WaPo NHL writers put their heads together and drafted a roster for the Las Vegas Golden Knights – who happen to have the longest NHL betting odds to win the 2017-2018 Stanley Cup. “For the purposes of this exercise, we…” yaddy yaddy yadda, let’s fast forward to what people who bet on hockey care about.
Prospective Vegas Golden Knights starting lineup
Goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury. The three-time Stanley Cup winner reportedly has or will waive his no-move close so that the Pens can protect his successor Matt Murray. If that is the case, the Knights should be all over him. In return he would get to be bull goose goalie and impart his knowledge accrued an 18-year career to the younglings in Las Vegas – assuming teaching is a calling of his.
Defense: Sami Vatanen, Nate Schmidt. Vatanen is only 26 but he’s still older than fellow blue liners Cam Fowler and Josh Manson, and is coming off a playoffs shoulder injury which will sideline him for over four months. Schmidt may or may not end up in the Caps’ protected list, but even if he doesn’t Washington may incentivize the Golden Knights to bypass him and instead draft goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer or forward Brett Connolly.
Forwards: Jason Zucker, Vladislav Namestnikov, James Neal. Vegas-raised Zucker just had a 22-goal season so he would be an obvious pick for the Knights for the same reasons that the Wild might want to keep him. If Minnesota protects him, that could free up defenseman Jonas Brodin, so it’s really a win-win NHL betting situation for Las Vegas. Namestnikov’s last season’s 10 goals and 18 assists output could increase with an expanded role in the Golden Knights. Tampa Bay teammate Alex Killorn could join him if the Lightning wants to clear up more salary cap space. Neal could be one of many Nashville forwards exposes since the Preds know that defense is their best offense. Calle Jarnkrok could be another, but his $2 million contract through 2022 would not free too much cap space.
The rest of the NHL betting roster
Goalkeepers: Malcom Subban, Linus Ullmark
Defensemen: Jason Demers, Luca Sbisa, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Griffin Reinhart, Luke Schenn, Brayden McNabb, Xavier Ouellet.
Forwards: David Perron, Tomas Plekanec, Michael Grabner, Mikkel Boedker, Cody Eakin, Josh Anderson, Marko Dano, Ryan Dzingel, Ryan Strome, Curtis Lazar, Lee Stempniak, Michael Raffl, Kerby Rychel, Stefan Noesen, Mikhail Grigorenko.
According to Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, the list of players protected and made available by each NHL team for the Expansion Draft will made available to the teams and the general public – including fans who bet on hockey – on June 18th. “After a lot of internal discussion following the General Managers meeting (March 6-8), we determined it would be best to disclose those lists publicly,” Daly said. “One of our guiding principles from the start of this process was to prioritize transparency, and certainly here, keeping the lists private would not have promoted that particular objective.” Until then, this is all of course mere NHL betting speculation.