The Vegas Golden Knights have yet to name themselves their first team captain, having opted to play their first season without a full captain. Of course, they’re not exactly in a situation where they’ve got players who make complete sense as a captain. Each player I posit has some major knock against them.
Engelland’s entire history in the NHL is as a big-bodied type who hits a lot, with extra willingness to fight. When the Golden Knights picked Engelland in the expansion draft, it was seen as a weak move made for sentimental reasons, as Engelland played in the ECHL for the Las Vegas Wranglers in the mid-2000s and has since made the city his permanent residence. It wound up being a surprisingly good move. Engelland scored a respectable 23 points, far more than in any season up to that point, and made a speech on opening night in response to the Vegas shooting, endearing him further to the team’s fans.
Smith, whose offensive production has been a bit up-and-down the past few years, scored a career-high 60 points, which prorates to 74 points. Smith and Jonathan Marchessault are both 27 years old, and of the two, Smith is the more experienced.
I always knew for this part of the series, it would be Engelland, Smith, and one of Smith’s linemates who would be the candidates. In part three, I touched on the Blue Jackets making Nick Foligno captain after a mid-career breakout without first ensuring it was repeatable, only for Foligno to prove it wasn’t, and suggested this as a knock against Isles candidate Josh Bailey. This applies even more to Karlsson, who had 41 goals and 78 points in 82 games last season versus 18 goals and 50 points in 183 games prior to that. As for Marchessault, he has more of a history of scoring. He finished the 2017 season with 30 goals and 57 points before being taken in the expansion draft, and then scored 75 points in his first season with Vegas. Marchessault and Reilly Smith are both 27 years old, and of the two, Marchessault has worked through the most obstacles, being a small player who passed through the draft unselected. Both a lack of size and not being chosen in the draft carry a stigma for a player to overcome, and Marchessault did that to become one of the marquee names for the newest franchise in the league.
The Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t name a team captain until the 1995/96 season, their third in franchise history. There are a number of non-slam dunk choices on this team for captain, little expectation that they will repeat their history-making inaugural season, and if those pregame shows are any indication, little taste for keeping with tradition. For Vegas, I could reasonably say Vegas shouldn’t name a captain, or choose co-captains, or do for Marc-Andre Fleury what Vancouver did for Roberto Luongo in 2009, but you don’t want me to give a cheat answer eh? I was prepared to pick Smith as the player I’d name captain, but the more I think about it, Marchessault makes more sense. He may have fewer seasons under his belt, but is just as old as Reilly, has had more challenges to overcome on his way to NHL stardom, and is a much more prolific offensive producer.