LAS VEGAS -- In true Las Vegas fashion, teams gambled, and it appears the house, in this case the Golden Knights, won.
Prior to the expansion draft, Golden Knights general manager George McPhee offered the other 30 NHL teams a chance to sweeten the pot to keep him from selecting coveted unprotected players. As a result, Vegas stockpiled a number of draft picks while also revealing the names of the first 24 players of their inaugural squad Wednesday night at the 2017 NHL awards show and expansion draft at the T-Mobile Center.
"I feel like we've built a great team, and we can only grow from here," owner Bill Foley, who helped announce the picks along with McPhee from the stage, said matter-of-factly.
Colorado goaltender Calvin Pickard, who had a 2.98 goals-against average in 50 games last season, was the first player announced for the Golden Knights. He was followed by 27-year-old Vancouver Canucks defenseman Luca Sbisa, Arizona forward Teemu Pulkkinen and New Jersey Devils defenseman Jon Merrill.
William Carrier, a 22-year-old left winger, was then chosen from the Buffalo Sabres, who also traded the Golden Knights a sixth-round pick for the 2017 draft to keep the expansion club away from another unprotected player.
Forward Tomas Nosek was selected from the Detroit Red Wings, followed by two more forwards, Cody Eakin of the Dallas Stars and Jonathan Marchessault of the Florida Panthers.
The Golden Knights also picked up forward Reilly Smith and his $5 million cap hit per season over the next five years from the Panthers for a fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft. Taking on Smith's contract was likely an incentive for the Panthers to leave Marchessault, who scored 30 goals last season, unprotected.
Rounding out the first nine picks was defenseman Brayden McNabb, who was voted the top newcomer for the Los Angeles Kings after scoring 51 points this past season.
Nashville Predators forward James Neal, who has scored at least 20 goals in all nine of his NHL seasons, including 40 in 2011-12, highlighted the next eight selections, which also included 35-year-old Calgary Flames defenseman Deryk Engelland, a Las Vegas resident and former member of the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL.
The Golden Knights also may have landed their goaltender of the future in 25-year-old Jean-Francois Berube from the New York Islanders. Also heading to Vegas in a trade were the Islanders' first-round pick in 2017 and second-round selection in 2019 as well as defenseman Jake Bischoff and center Mikhail Grabovski.
Forward Connor Brickley and a fifth-round pick in this year's draft went from Carolina to the Golden Knights followed by veteran forward Chris Thorburn from the Winnipeg Jets and Philadelphia forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who starred for France in the World Cup of Hockey.
Vegas also picked up Tampa Bay defenseman Jason Garrison, who had nine power-play goals last season, along with forward Nikita Gusev, a 2017 second-round pick and a 2018 fourth-round pick for expansion-draft considerations.
The Golden Knights added a pair of physical defensemen in Marc Methot of the Ottawa Senators and Alexei Emelin from the Montreal Canadiens along with Boston Bruins defenseman Colin Miller, who has registered a slap shot measured at 105 mph.
Brandon Leipsic, a 23-year-old forward, was plucked from the Toronto Maple Leafs, and veteran defenseman David Schlemko was chosen from the San Jose Sharks. The Golden Knights also chose forward David Perron, who had 18 goals with the St. Louis Blues, and New York Rangers forward Oscar Lindberg and Edmonton Oilers defenseman Griffin Reinhart, the fourth overall pick of the 2012 draft.
The Golden Knights are required to take exactly one player from each team and a minimum of 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders in the expansion draft. At least 20 of those players must be under contract for the 2017-18 season with average annual salaries that add up to at least $43.8 million, or 60 percent of the salary cap for the upcoming season.
The other 30 teams protected either seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender, or eight skaters and a goalie. Seven teams opted for the latter approach; one of them, the Islanders, were the only team to protect five defensemen.
Numerous trades between teams are expected to be announced starting Thursday after a trade/waiver freeze expires at 8 a.m. ET.