As part of NHL.com's 31 in 31 series, our fantasy hockey staff is breaking down each team's fantasy landscape. Fantasy-relevant players are listed in order of rank in NHL.com's top 250. Today, we look at the Vegas Golden Knights:
[GOLDEN KNIGHTS 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Top prospects | Behind the numbers | More team fantasy previews]
James Neal, LW/RW -- He's scored at least 20 goals in each of his nine NHL seasons and offers great category coverage. Although the 41 points with the Nashville Predators last season was down from the 58 he had in 2015-16, Neal contributes on the power play (13 points) and has taken at least 200 SOG in each of the past seven full NHL seasons (202 last season). He has 506 PIM in 632 games and has been a plus player in five of the past six seasons. The plus-minus may take a hit playing for an expansion team, but the rest of the totals should remain similar.
Vadim Shipachyov , C/LW -- Although he hasn't played in the NHL, spending the past nine seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League, Shipachyov could begin the season as the No. 1 center on a line with Neal and Jonathan Marchessault. His 76 points ranked third in the KHL last season, and the 30-year-old is a proven playmaker. If Shipachyov can adjust to the North American game, he could be the top offensive threat for the Golden Knights.
Jonathan Marchessault, C/LW -- It was a career year for Marchessault, who led the Florida Panthers with 30 goals and finished third with 51 points -- each NHL career highs. Selected by Vegas in the NHL Expansion Draft, he likely will play on the first line and top power-play unit, and should see an increase in the 16:54 of ice time from last season. Although 30 goals would be a bit of a reach, he could end up with 55-60 points.
David Perron, LW/RW -- He figures to fit in on the second line after finishing with 46 points (18 goals, 28 assists) with the St. Louis Blues last season. His power-play time and production could decrease, as could his SOG (151 last season). Perron offers more value if his PIMs increase (54 last season after at least 62 in each of previous three seasons) but he could be an impact player for the Golden Knights.
Reilly Smith, RW -- His offensive numbers took a hit last season with the Panthers (15 goals, 37 points after 25 goals, 50 points in 2015-16) and he went from plus-19 to minus-13, taking fewer PIM (17 last season, 31 in 2015-16). Even if Smith plays with Marchessault, he likely will put up totals similar to last season as opposed to 2015-16. He's has at least 11 PPP in each of the past four seasons but isn't likely to be on the top power-play unit, and shouldn't be drafted in the top 200.
Video: Pete Jensen on the fantasy outlook for Vegas
Shea Theodore -- With all the injuries to the Anaheim Ducks defense last season, Theodore showed he was capable of stepping up, especially in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After having nine points (two goals, seven assists) and two PPP in 34 regular-season games, he had eight points (two goals, six assists) and two PPP in 14 playoff games. He's the No. 1 defenseman on the Golden Knights and will also likely be quarterbacking the power play. Theodore could be a bargain if you can get him in the later rounds.
Marc-Andre Fleury -- The 32-year-old has mostly been a mainstay in the top 10 for goalies in the past decade with at least 30 wins in eight of his 13 seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, Fleury was 18-10-7 with a 3.02 goals-against average (third-lowest of his NHL career), a .909 save percentage and one shutout (tying NHL career low). Those numbers occurred playing on one of the best teams in the League, so it would be difficult for Fleury to revert to form playing on an expansion team. Expect him to make more than the 34 starts he made last season but the GAA and wins totals could decline playing with the youthful Golden Knights.
Others to consider: Nate Schmidt (D), Calvin Pickard (G), William Karlsson (C), Cody Eakin (C)