Golden Knights’ McPhee talks expansion outlook, draft prospects at NHL combine

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee talks about the advantages of starting from scratch how the young athletes these days are so mature for their age, and how his franchise is looking for more than just talented players.

Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee hasn’t ruled anything out when it comes to the expansion draft later this month.

So, don’t be shocked if his initial roster includes a few extra goaltenders.

When asked by Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek if we should be surprised if he picked as many as seven, some of which he could then deal for other assets, McPhee didn’t shoot down the idea.

“Yes and no. I don’t know whether I’d take seven goalies because I don’t know what it’s all going to look like,” McPhee said during a Facebook Live interview at the NHL Draft Combine. “Someone might have a good goalie, but we might like a defenceman on their team a little more.”

Because NHL teams are only permitted to protect one netminder heading into the June 21 Vegas draft, there could be several high-quality puck stoppers available for the choosing.

NHL teams can protect seven forwards, three defencemen and a goalie, or eight skaters and a goalie. Only one player per team can be selected by the Golden Knights. All first- and second-year pros are exempt from the draft as are unsigned draft choices.

McPhee said it’s becoming clearer which players will be protected by the other NHL teams, although that remains fluid. As does the Golden Knights’ evaluations of them.

“It changes because some people have really elevated their play and some have regressed,” McPhee said. “There’s lots of reasons for the changes, but it’s been a fascinating process.

“With respect to the other teams, we’re pretty fluent in what they want to do. We have a pretty good idea. When we talk to them and they tell us what they want to do, it’s sort of what we were thinking as well. What our team will look like, I’m not quite sure yet. There are going to be some moves.”

McPhee was in Buffalo to watch the combine, a day that features testing for the top prospects up for grabs June 23 and 24.

McPhee said he’s watched roughly three quarters of the top 120 prospects play and feels like he has a good handle on who’s worth selecting.

“I really work hard at this,” he said. “It’s interesting to watch them play and then get a chance to interview them and then put the two together.

“Then to watch them here, I just try to look at this to determine – without the data; you get that later – is this a body that will hold up in the NHL for the next 15 years? I’m just sort of doing that on instinct. It’s worked pretty well in the past. So I’ll keep doing it.”

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However, he’ll also lean on his staff and scouts, which includes assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon, director of scouting Scott Luce and director of hockey operations Misha Donskov.

As an expansion franchise, this month will likely go a long way towards the type of team McPhee and Co., will ice in the fall. Even though he knows there could be challenges ahead, he’s enjoyed the process so far.

“It’s been a really special experience. More rewarding than I ever imagined,” McPhee said. “You feel like you’ve won a couple championships or something. Everybody’s upbeat. Everybody’s positive.

“That may change next October, but it’s sure been a neat thing.”


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