It’s 75° and sunny outside — perfect weather for Vegas hockey! Your hometown Vegas Golden Knights, the city’s first-ever big league team, is gearing up to take the ice for their inaugural National Hockey League season. They’ve got slick uniforms, a roster, a head coach, and a city full of fans. They may have a 200-to-1 chance of winning the Stanley Cup, but who doesn’t love going up against the odds? After all, this is Las Vegas.
(Need a quick refresher on the finer points of hockey? We’ve got you covered.)
Know Your Rivals
The Knights will play their first game on Oct. 6 in Dallas against the Stars, and then open their season at home four nights later against the Arizona Coyotes. They’ll play in the NHL’s Pacific Division, home to rivals like the Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks. While they’ll likely struggle to compete against the league’s top teams, expect the Knights to give division rivals the Vancouver Canucks and Colorado Avalanche – the NHL’s two weakest teams last season – some trouble.
The Knights will play 41 home games at the Strip’s 17,500-seat T-Mobile Arena, located at the intersection of South Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue, behind the New York New York Hotel & Casino. Weekday games face off in the evening, but there are plenty of weekend matinees on the schedule to accommodate Las Vegans who work nights.
Meet Your Team
Great offense is hard to come by in the modern NHL, even for established teams. For expansion clubs, goals can be as rare as full pockets on the Strip at 3 a.m. The last nine NHL expansion teams finished at or near the bottom of the goals-for column in their debut seasons. With few proven scorers up for grabs in the expansion draft, the Knights may struggle to light the lamp this season.
Neal is the Knights’ most established scoring threat. The 30-year-old winger has a great shot, and he uses his size and strength well in the corners and in front of the opposition’s net. When healthy, he’s never scored fewer than 21 goals in his 10-year career, and he notched 23 for the Stanley Cup runner-up Nashville Predators last year.
A classic late-bloomer, 26-year-old Marchessault is poised to prove that his 30-goal 2016-17 season was no fluke. The diminutive right winger uses flashy stickhandling to maneuver around larger opponents and gets pucks to the net quickly. Playing on Vegas’s top line may give him just the opportunity he needs to establish himself as a bona fide star.
The X factor up front for the Knights is center Vadim Shipachyov. A star in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, Shipachyov will make his NHL debut this year, and scouts are unsure how he’ll adapt to the smaller rinks and tighter checking of the North American game. Expect to see him open the season centering the Knights’ top line. Whether he stays there will be one of the season’s more compelling storylines.
(NHL forward lines often have clever nicknames, like Detroit’s “Production Line” and the Kings’ “Triple Crown Line.” Neal (#18), Marchessault (#81), and Shipachyov (#87) are likely to begin the season as the Knight’s top scoring line, and “Aces & Eights” has a nice ring to it, if you ask us.)
In the NHL, defensemen usually come in two flavors: smooth-skating playmakers who efficiently pass the puck up the ice to the forwards and physical players who keep opponents away from their net. The Knights have plenty of the latter, but only one of the former.
Who to watch: Shea Theodore
Selected from the Anaheim Ducks, the 22-year-old Theodore skates well and is a good passer and shooter. His “transition game” (taking the puck in the defensive end and moving it up ice to create scoring chances) is solid, but despite standing 6’2”, he’s not especially physical. Look for him to log plenty of minutes on the power play, when the Knights have an extra man.
A three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Marc-Andre Fleury is arguably the Knights’ most valuable player and already the most popular. “He’s amazing,” Knights teammate Deryk Engelland, who played with Fleury for five years in Pittsburgh, told The Hockey News. “Top-notch in every aspect. A great teammate… And in the community, he’s great, around the rink and everything. Nothing bad I could ever say about that guy.”
Fleury, whose nickname is “Flower” from the French word fleur, will be counted on to shoulder the load in net and keep his teammates upbeat during the grind of the regular season. Expect him to play a crucial role for the Knights this season, both on and off the ice.
Are You Ready?
At Sky, we’re thrilled that NHL hockey is joining the excitement of the Las Vegas Strip. We are an upscale condo community on the Strip’s northern end, and we as enthusiastic as the rest of Las Vegas to welcome the Golden Knights.