Vegas Golden Knights name Gerard Gallant 1st head coach

The Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday named former Florida Panthers bench boss Gerard Gallant as the franchise's first head coach.

George McPhee was named the team's first general manager last July, a month after the Knights became the National Hockey League's 31st team.

The Golden Knights will hold a news conference at 3 p.m. ET Thursday to make the appointment of Gallant official.

"He is an experienced head coach, has had success at multiple levels and has a great reputation amongst the players who have played for him," McPhee said in a statement released by the team. "We canvassed a number of qualified head coaching candidates to ensure we found the best coach for our group."

Gallant, 53, is looking forward to a new opportunity after the Panthers fired him 22 games into this season.

"We have a state-of-the-art facility being constructed [in Las Vegas], a world-class home arena and from what I've heard a very passionate and engaged fan base," the native of Summerside P.E.I. said in a statement.

Jack Adams Award finalist

The Panthers cited philosophical differences as the primary reason why they fired Gallant. Tom Rowe, the team's GM at the time, stepped in as interim head coach. Earlier this week Rowe was removed from both roles but will remain as an adviser with the team.

Gallant was 96-65-25 in parts of three seasons in Florida and a finalist for the Jack Adams Award last season. In his first season with the Panthers in 2014-15, he guided them to a 38-29-15 record for 91 points, a 25-point improvement from the previous campaign. Florida recorded 103 points the following season to win the Atlantic Division.

Before arriving in Florida, Gallant was an assistant coach with Montreal for two seasons, helping the Canadiens reach the post-season each year and the Eastern Conference finals in 2014. He had previously served as an assistant in Columbus and with the New York Islanders.

Gallant was on Canada's gold-medal winning coaching staff at the 2007 world championship in Moscow and earlier this week was named an assistant to Jon Cooper for next month's tournament in Paris.

Prior to working behind an NHL bench, he compiled a 159-34-9 mark with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Saint John Sea Dogs, whom he led to three division titles, three league final appearances, back-to-back championships in 2011 and 2012 and one Memorial Cup title in 2011.

Gallant, 53, played 11 seasons in the NHL with Detroit and Tampa Bay from 1984-95. In 615 regular-season games, he scored 211 goals and 480 points with 1,674 penalty minutes.