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How The Knights Were Built

By Gary Lawless

Back in the summer of 2017, over a drink in the clubhouse at Bill Foley's Montana ranch development, a writer was explaining to a top executive from another Foley enterprise how the NHL worked. Draft and development were the way to go in a salary cap world despite it requiring patience.

Winning was going to be a way off was the message wrapped within a description of the hockey business.

The seasoned exec, with years of experience within Foley's orbit, patronized with a smile before dropping an utterly confident, "You don't know Bill."

Less than a year later, as the Vegas Golden Knights qualified for the Stanley Cup, the conversation clanged in the memory like a firehouse bell. Indeed, no one in hockey knew Bill Foley and how he operated. And no one knew the Golden Knights franchise was about to become elite, both on and off the ice.

Make no mistake, while others run the organization on a day-to-day basis, the Golden Knights strive to meet Foley's vision which is that of a profitable business and winning team.

The standard for all things Golden Knights was high from the franchise's inception and remains so.

Foley may have famously stated: "Playoffs in three (years), Stanley Cup in six (years)," but once it became apparent his hockey operations team had built a contender out of the expansion draft, the organization stepped on the gas rather than patiently idling along the hockey highway waiting for prospects to season.

"It expedited the urgency to make sure that we are a good team and even better right away. We were nervous when we were putting our plans together. We wanted to be a good team. We wanted a team that people in this community could be proud of. We did not want to be a doormat for anyone. We wanted to be really competitive and get those surplus draft picks," explained Golden Knights President of Hockey Operations George McPhee. "When we had that good first year, there was no looking back. We were going to be even more aggressive in trying to make our team better going forward. We were very aggressive in acquiring high-end players, whether it be a Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty or Mark Stone. We just did it. We believe, at this point, that we have the best team that we've had yet."

Blue chip prospects such as Nick Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom were moved out for bonafide stars Pacioretty and Stone.

"Cup in six," might have been an off the cuff remark but win now has become the internal mantra.

The task for the VGK hockey operations side of the business was twofold from the onset. Be immediately competitive while stockpiling assets at the same time to ensure a successful future.

McPhee and General Manager Kelly McCrimmon have tweaked the blueprint in order to push for more immediate success. But the prospect pool is far from empty, and with the emergence of players such as Cody Glass, Nic Hague and Zach Whitecloud, it has started to produce.

"We hired a heck of a staff in this entire organization to be able to accomplish all the different things we wanted to. We hired experienced talent and some young up-and-comers, but mostly experienced people in this business to do all of those things," said McPhee. "You put a competitive team on the ice and if you want to continue to be a competitive team that can compete for championships, you have to draft well and have to have good development plans for the players. I think we're doing that. You have to have, at least annually, one or two young players coming into your team that are pushing up from the bottom to make your team better. You don't want them on the roster just because they are young and inexpensive. You want them on the roster because they are young, inexpensive and good. They help make your team better. That's what we're trying to accomplish, and I think we've been doing it."

Prior to the NHL season being paused as a result of the COVID-19 virus, the Golden Knights were in first place in the Pacific Division and appeared poised to make a playoff run.

Up front, the team boasts scoring depth and size. "Built for the playoffs," is an expression one hears from other team execs when they're discussing the Golden Knights forward corps.

The Vegas blue line is led by budding star Shea Theodore who sits 10th in league scoring among defensemen. The addition of veteran Alec Martinez, coupled with mainstays Nate Schmidt and Brayden McNabb as well as a solid third pair of Nick Holden and Zach Whitecloud, gives the Golden Knights a balanced and deep back end.

In goal, the combination of Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner is elite and perhaps the best tandem in the NHL.

"The expansion year, we wanted to do a good job knowing the players we selected for that initial roster. At the same time, we wanted to set ourselves up with draft picks so that we could give our amateur staff draft picks to work with. We did that and they've done a really good job," said McCrimmon. "We have traded some of those draft picks away and some more recent moves tie back to the philosophy that we adopted going into Year 3 and the fact we were over the salary cap. We had to move veteran players to get back under the salary cap. If you look at the moves that we made where we traded Colin Miller to Buffalo for a second round pick and a fifth round pick, and that second rounder was used in the Alec Martinez trade.

We've talked about the trade for Nic Roy: Roy and a fifth round pick came from Carolina in the trade for Erik Haula and then with Nikita Gusev going to New Jersey, we picked up New Jersey's second round pick as well as their third round pick. It was that combination of draft picks that allowed us to handle the trade deadline the way that we did. Even the week of the trade deadline, we traded Cody Eakin for a conditional third round pick from Winnipeg which in turn enabled us to add Nick Cousins. Those things all intertwine."

For players, how a team is built is crucial when deciding on their individual futures. Last season, winger Mark Stone had choices. He could sign a long-term deal and remain in Ottawa or wait until July 1 and hit the market as one of the most coveted free agents. Instead he agreed to a trade to Vegas which was tied to an eight-year contract extension.

"You have to trust that what management is doing is in the best interest of ultimately winning. In this day and age and the salary cap world, you have to make tough decisions to make your team better," said Stone. "As players, you don't always like the moves as far as the people you lose, but ultimately have to trust that what they're doing is in the best interest of the team and moving forward to ultimately win the Stanley Cup. That's not only what the players want, but what the management, coaches and especially our owner want to do."

Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland liked the idea of joining the Golden Knights due to his roots in the Vegas community. But as a hockey player, he needed to know the organization was going to be a good fit for his on-ice aspirations.

"Going back to when Bill (Foley) brought up the thought of bringing a team here, when that happens you do a little bit of research about him and how successful he has been with all of his ventures. That is probably your first instinct, that it's going to be good to come here with an owner like that. To be honest, you're hoping in the back of your mind that it happens since this is home. Up until a few days before the Expansion Draft, I had no idea. I thought maybe I could sign here in free agency," said Engelland, who was selected by the Golden Knights and then signed a contract extension to remain with the club. "You always hope the team will be strong, but that first year was a surprise. Management has been a lot more aggressive than I'm sure even they thought they'd be at this time. Going back to the first year, I don't think anyone had seen us as a threat going into the season and then we made the Stanley Cup Final. You get that taste of winning and see what good guys you've built this team around. That makes you even more in the win-now mode. The success we've had has given them the opportunity to go out and look for those key additions and build this Stanley Cup-contending team on a yearly basis."

Engelland's last observation points to the club's current mindset. The first two seasons in Golden Knights history resulted in playoff berths and the club would qualify as the top seed in the Pacific if the playoffs were to begin tomorrow.

Stone says management has built a contender.

"Our depth. It's everywhere on the roster," said Stone, who has been unavailable since March 1 due to injury. "Sitting out for the last six or seven games and just watching, you kind of understand what we have. You see the game a little bit slower and a little bit more clearly. Watching those games, there are times when we are completely dominating play because of our depth. We have two great goaltenders, we have seven, eight defensemen that can come in and play for us and, I'm biased obviously, but I think we have one of the best forwards groups in the NHL. We basically have depth at every single position which is rare."

Roster construction is something managers fret over when putting the pieces in place. There has to be a mix of experience and age. And there must be openings for your younger players to grow. Stone says this club has a great mix.

"I think we have a really good group of guys who are in the prime of their career. We have older guys who are ready to win now and then you add that youthful enthusiasm that brings everything together," said Stone. "It is one of those things that you want to bring back the same team every single year, but you have to appreciate adding those younger players. I don't think people understand just how much they contribute, not just on the ice, but off the ice with their energy."

Stastny was a big-name free agent in the summer of 2018 and coveted by more than 10 teams. He selected Vegas as his destination and signed a three-year deal which will take him to age 35.

"When that time comes around, I think you narrow it down to a couple of teams and really look at everything. Sometimes I need an outside view. For me, I used my dad obviously a lot because he watches all the games while I only watch our games or playoff games. You don't really get to know a team as well unless you're watching every game," said Stastny. "I think when Vegas came calling around, we took a step back and put some serious thought into it. What we loved about the team was how good they were the year before because I was playing in Winnipeg when they knocked us out of the playoffs. Just the way they played, the way they rolled out four lines, the way they attacked and played a fast game. It wasn't just one or two guys that dominated the game. They didn't really rely on matchups. When you can play four lines that way and when you have six defensemen playing from 18 to 26 minutes, everyone feels part of the team. When all four lines are rolling like that you're clicking. Everyone says that they want to do that, but it starts from the top down. You have to have the right mix of players and I think that's the most important thing. George and Kelly found that perfect blend of different guys to play with each other."

Stastny also wanted to play for a management team which would constantly strive to make the team better.

"You realize how fortunate you are, with this being my 14th year in the league. When you're younger, you just want to go out, have fun and play the game. You tend to worry about your stats a little bit. As you get older and mature, you realize that all you want to do is win and be part of a team that doesn't care about anything but winning at all costs," said Stastny. "Everyone realizes that with every move made here, there is one goal in mind. Stats are kind of thrown out the window and we're doing whatever we can. I think a lot of teams were up against the cap last year because of what happened when the cap was projected to be higher, but then it dropped and put a lot of teams in a predicament. Yeah, you're going to be fighting against the cap for a year or two, but then you're going to be set for a couple years. That's what this team has kind of been.

A lot of top guys are signed long-term so they won't have to worry about those guys. Now it's just about managing those little pieces. Adding Nick Cousins, Chandler Stephenson and Nicolas Roy has been unreal. Different guys that can play up and down the roster. When guys are hurt, certain guys can play center or wing. When we're all healthy, it just makes us that much deeper. Every time you see a move being made, it gets you excited because you realize how hard it is to win. They don't sacrifice too much of the future, they might a little bit, but still trying to keep their first-rounders. Still building with the big picture in mind, but at the same time we want to win. That starts from ownership and that is why we feel so fortunate and so blessed with such a great opportunity here."

Last summer, as the Golden Knights cleared cap space by trading Erik Haula, Colin Miller and Nikita Gusev, there was a hue and cry about cap management. Stastny, however, sees what happened last summer as the key to making deadline additions of marquee players such as Alec Martinez and Robin Lehner.

"Martinez fit in seamlessly and then we added Lehner and all I could think about was that all it was going to do was help our team because it's going to give Flower more rest with that combination," said Stastny. "It just shows you how good and how mentally strong Lehner is when you watch him, he just seems so relaxed in net. It's been unbelievable for us. When you have two of the best goalies in the league like that, it's so much easier to just go out and play and know you can take some chances and make some mistakes. Your goalie is going to be there and have your back."

The current Golden Knights NHL roster contains three players signed in free agency, nine selected in the expansion draft and 11 acquired through trade.

McCrimmon took us through the transactions to explain How The Knights Were Built:

Zach Whitecloud

Zach was a college free agent that we signed in our first year. Zach had played at Bemidji State University. He's from Brandon, Manitoba and was a player that was a little late in developing. We had expressed interest in signing Zach after his first year at school, but he wanted to go back for one more year. As his second year was concluding, there was a lot of interest in Zach to sign with different NHL teams. He had been to developments camp elsewhere the previous summer, so we were pleased to be able to have him sign with the Golden Knights. Since that time, he has played one full year with the Wolves where they enjoyed a real solid season and it was a great year of development for him. This year, he's been able to make the jump to the big team here late in the season. This is a success story; in that it was a player that we didn't use a draft pick to acquire. We signed him as a free agent and he's going to be a real good NHL player for a long time. A real good outcome, they don't always turn out this way, but he's certainly shown to be a guy with a lot of promise.

Brayden McNabb

Brayden was a player that we had a lot of history on. He played in the WHL with Kootenay and was a real good player there. Brayden had been a player in LA that had played a pretty prominent role as a young player, partnered with Drew Doughty a fair bit. The year of expansion, he had injury trouble so his spot was taken by another player and he never really got back to playing at the same level. With Brayden, it was more a case of taking a look at his body of work more than just the expansion season and then projecting what he might look like on our team. He's been a great player for us. Really strong, good defensive player that has played among the hardest minutes of any defenseman in the NHL. Zero maintenance player that leads in a quiet way and is a real good teammate.

Deryk Engelland

We watched Deryk a lot in the expansion season. He had a really good year with the Calgary Flames. He played effectively as a second-pair defenseman most of that season. He was going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of his year in Calgary. We selected him during the expansion window as our choice from the Flames so that we could get him signed to a contract as opposed to waiting until July 1 and not knowing for sure. Needless to say, he's been a tremendous player for the organization, a great leader, really connected to the community based on his home being Las Vegas. His family is born and raised here. He's really been a great member of the organization since his selection.

Nicolas Roy

Nic Roy was a player that we acquired via trade last June. He was a player that our organization had really good history on. Vince Williams, who scouts for our team on the pro-side, had a lot of time and support for his game. He had played two years in the AHL where Vince was able to watch. We also had good viewings of Nic at the World Junior Championships where he was a really effective player on Canada's team. Most recently for our organization to view him was at the Calder Cup Finals where he was a member of the Charlotte Checkers who played against the Chicago Wolves. He was a player that we thought was really just scratching the surface in terms of where his game might go. He's really exceeded expectations in terms of his play. He's been a victim of the salary cap; in that he's been shuttled back and forth between the NHL and AHL many times but has just continued to make a great impression each time that he's up with our team. Recently, he's been a mainstay in our lineup.

Jon Merrill

Jon Merrill was our selection from New Jersey in expansion. He has really been steady for us and really improved. I give Jon a lot of credit for that, and I give Ryan McGill a lot of credit too. I think he's done a really good job with Jon. He's developed into a reliable NHL defenseman. With that position, what you see oftentimes, it takes 200 games for a defenseman to really find his way in the NHL. Jon now has really good identity to his game and is a solid NHL player.

Reilly Smith

Reilly has become one of the top two-way players in the NHL. Certainly, a cornerstone player on our team. We acquired him from Florida around the same time as the expansion draft for a fourth-round pick Just a really intelligent two-way player with zero maintenance. He prepares himself to play every night, you know exactly what you're getting. There are not many nights off for Reilly in his game. He's an elite penalty-killer, plays the power play, always able to play against other team's top lines and just a really good NHL player for our team.

Chandler Stephenson

Chandler was acquired in early December for a fifth-round pick from Washington and has really performed well for our team - likely just a case of a player benefiting from a change. He was on a really good team in Washington and was a member of the team that won the Stanley Cup two years ago. Really useful player in that he can play any position. He can move up and down the lineup. Upon coming to our team, he's likely had a little more opportunity consistently and to his credit has really taken advantage of that. He's been a really important player on our team this season. We knew him really well prior to his acquisition. Vince Williams from our pro staff had Washington as one of his assigned teams, so he knew Chandler from his time in Washington, but also from his time in Hershey. In some respects, you get a little better idea what a player's ceiling might be when you see him at that level. Prior to turning pro, he was a four-year player with the Regina Pats. Personally, I had a lot of experience watching him. He was a tremendous junior player, particularly as a 19-year-old when we played against them in playoffs. I knew him really well, and then George McPhee was the general manager in Washington when Chandler was selected. We had pretty good coverage on him. With a lot of player acquisitions, it's not so much about what they've done, but more importantly what a player is going to do. That's where the work of our pro staff and the experience we had watching this player was beneficial.

Nick Cousins

Nick Cousins was a player that we talked about a lot in expansion. We didn't select him; at that time, he went on to play in Arizona for a couple of years before moving over to Montreal this past summer. He was our final addition heading into this season's trade deadline. What we liked about Nick is exactly what we've seen. He can play any forward position; he can move up and down the lineup, and he can create time and space for himself to make plays. As he's arrived to our team, we've gone through a period of time where we've had more injuries at the forward position than we did all season and he's been a real welcome addition by helping us in that way. That was the mindset of why we acquired Nick, just to have more forward depth at the NHL level.

Nick Holden

Nick was a player that, when we finished our first year, we wanted to improve our team through free agency. We did that through signing Paul Stastny and then Nick Holden. Nick came over to us and has played really well. He was recently extended another two years with our team. What I like about Nick is his versatility. He can play the left side, he can play the right side, he's had lots of experience playing top-four minutes in the NHL and has the ability to play against real good players. He went a long stretch with our team this year where he partnered really well with Shea Theodore. He's also a really good player to play with a younger player so he's spent time more recently playing with Zach Whitecloud. He has good size and good reach. He's provided timely offense and has been a really good team player. The work that you do along the way stays with your evaluation of players. With the nature of the task with expansion, we had a pretty good read on close to every player in the NHL. We had a lot of regard for Nick in the expansion year and we didn't end up selecting him, but he was a guy we liked and had regard for, so that tied into the conversation one year later when we were looking at free agency.

Alec Martinez

Alec was acquired just about a week ahead of the NHL trade deadline. He's been everything that we could've hoped and more. He's a real steady presence, two-way player who contributes on offense and on the transition. He's a really smart defender and you really see things settle down when he's on the ice. He's a really good penalty killer, he's good five-on-five. He's now partnered with Shea Theodore and they've played really well together. Martinez was the type of player we were looking to acquire at some point through the season and his acquisition has been really helpful for our team. He has really good playoff experience, he has Stanley Cup Championship pedigree and he's through-and-through a team guy. He's fit in extremely well as a person and he's been a great add for our group.

Paul Stastny

Paul Stastny was a free agent signing by our team at the start of July going into our second season. We had a lot of regard for Paul's game and his career as a top NHL center. We had played Winnipeg that previous playoff season in the Conference Final where Paul was a really important player on their team as the second line center fitting in behind Mark Scheifele. We thought it was an upgrade for our team to add a guy with his hockey sense, his skillset and his leadership ability and he's been a really good fit for our team. He's played anywhere in our top-two lines a lot of the time with Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone. He's spent a lot of time more recently with Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith. He also spent time earlier in the season with Alex Tuch. He's a guy that makes his linemates better and he's really easy to play with.

Shea Theodore

Shea came from Anaheim in expansion. He was an exempt player, but we were able to come to an agreement with Anaheim where Shea would be the player we coveted in the transaction. He's continuing to blossom. He's one of the top young defensemen in the game. He's just 24-years-old and his best hockey is still ahead of him, but you've seen this year that his play has been at tremendous level all season and he just continues to develop. He has great skating ability, really good offensive instincts and he's a defenseman that can play the left side and the right side. He's predominantly played on his off-hand playing right defense. He's emerging as one of the top young defensemen in the NHL. He was in Anaheim at a time where no one had a better defense than the Anaheim Ducks. That would be why it made some sense for them. They were a team that without making a deal with us was going to lose a very good player regardless because they had a very good team. They were not going to be able to prevent losing a really good player, so they worked with us and that's how we came to an agreement to let them keep the people that they did keep and gave us a young player which was real important for us because we didn't have access to a lot of young players in expansion.

William Carrier

William Carrier was our selection from Buffalo and he's really played well for us. He's an effective player. He gives us great speed, great physical play and he's very good on the forecheck. He's a real physical presence and he's improved offensively each year. I think he's the type of player in a playoff series that really makes a difference. We have tremendous regard for him and we recently extended him for four years because we want him to be part of our organization here for a long time. He's a real good one for us.

Marc-Andre Fleury

Marc-Andre has been the face of the franchise. We talked about our team not having any real stars that first year, but Marc-Andre was the exception to that with his pedigree as a player and as a person. During his time in Pittsburgh, he won three Stanley Cups and gained universal respect around the entire NHL. He played so well and was such a great personality in terms of a new franchise in a new city and everything that goes along with him as a person and his tremendous level of play. He was simply amazing for us that first year going to the Stanley Cup Final. His play through the regular season and playoffs was the difference for our team and he's been the face of the franchise since the day we got here.

Marc was a part of this because of the situation in Pittsburgh where they had two really good goalies in Matt Murray, who of course remains the No. 1 goalie in Pittsburgh, and Marc-Andre who had been the No. 1 goalie in Pittsburgh for many years. These were discussions that were held along that way that made sense for Marc and for Pittsburgh and for us. It's interesting how people would perhaps forget that had Pittsburgh been forced to trade Marc-Andre Fleury at the trade deadline of that 2016-17 season, which likely would have been a consideration for them, they would have missed his play during the postseason. He ended up being the starting goalie in the playoffs and he picked up the first nine wins for the Penguins in their run to the Stanley Cup.

Mark Stone

Mark Stone was a trade deadline acquisition in year two. From that day on, he's done nothing but perform at a tremendously high level. He's a player that we knew really well that, whatever metrics you want to use to evaluate a player, he's elite. As our fans who get to see him night in and night out and people get to watch his game, he just does so many things well. There are very few players in the NHL that have the effect on the game when they're on the ice that he does. In Ottawa last year, they were in a situation where they had a younger team and had a tougher time, but his game was still at an elite level and the players that played with him would flourish. We've seen that during his time with our team. We were able to acquire him and extend him for eight years and he's a great player. He's one of the best two-way players in the game.

Max Pacioretty

Max has enjoyed a great season. He would have had career-bests in goals, assists and points if we were playing hockey right now. It's interesting that we talk about Mark and Max back-to-back because at the trade deadline last year when we acquired Mark Stone, he had had a long-standing rivalry with Max because Mark was in Ottawa and Max was in Montreal which is a real good rivalry in the NHL. From the day that Mark was acquired, Max and Mark have played together and have really played well. Max's game has gone to a higher level since the acquisition of Mark, but for Max, I think coming back for his second year with our team as opposed to being a little bit unsettled when we acquired him during training camp goes a long way. We had camp going on at City National Arena during the time of the trade. When you move your wife and four kids to a new city and a new team, it takes a while to settle in. In the playoffs last year, he was tremendous. This year, he was in great shape and was ready to go and has played well. For me, he's contributed in a lot of areas that aren't measured by just goals and assists. Obviously he's an offensive player, and that's a big part of his game, but I think he's really worked hard to be a two-way player and he's been a really important player to our team this season.

William Karlsson

Nobody benefitted more from the Expansion Draft than William Karlsson. He's been our top center since the day he got here, and it's interesting when you look at it and it all kind of makes sense now. I think when we started the year that season, he was playing left wing, and nobody was sure where anybody would fit yet at that time. But he quickly found a home between Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault where he's played the bulk of his time as a Golden Knight. He went from six goals in Columbus to 43 that first year that he played with us. He settled in to being one of the top two-way centers in the game. He's been extended on a long-term contract. He's a core player in our organization. You almost refer to Reilly Smith and William Karlsson interchangeably because they're so reliable and so low maintenance. They're not guys you have to spend a lot of time with, or make sure they're in a good frame of mind or they're playing with the right players or they're in the right situations. You just throw those guys over the boards and they go and do great work. Another guy, like Reilly, William is a great penalty killer. Just a really valuable player and one of the top two-way centers in the game.

Ryan Reaves

Ryan was acquired at the trade deadline of that first year. Ryan was again another player we watched a lot during expansion. Of course, I had coached Ryan in Brandon as well, so I knew the player quite well, but he had a really significant role in St. Louis. They had a fourth line, I believe most nights was Scottie Upshall, Kyle Brodziak and Ryan Reaves. Their coach, Ken Hitchcock, used that line a lot. They had a real meaningful role. He went from there to Pittsburgh where I don't think he fit maybe quite as well, and we were able to pick him up and add him to our team in that first year right at the trade deadline. He didn't start the playoffs. He was in and out of the lineup a little bit at the playoffs. I remember specifically putting him in the lineup when he was added to our lineup during the San Jose series. Just the impact that he had and then he played pretty much the rest of the way. We extended him that offseason. Last year he had a really good season. This year I think he's been playing his best hockey here of late. He was a little injured over the summer which I think affected him at the beginning of the season somewhat. But under Peter DeBoer he's really been given a meaningful role and I think has played his best hockey.

Jonathan Marchessault

Jonathan is a really exciting player. He brings a lot of energy to our team on a nightly basis. He was part of the expansion process when we selected him from Florida. He scored 27 goals that first year and we signed him to a long-term contract to be part of our organization here for the long term. Marchy has got a real good energy about him and is a real important player in terms of the makeup of our team. And the other thing I've always admired about his game is he seizes moments. He's a guy that loves that challenge and that setting and has scored some really big goals for us along the way. He has been primarily on a line for us with William Karlsson and Reilly Smith. More recently here it's been with Reilly and Paul Stastny in the middle and has performed really well.

Nate Schmidt

Nate was a guy we took from Washington in expansion. Of course, George knew lots about him. Wil Nichol, our Director of Player Development knew Nate really well. They signed him in Washington as a free agent, so they had really good history on him. He was a guy that was in and out of the lineup in Washington a little bit, yet that playoff season Washington played Toronto in the first round, Washington had some injuries, Nate went into the lineup and performed really well. You could see what our scouts, and as I said George and Wil, saw in Nate. That there was a chance this guy would really blossom with more opportunity and that's exactly what's happened with Nate. He's been a mainstay on our team since he arrived. As you would know from spending time with him, he just a tremendous teammate, got a great energy and way about him. He's really a positive person in terms of how he treats life in day-to-day and I think just has a great impact as a teammate on the rest of our team.

Alex Tuch

We didn't have access to a lot of young players as a result of those players being exempt based on expansion rules and the template. Shea Theodore was the one real good young player that we got who was born in 1995. Alex was born in 1996 and was a first-round pick of Minnesota and just, again, a guy that made a whole bunch of sense for us to acquire if we could. Minnesota was a lot like Anaheim in that they were losing a good player no matter what approach they took. They were going to lose either a very good forward or a very good defenseman and they wanted to keep their team together. This made sense for them, this made sense for us and Alex is a great young player. Size, speed, offensive ability, and I think with Alex we're still only scratching the surface. I expect him to be a great player here as he continues to develop.

Robin Lehner

Robin Lehner was acquired at this year's NHL trade deadline and our team felt that we needed to be stronger at the position past Marc-Andre Fleury. When you look at the grind that is the stretch drive of the regular season, the NHL playoffs, we thought that it was important to improve ourselves there. It was a really unique set of circumstances that a goalie who was a Vezina Trophy candidate a year ago was available and it just made a lot of sense for us to add Robin at the time. We've had him and he's made a great impression. He's a really respected team member and has a really calming presence in net. He's really impressive as a goaltender and when you put them together, Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner, it's great goaltending and that's the most important position on the team.

When we got right down to the end, we needed to have another team involved to help us basically acquire Robin Lehner at 28 percent of his cap hit. He was moved from Chicago to another team, then to us was the sequence of events as to how it came together. Those were all conversations that took place late in the process on the final morning leading up to the deadline.

Tomas Nosek

Tomas was our selection from Detroit. He had been the top forward on Grand Rapid's team in the American Hockey League that won the Calder Cup that year. Not unlike the impression that Nic Roy made on us in the Calder Cup Finals, Tomas Nosek made that kind of impression on our staff during the American Hockey League playoffs. He's proven to be exactly that in his time as a Golden Knight. He's versatile, he's played wing his first two years, then primarily center this season, which is his natural position. He plays most nights between William Carrier and Ryan Reaves and gives us a line that Peter DeBoer has a lot of trust in. They have a real identity and can be used in many different situations.