One of my preseason rituals every year is grabbing a copy of EA Sports’ NHL the day it comes out and tooling around with the new features and getting bent out of shape about perceived slights to my favorite players by way of their rating. This year, though, there was extra motivation to play the game—the Vegas Golden Knights were making their EA Sports debut.
While these games are not out-and-out simulations — I leave that to the Franchise Hockey Manager series — they are a good ol’ time and are not awful proxies for how a season will turn out. So, I simulated the 2017-18 season 10 separate times to get a sense of how the Golden Knights would fare. I turned off all injuries as well as trades league-wide so as to best zero in on the true value of all 31 teams.
The following are the 20 men I have slated Vegas to suit up night-in, night-out for the 2017-18 season:
Jonathan Marchessault - Vadim Shipachyov - Reilly Smith
David Perron - Cody Eakin - James Neal
Erik Haula - William Karlsson - Alex Tuch
Brendan Leipsic - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Oscar Lindberg
Jason Garrison - Shea Theodore
Brayden McNabb - Deryk Engelland
Nate Schmidt - Colin Miller
Marc-Andre Fleury / Malcolm Subban
So how did it all go? Well, a lot better than expected. In none of the 10 simulations was Vegas the NHL’s worst team and they even snuck into the playoffs on one occasion. The Golden Knights averaged 82 points per season and the median was quite close, coming in at 82.5. On average they finished 23rd in the league with a median of 25th, roughly ending up between 6th and 7th in the Pacific Division.
In their lone playoff showing, the Knights lost 4-to-1 to the Minnesota Wild. Marchessault led the way with seven points.
The best offensive seasons had Shipachyov racking up 70 points and James Neal with 69 points. Each of them led the team outright in four seasons apiece, they tied in another, and Karlsson of all players was the leader in the other simulation. Strangely enough, Tuch took home a Calder Trophy after a 41-point season, while Leipsic finished top-five in rookie points in seven of 10 simulations.
Between the pipes, Fleury outperformed Subban in save percentage and goals against average in eight of 10 seasons, and posted anywhere between a .910 and .922 SV% and between a 2.40 and 2.73 GAA.
- Garrison had more goals than assists in all 10 simulations (he has yet to do this in his nine-year NHL career).
- Vegas’ minimum points in a simulation was 69, and their highest was 93. Oddly enough, the latter season did not see them make the playoffs.
- They finished 7th in the Pacific Division four times and 27th overall three times.
- Around the league, the Pittsburgh Penguins were most successful, winning four of a possible 10 Stanley Cups.
- Most common Hart Trophy winner was Steven Stamkos with two wins. Others: Brent Burns, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, Mats Zuccarello(!), Jamie Benn, Connor McDavid and Mark Scheifele.
- Engelland was the only player to crack 100 penalty minutes in a season. By comparison, Shipachyov and Marchessault each had seasons with just two penalty minutes each.
While this was a fun exercise, keep in mind that the Knights figure to move some significant players at the deadline and as such are unlikely to end up with a point total outside the league’s bottom three or four—there is a reason their over/under is at 68.5 points, lower than any of the sim results.
What experiences have you had playing with the Golden Knights in NHL 18? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section!