Why Seattle following Golden Knights' NHL expansion blueprint will be tough


Why Seattle following Golden Knights' NHL expansion blueprint will be tough

The NHL’s announcement of a Seattle expansion team joining as the league’s 32nd franchise in 2021-22 surely gave Sharks fans some deja vu. 

The league’s newest team is once again coming to the Pacific Division, and they’ll pick one player from 30 other clubs to build out their inaugural roster. 

The expansion draft rules are exactly the same as the ones the Golden Knights drafted under in the summer of 2017. 30 teams -- excluding Vegas -- can protect either seven forwards, three defenseman, and a goaltender or eight skaters and a goalie. The Kraken/Sasquatch/Grunge/Not-Sonics will then pick 14 forwards, nine defenders, and three netiminders. 

You don’t need me to tell you that worked out pretty well for Vegas, but in case you forgot: The Golden Knights made the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, knocking out the Sharks in a six-game, second-round series. 

But if you think Seattle is destined for the same immediate success, don’t hold your breath. Setting aside the fact the Unnamed Seattle Franchise won’t play a game for two-and-a-half years, the Golden Knights' blueprint is going to be almost impossible to duplicate. 

For one, much of Vegas’ unprecedented season was owed not just to the picks the Golden Knights made in the expansion draft, but the side deals general manager George McPhee made.

Vegas selected 43-goal scorer William Karlsson because they acquired injured winger David Clarkson’s contract, and the Columbus Blue Jackets preferred to lose Karlsson to others. The Golden Knights picked center Erik Haula and acquired winger Alex Tuch so they wouldn’t draft defenseman Matt Dumba from the Minnesota Wild, and did the same with defensemen Clayton Stoner and Shea Theodore so they wouldn’t take defensemen Josh Manson or Sami Vatanen from the Anaheim Ducks. 

Oh, and they picked up winger Reilly Smith for a fourth-round pick. They also selected Jonathan Marchessault from the Florida Panthers. In layman’s terms, two-thirds of their top line came from one team. 

Aside from Marchessault, the players mentioned include four of Vegas’ seven highest-scoring forwards last year, and a 22-year-old defender who was second on the team in ice time. 

Do you think GMs are going to be eager to cut similar deals with Seattle? And if they are, can Seattle replicate that kind of haul? The new club will have two years to prepare for the new expansion draft, but so will the rest of the NHL. 

Seattle can’t reasonably expect so many players to have career years, either. Some of those were surely a byproduct of most players getting more ice time, but having over a dozen players to set career highs in points, and both main goaltenders to exceed their career-best save percentages? 

That doesn’t scream “Repeatable.”

[RELATED: Sharks' Brenden Dillon excited for NHL expansion franchise in Seattle]

Vegas proved it was legit the longer its inaugural season lasted, but don’t let that obfuscate the role good fortune played in its success. Keep in mind the Golden Knights went 16-8-1 when starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury missed 25 of the first 29 games. Their goalies posted an .896 save percentage in all situations during that time.

For reference, the last time the NHL’s average save percentage was lower than Vegas’ mark during that stretch was the 1993-94 season (.895). The Golden Knights didn’t just tread water in the midst of their most significant injury, they lapped the rest of the pool. 

The timing of their Cup Final appearance was unprecedented, but so was the appearance in general. None of the three expansion teams that immediately preceded Vegas (Columbus, Minnesota, and the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets) have made a Cup Final. Of the six before them, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Anaheim Ducks are the only teams to appear in multiple, and have the only titles among that group. 

Those nine teams played 195 total seasons entering this campaign. To recap, that’s eight Cup Final appearances and two championships in 195 seasons.


So if you’re worried about Seattle being Vegas 2.0, don’t stress just yet. It’s far away, and a lot will have to go right in the Pacific Northwest. 

In other words, you’ll have better luck predicting Seattle’s name and color scheme than a 2022 Western Conference Champions banner at KeyArena. 

Why Peter DeBoer credits Joe Thornton in Sharks' wild Vegas comeback


Why Peter DeBoer credits Joe Thornton in Sharks' wild Vegas comeback

In the aftermath of the Sharks' improbable -- if controversial -- Stanley Cup playoff comeback against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 7 of the first round, San Jose coach Peter DeBoer credited veteran center Joe Thornton for speaking up in the immediate aftermath of then-captain Joe Pavelski's head injury. 

Earlier this week, San Jose's bench boss revealed that the 40-year-old did so at the expense of his own playing time. DeBoer told The Athletic's Craig Custance at a presentation during the Hockey Coaches Conference in Toronto this week that, when the Sharks scored their third goal on the contentious major penalty back on April 23, Thornton said DeBoer shouldn't put the veteran's power-play unit on the ice. 

Kevin Labanc scored the Sharks' fourth goal -- and his fourth point -- of the power play 28 seconds after Couture tied the game 3-3. San Jose scored two goals within 1:04 of the major penalty being called, with forwards Couture, Labanc, Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl joined on the ice by defenseman Erik Karlsson. Thornton, Evander Kane, Gustav Nyquist and Marcus Sorensen took the ice with defenseman Brent Burns after the first two goals, but the Golden Knights held the second unit to two shots on goal and no goals for nearly two minutes of power-play time. 

Couture tied Game 7 with about 1:20 remaining on the power play, scoring the top power-play unit's third goal on their fifth shot attempt. On their sixth, Labanc gave the Sharks the lead. 

[RELATED: Sharks prospect Chekhovich has skill to earn NHL spot]

They still needed overtime to advance to the second round, but riding their hot hands resulted in an historic power play for the Sharks. According to DeBoer, he can thank Thornton for that. 

Sharks prospects to watch: Ivan Chekhovich has skill to earn NHL spot


Sharks prospects to watch: Ivan Chekhovich has skill to earn NHL spot

Editor's Note: This week, NBC Sports California will highlight five different Sharks prospects to watch heading into the 2019-20 season. Some have a chance to make the NHL roster as soon as this year, while others face critical years in their development. We conclude with winger Ivan Chekhovich.

For the second straight year, Sharks prospect Ivan Chekhovich earned a look with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda late in the season. 

The 20-year-old left winger tied for second in the notoriously high-scoring QMJHL with 105 points (43 goals, 62 assists), and joined the Barracuda once more for their playoff push. While he wasn't as prolific as his first stint with the Barracuda, he showed he belonged at the professional level and scored seven points (three goals, four assists) in nine regular-season and playoff games. 

Chekhovich missed out on representing Russia at the IIHF World Junior Championship after injuring his back lifting weights but had about as strong of a season as he could have asked for to close out his junior career. He caught the eye of Barracuda coach Roy Sommer at the team's prospect development camp earlier this month and has the skill to push for an NHL roster spot in training camp. Here's what to expect from Chekhovich this season. 

Ivan Chekhovich

Draft year, position: 2017, seventh round (No. 212 overall)
Position: Left wing
Shoots: Left
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 180 pounds
2018-19 team: Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)/San Jose Barracuda (AHL)

Skill set

Chekhovich is a strong skater who is very creative on offense. He is a good passer and boasts a strong shot, with the hands to deke and dangle around defenders. That package has added plenty of plays to his highlight reel. 

He is perhaps a tad undersized at 5-foot-10 and could stand to bulk up a bit as he transitions to professional hockey. But, he does a strong stick that he uses to hound opponents on the forecheck. Chekhovich fits the mold of a winger who can succeed in a league increasingly relying upon players with skill and skating ability. 

Training-camp proving ground

Earlier this summer, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson mentioned Chekhovich among a list of candidates who will have a shot to make the team out of training camp. Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist are gone, and San Jose could use some skill among its top nine forwards, and the winger should get a long look.

But he'll face some competition in that regard. Joachim Blichfeld, who was the highest-scoring Sharks prospect with 114 points in the WHL last season, and free-agent signing Jonny Brodzinski likely will be in the mix, and centers Dylan Gambrell and Sasha Chmelevski can play on the wing. Considering how much the Sharks lost up front, though, he wouldn't have to beat out each of them to earn a spot. 

Best-case scenario

As one of the Sharks' final cuts at training camp, Chekhovich immediately emerges as one of the Barracuda's best players. He earns an NHL call-up by the end of October and works his way up DeBoer's lineup.

By the turn of the calendar, Chekhovich grabs a spot on either Logan Couture or Tomas Hertl's wing and stays there for the remainder of the season. Once the playoffs roll around, Chekhovich gives the Sharks much-needed depth and emerges as an x-factor. 

Worst-case scenario

Chekhovich makes the Sharks out of training camp but is sent down to the AHL after playing fewer than 10 games. His confidence takes a hit and his previous AHL scoring record -- he scored on six of his 27 shots (22.2 percent) in 19 AHL games over the last two years -- feels like a distant memory after some ill-timed regression to the mean. 

Although Chekhovich finds his footing by the end of his first full professional season, he doesn't do so quickly enough to get much more of a look from the Sharks throughout the year. He becomes an important player for the Barracuda, but there are questions about his long-term NHL potential.

[RELATED: Can Sharks' Ferraro go straight from college to the NHL?]

Realistic expectations

The Sharks surely will have to experiment throughout the season in order to replace their departing forwards, and Chekhovich should be among the forwards who get a look. He has the ability to hang around and the potential to do more than that if he proves to be a fit alongside Couture, Hertl or even veteran center Joe Thornton on a skilled third line. 

Chekhovich's first professional certainly wouldn't be a disappointment if he ends it in the AHL, but the Sharks will feel much better about their forward depth if he can hang on with the big club.