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Cup in Six: How Vegas Golden Knights clinched first Stanley Cup in franchise history

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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – JUNE 13: Members of the Vegas Golden Knights pose with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Florida Panthers to win the championship in Game Five of the 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena on June 13, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Vegas Golden Knights captured the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Here’s how the did it and what fans should take away. 

Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley spoke it into existence in Year 1 of the franchise. “Playoffs in three. Cup in six,” he said back in 2017.

The 2022-23 season was year six. On Tuesday, the Golden Knights became the fastest NHL expansion team to win the Stanley Cup. They defeated the Florida Panthers 9-3 at T-Mobile Arena in Game 5.

Mark Stone recorded a hat trick, and Jonathan Marchessault won the Conn Smythe Trophy for the most valuable player in the playoffs, collecting 13 goals and 25 points in 22 games.

But what paved the way to Vegas’ historic Cup victory, and what should we take away from the Stanley Cup Final? Let’s take a look.

Vegas Golden Knights: Takeaways from winning first-ever Stanley Cup

Jonathan Marchessault wins the Conn Smythe

Jonathan Marchessault has finally achieved his dream of winning the Stanley Cup. He also added the Conn Smythe Trophy to his accomplishments. Despite being undersized, undrafted, and underappreciated, Marchessault rose and made many big plays during the postseason. It was particularly satisfying for him because the Panthers had exposed him in the 2017 expansion draft. In previous years, Marchessault had to watch his childhood friends from Quebec City win the Cup. But now it’s his turn.

When NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that Marchessault had won the Conn Smythe Award, he hugged his linemate, Jack Eichel, telling him that he was the reason for his win.

“You did it for me,” he said.

Eichel scored 26 points in the playoffs, one more than Marchessault.

Marchessault, who went the first seven games of the playoffs without a goal, scored 13 goals in his final 15 games and ended the playoffs on a 10-game point streak.

Marchessault has become the first undrafted player to win the Conn Smythe since Wayne Gretzky in 1988. Although 10 undrafted players have won the award, just six debuted after the first NHL amateur draft in 1963. However, Marchessault is the first true undrafted player to receive the award. Gretzky was not drafted into the NHL because he had signed as a teenager in the WHA and was protected by the Edmonton Oilers when the leagues merged.

The other undrafted players won the award during an era when NHL teams had saved lists and were associated with junior teams across Canada. The most highly regarded young players were signed to “C” forms, making them the property of NHL clubs for their entire careers, starting as early as age 14 with parental consent.

Marchessault has played in all 88 of Vegas’ playoff games since its inaugural 2018 postseason. He’s the franchise’s all-time leader with 34 goals, 71 points, 26 even-strength goals, 54 even-strength points, 300 shots, and eight power-play goals.

David Perron watched the Stanley Cup game while driving back to Detroit and pulled over to see his friend Jonathan Marchessault accept the Conn Smythe Trophy. Fellow players Yanni Gourde and David Savard watched from their homes. Marchessault attended both of their Stanley Cup parties in 2021. Now he can make one himself.

Marchessault called his fellow Cup-champion pals “winners.”

“Something you can never take away from those guys,” he told the Athletic (subscription required). “And now, all of us, the Golden Knights, we’re all winners. This is the best feeling in the world.”

“He’s had to overcome a lot of things,” Perron said. “If you look at his career path to make it to the NHL, playing as a 20-year-old and major junior, which usually those guys don’t end up having the career that he’s got. He doesn’t get fazed by the big moments. If anything, he stays extremely calm and poised under pressure in those moments.”

Like Gourde and Savard, Perron can’t wait to attend Marchessault’s Cup-winning party this summer.

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