The Vegas Golden Knights have various elements to address while building an expansion hockey team from scratch. Needs will take a front seat when it comes time to select a roster of unprotected players around the NHL, but there are other aspects to consider.
Should general manager George McPhee draft as many quality veterans as possible in hopes of making the playoffs within the next year or two? Or should he take young players with untapped upsides? What will contending teams be willing to give up in terms of draft picks or prospects to prevent the Golden Knights from selecting particular players?
The list of questions is seemingly endless. One facet that seems to fly under the radar a bit is Las Vegas’ need to find a proverbial face of the franchise. The player who’ll be on the cover of programs next October. The guy who’ll be tasked with going on local sports talk radio shows to chat up the Golden Knights. The person who first comes to mind when you think of hockey in Nevada come 2018.
It doesn’t have to be an All-Star stud like Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid, and frankly, those kinds of players won’t be available to Las Vegas right away. And while likability probably isn’t the highest-ranked intangible on McPhee’s list, the fact remains: the Golden Knights need to make an impact in their inaugural season, and landing the right marketable player would be a massive coup for the franchise.
In the end, it the job likely won’t fall to an individual, and certain players will evolve into fan favorites naturally. That takes time, though, and the Golden Knights will need someone to carry the torch while prospects evolve and roles take shape.
A few names stand out as potential faces, and the first that comes to mind is Cam Fowler, currently a member of the Anaheim Ducks.
The team is reportedly trying to keep the 25-year-old in the fold long term, and the Ducks would like to get an extension in place over the summer. If that doesn’t materialize, then he could be on the move. Odds seem good that Anaheim wouldn’t want to lose him for nothing, but if he’s available via trade, then perhaps McPhee could swing some sort of deal to bring him to Las Vegas.
It’s a bit of a longshot, but if the Golden Knights want to deliver a message to their early adopters, bringing in a former No. 12 pick and top-three defenseman would be a good way to do it.
Another team that could supply Las Vegas with an image boost is the Columbus Blue Jackets — ironic since this is an organization that knows what pushing the wrong face of the franchise can do to an expansion club.
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