Can Vegas Golden Knights Forward James Neal Score 30 Goals?

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 06: James Neal #18 of the Vegas Golden Knights displays the two pucks used while scoring the first two goals in team history against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on October 6, 2017 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 06: James Neal #18 of the Vegas Golden Knights displays the two pucks used while scoring the first two goals in team history against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on October 6, 2017 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /
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“Real Deal” James Neal looks poised for a big season with the Vegas Golden Knights.

When the Vegas Golden Knights entered their inaugural training camp, they were without a pretty big piece. General Manager George McPhee announced that James Neal would miss time with a hand injury. After that, everyone kind of just forgot about him for the moment being.

Vegas struggled offensively towards the end of the preseason. The power play was a big issue for this team. And without the Knights best offensive weapon, opening the regular season without him didn’t look promising at all.

We didn’t know how long the Golden Knights would be without Neal, but hand injuries can be a 3-4 week injury or up to two months depending on how severe it is. Then Neal surprisingly showed up towards the end of training camp. Due to the fact of putting in a lot of practice time, he felt well enough to suit up for the season opener, and he didn’t disappoint.

Neal was flying up and down the ice and showed no ill effects of his injured hand. The Whitby Ontario native showed fantastic chemistry so far with center Cody Eakin and left wing, David Perron. That line has produced the best scoring chances thus far for the Golden Knights.

Neal is known for being a scoring threat, but he isn’t afraid to throw his body around either. Vegas fans can get behind his physical play mixed in with his offensive ability. Check out this massive hit on Stars forward Tyler Seguin.

Neal went on to score the first goal in Vegas Golden Knights history snapping one past Kari Lehtonen’s five-hole to tie the game at one. The image of his celebration will be one to look at 20 years from now. The passion and fire on his face told the whole story as you can tell he’s enjoying his time in Vegas.

The 30-year-old wasn’t done in the franchises first game either.  From one knee, Neal roofed one over Lehtonen to give Vegas a 2-1 lead and the eventual win. It takes a special player to pull off this circus move.

And he followed that performance up with an encore last in Arizona. Neal produced the first-ever overtime game-winning goal in franchise history. Perron fed Neal with a slick pass off the end boards that ended up perfectly on the tape. Neal quickly slapped it past Antti Raanta’s short side to give the Golden Knights their big 2-0 start to the regular campaign.

Neal has only scored 30 goals twice in his career. However, he never was treated as “the guy” in Dallas, Pittsburgh or Nashville. In Vegas, Neal is the team’s most significant threat, and he will get plenty of ice time on even strength and special teams. His linemates may change over the course of the season, but his production should remain the same.

It’s not a guarantee Neal finishes the year a Golden Knight as a trade at the deadline is possible. If he does remain a Knight for the entire of the season, he should get to 30 goals or at least be very close to it. Additionally, Neal has had injury issues that plagued him over the course of his career that kept him from scoring 30 goals on multiple occasions.

Next: Vegas Golden Knights Victorious in Overtime in Arizona.

All in all, Neal has all the skill and talent to score 30 this season for the Golden Knights. The two things that worry me the most is his health and his linemates not doing their part. But other than that, the sky is the limit for “Real Deal” James Neal.

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