The NHL goes to Vegas… and finds out who is staying behind!

The expansion draft reveals the first Vegas Golden Knights players and the NHL gives out its season-end awards
The home of last night's NHL awards...and the NHL's newest team, the Vegas Golden Knights. They selected their first players last night. (© Jonathan Weiss | ID 82729008 Dreamstime)

There may not have been any hockey games last night, but the NHL was still buzzing with action. It was in Las Vegas for two events wrapped up in one.

First? The NHL Awards! Second? The expansion draft!

What's that, you ask? Let's back up a little.

Good knights to you all

Next season, the NHL will welcome a brand new franchise, or team: the Vegas Golden Knights!

It will be the 31st team in the league. They've got an arena, the T-Mobile Arena, in downtown Las Vegas. There's a date for their first-ever game (October 6th in Dallas). They've even got their new uniforms!

The only thing that has been missing? Uh, well... players!

To solve this problem, the NHL put together the expansion draft. This let the Golden Knights pick players they want from the rosters of all the other 30 NHL teams. Sounds great... for Vegas!

We'll take Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Alex Ovechkin, Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, Connor McDavid, Carey Price, and...

Not for you, Las Vegas. (Getty Embed)

Whoa! Whoa! Vegas! You can't just pick anyone that you like!

That's because the other teams had the right to protect certain players. And any player who had been a pro for less than three years (such as Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews) was automatically protected. The lists of available players were submitted to the league on Sunday. Then Vegas general manager, George McPhee, spent the last two days choosing the players that he wanted. He was also allowed to set up trades with the other teams, too. The only condition?

It was all kept secret until the night of the awards on June 21!

The big reveal

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (known as "The Flower") was one of Vegas' biggest picks in the draft. He appeared at the awards to talk about the team's future. (Getty Embed)

Of course, since that was last night, we now know who was chosen. We won't list every single player, but the Golden Knights did grab some pretty solid ones. These include Pittsburgh Penguins goalie (and three-time Cup winner) Marc-Andre Fleury, Nashville star forward James Neal, recent 30-goal scorer Jonathan Marchessault from Florida, and excellent young Washington Capitals defenceman Nate Schmidt.

Neal was a big part of the Nashville team that almost won this year's Stanley Cup. (Getty Embed)

Building a great team takes time. But popular, experienced players like Fleury, Neal, and Ottawa's Marc Methot (another important expansion draft pick) will help them get started.

The big winners

Speaking of great teams and players, the NHL Awards were given out to the sport's best last night. And most of the awards went to players on Canadian teams.

Just call him Connor McTrophy! (Getty Embed)

Edmonton's Connor McDavid was the star of the evening, winning three trophies: the Art Ross as the league's top scorer, the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP, and the Ted Lindsay Award as the most outstanding player in the eyes of the NHL Players Association. On top of all of this, it was announced that McDavid will be on the cover of EA Sports' NHL 18 video game. Awesome!

He was also on the cover of OWL Magazine's Jan/Feb 2017 issue. Just saying.

Matthews had stiff competition this year from Winnipeg's Patrik Laine, but came out on top. (Getty Embed)

Toronto's Auston Matthews won the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year. He is the first Leafs' rookie of the year since Brit Selby in 1966.

Nicholle and Craig Anderson pose at the awards. Their family battle to fight her cancer this season was a big story. (Getty Embed)

Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson won the Bill Masterton Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. He missed half the season to take time off to help his wife battle cancer, and still returned to lead the Senators deep into the playoffs. Meanwhile, Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau won the Lady Byng as the league's most gentlemanly player (proving that being a nice guy matters).

Other winners included San Jose's Brent Burns, winning the Norris as top defenseman, Columbus' Sergei Bobrovsky with his second-straight Vezina for top goalie, and his coach, Jon Tortorella, winning the Jack Adams as coach of the year.

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