LAS VEGAS — The Vegas Golden Knights finally have some players to put on the desert ice this fall.
Stanley Cup-winning goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, defensemen Marc Methot and Alexei Emelin, 30-goal scorer Jonathan Marchessault and forwards David Perron and James Neal are among the veterans selected by the Golden Knights in the NHL expansion draft Wednesday night.
Golden Knights owner Bill Foley and general manager George McPhee announced their choices during the NHL’s annual postseason awards show at T-Mobile Arena, where Vegas will begin play in the fall.
Fleury took the stage in a Golden Knights jersey to wild cheers from his new home fans. The three-time Cup winner lost his starting job with the back-to-back champion Penguins, but he’ll get to start over in the desert with two years on his contract.
The picks included defensemen Trevor van Riemsdyk and Brayden McNabb, forward Oscar Lindberg .
The Golden Knights also announced additional acquisitions of a handful of veterans and free agents, including Anaheim defenseman Shea Theodore and Florida forward Reilly Smith.
The NHL wrote its draft rules to give the Golden Knights more opportunities to compete early in their existence, and their expansion draft choices certainly appear to form a solid core that could make noise in the Pacific Division.
“They’re way past getting off the ground,” Nashville general manager David Poile said. “I think this is by far the best expansion team ever.”
Thousands of fans braved 116-degree afternoon heat to gather on the south end of the Strip for the unique combination of the awards show and the chance to learn the identities of the home team’s first NHL veterans. The Golden Knights are Las Vegas’ first franchise in a major professional sport.
After meeting with the Board of Governors earlier in the day, Foley said he was already “very proud” of the roster assembled by McPhee.
“I believe we’ve put together a great team from the net out,” Foley said. “I believe fans are really going to like the team, and the trades and the draft picks and the prospects that we have. It’s not just a player per team. In many cases, it might have been two players a team. It might have been an upgraded draft pick plus a player, all kinds of different situations.”
The expansion draft is a celebratory night, but it only reveals a portion of the franchise-building done by McPhee over the past few months.
The Golden Knights were allowed to reveal certain trades made with other teams to dissuade Vegas from picking particular players, and additional deals are likely to be revealed throughout the week.
The Golden Knights sat in a strong position created by the favorable expansion draft terms granted to Foley, who paid a $500 million expansion fee to join the league. McPhee is likely to land even more veteran players and choices before the draft wraps up in Chicago this weekend.
The Golden Knights also have signed a handful of free agents. They announced a deal with former Calgary defenseman Deryk Engelland, who still lives in Las Vegas during the offseason after playing for the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers a decade ago.
“My roots are here,” Engelland said. “It’s kind of been in the back of your mind since they announced the team. For it to finally happen, it’s amazing.”
Minnesota center Erik Haula, who was chosen in the expansion draft, reportedly has already agreed to a multi-year deal with Vegas.
“What surprised me was the quality of some of our forwards that we were able to get out of this situation,” Foley said. “The people of Las Vegas are going to be happy with what we did. They’re going to be pleasantly surprised.”