Marc-Andre Fleury already is a champion. Now he’s a Golden Knight.
The veteran goaltender was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in their expansion draft, the results of which were announced Wednesday during the 2017 NHL Awards telecast. The announcement comes on the 14th anniversary of Fleury being selected first overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2003 draft.
Fleury, who was on hand for Wednesday night’s ceremony, received the largest cheer from the Las Vegas fans, something that surprised the 32-year-old.
“I didn’t know that was coming,” Fleury said. “I was a little surprised by that. That was a warm welcome, and I’m getting excited about it.”
Fleury now goes from the two-time reigning Stanley Cup champions to the desert expansion team.
“I’m not looking to be the face of much,” Fleury said when asked of being his new team’s star player. “I’m just trying to come and play hockey.”
His old team’s star player, Sidney Crosby, spoke glowingly of the netminder.
“He’s going to be so important for their team with his experience and the kind of person he is,” Crosby said after the awards show. “You couldn’t have a better guy.”
The Golden Knights’ selections were revealed in reverse order of their originating team’s regular-season standings, meaning the Colorado Avalanche‘s player (Calvin Pickard) came off the board first, while the Washington Capitals‘ pick (Nate Schmidt) was announced last.
With their first expansion draft picks, Vegas selected Pickard, a goalie, forwards William Carrier, Cody Eakin, Jonathan Marchessault, Teemu Pulkkinen and Tomas Nosek, and defensemen Brayden McNabb, Jon Merrill and Luca Sbisa.
James Neal was the biggest individual name revealed in the second round of expansion announcements. The veteran forward posted 41 points for the Stanley Cup Finals runner-up Nashville Predators during the regular season.
Neal took to Twitter to thank the Preds fans and share his excitement about going to Vegas.
Nashville is a true hockey town and I’m so grateful for my time here. I wish we could’ve paraded Stanley down Broadway!!
— James Neal (@jneal_18) June 22, 2017
I’m excited for a new chapter in my career and an amazing opportunity to start something special w/ the Golden Knights!!
— James Neal (@jneal_18) June 22, 2017
In addition to Neal, the Golden Knights also announced the selections of forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Connor Brickley and Chris Thorburn, defensemen Jason Garrison and Deryk Engelland, and goalie Jean-Francois Berube.
The selection of Berube from the New York Islanders brought a windfall for the Golden Knights, as they also acquired via trade forward Mikhail Grabovski, defenseman Jake Bischoff and two picks — a 2017 first-round selection and a 2019 second-round pick from the Isles.
Vegas got defensive for the third round of announcements, selecting five defensemen among the group of eight announced players.
In the fourth and final round of announcements, Vegas added two forwards (Erik Haula and William Karlsson) and three defensemen (Schmidt, Clayton Stoner and Trevor van Riemsdyk), in addition to Fleury.
Vegas has some hometown talent on its roster, as well, thanks to the selection of Engelland from the Calgary Flames. Though Canadian, Engelland makes his offseason home in Las Vegas, after spending two seasons playing for the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL.
“My roots are here,” Engelland said. “It’s kind of been in the back of your mind since they announced the team. For it to finally happen, it’s amazing. It was a fairly easy decision on my part, and I’m excited to be here.”
Golden Knights owner Bill Foley had hinted at the caliber of the team’s selections.
“What surprised me was the quality of some of our forwards that we were able to get out of this situation,” Foley said before the announcement of the team’s expansion picks. “The people of Las Vegas are going to be happy with what we did. They’re going to be pleasantly surprised.”
The Golden Knights had to choose one player from each NHL team, with a composition of 14 forwards, nine defensemen, three goaltenders and four additional players at any position. Vegas had a pool of 673 players made available by the league’s other 30 teams from which to choose.
“They’re way past getting off the ground,” said Predators general manager David Poile, who was named GM of the year during the night’s awards ceremony. “I think this is by far the best expansion team ever.”
Vegas coach Gerard Gallant had entered the evening with Reid Duke already on the roster. The 21-year-old forward became the Golden Knights’ first-ever player after agreeing to a three-year entry-level contract with the team in March.
The Golden Knights’ first home game will be Oct. 10 against the Arizona Coyotes.