Hunker down while we ride out monsoon season fellow local, and do some more learning on the Vegas Golden Knights, the first and only “Big Four” professional sports franchise in Southern Nevada.
Yeah, I know the Raiders are coming. But they’re not here yet. And if Golden Knights owner Bill Foley is to be believed, by the time they get here, VGK will be well down the road of constructing a team built for a long playoff run.
So read up. Earlier this week we told you what you needed to know about Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant. He’s important. You should know goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Calvin Pickard as well. Go back and read those. Right now learn about a player that may have the top scoring potential of any player on the first Golden Knights roster. Jonathan Marchessault could end up being a big deal.
How Did Marchessault Get Here?
It’s been a whirlwind of a career for Marchessault before landing in Vegas.
By 2011, the Quebec product was 20-years-old and had not been chosen in the NHL Draft. He caught on with Connecticut Whale of the American Hockey League, and after a season turned that into a three-year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
He’d appear in a total of two Blue Jackets games, spending most of his time with the AHL’s Springfield Falcons. At the 2014 NHL trade deadline, Columbus packaged Marchessault with Dalton Smith to acquire Dana Tyrell and Matt Taormina from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Following the trade, he remained in the AHL this time with the Syracuse Crunch.
One regular season and one playoff game comprised Marchessault’s 2014-15 NHL action. A year later he played just 11 games with Syracuse and finally looked like a difference-maker during his 45 games with the Lightning. The Florida Panthers agreed. They signed him to a two-year one-way deal in July of last year.
The decision by Florida brass to expose Marchessault to the expansion draft was a curious one for many. He logged 75 games, led the team with 30 goals and racked up 21 assists. Those aren’t bad numbers for his first full NHL season. The Panthers have been to the playoffs just three times since the turn of the century, and it’s no secret that management weighs heavily the importance of analytics when making front office decisions. That said, it was a surprise when Marchessault was left exposed. It was not a surprise when McPhee added him to the inaugural Vegas roster.
Where Does Marchessault Fit In?
He fits in real nice.
A second-line forward with top-line potential, picking up Marchessault was one of the most encouraging moves of the expansion draft. While size can be a concern, he’s just 5’9″ and 175 pounds, he possesses enviable play-making ability and will be on the short list of skilled scorers in Vegas.
Additionally, it cannot go unsaid that Marchessault may benefit from the familiarity of playing under Golden Knights head coach Gallant. The two worked together in Florida just last season before Gallant was fired by the Panthers the final week of November. For what it’s worth, nine of those goals and eight of those assists happened while Gallant was still running things.
Does those numbers alone mean anything? Maybe not. I think it’s worth noting however that entering the expansion draft the Florida pick was among those Vegas was most equipped to make, if for Gallant’s input alone. Both Foley and Vegas general manager made clear well before their coaching hire that there would be a very distinct separation between general manager and coach. After his experience in Florida, that’s certainly something Gallant is unfamiliar with. That said, it’s not a stretch to think Gallant shared his thoughts on Marchessault, and if there was a reason he should join the Golden Knights, his name would not have been called in June.
The financial damage is only $750,000 for one year. That’s certainly a good bet on a player with a ceiling as high as Marchessault’s. He’s the kind of player that could end up being a critical piece of the Golden Knights when they actually get around to making deep playoff runs. We may look back and say he was the steal of the 2017 Expansion Draft. If he shows significant regression with increased opportunities, he may be headed to his fourth team in five years.
Las Vegas local covering Golden Knights hockey since 2016.
Ball State University ’05
Credentialed NBA writer covering the Phoenix Suns,
Credentialed NCAA football writer covering the UNLV Rebels