Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: An analytical deep dive into the Vegas Expansion Draft

Despite the aura of calm projected by Golden Knights owner Bill Foley, his nascent desert franchise is already on the clock. The recent announcement that the Oakland Raiders will be moving to Las Vegas in 2019, has already undermined Foley’s plan to be the only show in town. If the Golden Knights don’t win over the Vegas fanbase in relatively short order, it could prove almost impossible for hockey to get ever get a foothold in Sin City.

As a result, the team faced a variety of difficult decisions going into the 2017 expansion draft. On one hand, the team could try to win immediately with aging veterans like Eric Staal, which would allow them to establish a foothold in the market, but also put them at risk of years of mediocrity as older players lose their fights with Father Time. On the other hand, the team could tank in the hopes of finding stars at the top of the draft, but the resulting efforts could further exacerbate the fan bases preference for the incoming NFL juggernaut.

In order to evaluate the quality of the selections of GM George McPhee, I viewed each pick as a “trade” and applied prototype of a “Trade Machine” to look at each selection, given the choices available. For example, Vegas chose Clayton Stoner and Shea Theodore from the Ducks over Sami Vatanen, which means, in essence, the selection was a trade for Theodore and Stoner for Vatenen straight up. After looking at all 31 selections, I compared Vegas’ actual roster to one consisting of an optimal roster calculated using DTMAboutHeart’s GAR statistic. The results are below.

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