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Vegas Golden Knights expansion-draft players: Where are they now?

The Vegas Golden Knights are one of the most well-built teams out there, and it all started about four years ago.

In fact, Monday was the four-year anniversary of the Vegas expansion draft and as well as they did in that process, it may surprise you to see how few players are left from that day. Everyone who still remains is playing a key role in Vegas’s attempt to reach its second final in four years.

More than that, the Golden Knights managed to turn some of the players who are no longer with the team into vital assets. Alec Martinez, Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty are just a few players acquired via trade with other pieces Vegas picked up through expansion.

So, where are each of the 30 players Vegas chose in its expansion draft today?

We’ll run through them below. As you go through, consider all the trades teams made with Vegas to keep them away from choosing someone else. How many of those teams would like a do-over? What will this mean for the Seattle Kraken, who will go through their own expansion draft on July 21, against teams who are much more prepared and educated this time around? And remember, the Golden Knights are exempt from the Kraken draft and will not lose a player this time themselves.

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Anaheim Ducks: Clayton Stoner, D
Stoner never played for the Golden Knights and an injury ended his career, but he wasn’t the real prize pickup from the Ducks. Anaheim traded Shea Theodore to Vegas so that the Golden Knights wouldn’t take Sami Vatanen or Josh Manson at the time, two players you certainly couldn’t trade one-for-one to get Theodore today. Vatanen isn’t even on the Ducks anymore. Theodore is a star with the Golden Knights today and, we’d expect, got some top-five Norris votes this season.

Arizona Coyotes: Teemu Pulkkinen, LW
Pulkkinen never played for the Golden Knights either, but he did lead their Chicago AHL affiliate in scoring in the first year of Vegas’s existence. After that Pulkkinen left for the KHL where he’s played ever since. This season he scored 30 points in 46 games with Moscow Dynamo and Yaroslavl Lokomotiv.

Boston Bruins: Colin Miller, D
The Knights got Miller after his first full NHL season and right away he paid off for them. In Year 1 of Golden Knights history, Miller played a third-pair/power-play specialist role, and scored a career-high 10 goals and 41 points. His second season, he fell back a bit, but was still largely productive, and then was traded to Buffalo for second- and fifth-round picks. That second-rounder (St. Louis’s in 2021) was traded along with a 2020 second-rounder to Los Angeles last February to get Alec Martinez, and important piece of Vegas’s blue line today.

Buffalo Sabres: William Carrier, LW
An energetic fourth-liner, Carrier was second on the Knights in hits this season and only took 16 penalty minutes in 52 games. He was only one goal and four points away from tying personal bests despite this being a short season. The Sabres gave the Golden Knights a sixth-round pick so that they wouldn’t take goalie Linus Ullmark, and instead Vegas wound up with a quality fourth-liner. Vegas signed him to an extension last February and he has three years remaining with a $1.4 million cap hit.

Calgary Flames: Deryk Engelland, D
Maybe the best fit of the expansion draft. Engelland was a pending free agent chosen by the Knights and then signed to a one-year deal. He was already a resident of Las Vegas, became a face and leader in the franchise and started with a career-best season in Year 1. Engelland played three years with the Golden Knights before retiring after last season.

Carolina Hurricanes: Connor Brickley, LW
The Canes gave Vegas a fifth-round pick to steer them towards Brickley, who didn’t even play one game with Carolina. Shortly after the expansion draft, Brickley’s contract expired and Vegas never signed him, so he didn’t suit up for Vegas or an affiliate either. Brickley played 14 more NHL games in 2018-19 with the New York Rangers before leaving to play in Austria last season. He did not play at all this season. The fifth-round pick Vegas got from Carolina via Boston was used to take Jack Dugan, who just closed out his first year of pro hockey after leaving the NCAA’s Providence College, finishing second on the AHL’s Henderson Silver Knights in scoring with 10 goals and 33 points in 37 games at 23 years old.

Chicago Blackhawks: Trevor van Riemsdyk, D
Vegas was left with a ton of defencemen in the aftermath of the expansion draft and had to work out some trades. One day after picking van Riemsdyk, they flipped him to Carolina and got a second-round pick in return. van Riemsdyk became a solid depth blue liner for the Canes the following three years and was even further down the lineup in Washington this season. But his underlying numbers show a player who is good enough to at least be a third-pair defenceman, and since he’s signed another two years with just a $800,000 cap hit, we might see van Riemsdyk chosen in another expansion draft this summer.

Colorado Avalanche: Calvin Pickard, G
He also never played a game for Vegas and was traded to Toronto in 2017-18 for Tobias Lindberg and a sixth-round pick. This was Vegas deciding to move on with Malcolm Subban as their backup goalie, a role he played until the Robin Lehner trade last season. Pickard has played 27 NHL games over the past four years with Toronto, Philadelphia, Arizona and, most recently, Detroit. Most of his starts have come in the AHL though. Lindberg also never played for Vegas and has spent the past two years in Sweden.

Columbus Blue Jackets: William Karlsson, C
This is a trade and selection that has had a huge impact on Vegas. Columbus was afraid of losing Josh Anderson or Joonas Korpisalo to the expansion draft, so they traded Vegas the 24th-overall draft choice to take one of Karlsson, Ryan Murray or Matt Calvert. Vegas went with Karlsson, whose career-best was a 25-point season at the time. Not only did Karlsson immediately break out with a 43-goal season in Vegas, he’s been a key player for them ever since, though his offensive totals haven’t reached those heights again. The Golden Knights also swapped the 24th pick with Winnipeg and moved up to 13th overall, which they used to take Nick Suzuki. He, of course, was traded to Montreal for Max Pacioretty and we’re now seeing those two go at it in the Stanley Cup semifinal. Meanwhile, Columbus has since traded Anderson to Montreal for Max Domi and Korpisalo is often mentioned in trade rumours heading into this off-season.

Dallas Stars: Cody Eakin, C
Vegas got a couple good years out of Eakin, who played a third-line, all-situations role for them at centre. Midway through his third season with the team, he was traded to Winnipeg for a conditional pick. Eakin signed as a free agent in Buffalo last off-season and managed seven points in 46 games this season. The pick Vegas got back for him will come in the fourth round of the upcoming draft.

Detroit Red Wings: Tomas Nosek, LW
Nosek has become an NHLer in Vegas after playing just 17 games across two seasons with Detroit before the expansion draft. A bottom-sixer in Vegas’s lineup, Nosek has been in and out of the lineup in the playoffs, but does have four points in 12 post-season games between this season and last. He’s posted between 15 and 18 points in each of his four seasons with the Golden Knights and, in fact, despite playing only 38 games in 2020-21, this was his best season yet.

Edmonton Oilers: Griffin Reinhart, D
At one point, Edmonton traded a first-rounder to get Reinhart — that pick turned into the one used to take Mathew Barzal. Then, after 29 games with the Oilers, Reinhart was left unprotected. Reinhart never played for Vegas, instead spending two years with its AHL affiliate. After his contract expired, he signed with Kunlun Red Star of the KHL and this season joined the Iserlohn Roosters in the German League.

Florida Panthers: Jonathan Marchessault, LW
No team helped the Golden Knights with more important, top-end pieces than the Panthers. Not only did Vegas pick up Marchessault, who is the franchise’s all-time scoring leader to this point with 225 points in 280 games, Florida actually traded Reilly Smith to them as well to ensure Marchessault was the guy chosen. That’s two-thirds of Vegas’s most productive line over the past four years. Smith is third in all-time Vegas scoring with 192 points in 265 games and the two still share the same line today. Instead of ensuring these guys were protected, Florida instead opted to shield defencemen Mark Pysyk, Alex Petrovic and Jason Demers, none of whom are still with the team.

Los Angeles Kings: Brayden McNabb, D
McNabb is a bruiser on the backend for Vegas and he’s been at or near the top of the team in both hits and blocked shots in each of his four years with the Golden Knights. He was such a good fit early on that the team extended him to a four-year contract and a $2.5 million AAV, of which he’ll be entering the final season in 2021-22. McNabb remains a factor on the backend for Vegas, bringing a necessary physical edge that always translates better in the playoffs. He’s been in the news during this Montreal series for his punch on Suzuki, but he also scored the late tying goal in Game 4 that put Vegas in position for the comeback win.

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Minnesota Wild: Erik Haula, C
In his one full season with Vegas, Haula put together a career-best year in which he scored 29 goals and 55 points in 76 games. Interestingly, how this expansion pick played out has been a positive for Vegas due to the other players involved with it around Haula. At the time of this expansion draft, the Wild were afraid of losing a key defenceman, so to keep Vegas from choosing Matt Dumba they traded Alex Tuch to the Golden Knights. Tuch can be a force for them, bringing a power forward game that rises come playoff time — he has 21 post-season points in his past 37 games spanning two seasons. Having a player like that on the third line with the ability to move seamlessly in the top-six is exactly the kind of depth that gives the Golden Knights their strength. But also, Haula became an early cap casualty in Vegas and was traded to Carolina after his second, injury-shortened season with the team. In that deal, the Golden Knights received Nicholas Roy, who scored the Game 4 OT winner over Montreal. Haula has played with Carolina, Florida and Nashville the past three seasons, and scored 21 points in 51 games with the Predators this season. He will be a UFA this summer.

Montreal Canadiens: Alexei Emelin, D
Emelin was another of the defencemen Vegas took in the expansion draft who was almost immediately flipped. The Golden Knights got a third-rounder back from Nashville for Emelin, who played one season in Nashville and then returned to the KHL, where he’s been ever since.

Nashville Predators: James Neal, LW
There was concern that Vegas wouldn’t be able to find enough goal scoring in their expansion draft — there were plenty of blueliners to choose from, but there was a shallower market of players who could put the puck in the net. With Nashville having other more important players to protect, Neal was one of the anticipated choices Vegas would make and it largely worked out. Neal played one year in Vegas, scored 25 goals (which was fourth on the team) and then walked to free agency where he signed a five-year, $28.75 million deal with Calgary. The Flames traded him to Edmonton after one year for another inflated contract in Milan Lucic — in Edmonton, Neal has struggled to remain relevant in the top six and has just 24 goals over two seasons.

New Jersey Devils: Jon Merrill, D
Merrill was serviceable in Vegas’s lineup for three seasons, averaging around 17 minutes a game. He actually arrived with one year left on his contract and signed a two-year extension with the team. When that expired, Merrill became a free agent in the difficult 2020 off-season and landed in Detroit on a one-year contract. The Red Wings traded Merrill to Montreal at the deadline and he’s been a depth defenceman for them in their run, playing eight post-season games — three against Vegas.

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New York Islanders: Jean-Francois Berube, G
The Islanders were another team to work out a side deal with Vegas, sending them the 15th-overall pick in 2017, a 2019 second-rounder and Mikhail Grabovski so that the Golden Knights would take Berube. Berube had an expiring contract at the time, so he never played for Vegas and instead signed with Chicago as a free agent a few days later. Berube spent this season with the AHL’s Ontario Reign, posting an .885 save percentage in 19 games. Vegas used the first-rounder they got on Erik Brannstrom, who was later traded to Ottawa for Mark Stone. The second-rounder Vegas got was later used to acquire Tomas Tatar, who was also part of the traded with Montreal that brought Pacioretty to Vegas.

New York Rangers: Oscar Lindberg, LW
Lindberg scored 23 points in 98 games across two seasons with Vegas and then was part of the 2019 trade package sent to Ottawa to acquire Stone. He played out that season with the Sens, but has spent the past two years in Europe with Zug of the Swiss league and, most recently, the KHL’s Moscow Dynamo, where he finished fourth in team scoring with 36 points in 44 games.

Ottawa Senators: Marc Methot, D
Methot is another blueliner who was traded shortly after Vegas took him, getting sent to Dallas for goalie prospect Dylan Ferguson and a 2020 second-round pick. Methot played two seasons in Dallas, but was limited to just nine games in 2018-19 due to injury and later retired. Ferguson spent this season in the ECHL, while the second-rounder they got for Methot was one of two used to acquire Alec Martinez from the Los Angeles Kings. Martinez remains a key member of Vegas’s top-four group of blueliners and he will be in high demand as a UFA this off-season.

Philadelphia Flyers: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, LW
Bellemare was a good player for the Knights in the two seasons they had him, leading all Vegas forwards in shorthanded ice time. When his contract expired in 2019, Vegas had to let him go and Bellemare landed in Colorado with a $350,000 raise as he continued to play a big part on the Avs’ penalty kill. Bellemare, now 36, will be a UFA this off-season.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury, G
The face of the franchise from Day 1, Fleury has been a terrific teammate and leader in Vegas. He was the Day 1 starter and then lost the job to Robin Lehner last season after he was acquired from Chicago. At 36 years old, Fleury took back the job in 2021 and was so good he earned a Vezina Trophy finalist nod and continued his strong play into the post-season. But, after back-to-back losses and a blooper that led to an OT winner against, Fleury may have lost the starter’s job again to Lehner… or has he?


San Jose Sharks: David Schlemko, D
Another swapped defenceman, Vegas acquired a fifth-round pick from Montreal for Schlemko shortly after they chose him in the expansion draft. He played 55 games across two season with Montreal, but spent most of his 2018-19 season in the AHL. He has not played anywhere since.

St. Louis Blues: David Perron, LW
The Karlsson-Marchessault-Smith line made up of other teams’ mistakes got all the attention in Year 1 for Vegas as they led the charge, but equally as important to their success was that Perron put up a career season on the second line with 66 points in 70 games. He added nine points in 15 playoff games. After one year with Vegas, Perron became a UFA and signed right back with St. Louis, where he’s continued having some of the best seasons of his career in his early-30s. In 2021, Perron led the Blues in scoring with 58 points in 56 games.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Jason Garrison, D
Then-GM Steve Yzerman had to leave young defencemen Slater Koekkoek and Jake Dotchin unprotected in the expansion draft, but worked out a side deal with Vegas to take Garrison and his $4.6 million cap hit. The Golden Knights acquired second- and third-round picks from Tampa, plus forward Nikita Gusev, who had yet to leave the KHL. Gusev signed an ELC with Vegas, but never played for the team and when he became an RFA the Golden Knights flipped him to New Jersey for second- and third-round picks — the second-rounder acquired was a 2021 pick they still hold today. Garrison played just eight games with the Golden Knights, spending the majority of that season in the AHL, and then signed a one-year deal with Edmonton. He spent the 2019-20 season in Sweden, but did not play in 2021.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Brendan Leipsic, LW
Lepisic played 44 games for Vegas, was traded to Vancouver midway through 2017-18 for Philip Holm (who left for the KHL) and then Vancouver lost Leipsic on waivers to Los Angeles in 2018-19. Lepisic played this season for CSKA Moscow in the KHL.

Vancouver Canucks: Luca Sbisa, D
The 19th-overall draft pick in 2008 by Philadelphia, Sbisa was useful to Vegas early on, scoring 14 points and averaging just under 20 minutes in just 30 games. Injuries limited his impact and ability to play more than that and then he became a UFA who signed with the New York Islanders. Sbisa then went to Winnipeg and played one game with the Nashville Predators this season in January, but injury again interrupted his season. In fact, he’s on the injury exempt list for the Seattle expansion draft.

Washington Capitals: Nate Schmidt, D
Schmidt was Vegas’s first No. 1 blueliner, averaging 22:14 of ice time and posting a career-high 36 points in Year 1. He pretty well maintained that pace in his three years with the team, but as Shea Theodore rose up and after Alec Martinez was acquired, Schmidt became less of a No. 1 and more of a strong top-four player. When Vegas signed Alex Pietrangelo, it brought an end to Schmidt’s time with the Golden Knights, who had to quickly move money off the books to remain cap compliant. So, Schmidt was traded to Vancouver for a third-rounder last off-season and with the Canucks he averaged over 20 minutes per game in a second-pair role.

Winnipeg Jets: Chris Thorburn, RW
The Golden Knights gave up the 24th-overall draft pick they acquired from Columbus for expansion-draft considerations, and in return Winnipeg sent back the 13th-overall choice used to take Suzuki. This trade was made so that Vegas would take Thorburn instead of defenceman Tobias Enstrom or forward Marko Dano. Thorburn had an expiring contract Vegas didn’t renew, so he walked to free agency and signed with the Blues. We last saw Thorburn playing 40 AHL games in 2018-19.

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