NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three key statistics for the Vegas Golden Knights.
[GOLDEN KNIGHTS 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown]
1. Searching for scoring
The greatest obstacle to building a competitive roster for the newest NHL franchise was that there were so few high-scoring players available in the NHL Expansion Draft and free agency. So, the Vegas Golden Knights looked to the Kontinental Hockey League and signed center Vadim Shipachyov, whose 76 points (26 goals, 50 points) in 50 games for SKA St. Petersburg were third in the KHL last season.
Based on the average change in scoring of players who have gone from the KHL to the NHL in the past, it's expected that Shipachyov will retain 76.7 percent of his scoring. That means Shipachyov's 2016-17 season would have translated to 79 points (27 goals, 52 assists) in 68 NHL games.
Though that demonstrates Shipachyov's considerable upside, realistic expectations should be set much lower. His previous career best was the NHL equivalent of 63 points (18 goals, 45 assists) in 74 games, in 2015-16.
Video: 31 in 31: Vegas Golden Knights 2017-18 season preview
2. Coaching experience
Most teams with vacancies this offseason opted for coaches with fewer than two seasons of experience, including first-timers Phil Housley (Buffalo Sabres), Bob Boughner (Florida Panthers) and Travis Green (Vancouver Canucks).
The Golden Knights opted for experience when they hired Gerard Gallant as their first coach. Gallant, who previously coached the Panthers and Columbus Blue Jackets, has the second-most experience of any coach hired in the offseason, after Ken Hitchcock (Dallas Stars).
In the world of hockey analytics, the coaching metric of choice compares how many points a coach's teams have earned in the standings relative to expectations, which are based on the previous season's totals regressed to the average by 35 percent. Over the long term, that means coaches must keep good teams good, make average teams better and improve bad teams by more than they would have climbed the standings with anyone else in their position.
From this perspective, Gallant has boosted his NHL teams by 17.0 points in 328 games and by 58.3 points in 204 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. That works out to a weighted average of an extra 6.0 points per season, which ranks third among the 31 active NHL coaches.
3. Construction of defense
The Golden Knights' most interesting selections in the expansion draft were on defense, but they appeared to emphasize shot-based metrics with secondary players rather than at the top of the depth chart.
Based on average ice time in 2016-17 (minimum 20 games), Vegas' top defensemen are Luca Sbisa (18:58), Jason Garrison (18:33), Jon Merrill (18:33), Deryk Engelland (18:19) and Shea Theodore (17:18). All but one of them had negative shot-based metrics relative to their former teams.
The Vancouver Canucks had a shot attempts percentage of 45.84 when Sbisa was on the ice and 48.94 when he wasn't, for a relative SAT% of minus-3.1. Garrison was minus-4.7, Merrill was plus-0.3, Engelland was minus-5.7, and Theodore was minus-1.4
In contrast, Golden Knights secondary defensemen Colin Miller (15:48, plus-7.2), Nate Schmidt (15:28, plus-2.7) and Brayden McNabb (15:03, plus-5.8) each had outstanding shot-based metrics.