If you glance at Vegas’ crop of players in the 2017 Expansion Draft, and then back at their current Championship-caliber roster, you may wonder: How did we get here?
Vegas built a roster immediately ready to contend largely because of crafty side deals, but there were still some noteworthy selections purely from the Expansion Draft.
Although only five players actually selected in the draft remain with Vegas today, 15 players on the Golden Knights’ roster can be tracked back to Expansion Draft deals.
Here’s a look at where all these players are today:
Anaheim Ducks — Clayton Stoner, D
Stoner’s selection was contingent on the Ducks dealing promising prospect Shea Theodore to Vegas, presumingly so Vegas wouldn’t take defensemen Sami Vatanen or Josh Manson.
Stoner, a former Tri-City Americans star, never played that season — or again for that matter. Vegas absorbed the final year of his $3.25 million contract and the Golden Knights gained a player that could feasibly win a Norris Trophy in Theodore.
Despite never suiting up for Vegas, Stoner joined the Vegas Jr. Golden Knights coaching staff after he retired in 2019 and is currently an associate coach for the South Island Royals under-18 AAA team, based out of Victoria, British Columbia.
Arizona Coyotes — Teemu Pulkkinen, LW
Pulkkinen never played for Vegas after the Golden Knights selected him in the Expansion Draft, even though he put up 65 points for the AHL’s Chicago Wolves in 2017-18. Pulkkinen left North America after that season and is currently playing for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the KHL, Russia’s top league.
Boston Bruins — Colin Miller, D
Miller was a key contributor for Vegas in its first two seasons before being traded to Buffalo before the 2019-20 season for a second-round pick in 2021 and a fifth-round pick in 2022. Miller is still with the Sabres and remains a potent offensive threat, but his ice time has dipped a bit since moving on from Vegas.
Buffalo Sabres — William Carrier, LW
The Sabres slid over a sixth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft to ensure the Golden Knights selected Carrier instead of someone like goaltender Linus Ullmark. Carrier remains a solid depth piece for the Golden Knights.
With that sixth-round pick, Vegas selected Jiri Patera, who starred for the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings and was signed to an entry-level contract. He’s listed on the Henderson Silver Knights’ roster, the Golden Knights’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate.
Calgary Flames — Deryk Engelland, D
Engelland, who was beloved during his time with the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL in the early 2000s, was a feel-good story and a valuable contributor for the Golden Knights until his retirement following the 2019-20 season. Engelland is sticking around in Nevada and working for the Vegas Golden Knights Foundation as the special assistant to the owner.
Carolina Hurricanes — Connor Brickley, C
The Hurricanes, under the leadership of future Seattle Kraken general manager Ron Francis, dangled a fifth-round pick out to Vegas on the condition the Golden Knights took pending free agent Connor Brickley, who signed with Florida that offseason.
After a season with the Panthers organization and another with the Rangers, Brickley played last season with EC Salzburg in the Austrian Hockey League, where he put up 26 points in 33 games. He isn’t listed on any rosters for this season.
The Golden Knights selected Jack Dugan, a former Providence College star, with the fifth-round pick acquired. Dugan is currently with the Henderson Silver Knights and is Vegas’ third-ranked prospect, according to The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler.
Chicago Blackhawks — Trevor van Riemsdyk, D
The Golden Knights selected van Riemsdyk and immediately flipped him, along with a seventh-round pick in 2018, to Carolina for a second-round pick in 2017.
Van Riemsdyk signed with Washington in the offseason after three so-so seasons in Carolina and has been in and out of the lineup for the Capitals this season.
The Golden Knights used that second-rounder on Jake Leschyshyn, who played in the WHL for Regina and Lethbridge and is currently playing for the Henderson Silver Knights, but appears to have lost some prospect shine since being taken No. 62 overall.
Colorado Avalanche — Calvin Pickard, G
This selection seems pretty unassuming on the surface, but it has some interesting ramifications.
Pickard, a former Seattle Thunderbirds netminder, never played a regular-season game with the Golden Knights, as he was traded to Toronto for a sixth-round pick and prospect Tobias Lindberg.
Pickard, 28, remains an NHL journeyman. The Winnipeg, Manitoba, native is on his fourth different franchise since being traded from Vegas. He is currently in the Detroit Red Wings organization.
Lindberg has bounced around the league, too.
The Golden Knights traded him to Pittsburgh for forward Ryan Reaves and a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, then the Penguins moved him to Ottawa, the team that initially drafted him, and the Senators eventually dealt him back to Vegas in the Mark Stone blockbuster.
Lindberg is currently playing in Sweden, and Stone and Reaves are still integral parts of Vegas’ current roster.
The 2018 sixth-round pick acquired in the Pickard deal was used on Peter Diliberatore, who has 14 points in 22 games for Quinnipiac University this season.
The 2018 fourth-round pick in the Reaves deal was spent on defenseman Slava Demin, who played with the BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild in 2016-17 and is currently playing for the University of Denver.
Columbus Blue Jackets — William Karlsson, C
There’s a ton to unpack here.
Karlsson was one of the most noteworthy selections in the Expansion Draft, not just because of how influential he was in Vegas’ debut season, but for how much Columbus gave up to make sure he was drafted.
The Blue Jackets traded their first-round pick in 2017, a second-round pick in 2019, and veteran forward David Clarkson (and the rest of his $5.25 million AAV contract that ran through 2019-20) so that Vegas would select Karlsson.
Salary cap relief, along with ensuring forward Josh Anderson and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo weren’t taken, was the main directive for Columbus. But Karlsson blossoming into a top-line center that finished third in the NHL with 43 goals in his first season with Vegas is still a tough pill to swallow for the Blue Jackets.
Karlsson remains a top-line center while Clarkson never played in an NHL game — he was eventually traded to Toronto along with a fourth-round pick in 2019 for goalie Garret Sparks.
That first-round pick acquired by Vegas was flipped to Winnipeg for the No. 13 overall pick in the draft. Vegas selected Nick Suzuki, who is one of the best young players in hockey, and sent him to Montreal, along with the second-round pick from Columbus, in the trade that sent Max Pacioretty to Sin City.
Dallas Stars — Cody Eakin, C
The veteran pivot played two-and-a-half seasons with the Golden Knights until Vegas shipped him to Winnipeg for a conditional fourth-round pick in 2021. Eakin signed with Buffalo this past offseason and has been a middle-six contributor in the Sabres lineup.
Detroit Red Wings — Tomas Nosek, LW
The 28-year-old remains with Vegas as a depth piece and is a key penalty killer. Nosek is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Florida Panthers — Jonathan Marchessault, LW
In one of the most puzzling situations in the Expansion Draft, Florida not only let Vegas select Marchessault, but traded away winger Reilly Smith for a fourth-round pick in 2018.
Marchessault remains a dynamic contributor high in Vegas’ lineup and inked a six-year, $30 million contract with Vegas. The 30-year-old won’t be a free agent until 2024.
Smith, 29, is also an important offensive producer for the Golden Knights. Perhaps Florida was eager to dump Smith’s $25 million contract after an underwhelming campaign in 2016-17. But considering Florida coerced Vegas to take Smith and Marchessault to avoid the likes of Mark Pysyk, Alex Petrovic, and Jason Demers from being taken, it’s easy to wonder what former Florida general manager Dale Tallon was thinking there.
Also, Florida fired Gerard Gallant, who immediately took Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final in Vegas’ first season.
As the internet would say, that’s a big ole yikes.
But all was not lost for the Panthers. That fourth-round pick helped the Panthers trade for Mike Hoffman, who the Panthers let walk this offseason as an unrestricted free agent.
At least you have that, Florida Panthers fans.
Edmonton Oilers — Griffin Reinhart, D
Reinhart was the No. 4 overall pick to the New York Islanders in 2012 but never turned into an NHL regular. Vegas gambled on his pedigree, but after two seasons in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves, he signed with the Kunlun Red Star of the KHL last season and is currently with the Iserlohn Roosters in Germany.
Los Angeles Kings — Brayden McNabb, D
McNabb remains with the Golden Knights after Vegas signed the defenseman to a four-year $10 million extension early in his first year with the franchise. The 30-year-old rearguard is currently on long-term IR with a lower-body injury, but remains a key contributor to Vegas’ defensive core when healthy.
Minnesota Wild — Erik Haula, C
The Wild traded young forward Alex Tuch in exchange for a conditional third-round pick and Vegas’ selection of Haula in the Expansion Draft, presumably so the Golden Knights wouldn’t nab someone like defensemen Matt Dumba and Marco Scandella or forward Eric Staal.
Haula played a top-six role in Vegas’ debut season, but a knee injury derailed his sophomore season with the Golden Knights. Vegas eventually traded Haula to Carolina for Nicolas Roy and a conditional fifth-round pick, and the Hurricanes later flipped the Finnish forward to the Florida Panthers in the deal that sent Vincent Trocheck back to Carolina.
Haula is now with the Predators on a one-year deal, playing in a top-six role.
Tuch, 24, is still with Vegas and playing a significant role.
With that conditional third-round pick, the Wild selected former Everett Silvertips star Connor Dewar, who is playing for the Wild’s AHL team in Iowa.
Montreal Canadiens — Alexei Emelin, D
After selecting Emelin, the Golden Knights immediately flipped him to Nashville for a third-round pick in 2018. The Russian defenseman played one season in Nashville before bolting to his home country to play for Omsk Avangard of the KHL, where he still plays.
That third-round pick Vegas acquired was used on defenseman Layton Ahac, who is currently playing for Ohio State University.
Nashville Predators — James Neal, LW
Neal played one season in Vegas and was a top-six player for the Golden Knights’ Cup run before signing with the Calgary Flames the ensuing offseason. The 33-year-old winger was eventually flipped to Edmonton for Milan Lucic, but he was placed on waivers on Feb. 13 and it appears his tenure with the Oilers may be over.
New Jersey Devils — Jon Merrill, D
Merrill was a depth defenseman for Vegas for three seasons before signing with Detroit this past offseason. The 29-year-old blueliner has two points in 10 games for the Red Wings this season.
New York Islanders — Jean-Francois Berube, G
Berube never played for the Golden Knights — he signed with Chicago as soon as free agency began after the Expansion Draft — but the Islanders offered a king’s ransom (a first-round pick in 2017, a second-round pick in 2019, veteran Mikhail Grabovski, and prospect Jake Bischoff) so Vegas would take the pending free agent and New York wouldn’t lose someone like Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Thomas Hickey, or Calvin de Haan.
Berube played one season for Chicago and has bounced around the AHL ever since.
Grabovski, now 36, never played after the 2015-16 season and officially retired in 2019. Bischoff remains a part of the Vegas organization and is playing for Henderson.
As for the draft picks, Vegas nabbed defenseman Erik Brannstrom with the No. 15 overall pick, who was the crown jewel prospect in the trade that brought two-way dynamo Mark Stone to Vegas.
The second-round pick was flipped to Detroit in the package for Tomas Tatar.
New York Rangers — Oscar Lindberg, C
Lindberg played one-and-a-half seasons for Vegas in a bottom-six role before being flipped to Ottawa in the Stone trade. The Swedish forward is currently playing for Moscow Dynamo in the KHL.
Ottawa Senators — Marc Methot, D
Methot was immediately traded to Dallas for goalie prospect Dylan Ferguson and a second-round pick in 2020. After undergoing knee surgery in the 2019-2020 season, Methot appears to have retired.
Ferguson is currently playing in the AHL with the Henderson Silver Knights.
The second-round pick acquired by Dallas was included in the Mark Stone trade.
Philadelphia Flyers — Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, RW
Bellemare played two seasons for the Golden Knights in a third-line role, and the 35-year-old is currently playing in a similar spot with Colorado after signing a two-year, $3.6 million deal before the 2019-20 season.
Pittsburgh Penguins — Marc-Andre Fleury, G
With Matt Murray seizing the reins of Pittsburgh’s crease — oh, how times have changed — the Penguins slid over a second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for Vegas selecting Fleury and alleviating Pittsburgh’s goalie logjam. It also cleared $5 million in cap space for Pittsburgh.
“Flower,” as Fleury is colloquially known, is still in Vegas after leading the Golden Knights to the Cup Final in 2017-18, and remains one of the most beloved athletes in the market, if not the entire NHL.
Sure, Robin Lehner claimed the bulk of starts last year, but with Lehner sidelined with an injury, Fleury, now 36, has played at an extremely high level this season. He is on the second year of a three-year, $21 million contract extension with Vegas.
Almost ironically, the second-round pick Vegas acquired to select Fleury was dealt to Chicago for Lehner during last year’s trade deadline.
San Jose Sharks — David Schlemko, D
Schlemko was flipped to Montreal immediately after the Expansion Draft for a fifth-round pick in 2019. After two seasons bouncing between the NHL and AHL, Schlemko hasn’t played since the 2018-2019 season.
That fifth-round pick was used on Marcus Kallionkieli, who is with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings. Brandon was previously owned by Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon, who remains the Wheat Kings’ alternate governor. Kallionkieli is a long shot to play this season in Brandon due to travel restrictions coming into Canada.
St. Louis Blues — David Perron, LW
Perron put up 66 points for Vegas in 2017-18 before returning to St. Louis as a free agent the following season. The 32-year-old is still playing a key role for the 2019 Stanley Cup Champions and is on the third year of a four-year, $16 million deal.
Tampa Bay Lightning — Jason Garrison, D
The Golden Knights picked up two draft picks — a second-rounder in 2017 and a fourth-rounder in 2018 — and promising prospect Nikita Gusev on the contingency that Vegas selected veteran defenseman Jason Garrison and took the remaining $4.6 million of his contract off Tampa’s books.
Garrison played eight games for Vegas in 2017-18, but mostly was stuck in the AHL for Chicago. He moved on to Edmonton in 2018-19 before jumping to Djurgardens IF of the Swedish Hockey League. He isn’t listed on a roster.
Gusev never played for Vegas, despite putting up huge numbers in the KHL. The Golden Knights traded Gusev to New Jersey when he was a restricted free agent, mostly due to salary complications, for a third-round pick in 2020 and a second-round pick in 2021. Gusev is playing in a key offensive role for New Jersey.
Vegas picked up former Seattle Thunderbird great Keegan Kolesar by trading the second-rounder acquired from the Lightning to Columbus. The Blue Jackets selected French forward Alexandre Texier with the pick, who is playing big minutes for the Blue Jackets. Kolesar has cracked Vegas’ lineup and has played in 10 games for the Golden Knights this season.
Vegas selected Paul Cotter with the 2018 fourth-round pick in the Garrison trade. Cotter has a point in four games with the Henderson Silver Knights this season.
The Golden Knights nabbed defenseman Lukas Cormier from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the third-round pick acquired in the Gusev deal.
Toronto Maple Leafs — Brendan Leipsic, LW
Leipsic, a former Portland Winterhawks star, played 44 games for Vegas in its inaugural season before being dealt to Vancouver for Philip Holm — who is currently playing in the KHL.
Leipsic is playing for CSKA Moscow after a social media controversy uncovering misogynistic direct messages prompted his release from the Washington Capitals last year.
Washington Capitals — Nate Schmidt, D
Schmidt struggled to make a huge impact with the Capitals, but developed into a bona fide top-pairing defenseman and a fan favorite with the Golden Knights.
Schmidt was traded to Vancouver this past offseason for a third-round pick in 2022. The 29-year-old rearguard is still playing a significant role for the Canucks.
Winnipeg Jets — Chris Thorburn, RW
In order to prevent Vegas from selecting Marko Dano or Tobias Enstrom — neither of whom are playing in the NHL now — the Jets flopped first-round picks, trading down from No. 13 to No. 24, acquired by Vegas from Columbus, in addition to a third-round pick in 2019 so Vegas would select Thorburn, a pending free agent.
Thorburn signed with the Blues in the free agency period. The veteran forward played just one game for the Stanley Cup Champion Blues in 2018-19, but still was a part of St. Louis’ Stanley Cup run. He retired soon after.
The third-round pick was flipped to several teams and eventually landed with New Jersey, who selected defenseman Michael Vukojevic from the Ontario Hockey League.
Vancouver Canucks: Luca Sbisa, D
The veteran defenseman played in 30 regular-season games and 14 playoff games in the Golden Knights’ inaugural season before signing as an unrestricted free agent with the Islanders the following offseason. Sbisa remains in the NHL with Nashville after the Predators claimed him off waivers in January.
Reliving Vegas’ Expansion Draft triumphs really makes you wonder: What kind of magic, especially with a flat salary cap, can Seattle GM Ron Francis pull off this summer?
Josh Horton is a freelance writer, former newspaper journalist, and former Western Hockey League writer for the Everett Herald and The Spokesman-Review (Spokane). He is NOT a juggler, nor is he a former professional baseball player. Follow him on Twitter @byjoshhorton.