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Which Players Have Won a Stanley Cup With Their Expansion Draft Team?

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Reilly Smith and William Karlsson Vegas Golden Knights (Photo- Vegas Golden Knights via Twitter)

Hey, it’s that time again. The Golden Knights are off for three days and I have fallen down a rabbit hole looking at pointless hockey statistics and information.

Big shoutout to HockeyReference as always for fueling my addiction.

Expansion. It’s something over half of the franchises in the NHL have gone through and something that is still happening with the NHL to this day with the Seattle Kraken and the Vegas Golden Knights.

To answer the question in the title there are five players that have won a Stanley Cup with the team that drafted them in an expansion draft. That’s a small number considering there have been 12 expansion drafts in NHL history which have created 23 different teams.

Truth be told I’m not really trying to prove a point with this article at all, it was simply just a thought bubble I had that turned into a full research project in the middle of my 11 am.

If the Golden Knights are to win the Stanley Cup this season (they have to make the playoff first), they would more than double this number of expansion draftees to win a cup.

William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, William Carrier, and Zach Whitecloud (he played one game in 17-18 so he counts) would take the number from five to twelve.

The 1974 and 1975 Flyers

The quickest team in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup after expansion is still the Philadelphia Flyers who won the Cup just seven years after their inception. The Golden Knights are looking to beat that record. Four players that were on the Flyers roster that season had their names etched into Lord Stanley.

Defenseman Joe Watson and Ed Van Impe were reliable defensemen for the Flyers and were on both the 1974 and 1975 Stanley Cup teams. Right-winger Gary Dornhoefer was also on both teams and finished in the top-six of the Flyers’ scoring in both of the Cup years. All three of these players had lengthy careers with the Flyers after being selected in the 1967 NHL Expansion Draft.

But the one known best was goaltender Bernie Parent who was the Flyers’ starter in both back-to-back Stanley Cup years. In both of the Flyers’ Stanley Cup victories, Parent won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP in the playoffs. A Hockey Hall of Famer, Parent spent 10 years in Philly and also won two Vezina Trophies on top of his two Cups and Conn Smythes.

The 1980s Islander Dynasty

The trend of a goalie being selected in the Expansion Draft who then went on to win a Stanley Cup continued with the New York Islanders in the 1980s. Just eight years after their inception the Islanders won four-straight Stanley Cups with Expansion Draft pick Billy Smith as their goaltender.

Smith won a Conn Smythe as the top performer in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the 1982-83 season. He also won the Jennings and Vezina Trophies as well in his 17-year career with the Islanders.

Not to get too mixed up in “the decision” but you wonder, given all these Hall-of-Fame goaltenders who had success with their expansion teams, if Marc-Andre Fleury could have ever won a cup with the VGK.

It Took Them Too Long

The Pittsburgh Penguins (24 years) Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars (32 years), Los Angeles Kings (45 years), and St. Louis Blues (52 years) all took significant periods of time to win their first Stanley Cups.

Unfortunately, Alex Pietrangelo was not chosen by the Blues in the 1967 Expansion Draft as he was not born yet, so none of these teams had players on them that were original members of the team.

The number of years between a team’s inception and the first Stanley Cup win starts to get lower as we enter the modern era of the NHL but still the Tampa Bay Lightning (12 years), Atlanta/Calgary Flames (17 years), Anaheim Ducks (17 years), Kansas City Scouts/Colorado Rockies/New Jersey Devils (21 years), or Washington Capitals (44 years) never won a Stanley Cup with an expansion player.

The Kraken and Golden Knights are in a different category being the two most recent expansion teams. We already mentioned the seven Golden Knights players. But if the Kraken were to somehow magically go on a run, make the playoffs, and win the Stanley Cup they would add 23+ players to this stat.

These two teams will play twice this upcoming week with the Golden Knights taking on the Kraken on both Wednesday and Friday at 7:00 pm at Climate Pledge Arena.

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Owen Krepps covers the Vegas Golden Knights for Vegas Hockey Now and writes for the Boulder City Review-Journal. A 2022 Robert Morris University graduate, he has previously written for RMU Sentry Media, Colonial Sports Network, The Titusville Herald, Pittsburgh Sports Now, and Pittsburgh Hockey Now.

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Bruce Clough

While all 7 VGK players listed played during the inaugural season. Only four of them were picked in the expansion draft (Karlsson, Marchessault, McNabb & Carrier). Theodore & Smith were technically traded for, and Whitecloud was signed late in the season.

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