It’s fair to say that the city of Las Vegas has become gripped with ice hockey fever since the arrival of the Golden Knights franchise to “Sin City”. At the end of the 2018-19 NHL season, when the Golden Knights were eliminated, the people of Las Vegas could have been forgiven for switching off from the sport – but that certainly wasn’t the case. The city of Las Vegas ranked ninth out of all major U.S. cities in terms of viewing figures for the Stanley Cup Final on NBC/NBCSN.
Understandably, the people of St. Louis and Boston ranked top of the viewing figures, with 28.7% and 25.5% of households watching the event. That was closely followed by the residents of Providence (19.2%) and Buffalo (9.5%). Vegas was down in ninth place, averaging 4.4% of the city’s population watching the event. However, Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final was also the most-watched NHL game ever in Vegas – aside from Golden Knights fixtures – when 7.6% watched from their homes.
It just goes to show that the arrival of the Golden Knights has created demand and an excitement for the NHL that simply never existed before in Vegas. There’s already huge excitement across “Sin City” for what the 2019-20 NHL campaign might bring. Even at this point in August, the Golden Knights’ roster looks largely set ahead of their season opener in early October with San Jose. Although the likes of Colin Miller, Erik Haula and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare are no longer present, a large percentage of the team remains.
How could the Golden Knights shape up against San Jose on opening night?
In the first line, the Golden Knights will almost certainly have Mark Stone to call upon. Stone was undeniably Vegas’ best defensive competitor in 2018-19. So much so that the franchise’s hierarchy opted to give Stone a new eight-year contract extension. Combine this with a partnership with another wily competitor in Paul Stastny and it’s clear to see that the Golden Knights will certainly be a tough nut to crack. The duo is likely to be joined by Max Pacioretty, who managed 22 goals last season from the left flank.
The Golden Knights’ second line follows a very similar pattern – a dependable defender capable of racking up assists in the shape of Reilly Smith, a top-notch defender and effective goal scorer in William Karlsson and an incredible long-range stick-handler in Jonathan Marchessault. What’s most encouraging for Golden Knights fans is that this second line has now been playing together consistently for three seasons. It’s highly unlikely that they will be broken up over the course of the coming season either. The second line will have a major role to play during the power play, as ever.
When you combine the calibre of player that Vegas have in both lines and the consistency of team selection, it’s little surprise why the Golden Knights are in the top three of the futures NHL betting odds to win the 2020 Stanley Cup. There will be very little transfer activity either between now and the start of the season, with 19 of the 20 dressed players cemented in place.
Valentin Zykov could be the final “wildcard” to make the roster. He’s a visibly talented player and the Golden Knights hierarchy clearly see something in him to keep him for the long haul. They just need him to deliver in a game situation. One thing’s for sure, there won’t be a dull moment in the next 12 months at the T-Mobile Arena.