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Fear the Five: Players to watch for on the Vegas Golden Knights

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With the Sharks moving onto the second round, here are the top players San Jose will be up against.

Mar 31, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski (8) is checked by Vegas Golden Knights center William Karlsson (71) and right wing Alex Tuch (89) during the third period at T-Mobile Arena. Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden Knights are the real deal. Whether they’re fueled by spite or William Karlsson’s shooting percentage or hidden gems of talent buried in other team’s fourth lines, they’re the winningest expansion team in NHL history. As Pete DeBoer said, the Sharks are going to be the underdogs in this round two matchup.

Here are five players the Sharks will be looking out for at T-Mobile Arena:

Marc-Andre Fleury

First round series grade: A+
Exceeded or met expectations?: Exceeded

Is there really a Stanley Cup Playoffs without mentioning Fleury and his stellar performances? The 33-year-old goaltender carried the Vegas Golden Knights to a four-game sweep over the Los Angeles Kings in the first round this year in the team’s inaugural playoff series. Fleury posted an insane 0.65 goals against average and a stellar .977 save percentage in the series while holding a 4-0-0 record. The Quebec native now holds a 66-51-0 career playoff record while posting a 2.57 GAA and a .911 save percentage through 117 career post-season games. Fleury can, without a doubt, steal another series for the Golden Knights and will be the biggest problem the Sharks face.

William Karlsson

First round series grade: B+
Exceeded or met expectations?: Met expectations

William Karlsson was the Golden Knights regular season leading scorer, having posted 43 goals and 35 assists for 78 points in 82 games. Karlsson then carried his strong play into the post-season, finishing second on the team in points with a goal and an assist in four games. The 25-year-old Swede has been the most talked about forward of this crazy expansion team. In the previous two years with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Karlsson only managed to record 45 points in 162 games. Karlsson can use his speed down the wing to create scoring chances in front of the net and will look to explode in this second round playoff series.

Jonathan Marchessault

First round series grade: B+
Exceeded or met expectations?: Met expectations

Marchessault was another breakout story for the Golden Knights this season. Through 77 regular season games, he managed to put up 27 goals, 48 assists for a total of 75 points, good for second on the team. The 27-year-old Quebec native finished second on Vegas with two points in four post-season games in round one, putting up two assists and a team-high 17 shots on net. Marchessault, much to the likes of Karlsson, likes to use his small size and speed down the wing to create key scoring chances and catch the opposing team’s defense off guard.

Reilly Smith

First round series grade: B+
Exceeded or met expectations?: Exceeded

Smith was Vegas’ leading point scorer for the first round, notching three assists in four games. The 27-year-old, like much of the team, had a break out season for the Golden Knights where he recorded a career high in points (60) and assists (38). The Etobicoke native creates most of his chances from the high slot and is a tough force in front of the net who, when given chances, capitalizes every time.

Shea Theodore

First round series grade: B
Exceeded or met expectations?: Met expectations

Theodore is without a doubt the best defensmen on the Golden Knights’ roster, both offensively and also defensively. Theodore finished the first round tied for second on the team in points (one goal, one assist) and also managed 11 shots. The 22-year-old star is a totally different player during the playoffs. Through his career 22 post-season games, he has recorded 16 points. Theodore is a D-man with an offensive edge and will definitely be a player for San Jose to keep their eye on.

The Sharks will have a tough time in this second-round series. Both teams are coming off a clean sweep in their first round series and will be coming into play rested and ready to go. But Fleury and company are playing on another level right now and are hard to beat — the Kings, feel as you may about them, couldn’t eke out a single win. But a California team has made the Western Conference Final every year for the last eight years, and this year it’s up to the Sharks to maintain that tradition.