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6 reasons the Vegas Golden Knights are the NHL’s surprise No. 1 team

The Golden Knights have made their dominance look easy.

Vegas Golden Knights vs. Carolina Hurricanes Chris Seward/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via Getty Images

The Vegas Golden Knights were announced as a franchise a year-and-a-half ago on a relatively unassuming mid-June afternoon. When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman gave the OK on the league’s first expansion team since 2000, no one expected its first season in 2017-18 to be anything remarkable.

Instead, midway through January and the NHL season, the Golden Knights are leading the NHL standings. After toppling the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday by a score of 5-1, Vegas took the No. 1 spot away from the Tampa Bay Lightning with their 31st win of the season:

NHL standings as of January 22.

We’re a far cry from the end of the regular season, but the fact that the Golden Knights have usurped the Lightning’s crown and are leading the NHL for at least one day a few months into their inaugural season is beyond incredible. Vegas wasn’t supposed to be this good, let alone lead the entire league halfway through the season.

And yet, here we are. To celebrate the occasion, we’ve picked out the six most incredible facts from the Golden Knights’ league-leading 31st win.

Vegas’ wins have come at a remarkable pace

The Golden Knights were already the fastest NHL expansion team to hit the 20-win mark earlier this year — in mid-December no less. Now, the Golden Knights are just two wins away from tying the NHL record for most wins ever by a team in its inaugural season in nearly half the time.

For comparison, most NHL expansion teams flop out of the gate in their first few years:

The Golden Knights aren’t just winning at home either

Whether or not the “Vegas Flu” is real, the Golden Knights aren’t just winning at home. After besting the Hurricanes in Carolina, Vegas posted its 13th road win in its inaugural season. The Golden Knights are now six wins behind Anaheim for the most road wins in their first season with 18 more away games to come.

The Fleury factor

While he was injured for part of the season, the Golden Knights are getting some of the best hockey out of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. In 16 games played this season, Fleury has 11 wins and a .946 save percentage. Those are incredible numbers, especially since Fleury peaked at a .921 save percentage with Pittsburgh.

Fleury is also climbing up the NHL’s all-time goaltenders list, as he notched his 386th career win on Sunday in the Golden Knights’ victory.

Vegas’ wins have come against some big teams

The Hurricanes may not be one of the NHL’s top teams, but the Golden Knights have done some outstanding work this season dismantling some of the league’s best. Already, the Golden Knights have won their series against teams like the Lightning, the Predators, and the Maple Leafs, who are all expected to be playoff contenders come April.

It’s not much, but Vegas can clearly run with the league’s biggest teams.

The Golden Knights are getting the most out of their players

Expansion drafts usually give teams the scraps of already established franchises. The Golden Knights, however, have turned these rag-tag teammates into a force to be reckoned with, as the team has eight skaters all putting up career highs in points this season.

They are, as follows: William Karlsson (40 points in 46 games), Colin Miller (24 points in 46 games), Alex Tuch (22 points in 42 games), Nate Schmidt (20 points in 46 games), Shea Theodore (15 points in 31 games), Brendan Leipsic (13 points in 35 games), Brad Hunt (nine points in 23 games), and Tomas Nosek (eight points in 41 games).

And the advanced stats back them up

This doesn’t just seem like a flash in the pan for Vegas. According to the advanced stats, the Golden Knights are here and they are legit. Teams have clearly underestimated them through the first half of the season, but Vegas has no doubt proved its worth to the world in just 46 games.