I can completely understand why the Vegas Golden Knights didn’t name a captain in its first, even its second season. There’s so much that needs to be done to establish a nascent franchise, a captaincy decision can be held off till later. On top of that, no matter who you name captain, that team’s performance will fall on their shoulders, not the greatest team for an expansion team. Even though the Golden Knights instead wound up having incredible success in their first two seasons, the question becomes whether it should be a priority to have an official captain.
The main reason I can think of for the Golden Knights to not name a captain is that they’d want someone more closely tied to the franchise. There are ten players on the Golden Knights who were picked in the expansion draft and none who’ve been drafted and developed by the team. They are still firmly in their “expansion team” years and may want to wait until they’re more established and have more of an identity beyond being built around other teams’ castoffs.
Engelland is the sentimental pick. Engelland is 37, and had a career-year a season ago with 23 points and 20:17 per night of TOI, but hasn’t reached those heights before or since. Despite those knocks against him, Engelland, as has been mentioned a lot of times before, played minor league hockey in Las Vegas during the 2000s and has since adopted the city as his hometown, which was the reason he was picked in the expansion draft in the first place. If Engelland is named captain, then we know it wouldn’t be a long-term arrangement. He may well very be gone at season’s end, which would allow them to make him captain but have the position still be vacant once they decide to name a long-term captain.
One of the advantages of being a new franchise with no home-grown or long-tenured players is that, should the team decide to name a team captain, they aren’t obligated to pick someone who’s been with the team for a long time and can pick anyone. And with that in mind, who has better credentials than Stone? Not only nominated this past season for the Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward, but he’s also coming off of career offensive highs of 33 goas, 40 assists, and 73 points, leading over the next-highest finisher in each category that finished the season with Vegas, and by a wide margin. He was probably the best player on the team from the moment he arrived, has committed to Vegas with an eight-year extension the day he arrived, and he has the experience of helping carry a team in as rough shape as the Ottawa Senators.
Entering the inaugural season of the Golden Knights, the franchise faces were Deryk Engelland and Marc-Andre Fleury, the former for his association with the city of Las Vegas, and the latter for him being the most skilled player the Golden Knights had on expansion draft day. It’s safe to say Karlsson has been added to that list. In his first season with Vegas, he scored 43 goals and 78 points, and while he fell far short of those marks in year two, he was closer to that than the negligible production of the pre-Vegas years, which amounted to 18 goals and 55 points in 183 games across three season versus 24 goals and 56 points in 82 last season. To a greater extent than almost anyone else on the roster, Karlsson became a star on the Golden Knights roster. Because of that, Karlsson is a good pick for team captain.
I still feel Vegas will make Deryk Engelland their first captain. He will wear the “C” briefly before he retires from pro hockey, by which point the choice will have been made clearer as to who should be their first long-term captain.