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Fantasy: Golden Knights roster after NHL Expansion Draft

Jonathan Marchessault, Shea Theodore could see prominent roles if they remain with Vegas

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Senior Fantasy Editor

The Vegas Golden Knights officially have a roster, meaning we can finally begin to incorporate their NHL Expansion Draft selections and other players into the fantasy landscape.

There likely are still plenty of trades and free-agent signings ahead for the Golden Knights, especially involving their surplus of defensemen. They will also have the No. 6 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft on Friday.

But for now, let's identify Vegas' most fantasy-relevant players. Four players they selected were among NHL.com's latest top 250 rankings, and their biggest free-agent signing to date joins them in that company.

 

[ FANTASY COVERAGE: Panarin-Saad trade | Stepan-Raanta trade | Eberle-Strome trade ]

 

James Neal, RW
NHL.com rank: 120; Yahoo rank: 169

Neal had a down season by his standards, playing mostly on the Nashville Predators' second line, separated from center Ryan Johansen. That said, Neal still scored 23 goals on 202 shots on goal (11.4 percent shooting) and had 13 power-play points. With him being the most prolific goal scorer on Vegas' roster, expect him to see top-line action and more than three minutes per game on the first power-play unit if he remains with the Golden Knights. The 29-year-old has provided elite category coverage in the past in leagues that count penalty minutes, including a top-20 finish in 2015-16 with Nashville and a 40-goal, 41-assist season in 2011-12 alongside Evgeni Malkin with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Neal's lack of a clear No. 1 center in Vegas should keep him outside the top 100 overall, but grab him shortly after that range because of his clear 30-goal potential.

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm1: Neal nets Subban's feed for OT win

 

Marc-Andre Fleury, G
NHL.com rank: 154; Yahoo rank: 379

Fleury underachieved based on his strong regular-season track record, but rediscovered his game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, going 9-6 with a .924 save percentage and two shutouts. He was 6-1 in games when facing at least 35 shots before being replaced by starter Matt Murray in the Eastern Conference Final. He goes from a time-share situation at best in Pittsburgh to being the full-time starter for Vegas, who had a chance to draft multiple strong goalies but chose to go all-in with Fleury. The 32-year-old should play 60-65 games for the first time since 2014-15 and will have a chance to win at least 30 games for the ninth time of his NHL career. The defense will be surprisingly deep in front of him, so he has bounce-back appeal if taken after the first 12 rounds of a standard draft.

 

Vadim Shipachyov, C
NHL.com rank: 180; Yahoo rank: N/A

Shipachyov, who finished third in the Kontinental Hockey League in scoring with 76 points (26 goals, 50 assists), is the leading candidate to be Vegas' No. 1 center after signing a two-year contract May 4. The Golden Knights have decent depth at the position, but players like Cody Eakin, William Karlsson and Erik Haula would not suffice in a top-line, first power-play spot. Shipachyov, 30, is a fantasy wild card who has 50-point potential but, unlike Alexander Radulov and another potential KHL product Ilya Kovalchuk, has never played in the NHL before. Considering Shipachyov could be centering Neal and playing 18 or 19 minutes per game, he's a viable sleeper pick beginning in the 13th round of a 12-team draft.

 

Shea Theodore, D
NHL.com rank: 216; Yahoo rank: N/A

At the moment, Theodore is the best defenseman option the Golden Knights have to run their first power-play unit. He has limited NHL regular-season experience (53 games over two seasons), but has scored 17 points (five PPP). He is coming off a postseason breakout in an expanded role; he had five points (two goals, three assists) in the Western Conference First Round against the Calgary Flames in the injury absence of Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler. Theodore finished the playoffs with eight points (two goals, six assists), two PPP and 24 SOG in 14 games. He goes from a group jam-packed with Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen and Josh Manson to being the highest-upside fantasy defenseman on the Golden Knights.

 

Jonathan Marchessault, C/LW
NHL.com rank: 227; Yahoo rank: 145

Marchessault was one of the breakout players of the fantasy season, scoring 30 goals, 51 points and 18 PPP after going undrafted in most leagues. He was on pace for more than 200 SOG (193 in 75 games) if he played a full season and played under Vegas coach Gerard Gallant with the Florida Panthers prior to Gallant being fired Nov. 27. Marchessault had 17 points (10 goals, seven assists) and 59 SOG in 22 games played under Gallant. Now, he can take on a full-time top-six and first power-play role going from a roster packed with viable forwards (Aleksander Barkov , Vincent Trocheck, Jonathan Huberdeau, Jaromir Jagr) to one that will lean heavily on his ability to play center and wing. Marchessault's high shooting percentage (15.5) could be bound for a dip, but he is still a very real threat for an encore of 25 goals and 15-20 power-play points.

Video: MTL@FLA: Marchessault stays patient to pot 30th goal

Other players with fantasy sleeper potential: David Perron (LW/RW), Reilly Smith (RW), William Karlsson (C), Calvin Pickard (G), Alex Tuch (RW), Nate Schmidt (D), William Carrier (LW)

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