American Airlines Center. Dallas, Texas. Oct. 6, 2017.
It doesn’t feel like an eternity ago, but a lot can happen in four years.
But that’s when the Vegas Golden Knights drove the brand new car off the showroom floor. And that new-car smell ran all the way to early June.
That 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars in the Golden Knights’ first official game was the kickstart to the greatest run by an expansion team in sports history. The alternative could’ve been a lot worse.
“I know It was just pretty scrambly,” said alternate captain Reilly Smith. “We were working out a lot of our systems. I don’t think everything was perfectly in place at that point. We came out with a strong effort and just hoped for the best.
“For our first year, we built our belief on that first game that we had. I remember after we beat Dallas I was just excited we didn’t go 0-82 that year.”
That, to a similar extent, is what the Seattle Kraken are thinking ahead of their first official game Tuesday night at T-Mobile Arena. The newest team in the league takes on the second-newest team in the league in a ... potential battle of playoff teams?
Here’s what you need to know.
Knowing the Kraken
Two expansion teams, two completely different rules of thumb in building a team.
The Golden Knights used the expansion draft as leverage. No, that doesn’t mean they were gifted a Cup finalist team out the gate. They stockpiled draft picks, they acquired plenty of young talent and were prepared for the long road ahead.
Throw in 43 goals later from William Karlsson and a revitalized Marc-Andre Fleury, and things can get weird.
The Kraken, surprisingly enough, did not take advantage of the illustrious side deal. All the potential that could’ve been — whether it be Vladimir Tarasenko or Max Domi — did not come to fruition.
Seattle did something that the Golden Knights didn’t (or more so couldn’t) do in their first offseason: The Kraken were big spenders in free agency.
Vezina Trophy finalist Philipp Grubauer left Colorado for a mega deal at six years and $5.9 million AAV. Jaden Schwartz left St. Louis for a five-year deal at $5.5 million annually to be a top-line option.
Seattle could have chosen to be aggressive in the expansion draft, but still rounded out a roster that can be competitive. Led by newly-announced captain Mark Giordano, the Kraken’s blue line is their strength with Jamie Oleksiak, Adam Larsson and Vince Dunn rounding out a solid top-four.
Up front, Jordan Eberle is the veteran goal scorer that may find a change of scenery helpful after seven seasons with the New York Islanders. The center depth is solid with Yanni Gourde, Jared McCann and Alexander Wennberg.
There’s not a ton of scoring on the wing, but there is potential with Morgan Geekie coming over from Carolina, and Alex Barre-Boulet after he was claimed on waivers Monday.
With the uncertainty of the Pacific Division beyond Vegas, there’s no reason to dismiss the Kraken as a playoff team in Year 1. Between the goaltending of Gruabuer and Chris Driedger, and the versatility in the skater group, Seattle could challenge for a top-three spot. Which given the state of this division may be the only way to qualify for the playoffs.
“The reports on them from the pro scouts that have watched them, they’ve been really impressed with them,” said head coach Pete DeBoer. “All the reports have been this is going to be a dangerous team.”
The Golden Knights’ bottom six could see some serious maneuverings Tuesday night.
Left wing Mattias Janmark entered COVID-19 protocol Monday and his status is up in the air. Seattle also saw five players — including Oleksiak, McCann and Calle Jarnkrok — enter COVID protocol, but reports out of Seattle indicate some could be available.
Top prospect Peyton Krebs skated in Janmark’s place on third-line left wing Monday with Nolan Patrick and Evgenii Dadonov, and he could be in line to play his first season opener with Vegas.
The fourth line will see the biggest shuffling. William Carrier entered concussion protocol after not just taking a skate to the face, but a boot to the head against Colorado last week. Projected 4C Nicolas Roy is on injured reserve, per the NHL Media Site, as is trade acquisition Brett Howden.
Rookie forwards Pavel Dorofeyev and Jack Dugan were listed on the team’s roster at the time of the 2 p.m. deadline, but don’t expect them to be in the lineup. Likely callups would be Gage Quinney and Sven Baertschi.
Henderson captain Patrick Brown was claimed off waivers by the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday.
The defense and top six will at least be intact. Jonathan Marchessault did not practice Monday but is expected to play, DeBoer said. Defenseman Zach Whitecloud, who left Saturday’s game at San Jose with an injury, is also expected to play. Fellow defenseman Shea Theodore was a full participant and is expected to be a go.
Some more thoughts
I’m excited to see the Kraken for the first time, but dreading the wait until late March to see them in Seattle. I have no doubt that former entertainment honcho Jonny Greco will put on a show for Kraken fans at Climate Pledge Arena.
It’s also exciting to enter the fifth season covering this team, and I hope you all continue to join us on the ride of hockey in the desert. The last two seasons have been rough for so many of us. We hope this is a continuation of getting back to normal.
Also, enjoy the game on ESPN tonight. Looking forward to seeing how the presentation aspect looks.
Golden Knights projected lineup
Mark Stone — Chandler Stephenson — Max Pacioretty
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Peyton Krebs — Nolan Patrick — Evgenii Dadonov
Sven Baertschi — Gage Quinney — Keegan Kolesar
Alec Martinez — Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb — Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague — Zach Whitecloud
Where to watch
Time: 7 p.m. PT
TV: ESPN, ESPN+
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9
Opponent’s blog: Davy Jones’ Locker Room