In only two short months, the Las Vegas Golden Knights will begin their inaugural season. While, most are not “betting” on Vegas to be great in this first year, they have a relatively well-rounded roster with some players worth watching. Predictions are varying on where this team will end up but few people project them as a playoff team. However, there are some very important players to keep in mind in terms of NHL fantasy. From a Stanley Cup winning goaltender to a former 40-goal scorer, here are the top five players to watch on the Golden Knights this coming season.
Having spent his entire career in Pittsburgh, the move may take some time for Fleury to get used to, but with 13 years of NHL experience, Fleury will provide the new franchise with strong veteran leadership. Although the three-time Stanley Cup champion may have lost his starting job in Pittsburgh, he easily topped the list of backup goalies in the NHL last season. When thrust into unexpected duty in last year’s playoffs, Fleury came up clutch, going 9-6 with a 2.56 GAA in 15 playoff games. Fleury will get the majority of the work between the pipes for Las Vegas this season.
Turning 30 just before the start of the preseason, James Neal is the biggest name and best goal scoring threat on the Golden Knights’ roster. Neal has hit 20 goals in nine of his ten NHL seasons with the only exception being an injury-plagued campaign in 2010-11. In fact, he followed up that season with career highs in goals (40), assists (41) and points (81), while helping the Penguins finish with an impressive 108 points. Whether or not Neal flourishes in Vegas remains to be seen, but most money is on him leading the team in goals and points in their first NHL season.
After spending the last two-and-a-half seasons of his career in Columbus, the 24-year-old center is looking forward to having an expanded role in Las Vegas. Karlsson is a solid two-way player, finishing last season with a +10 rating and 25 points. Although he only netted six goals, three were game winning. He shows a propensity towards coming up big when it counts. Karlsson was more impressive in the playoffs, scoring two goals on only 12 shots in five games. Karlsson is a player to keep on the radar this coming season.
Having the privilege of being the first ever player drafted by the Golden Knights, Cody Glass has the makings to be a great NHL Player. While he is only 18 – and a bit too skinny – Glass has great size and skills that will help him develop into the face of the franchise. It is still not a guarantee Glass will start the season in the NHL. It may be the smarter move for the team to let their future star develop in the minors. He’s not going to have a ton of quality around him, so the question would be will they possibly hurt his confidence? He’s a talented kid, though, and we’ve seen rookies like Conor McDavid thrive right off the bat. And we know that showcasing young talent is a great way to get the fans excited and help the franchise gain success in the long run.
Likely to be the Golden Knights’ top-line right wing, Reilly Smith should be one of the more exciting players to watch this season. Smith was acquired by Las Vegas through a trade as the Florida Panthers were in cap trouble and needed to unload Smith’s five-year, $25 million deal. Smith had his best season in 2015-2016 when he rifled home 25 goals and 50 points for the Florida Panthers. Smith is right about to enter his prime and if he can be a reliable 20+ goal scorer, he will become one of the biggest stars on the Knights roster. The only question is how will he do with the talent around him. Is he really a top-line player and is he worth being drafted as such in NHL fantasy leagues?
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