Jonathan Marchessault

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Golden Knights’ defense coming into focus with signings

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As the Vegas Golden Knights’ success gradually goes from shocking to accepted, there’s still the question of what this team might look like next season and beyond. Such questions are only natural when you consider all the key players who still need contract extensions.

Golden Knights management is chipping away at those questions regarding their defense in 2018-19, particularly this week.

On Monday, the Golden Knights signed local favorite and rugged defenseman Deryk Engelland to a one-year extension worth $1.5 million. (That deal includes $1M in potential performance bonuses, according to Cap Friendly.)

One day later, the team announced a two-year extension for Jon Merrill (pictured). The deal is for $2.75M overall, so it will make for a $1.375M cap hit in 2018-19 and 2019-20.

The Golden Knights now have five defensemen on their current roster who are signed through 2018-19, if not longer: Engelland, Merrill, Nate Schmidt, Brayden McNabb, and Brad Hunt. McNabb is locked up the longest, with a $2.5M cap hit kicking in next season and expiring after 2020-21.

The most interesting remaining defensemen to sort out are Colin Miller and Shea Theodore, both pending RFAs. The Golden Knights have been buying up blueliners at bargain rates, but Theodore and Miller could be tougher nuts to crack contracts-wise. (Two UFA defensemen Luca Sbisa and Clayton Stoner on IR.)

Quick look at Engelland and Merrill

Engelland, 35, has been one of the Golden Knights’ ice time leaders with 19:39 per night, collecting 13 points while limiting his time in the penalty box (16 PIM in 41 games) compared to his usual numbers. He’s not perfect, but it’s conceivable that he’ll be worth that minimal cost to Vegas, especially since he’s an ambassador for the still-new franchise.

While Vegas hopes Engelland can bring that veteran presence for another year, they’re likely banking on Merrill to be more effective at a cheap rate.

The 25-year-old has been dealing with injuries and other issues, limiting him to 14 games played.

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These defensive signings aren’t as important as locking up Jonathan Marchessault, nor is it as crucial as making the right call with the likes of James Neal and David Perron. With Malcolm Subban and Marc-Andre Fleury seeing their deals expire after 2018-19, management will need to make some goaltending decisions not that long from now.

A little bit of greed can inspire players to go that extra mile and stay that much hungrier, yet it’s also comforting to sometimes have some answers. After this week, there’s some clarity on the blueline, even if some decisions still need to be made.

And, hey, the Golden Knights haven’t really locked themselves into bad contracts yet. Old teams could probably learn a thing or two from these new kids.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL reveals 2018 All-Star Game rosters; who missed out?

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The NHL revealed on Wednesday the full rosters for the 2018 NHL All-Star Game, which will take place Jan. 27-28 at Amalie Arena in Tampa.

It will be the second time the city has hosted the event and first time under the 3-on-3 tournament format. Last week, the league announced the four division captains who will represent the Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific Divisions and be in charge of filling out the participants in the Skills Competition.

[Pass or Fail: 2018 NHL All-Star Game jerseys]

Here’s who will will be joining Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, P.K. Subban and Connor McDavid in sunny Tampa, Florida. Keep in mind that you can be sure there will be some injury replacements between now and All-Star Weekend.

ATLANTIC DIVISION
Head coach: Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning (C)
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
F Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
F Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
F Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

• You knew this team was going to be stacked with some host city boys, and four Lightning players plus the head coach will dominate the love of the Amalie Arena crowd. There’s also a 100 percent chance that Stamkos, Kucherov, Hedman and Vasilevskiy will start the first semifinal.

Potential injury replacements: Patrice Bergeron, Mark Stone, Morgan Rielly, Mikhail Sergachev, Charlie McAvoy, Frederik Andersen, Tuukka Rask

METROPOLITAN DIVISION
Head coach: Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (C)
F Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
F Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
F Josh Bailey, New York Islanders
F John Tavares, New York Islanders
F Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
D Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
D Noah Hanifin, Carolina Hurricanes
D Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
G Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

• So much for Crosby saying he’s not having an All-Star season. Should he end up going, it will be only the Penguins captain’s third appearance in the event. Good to see the Islanders finally having someone for Tavares to tag along with during All-Star Weekend.

Potential injury replacements: Anders Lee, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Phil Kessel, John Carlson, Shayne Gostisbehere, Sergei Bobrovsky, Cory Schneider

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CENTRAL DIVISION
Head coach: Peter Laviolette, Nashville Predators
F Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
F Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
F Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
F Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
D P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators (C)
D Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
D John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
G Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
G Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

• Great to see Schenn rep the Blues with the season he’s having. Also great to see Staal in an All-Star Game for the first time since 2011 when he captained Team Staal in Carolina.

Potential injury replacements: Vladimir Tarasenko,  Jamie Benn, Patrik Laine, Ryan Suter, Roman Josi, Ben Bishop, Corey Crawford (if healthy by then)

PACIFC DIVISION
Head coach: Gerard Gallant, Vegas Golden Knights
F Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (C)
F Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
F Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
F James Neal, Vegas Golden Knights
F Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
D Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
D Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
G Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
G Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights

• Really surprised by the two Vegas picks. Only Boeser has has many goals among Pacific Division players as William Karlsson (22). Then you have Jonathan Marchessault, who’s tied for fourth-best in the division with Boeser in points (40).

Potential injury replacements: Marchessault, Karlsson, Sean Monahan, Mark Giordano, Jake MuzzinMike Smith, John Gibson

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy

NHL All-Star Game: PHT picks the rosters

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The 2018 NHL All-Star rosters will be revealed on Wednesday. Last week, the league announced that Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, P.K. Subban and Connor McDavid will captain their respective divisions during the 3-on-3 tournament later this month at Amalie Arena in Tampa.

While we wait and see who will be enjoying a sunny, warm weekend in late January, we here at PHT have picked our own All-Star rosters. Keep in mind, of course, that the NHL likes to have every team represented, so there are going to be some pretty decent snubs on these rosters while picking six forwards, three defensemen and two goalie for every division.

SEAN LEAHY

ATLANTIC
F Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
F Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
F Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

Toughest snubs: David Pastrnak, Frederik Andersen

METROPOLITAN
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
F Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
F Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins
F John Tavares, New York Islanders
F Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
F Anders Lee, New York Islanders
D Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers
D Noah Hanifin, Carolina Hurricanes
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
G Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

Toughest snubs: Josh Bailey, Sean Couturier

CENTRAL
F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
F Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
F Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild
F Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
F Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
D P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
D John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
D Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
G Connor Hellebuyuck, Winnipeg Jets
G Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

Toughest snubs: Jamie Benn, Roman Josi

PACIFIC
F Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
F Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
F Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
F Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights
F William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights
D Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
D Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
G Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
G John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

Toughest snubs: Dustin Brown, Clayton Keller

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JAMES O’BRIEN

ATLANTIC
F Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
F Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
F Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
F Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

Toughest snubs: Patrice Bergeron, Mark Stone, Charlie McAvoy, Morgan Rielly, Tuukka Rask, Frederik Andersen

METROPOLITAN
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
F Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
F Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
F John Tavares, New York Islanders
F Josh Bailey, New York Islanders
F Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals
D Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
D Noah Hanifin, Carolina Hurricanes
G Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Toughest snubs: Sidney Crosby, Jakub Voracek, Jaccob Slavin, Zach Werenski, Braden Holtby, Cory Schneider

CENTRAL
F Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
F Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
F Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
F Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild
D P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
D John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
D Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
G Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
G Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

Toughest snubs: Patrick Kane, Jamie Benn, Tyson Barrie, Ryan Suter, Pekka Rinne

PACIFIC
F Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
F Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
F Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
F Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes
F Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights
D Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
D Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
D Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
G Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
G John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

Toughest snubs: William Karlsson, Sean Monahan, Jake Muzzin, Mike Smith

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SCOTT BILLECK

ATLANTIC
F Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
F Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
F Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
F Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings
D Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

Toughest snubs: Brad Marchand, Mark Stone, Charlie McAvoy, Morgan Rielly

METROPOLITAN
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
F Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
F Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
F Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
F John Tavares, New York Islanders
F Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals
D Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
D Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers
G Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Toughest snubs: Phil Kessel, Josh Bailey, Jaccob Slavin, Zach Werenski, Braden Holtby, Cory Schneider

CENTRAL
F Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
F Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
F Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
F Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild
D P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
D John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
D Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
G Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
G Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

Toughest snubs: Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko, Patrik Laine, Ryan Suter, Pekka Rinne

PACIFIC
F Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
F Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
F Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
F Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks
F Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights
D Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
D Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
G Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
G Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights

Toughest snubs: Clayton Keller, William Karlsson, Josh Manson, Mike Smith, John Gibson

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JOEY ALFIERI

ATLANTIC
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
F Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
F Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

Toughest snubs: Mark Stone, Evander Kane, Jonathan Huberdeau, David Pastrnak, Morgan Rielly

METROPOLITAN
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
F Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
F John Tavares, New York Islanders
F Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
F Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
F Josh Bailey, New York Islanders
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals
D Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
D Noah Hanifin, Carolina Hurricanes
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
G Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

Toughest snubs: Jakub Voracek, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, Braden Holtby

CENTRAL
F Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
F Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
F Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
F Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild
D P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
D John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
D Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
G Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks
G Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

Toughest snubs: Vladimir Tarasenko, Mikko Rantanen, Jamie Benn, Pekka Rinne

PACIFIC
F Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
F Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
F Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
F Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights
F Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
D Drew Droughty, Los Angeles Kings
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
D Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
G Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
G Mike Smith, Calgary Flames

Toughest snubs: Sean Monahan, William Karlsson, Jake Muzzin

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ADAM GRETZ

ATLANTIC
F Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
F Mark Stone, Ottawa Senators
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
F Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
D Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lighting
G Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

Toughest snubs: Patrice Bergeron, Jack Eichel

METROPOLITAN
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
F John Tavares, New York Islanders
F Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
F Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins
F Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
F Josh Bailey, New York Islanders
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals
D Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
D Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers
G Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Toughest snubs: Jakub Voracek, Sidney Crosby

CENTRAL
F Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
F Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
F Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
F Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
D P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
D John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
D Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
G Connor Hellebucyk, Winnipeg Jets
G Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

Toughest snubs: Jamie Benn, Patrik Laine

PACIFIC
F Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
F Johnny Gaudreau, Clgary Flames
F Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
F Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights
F Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes
D Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
D Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
D Josh Manson, Anaheim Ducks
G Jonathan Quick, Los Angles Kings
G John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

Toughest snubs: William Karlsson, Logan Couture

Revisiting the trades that built one of the NHL’s best lines in Vegas

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The driving force behind the stunning story that is the Vegas Golden Knights has been their top line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith. The trio has spent much of the season together and has quickly become one of the most productive lines in hockey. And the numbers speak for themselves.

When Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith are on the ice together during 5-on-5 play the Golden Knights are outscoring their opponents by a 26-15 margin, have controlled more than 57 percent of the total shot attempts, and have close to 60 percent of the total scoring chances (data via Natural Stat Trick).

Those are dominant numbers and stack up favorably with any trio in the NHL.

Given that success it’s kind of amazing to look back at how Vegas ended up acquiring that group when they were piecing together their first roster.

A lot has been made of the expansion draft rules that allowed Vegas to put together a roster that was significantly better than any recent expansion team in NHL history, and they definitely had more talent to pick from than Columbus, Minnesota, Nashville, Atlanta, Anaheim, Florida, Tampa Bay, Ottawa and San Jose.

Those rules, which forced teams to expose players to the expansion draft that they probably did not want to lose, helped create a number of trades.

Two of those deals helped Vegas assemble its game-changing top-line.

Let’s start with Karlsson, who is currently the team’s leading goal-scorer and one of the top-five goal scorers in the NHL. Considering what Karlsson has done in his career before this season it is one of the unlikeliest individual performances in the league this season.

As part of the trade the Columbus Blue Jackets sent a 2017 first-round pick, a 2019 third-round pick, and David Clarkson to Vegas in exchange for the Golden Knights selecting Karlsson in the expansion draft.

What did Columbus get out of the trade? For one, it got out from the remainder of Clarkson’s contract that still has three more years on it. It also allowed the Blue Jackets to keep together what it figured to be a bigger part of its young core than Karlsson was going to be, specifically forward Josh Anderson and goalie Joonas Korpisalo.

Even before any of the players in the deal played a single game in the NHL this season Vegas managed to expand on that trade by taking Columbus’ first-round pick (No. 24 overall) and flipping it to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for the No. 13 overall pick (Nick Suzuki) and a third-round pick in 2019 in exchange for the Golden Knights selecting veteran forward Chris Thorburn in the expansion draft. Thorburn, an unrestricted free agent on July, signed with the St. Louis Blues.

That means at the end of the day the Golden Knight received William Karlsson, Nick Suzuki (a top-15 pick), and a pair of 2019 draft picks (second-and third-round) in exchange for taking David Clarkson’s contract and simply not taking Anderson or Korpisalo in the expansion draft.

Given what has happened in the first half of the 2017-18 season it is a fascinating transaction and it is going to be extremely interesting to see how the careers of Karlsson, Anderson and Korpisalo progress from here (and that doesn’t even get into the three prospects they will get from the draft choices).

Right now it’s looking like an absolute steal for Vegas as Karlsson has almost as many goals (22) as Anderson has total points (24), while Korpisalo has a .904 save percentage in a backup role behind Sergei Bobrovsky.

Karlsson vs. Anderson is going to be the real development to watch. Anderson is a fine player and seems to be a great fit for the way Columbus plays. But he is not doing what Karlsson has done for Vegas this season, even if it is completely out of nowhere.

Before this season Karlsson had scored only 18 goals in 173 games with the Ducks and Blue Jackets. He has already exceeded that total in 41 games.

A big part of that success is the fact he is cruising along with a league-best 25.9 percent shooting percentage after scoring on only 8 percent of his shots before this season.

Of the eight players that have scored at least 20 goals this season Karlsson is not only the only one of them that has done so on fewer than 100 shots on goal, he still has not even hit 90(!) shots on goal. Anders Lee is the only other 20-goal scorer at the moment that is still under 110 shots (108).

If he maintains that shooting percentage for the entire season it would be almost unheard of in the modern NHL. In the history of the league there have only been 37 players that recorded at least 100 shots on goal in a season and finished with a shooting percentage north of 25 percent. Thirty of those performances came between 1978 and 1989 when goal-scoring in the NHL hit its peak. Only two of them (Cam Neely in 1993-94 and Mike Ribeiro in 2007-08) came after 1993.

Obviously, when a player sees that sort of a drastic shooting percentage spike out of nowhere the first instinct is to say that it’s unsustainable and the player is due for a big regression at some point. And that is almost certainly going to be the case here with Karlsson. It is just a matter of how much of a regression there is. And even if it is significant and eventually takes him back to his normal career levels, Vegas still has three future prospects coming through the pipeline as a result of that trade.  And that regression happens, the Golden Knights have one of the top goal scorers in the league this season. You can not take away those goals.

The other two parts of the line came from the Florida Panthers when they sent Smith and Marchessault to the Golden Knights in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick.

That trade came one year after the Panthers had signed Smith to a five-year contract extension that was going to pay him $5 million per season and include a partial no-trade clause. With Smith coming off of a down year in 2016-17 the Panthers traded him to the Golden Knights.

That came on the same day of the expansion draft where the Golden Knights selected Marchessault (though it was never officially confirmed, it was reported at the time that taking Marchessault being left unprotected and selected by Vegas was the incentive for the Golden Knights to take on Smith’s contract).

While Smith’s numbers dropped a bit for the Panthers in 2016-17, Marchessault was one of the players on that Panthers team that did not disappoint and excelled in his first full-time action in the NHL, leading the team with 30 goals.

So far this season Marchessault has proven that his 2016-17 season was not a fluke. He is on pace for another 30-goal performance, has already topped his assist total from a year ago, and has posted excellent possession numbers. His first half with Vegas has already landed him a six-year contract extension to remain with the team.

Smith, meanwhile, is right near his career averages when it comes to goal-scoring, shot generation and possession and has bounced back nicely from a down season. His assist numbers have spiked, though, and that is probably to be expected given that he is playing alongside one 30-goal scorer (Marchessault) and another player that is shooting the lights out the way Karlsson is. He has already assisted on 14 of Karlsson’s goals with 10 of them being the primary assist.

Vegas definitely took advantage of the opportunity to select better players than any other expansion team in league history and the front office deserves a lot of credit for capitalizing on that. It’s also been the perfect storm of a lot of things going there way, from Florida looking to get out from Smith’s contract and leaving a 30-goal scorer exposed, to Karlsson having an historical level of shooting success, to all three players forming an instant chemistry.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Vegas Golden Knights give Marchessault a big raise

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You could argue that Jonathan Marchessault is the quintessential Vegas Golden Knights forward, so it’s fitting that he’s the first VGK scorer to get a big contract extension during this season.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie first reported that the deal would likely be for six years with a cap hit of about $5 million per season. TVA’s Renaud Lavoie backs up that it’s a six-year, $30M extension. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the salary breaks down as:

2018-19: $7M
2019-20: $6M
2020-21: $5M
2021-22: $5M
2022-23: $3.5M
2023-24: $3.5M

The Golden Knights recently made the six-year, $30M extension official.

Interestingly, such a deal is very similar to that of Reilly Smith, a player who was jettisoned from the Florida Panthers to the Golden Knights alongside Marchessault.

Well-earned

Plenty of Golden Knights came into 2017-18 with chips on their shoulders, but you could argue that Marchessault had the most on the line. At 27, Marchessault carried just a $750K cap hit into this season, so there was serious financial incentive to prove that his 30-goal, 51-point breakout from 2016-17 was no fluke.

The Golden Knights continue to strive to show that they, too, are for real, and Marchessault’s been a big part of that surge toward legitimacy.

That’s been true both lately and in this season overall. The former Florida Panthers forward has 15 goals and 37 points in 35 games, making his 1.06 points-per-game pace easily the best of his career. Marchessault’s been a huge contributor to the Golden Knights’ latest hot streak, generating at least one point in seven consecutive games (five goals, six assists).

Marchessault is likely to slow down in some areas, yet it’s worth noting that his shooting percentage isn’t outrageous this season at 12.1 percent (it’s actually lower than his career average of 13.2). He’s been a strong possession player so far for Vegas, as you can see at a quick glance at Hockey Reference.

A select group that might grow

While Marchessault is the first forward to get an in-season extension from GM George McPhee, he’s not the only Vegas forward locked up beyond 2017-18. Here’s that select group of players with multiple years remaining, with help from Cap Friendly:

Marchessault: $5M per year through 2023-24
Fellow former Florida forward Reilly Smith: $5M through 2021-22
Cody Eakin: $3.85M through 2019-20
Erik Haula (signed in June): $2.75M through 2019-20
David Clarkson‘s contract: $5.25M through 2019-20

The Golden Knights also have some key players signed through 2018-19, including goalies Malcolm Subban and Marc-Andre Fleury. Brayden McNabb is the most notable defenseman term-wise, as he’s drawing $2.5M from 2018-19 to 2021-22.

The most fascinating question, though, is “Who’s next?”

One great driving force of the Golden Knights is monetary motivation, as Marchessault is far from the only key forward on an expiring contract. James Neal‘s $5M cap hit will expire after 2017-18, as will David Perron‘s $3.75M. While those two are pending UFAs, the Golden Knights also have some intriguing RFAs to settle, with William Karlsson set to make a big jump from his current $1M. Colin Miller and Shea Theodore also stand out as blueliners who need new contracts for 2018-19.

In the case of Marchessault, the Golden Knights are still making a bit of a gamble that he’s a legitimate scorer despite a relatively small body of work at the NHL level. Marchessault has essentially played the equivalent of two full NHL seasons (159 games).

That said, while the term is risky, Marchessault can cool down quite a bit and still be well worth $5M.

Personally, it’s a delight to see the small forward finally get rewarded for all of his hard work, particularly after the Panthers were bafflingly comfortable with letting him go after a 30-goal season. His size likely explains why he wasn’t drafted and why he took quite a bit of time to get a real shot in the NHL, so it’s inspiring to see him get what he deserves.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.