deryk Engelland, Colin Miller, Nate Schmidt, Jason Garrison, Brayden McNabb, Griffin Reinhart, Luca Sbisa and hard-hitting former Montreal Canadien Alexei Emelin.

McPhee and Vegas goaltending coach Dave Prior have connections to Neuvirth and Washington's Philipp Grubauer from drafting them with the Capitals.

Neal's problem in Nashville came from the talent around him. The 10-time 20-goal scorer gives Vegas immediate top-line scoring punch, and the Predators couldn't work out a trade to spare him. It also has two selections in the fifth and sixth.

They also added Panthers forward Reilly Smith, Wild forward Alex Tuch, Islanders defense prospect Jake Bischoff and Lightning forward prospect Nikita Gusev as well as the contracts of David Clarkson from Columbus and Mikhail Grabovski from the Islanders. They got two of the top 25 or 30 prospects in the draft Friday night, and did it while entering the night with the No. 20 pick, No. 51 pick, and Reaves. The NHL still had ties in 1994, so teams didn't pick up extra points through shootout wins.

Reaves carries a $1.125 million cap hit that expires after 2017-18.