A new year is just hours away, and a new NHL season is less than two weeks away. Here at The Collector, we're celebrating the history of every NHL team every day in January with the return of All-Time Teams.
If you followed the baseball edition, you've probably got an idea of how this works. If you're new to the blog (and/or not much of a hockey fan) here's a quick rundown:
- I've put together a roster of each franchise's best players by position. These rosters mimic an actual NHL team's roster - four forward lines of three, two spare forwards, three pairs of defensemen, one extra defenseman, and two goalies. A head coach and captain will be named as well.
- Each player can only represent one team, so don't expect to see Wayne Gretzky on the Oilers and the Kings. This makes roster construction a lot more challenging and fun.
- Players must have a minimum of four seasons with a particular team to qualify for that franchise's All-Time roster. This could get tricky with a league that had an influx of expansion teams not that long ago.
- When coming across a player that has an equal or near-equal amount of service time with multiple franchises, I will assign that player to the roster that needs him the most. My goal is to make the best possible rosters for each franchise - within the parameters, of course.
There are 31 days in January and 31 teams in the NHL, so this is a perfect fit. Except...
The 31st team is the Golden Knights, a franchise that has only existed for three seasons. It's impossible to create an All-Time roster of players with four years of service for Vegas. So what do we do?
At the end of January we'll make our own expansion team, out of players that didn't make the cut for the 30 established franchises. We'll call this "best of the rest" roster the Rovers - after a phased-out position in the early days of hockey.
As for Vegas.. we'll use their roster for a practice run. Presenting the All-Time greatest Golden Knights:
The Golden Knights are the most immediately successful expansion franchise of any in the four major sports. They reached the Stanley Cup final in their inaugural season, losing a five-game series to the Washington Capitals.
Left Wing - Max Pacioretty Connecticut native and Michigan alum is tied for fifth in franchise history with 106 points. He's the Knights' career leader in goals per game with a 0.39 average, and only three players have scored more total goals for Vegas.
Right Wing - Mark Stone A three-time finalist for the Selke trophy as the NHL's best defensive forward, Stone was acquired from Ottawa in 2019. Despite playing just 83 games for Vegas across two seasons, he's already cracked the team's top ten in goals and points. Stone and two teammates are assigned to other All-Time Teams - which is okay in their case since this is just a practice run 😉
Left Wing - Erik Haula Now a Nashville Predator, Haula had the best season of his career with the Golden Knights in 2017-18. The Finnish forward scored 29 of his 31 goals for Vegas that year, tying him with Shea Theodore for seventh in team history.
Center - Jonathan Marchessault The all-time leading scorer in Golden Knights history (by one point), Marchessault is also the franchise leader in assists and game-winning goals. Karlsson centers the top line based on his higher plus/minus rating and shooting percentage, but you can't go wrong with either player.
Right Wing - Reilly Smith Largely a salary dump by the Florida Panthers (who also offloaded Marchessault) Smith has been a consistent performer for Vegas on both ends of the ice. He shares the franchise lead in plus/minus rating with Karlsson and his 99 assists for the Knights are second in team annals.
Center - Paul Stastny The son of an All-Time great center, Paul Stastny posted three seasons of 70+ points for the Avalanche early in his career. His 80 total points for Vegas rank eighth in the team's short history, and he's also top ten in goals, assists, plus/minus, and game-winning goals.
Right Wing - Alex Tuch One of six players with 100+ points for Vegas, Alex Tuch is tied for second in Golden Knights history with 12 game-winning goals. His 43 total goals are fifth in Knights' annals.
Center - Cody Eakin Currently a Winnipeg Jet, Eakin ranks ninth in Golden Knights history with 78 total points and eighth with 199 games played. Only five Knights have lit the lamp for Las Vegas more than he has.
Right Wing - Ryan Reaves A fan favorite and valuable on-ice bodyguard, Reaves has the second-most penalty minutes in Golden Knights history. He set career highs in goals, assists, and points in 2018-19.
Nosek is tied for sixth among Golden Knights in games played - and 14th in points. Carpenter grabs the last forward spot over Oscar Lindberg based on a slight advantage in games played, assists, and points.
Defense Pair 1
Theodore ranks fourth in Knights history with 81 assists and 112 total points. He set career highs in assists, points, and plus/minus in 2019-20, earning him a sixth-place finish in Norris trophy voting. Schmidt ranks just behind him for fifth in team history with 76 assists and sits seventh on the team's all-time list with 97 points. He's posted a double-digit plus/minus rating in each of his five full NHL seasons.
Defense Pair 2
Brayden McNabb - Colin Miller
McNabb is the Golden Knights' all-time leader in games played and penalty minutes. Don't mistake him for an enforcer, however - his three-season total of 144 PIMs for Vegas is hardly intimidating. Miller is fifth among Knights with 97 PIMs and seventh in team annals with 57 assists in 147 games.
Defense Pair 3
Engelland played minor league hockey for the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL, and his local ties (and toughness) made him an instant fan favorite. Only five players have suited up for the Golden Knights more than Engelland's 202 games with the team. Merrill was a plus player in all three seasons with the Knights. He signed with the Red Wings in October.
Spare - Nick Holden
Holden is sixth among Vegas defensemen with 29 total points in 122 games. That's four more points in 18 fewer contests than Jon Merrill. However Merrill plays a more physical game, and his +32 rating is considerably higher than Holden's +4.
Backup - Malcolm Subban
The first player selected in the 2017 Expansion Draft, Fleury became the face of the franchise through tragedy and triumph. "Flower" leads the Golden Knights in every goaltending category and leads all Vegas players in Point Shares. The future Hall of Famer reached his fifth Stanley Cup final in 2018. Subban (brother of P.K.) is the only other netminder in franchise history with double-digit wins and more than 1,000 minutes played. The Knights shipped him to Chicago in a trade that brought Fleury's eventual replacement, Robin Lehner, to Las Vegas.
Head Coach: Gerard Gallant Captain: Mark Stone
Gallant led a first-year expansion team to a Stanley Cup final and posted a .601 winning percentage over the franchise's first three seasons. That didn't stop him from getting fired as Vegas faltered in 2020. The Knights have never had a captain, so I'm naming one for them. For the other 30 franchises, the player who wore the 'C' the longest will be the captain of their All-Time Team.
I hope you'll join us tomorrow for our first official All-Time Team, the Anaheim Ducks.
Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!