Vegas Golden Knights first draft pick could be future of the franchise
April 18, 2017 3:01 AM
by Mark Mayer
With the NFL Draft just around the corner, let’s focus on the one that involves Las Vegas – or Vegas if you follow Bill Foley’s lead and leave the Las off the National Hockey League’s Golden Knights.
I personally like Las, but it doesn’t matter what my view is. What does matter is who the Golden Knights select as their first-ever draft pick come June 23 in Chicago. Currently paired with Arizona at No.3, the Knights could end up at No.1 (10.3 percent chance) or could fall to No. 6. The draft lottery is set for April 29.
If you want a complete rundown of who the best choices are, I suggest listening to Brian Blessing and Dana Lane discuss all things hockey on 1400 AM from noon to 2 p.m. And of course our Zamboni king Nick Pellegrino will not only track the Golden Knights but “his” LA Kings and neighboring Anaheim Ducks.
That said, I thought it would be interesting to again take the road most media types won’t notice – the last 20 years of NHL top overall draft picks.
Actually, it was seeing Joe Thornton still skating with the San Jose Sharks that put the storyline in my mind. Thornton was chosen way back in 1997 by the Boston Bruins, but is now the senior citizen with the Sharks and a recent returnee to the lineup following an injury.
Thornton is one of 16 forwards in the last 20 years to be chosen No. 1 overall. My simplistic mind broke that down to an 80 percent chance a winger/center goes off the board first. What I found amazing was that only two goalies have been selected or 10 percent. One is 2003 pick Marc Andre Fleury who has been stellar in goal for Pittsburgh, the only team he has ever played for.
More bulletin board material:
• Alex Ovechkin and Patrick Kane went on to win the Calder Trophy as the league Rookie of the Year, while Thornton, Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Rick Nash and Connor McDavid did not. Toronto’s Auston Matthews is likely to win the Calder.
• The Edmonton Oilers would be a good model the Golden Knights can follow as they grow into the NHL establishment. Edmonton has become a playoff team again through smart drafting – McDavid (2015) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011).
There are no guarantees even with our example as the Oilers’ 2010 pick Taylor Hall is now with New Jersey and 2012 pick Nail Yakupov is considered one of the biggest busts in draft history. Vegas of course will be building much of its lineup off unprotected players from other NHL teams. One of those players was considered to be Fleury, who got his starting job back when Matt Murray was injured and couldn’t go in Game 1 vs. Columbus.
The NHL draft doesn’t come under the scrutiny of the fans, who are all over the NFL and NBA. And baseball’s draft involves too many rounds to keep track of. So if history repeats, the type of player the Golden Knights figure to select first is a forward/center, who does not win the Calder but goes on to be a future star.
Did you listen? The New York Yankees were once 60-1 to win the World Series. Now it’s 30-1. Before the season started, I said the Yanks were ahead of schedule for a return to the playoffs and my surprise team in the AL East if not all of baseball.
It didn’t start well as the Yanks lost Gary Sanchez to the DL and began 1-4 on the road at Tampa Bay and Baltimore. But they won the getaway game against the Orioles, then swept both the Rays and St. Louis Cardinals. Seven wins later they are 8-4 and off to their best start since 1998.
And it figures only to get better with Greg Bird breaking out of his slump, Matt Holliday soon to be back in the lineup and Sanchez returning in mid-May.
If you can still get 30-1 jump on it, but you’ll have to beat me in line for the wager.