LAS VEGAS — Almost a year to the day after the N.H.L.’s Board of Governors granted Las Vegas its first major professional sports franchise, the city finally has some players on which to pin its hockey hopes.
The Vegas Golden Knights selected 30 players in the expansion draft on Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena.
The Golden Knights’ initial roster was headlined by Marc-Andre Fleury, a former franchise goaltender of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He will now be the face of a new franchise when the 2017-18 season begins in October.
A three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Penguins, Fleury will be the centerpiece of a team that will not have much time to find continuity before its first game on Oct. 6 at the Dallas Stars. The Golden Knights will then play their home opener on Oct. 10 against the Arizona Coyotes.
“I’m very grateful for this opportunity to be in Vegas with a new team, a new organization,” said Fleury, who was greeted on stage at T-Mobile Arena by a standing ovation 14 years to the day after he was drafted No. 1 by Pittsburgh in the entry draft. “Just the crowd tonight and the way the team is looking, I like it. I’ve been fortunate to play on good teams, great organization and had a lot of great teammates that taught me.”
Fleury, 32, waived his no-trade clause so the Penguins could protect 23-year-old Matt Murray, who had replaced him as Pittsburgh’s starter.
The Golden Knights chose one player from each of the 30 other N.H.L. teams and were required to select at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders.
With each N.H.L. team allowed to protect only one goalie, the Golden Knights had a deep group of netminders from which to choose. They also selected Calvin Pickard of the Colorado Avalanche and Jean-Francois Berube of the Islanders.
The night’s unveiling included some trades, most notably a deal with the Florida Panthers that brought wing Reilly Smith in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick. Smith joins his Panthers teammate Jonathan Marchessault, who was selected in the expansion draft after having a breakout 30-goal season. Vegas also acquired one young Anaheim defenseman, Shea Theodore, in a trade in which they agreed to select the veteran defenders Clayton Stoner in the expansion draft instead of the younger and more coveted Sami Vatanen.
With a number of trades expected to be announced Thursday morning, Vegas General Manager George McPhee was busy accumulating draft picks, too. By the end of Wednesday’s ceremony, the Golden Knights owned three of the top 15 picks in the entry draft, which begins Friday in Chicago.
McPhee orchestrated several side deals with teams who were seeking to steer the Golden Knights to specific players in the expansion draft. The Islanders left several young forwards unprotected but sent forward Mikhail Grabovski, defenseman Jake Bischoff, a first-round pick in 2017 and second-round pick in 2019 to Vegas, who then selected Berube.
Marchessault and Smith will be expected to shoulder much of the offensive load for Vegas along with wing James Neal, a nine-time 20-goal scorer formerly of the Nashville Predators. The former first-round pick David Perron will also be looked to for scoring after collecting 18 goals last season with the St. Louis Blues.
But the Golden Knights appeared to especially covet defensemen, selecting a number of veteran and up-and-coming players, including Brayden McNabb of the Kings, Marc Methot of the Senators, Alexei Emelin of the Canadiens, Trevor van Riemsdyk of the Blackhawks and Nate Schmidt of the Capitals.
Vegas may have hoarded defensemen in the hopes of making more trades in the future, but it was clear McPhee wanted to build around defensive depth.
“I think we’re going to be competitive,” said McNabb, who spent the previous three seasons in Los Angeles. “There’s a lot of good players we selected. Some young guys too and great goaltending. It starts there.”
There was an air of excitement among the Golden Knights players in attendance, most of whom had found out about their place in N.H.L. history just a day earlier. But perhaps no one was more thrilled to be a member of the league’s newest team than defenseman Deryk Engelland, formerly of the Calgary Flames.
A native of Alberta, Engelland made Las Vegas his off-season home after meeting his wife here while playing with the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL. He will now get an opportunity to play in his adopted hometown.
“A lot of excitement to play here at home,” Engelland said. “My roots are here, and it’s kind of been in the back of your mind since they announced the team. I started here as a Wrangler. Back then, I wouldn’t have thought they would have got an N.H.L. team. To be here and put the jersey on and be part of this organization is a great honor.”
Here is the complete list of players selected by the Golden Knights in the expansion draft:
Calvin Pickard, Colorado Avalanche
J.F. Berube, Islanders
Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
Teemu Pulkkinen, Arizona Coyotes
William Carrier, Buffalo Sabres
Cody Eakin, Dallas Stars
Tomas Nosek, Detroit Red Wings
Jonathan Machessault, Florida Panthers
Connor Brickley, Carolina Hurricanes
Chris Thorburn, Winnipeg Jets
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Philadelphia Flyers
James Neal, Nashville Predators
Brendan Leipsic, Toronto Maple Leafs
David Perron, St. Louis Blues
Oscar Lindberg, Rangers
Erik Haula, Minnesota Wild
William Karlsson, Columbus Blue Jackets
Luca Sbisa, Vancouver Canucks
Jon Merrill, Devils
Brayden McNabb, Los Angeles Kings
Jason Garrison, Tampa Bay Lightning
Deryk Engelland, Calgary Flames
Colin Miller, Boston Bruins
Marc Methot, Ottawa Senators
David Schlemko, San Jose Sharks
Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton Oilers
Alexei Emelin, Montreal Canadiens
Clayton Stoner, Anaheim Ducks
Trevor van Riemsdyk, Chicago Blackhawks
Nate Schmidt, Washington Capitals