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Golden Knights will have talent to choose from, coach says

Gerard Gallant expects it to be better than in two-team 2000 expansion draft @NHLdotcom

Coach Gerard Gallant expects the expansion Vegas Golden Knights to have a more competitive team than the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild had in their first NHL seasons because they were alternating picks in the 2000 expansion draft.

Gallant was an assistant coach with the Blue Jackets during their first NHL season in 2000-01, when they finished 13th in the Western Conference and fifth in the Central Division with 71 points (28-39-9-6).

"I think we're going to get more of a chance to pick better-quality players, maybe a few more high-end players," he told SiriusXM NHL Radio on Friday, "and it will probably be a better team than the one we had in Columbus because there aren't two expansion teams making picks this time around."

Gallant, hired by Vegas on April 13, said he's looking forward to finding out the group of players he'll have. The NHL Expansion Draft selections will be announced at the 2017 NHL Awards at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on June 21.

Video: Gallant on being named coach of the Golden Knights

Vegas will select one player from each of the existing 30 NHL teams; the Golden Knights must select at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies. All forwards and defensemen exposed for the draft must be under contract for 2017-18. Goalies exposed for the draft can be under contract for 2017-18 or scheduled to become a restricted free agent on July 1.

Gallant, who was fired Nov. 27 by the Florida Panthers after they went 11-10-1 in their first 22 games, was asked if he will approach coaching an expansion team any differently than when he was with Florida. In 2014-15, Gallant's first season with the Panthers, they finished with 91 points, a 25-point improvement from the previous season. In 2015-16, the Panthers won the Atlantic Division with 47 wins and 103 points, the most in their history.

"You definitely have to look at what you have on your team," Gallant said. "If you're a big, heavy team you play a heavier game, so it depends on the type of personnel. I'll adjust with the players we have on our hockey club, but you also want to put your stamp on your team."

Gallant, 53, was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach after leading the Panthers to their first Stanley Cup Playoff berth in four seasons in 2015-16. They lost in six games to the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference First Round.

Gallant has some basic beliefs about how the Golden Knights must play.

"We have to outwork the other team," he said. "We have to have character players and good leadership. Everybody has to buy in if you're going to be a successful team. I think you can change your style with the type of players you have, but at the same time, I want my team to do these things as well. I've discussed with [general manager] George McPhee and [assistant GM] Kelly McCrimmon our philosophy, but it depends on the type of players we get.

"That said, there are two or three things, as a coach, that you want your team to do. On July 1, we'll know a lot more about our team."

Gallant said he feels the best sales pitch he can make to potential fans is having the Golden Knights work hard each night.

"It's about trying to build a strong hockey team," he said. "When you play well, work hard on the ice and are competitive, that's the way to sell tickets. You have to make sure you have an honest-working team. That's when people will come out and watch your hockey team every night."

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