Who knew what the Vegas Golden Knights were getting in the 2017 Expansion Draft? We knew they would get players that other NHL teams didn’t want or were OK with losing. But we didn’t expect them to find potential stars in the making.
These were all rejects after all. The team of misfit hockey players. No one wanted them, not even Vegas by its own declaration of trying to build through the draft.
Can you blame Vegas? Name a single successful expansion team in any sport? You can’t because it hasn’t happened. Building a successful team is always done through the draft. Or at least, that’s how it’s been done in the past.
With the season all but over the Vegas Golden Knights, the group of misfits cast aside in the Nevada desert is going to the postseason. And not by the skin of their teeth either. They’re going to win their division in their first year of existence. And key amongst that outstanding season is William Karlsson.
Who knew that William Karlsson, formerly of Columbus would turn out to be a fourth goal scorer? That’s right a forty goal scorer. William Karlsson a third line plug for John Tortorella’s Columbus Blue Jackets has become one of the top five goal scorers in the NHL.
Was he always going to be this good? As in, was he a forty goal scorer in hiding or did Vegas create a 40 goal scorer?
Some of Karlsson’s number in CBJ and VGK over the last two season.
I used these numbers for a reason. They rate a player’s on-ice performance relatively. We all know that the minutes Karlsson received in Vegas weren’t the same minutes he’s getting in Vegas. So breaking down some of the stats into /60 shows what he did/does with the time he’s given assuming it’s the same across the board.
The rate at which he controls play on the ice increased by some 120%. His goal creation (GF/60) based on ice time increased by over 150% and his expected goals for +/- which takes into account defensive play – or the number of expected goals against – increased by an alarming 378%. (all stats are 5on5 stats)
When you consider where he’s come from to where he is, there’s no reason to think that Karlsson was this 40 goal scorer in hiding. Karlsson was a good hockey player before arriving in the desert, but this absolutely dominant goal scorer he was not.
That has to be attributed to the environment he’s in with Vegas. There’s no doubt that he’s playing with better players in Jonathan Marchessault and David Parron. But it’s also the system in which they operate that has allowed Karlsson to take full advantage of the skill sets he has and flourish.
There’s no one single person to credit with his rise. Sure, credit has to be given to McPhee for building his team to find the right talent. Some credit goes to Gallant for building the structure. And some credit goes to Karlsson himself for executing.
But the reason he’s been so prolific isn’t one single factor but a range of variables all coming together in the perfect storm. His success wasn’t a guarantee.