Knights pick Neal and Fleury, McDavid named NHL MVP
Las Vegas (AFP) – Forward James Neal and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury were introduced as part of the Vegas Golden Knights inaugural squad as the NHL held its first expansion draft in 17 years.
Colorado goaltender Calvin Pickard was the first player announced for the Golden Knights and Neal, who helped the Nashville Predators reach the Stanley Cup finals this season, and Fleury also highlighted the Knights’ new roster.
The 32-year-old Fleury, who won a Stanley Cup title with the Pittsburgh Penguins this season, was the second to last player announced.
“I am really excited to get started. I heard we sold out our season tickets already so it’s great to have the fans and the community behind us,” said Fleury, who got the loudest cheer of the night from the Vegas crowd at T-Mobile Arena.
The new Las Vegas squad filled out its roster by selecting one player from each of the other 30 NHL teams. The Knights will play their inaugural season starting in October.
It has been 17 years since the NHL had an expansion draft when the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild entered the league.
The 29-year-old Neal scored six goals in the playoffs after delivering 23 in the regular season for the Predators who were a surprise Stanley Cup finalists.
Pickard had 15 wins and a 2.98 goals-against average with the Florida Panthers. He also backstopped Canada to a silver medal at last month’s World Championships.
Other notable players that Vegas picked included forwards David Perron, Erik Haula and defencemen Jason Garrison, Marc Methot, Clayton Stoner and Trevor van Riemsdyk.
“I feel like we have created a great team and we can grow from here. tonight is the culmination of five mock drafts. It has been a fantastic experience,” said owner Bill Foley.
The Golden Knights were required to take at least one player from each team and a minimum of 14 forwards, nine defencemen and three goaltenders in the expansion draft.
The other 30 teams protected either seven forwards, three defencemen and a goaltender, or eight skaters and a goalie.
The NHL also handed out its annual awards on Wednesday night with Edmonton Oilers young star Connor McDavid picking up the lion’s share of the hardware.
– McDavid grabs two awards –
McDavid collected two awards, comprising the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in scoring and the Hart Trophy as the league MVP.
McDavid finished with 30 goals and 100 points in the regular season and sparked his Oilers to a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2005-06.
Other awards handed out included the Maurice Richard Trophy to Penguins Sidney Crosby for leading the league in goals scored with 44, rookie of the year to Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Norris Trophy for best defenceman to Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks and Vezina Trophy for top goaltender to Sergei Bobrovsky of the Blue Jackets.
The league also had a special video tribute for Bryan Bickell after the Carolina Hurricanes forward was forced to retire at the end of the season after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.