Veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was the biggest name selected in the NHL Expansion Draft for the newly founded Vegas Golden Knights franchise. The draft results were announced during the 2017 NHL Awards ceremony on Wednesday night, on the 14th anniversary of the Pittsburgh Penguins selecting Fleury with the first overall pick of the draft. After a huge applause accompanied the announcement of Fleury’s arrival to Las Vegas, he commented, “I didn’t know that was coming. I was a little surprised by that. That was a warm welcome, and I’m getting excited about it.” As for him being the highest profile player on the new team, he says, “I’m not looking to be the face of much. I’m just trying to come and play hockey.”
Fleury was the goaltender for the Penguins who have won the last two Stanley Cup championships, and Penguins star Sidney Crosby gave a high recommendation for his now-former teammate: “He’s going to be so important for their team with his experience and the kind of person he is. You couldn’t have a better guy.”
The next biggest name announced in the expansion draft was veteran forward James Neal, who’s coming off scoring 41 points for the Nashville Predators in the regular season and helping them reach the Stanley Cup Finals, where they would fall to the Penguins. Neal went to Twitter to celebrate the Nashville fans and express his excitement to begin “a new chapter in my career and an amazing opportunity to start something special”.
In this expansion draft, the Golden Knights were required to select at least one player from every NHL team, with at least 14 forwards, nine defenders and three goaltenders in their inaugural roster composition. Vegas had about 673 players to choose from based on the players each NHL team exposed.