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31 in 31

Three questions facing Vegas Golden Knights

Fleury's playing time, Shipachyov's adjustment among concerns

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three questions facing the Vegas Golden Knights.

There are many questions surrounding the Vegas Golden Knights, who are the first expansion team in the NHL since the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild arrived for the 2000-01 season.


[GOLDEN KNIGHTS 31 in 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the numbers]


1. How much will they rely on Marc-Andre Fleury?

Matt Murray's emergence as the Pittsburgh Penguins' No. 1 goalie limited Fleury to 34 regular-season starts last season, his fewest in a full NHL season since 2007-08. 

Fleury, arguably Vegas' most well-known player, is a three-time Stanley Cup champion, but he may cede starts to Calvin Pickard, who started 48 games for the Colorado Avalanche last season.

Pickard, 25, shares the same sort of relentless competitiveness that Fleury has used to fashion a 13-season NHL career. Pickard went 15-31-2 last season with a 2.98 goals-against average and .904 save percentage.

Oscar Dansk, a 23-year-old who has not played an NHL game, is the third goalie on the roster.

Video: 31 in 31: Vegas Golden Knights 2017-18 season preview


2. Which defensemen will move up at training camp?

Vegas was required to choose nine defensemen but selected 13 in the NHL Expansion Draft.

The Golden Knights also added Shea Theodore, who was acquired in a trade from the Anaheim Ducks at the expansion draft. The 22-year-old has an ability to create offense, which he showed with five points (two goals, three assists) for the Ducks in their sweep of the Calgary Flames in the 2017 Western Conference First Round.

The Golden Knights also have high hopes for Nate Schmidt, who took on an expanded role in the second half of last season with the Washington Capitals. The 26-year-old had 17 points (three goals, 14 assists) in 60 games.

Video: WSH@PIT, Gm4: Schmidt chips one-timer top shelf


3. How will Vadim Shipachyov adjust to the NHL?

Generally speaking, any Russia-born player attempting to make a late-career transition to the NHL usually has the ability to do it, and Shipachyov's 76 points (26 goals, 50 assists) in 50 games last season for SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League suggest the 30-year-old forward has the playmaking skills to succeed here.

But not every player makes the same smooth transition as forward Artemi Panarin did in his first season with the Chicago Blackhawks (2015-16).

Frequently, the most difficult adjustments can be off the ice, because the lifestyle changes can be so radical. Getting a productive season from Shipachyov could avoid a potential goal-scoring shortage for the Golden Knights.

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