When the Vegas Golden Knights selected James Neal from the Nashville Predators in the expansion draft this past summer, it was assumed that the forward would eventually be flipped for futures. General manager George McPhee likely believed at that point that his team was several years away from making the playoffs. Thus moving a veteran like Neal at or around the NHL trade deadline would have made a lot of sense. The 2017-18 season hasn’t gone according to plan for the Golden Knights, however, and anyone who has been paying even remote attention to the standings is aware of that fact. Vegas is not only a virtual lock to make the postseason, but it has a pretty good shot at winning the Pacific Division, too. This team is better than even the most bullish of pundits could have predicted. There was no reason for McPhee to shift his game plan after a good month or two, but the Golden Knights don’t appear to be going away this year. They’re further along the developmental path than anticipated, and while their good fortunes on home ice have to slow down eventually, this is an organization that is coming to grasps with being able to contend now, not in four or five years. Vegas being an expansion market can’t be left out of the equation either.