The Vegas Golden Knights are coming off of an incredible success in their first NHL season, reaching the Stanley Cup Finals. They will be looking to continue their successful franchise history.
It seemed as if a big part of their motivation and identity was that the core of the team were players left unprotected at the expansion draft, players that could be perceived as not wanted by their teams.
With offseason additions such as Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty, there is no doubt that on paper, the roster is stronger than last year, but they will not have the aura of “just a bunch of misfits” and the ultimate underdogs.
Crazy prediction #1
Vegas go back to the Finals!
The Golden Knights have a lot to live up to in their second-ever season. Management clearly realizes that their window for winning the Stanley Cup is open. They traded away a second-round pick, Nick Suzuki, and Tomas Tatar, who cost them three draft picks at the trade deadline last season.
All of these future assets were given up for Max Pacioretty, the former Montreal Canadiens captain.
Vegas is going for it, and even though they missed out on Erik Karlsson to a division rival, they are still among the favorites to get into the Conference Finals. From there, it would be a big feat to beat out the Nashville Predators or Winnipeg Jets, but Vegas has done it before.
Crazy prediction #2
Fleury fizzles out!
The 33-year-old Marc-Andre Fleury missed a lot of the season due to a concussion, but in the 46 games of the regular season, he put up a 2.24 GAA and .927 save percentage. Combine that with Fleury's 20 playoff games of exactly the same numbers, and you can say that the goalie has had the best season of his career.
The Canadian was rewarded with a huge contract based more on what he's done than what he could possibly do, as Fleury will probably only decline from here. If he misses significant time through injury again or just declines, the Golden Knights might struggle.
Crazy prediction #3
Golden Knights miss the playoffs!
A lot would have to go wrong for Vegas to fail to make the playoffs out of the Pacific Division, especially as Anaheim Ducks' star Corey Perry will be out for the first five months.
However, they do have two new names in their top two lines, are missing Nate Schmidt for the opening 20 games, and no one can be sure about Fleury's fitness over the course of the season.
The goalie dropoff between Fleury and Malcolm Subban is quite big, and if a challenging team like the Calgary Flames go on a hot streak, Vegas might find themselves competing for a wildcard and maybe even missing out.
Crazy prediction #4
The team doesn't gel and struggles!
The two new forward additions to the Golden Knights are center Paul Stastny and winger Max Pacioretty. They are expected to both slot in the second line, as Gerard Gallant will likely keep the Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith line together.
Stastny was dealt to the Winnipeg Jets by the St. Louis Blues at the deadline and performed quite well in the playoffs, getting 15 points in 17 games.
More likely to struggle would be Pacioretty, as Vegas will be only his second team and he might have a hard time adjusting to a new franchise and teammates.
The winger suffered some injuries last year, but only put up 0.58 points per game as opposed to the 0.82 from the year before, so even if Pacioretty puts up the same numbers as last year, the move will likely be a disappointment.
Crazy prediction #5
Defense sinks Vegas!
The defense is the weakest point of the Golden Knights, especially with the Schmidt suspension as Deryk Engelland will be playing second pairing minutes.
If Fleury doesn't keep on carrying them this season, and Vegas doesn't make in-season trades to strengthen the defense, they might very well get exposed, especially as teams have already had a full season to try and figure out the playing style of the Golden Knights.
Will the Vegas Golden Knights falter this season? Let us know in the comment section below, and make sure to give us a follow on Twitter (@VAVELNHL_ENG) for more updates!