Golden Knights preview: Rankings, predictions, playoff chances and more

There were some talent upgrades elsewhere on the roster, but the Golden Knights' fortunes this season may all come down to netminder Marc-Andre Fleury. AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker

With the 2018-19 season fast approaching, we're running snapshots of all 31 NHL teams, including point total projections, positional previews, best- and worst-case scenarios and more.

The Vegas Golden Knights couldn't have done much better in their inaugural campaign. What do they have in store for an encore?

How they finished in 2017-18: 51-24-7 (109 points), 5th in NHL, 1st in the Pacific Division, lost in the Stanley Cup Final

By now, the story is legend: The expansion team that bonded as the "Golden Misfits," and bonded with its city through unspeakable tragedy, set a collection of records en route to a division title and a conference title before falling to the Capitals in the Stanley Cup Final. Oh, and the whole thing happened to a professional hockey team playing in Las Vegas.

Over/under projected point total (per the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook): 98.5

Best-case scenario: The Knights don't need all of the coincidental catalysts for their unexpected expansion-team success, as the magic was always inside of them.

Worst-case scenario: We all knew there was something magical about the inaugural Golden Knights. That's reiterated when Vegas begins playing like civilians. It turns out that, yes, Vegas goalies really were playing out of their minds. No, William Karlsson isn't a 40-goal scorer -- or even a 30-goal scorer. Losing Nate Schmidt for the first 20 games hurts. Back to the original plan of a slow build.

Forward overview: Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith and William Karlsson made up one of the most productive lines in the NHL. Even if Karlsson doesn't hit 43 goals and Marchessault 75 points this season, the line remains an offensive engine for the Knights. The good news is that they have more help: The additions of Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny to the second line -- ostensibly replacing James Neal and David Perron -- is a major upgrade in talent. One assumes they'll be paired with another 200-foot player in Erik Haula or power forward Alex Tuch. Either of those two could anchor a third line that'll feature Tomas Nosek, with Ryan Carpenter, Oscar Lindberg, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Cody Eakin and Ryan Reaves among the other options at forward. NHL rank: 5th

Defense overview: Getting Shea Theodore signed and onto the roster was important, given that the Knights will be without puck-mover Nate Schmidt for 20 games due to a violation of the performance enhancing drug policy. He'll likely pair with Deryk Engelland. Brayden McNabb and Colin Miller will see plenty of ice time, while Nick Holden, Brad Hunt, Jake Bischoff, and Jon Merrill are also in the mix. NHL rank: 19th

Goalie overview: Whatever the expectations are for the Golden Knights this season, they inevitably come back to one simple question: Can Marc-Andre Fleury do that again? The former Penguin-turned-Vegas franchise player had a .927 save percentage in 46 games, with a quality start percentage of .674. He was incredible and the foundation for much of what Vegas built last season. Malcolm Subban is his backup. NHL rank: 6th

Special teams: Vegas was 11th on the power play at 21.4 percent, tied with the Canucks and Devils. The Golden Knights' penalty kill was 10th at 81.4 percent. Both performed admirably.

Pipeline overview: For having only two entry drafts and trading away one of their top prospects in Nick Suzuki in the Pacioretty deal, the Golden Knights still have a system that most teams would covet. Cody Glass has top-six center potential, Erik Brannstrom is an exciting offensive defenseman and 2017 second-rounder Nicolas Hague scored 35 goals in the OHL from the blue line. Meanwhile, early returns on their midround picks over the past few years suggest they've done very well in building a prospect system from scratch. Read more -- Chris Peters

Fantasy nugget: Despite playing on an ultra-motivating one-year contract, fat chance William Karlsson scores 40-plus goals for a second straight year in light of last season's utterly unsustainable 23.4 shooting percentage. Along with linemates Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith, there's danger in overestimating Wild Bill's productive prowess 12 months after last summer's grand undervaluation. Let's chalk Vegas' top forward up for 30 goals or so -- still an impressive total -- and leave it at that. Now watch him score 50. Read more -- Victoria Matiash

Coach on the hot seat? Of all the great stories surrounding the Golden Knights, Gerard Gallant's was one of the greatest, going from an unceremonious firing in Florida to winning the Jack Adams Award in Vegas. He's a players' coach, and good one at that.

Bold prediction: Pacioretty gets back to the 35-goal mark.