The Vegas Golden Knights are the newest NHL team. Over the next month I will take a look at why they took who they did from each NHL franchise.
The Vegas Golden Knights are the 31st NHL franchise. As an expansion team they were allowed to take one player (who was eligible to be drafted) from the other 30 NHL teams. Each team was able to protect either seven forwards, three defenceman and one goaltender or eight skaters and one goaltender. The full rules can be found here. The 29th team we are going to look at is the Washington Capitals.
Opposite of the Vancouver Canucks, from my last article, the Capitals have been at the top of the league for the last couple of seasons. The back-to back Presidents’ Trophy winner, has one of the deepest teams in the league. This led to Vegas having a couple of good players to choose from. Two players available to be drafted were Kevin Shattenkirk and T.J. Oshie.
Shattenkirk is a right-handed defenceman, who would have been a solid pick by the Knights. The main reason he was not picked was because he was a UFA and could have left Vegas. Despite that, Shattenkirk is a top pairing defenceman, in the prime of his career. If Vegas could have found a way to convince him to play for them, they would have drafted the 28-year-old. He is a strong skater who plays a strong two-way game. Last season, he produced 56 points in 80 games, which is a career high.
Oshie is another player who would have been a great pickup, but was a UFA. Like Shatts, if they could have convinced Oshie to play for them, they would have had a top six right-winger. The 30-year-old had 56 points in 68 games, showing his offensive talents. He also has a strong defensive game, able to play on both the PK and PP when needed.
The Knights decided to draft Nate Schmidt, which I think was the best option. The speedy defenceman has been trapped on Washington’s bottom pairing, causing him to not be able to show his talent. While there are glimpses of it, he does not receive enough ice time to show his full potential. The 26-year-old could be a top four defenceman for the Knights.
What Other Options Did They Have?
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Vegas could have drafted a top pairing defenceman or a top six forward in the draft, but with both of them being UFAs, they could have left Vegas for nothing. Two other options they could have gone with are Philipp Grubauer and Karl Alzner.
Grubauer is a 25-year-old goaltender who has looked like he can be a starter in the NHL. Despite that, he has been stuck in the backup role and unless he is traded, he is going to stay in that position. If Vegas decided to draft him, they could have had a potential replacement for when Fleury is older. Overall, if Schmidt was not available, I would have gone with Grubauer as the next best option.
Alzner is an interesting player. While he can play in a top four role, he sometimes looks like he is out of place. As a defensive defenceman, he does not produce much, but he also helps keep the puck out of his own net. The problem with that, is he is not a strong skater, meaning that players like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews are able to easily skate around him. Also, he was a UFA, adding to the reasons why Vegas would not draft him.
The Knights decided to draft Schmidt, which I think was the best choice. While there were more experienced players available in Shattenkirk, Oshie and Alzner, all were UFAs and could have left Vegas if they wanted to. Grubauer would have been a solid pick, but Schmidt was the better option.
Overall, Schmidt fits into Vegas’ long-term plans, making him the best pick for the Knights.