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Is the Vegas Golden Knights march to the Stanley Cup finals the sporting story of the year?

Related Story: Nathan Walker relishing his role as first Australian to play in America's NHL Related Story: Australian Nathan Walker marks historic NHL debut with goal for Capitals

Is this the sporting story of the year?

A brand-new ice hockey franchise, playing in the middle of the desert to packed houses, using the power of a new team to unite a city coming to terms with a terrible mass-shooting tragedy that occurred just five days before their opening game.

All things considered, the Vegas Golden Knight's remarkable rise has prompted many to christen them the most successful expansion franchise in American sporting history.

External Link: Golden Knights tweet: This place is

It's hard to argue that point. The Golden Knights have a winning percentage far in excess of all other new expansion sides that have entered the four major sporting leagues [NHL, NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball].

Major League Soccer does have a history of instant success with Houston Dynamo and Chicago Fire winning the title in their first year but don't let that get in the way of what is still a mightily impressive story.

Just 12 months ago, the NHL's newest franchise had a name, a stadium and not much else. Their inaugural season makes for some impressive reading.

51 regular season wins.

Division title.

Conference title.

Stanley Cup hammering.

Ok that last one wasn't meant to be in the script. But nevertheless this season has been a remarkable one from the first professional franchise to call Las Vegas home.

Viva Las Vegas

The Entertainment Capital of the World is tailor-made for the razzmatazz associated with main-stream US sport — and the Golden Knights have not disappointed with their offerings thus far.

External Link: NHL tweet: It's just how Vegas does things. StanleyCupNHL tweet: It's just how Vegas does things. StanleyCup

The Golden Knights' pregame shows are quintessentially Vegas — perhaps aiding a record of 29 wins, 10 defeats and two draws in the regular season — the equal second best in the entire competition behind the Winnipeg Jets — who the Knights beat 4-1 in the conference finals to advance to the Stanley Cup finals.

But surely it's not just the pre-game shows and dazzling lights of Sin City that has led to this phenomenal record?

The Vegas Golden Knights did things right straight from the off, with owner Bill Foley hiring former Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee all the way back in 2016.

McPhee had a year to put together his backroom staff — including a coach with a point to prove in Gerard Gallant who was discarded by the Florida Panthers less than a year after leading the team to their second ever division title.

The draft

Expansion teams in Australia tend to be given a fair leg up with concessionary draft picks — and to an extent that was the case for the Knights here.

The goalkeeper watches on from the left of the picture as the Vegas Golden Knights player Reilly Smith skates off, arms aloft

They benefitted from taking part in the first expansion draft in the salary cap era, meaning fewer players from existing teams' squads were 'protected' from being poached than had been the case in previous expansions.

This was the first expansion draft in the NHL since 2000, when the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild entered the league but was wildly more successful — both those teams finished bottom of their respective divisions in their inaugural seasons.

Those extra concessions certainly helped the Golden Knights but they still needed to pick the right players, and, despite referring to themselves as the 'Golden misfits', contain plenty of big-name players, none more so than three-time Stanley Cup winning goalkeeper Marc-Andre Fleury.

Washington finally win

Vegas fans react after a goal by Washington's Alex Ovechkin in Game Five of the Stanley Cup finals. External Link: NHL tweet: His moment at last

The team that actually won it? Ok if we must…

The Capitals may have spoiled the narrative of the expansion team come good — but that's not to say that we shouldn't be applauding the Capitals for their success after their 4-1 series victory, sealed with a thrilling 4-3 win in Vegas.

Not least because Australian Nathan Walker suits up for the Capitals — although the Sydney-raised 24-year-old did not take to the ice in the Stanley Cup, managing just one game this post-season after playing nine games in the regular season.

The Capitals' first ever Stanley Cup triumph also signals redemption for Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin — who has been expected to lead the Capitals to the promised land since being picked as the number one draft in 2004.

That success has finally come for the 32-year-old goal-scoring machine, being named finals MVP to cap off another record-breaking season.

For the Knights, there's always next year.

External Link: THANK YOU fans for being a part of this incredible inaugural season. THANK YOU Vegas for welcoming us to our home.

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