The official list of unprotected players for the expansion draft has come out so let’s take a look at who I believe should be selected from each team. This list is just an idea and it does not include any trade deals that the Golden Knights might have in place. The list has been submitted and tonight the Expansion Draft results will be revealed.
Sami Vatanen – Vatanen is a young blooming defenseman he offers offense prowess and is stepping into his own as a defender. Now in an expansion draft you’re not going to be able to grab a true number one defenseman but Vatanen is about as close as you’ll get. He’s only 26 years old and he has been getting better as time has gone on. He notched 24 points last season and he was a +3 player while playing almost 22 minutes a night.
Teemu Pulkkinen – This was a tough choice as the Coyotes are a young team so most of their players are already protected. Pulkkinen was regarded as a top prospect in the Red Wings system a few years ago and maybe another change of scenery could unlock his potential. He only played 13 NHL games last year and mustered 2 points. But he’s been great in the AHL in his career he’s scored 157 points in 166 AHL games and it might be a good move for Vegas if Pulkkinen can reach his true potential. He is an RFA but he will likely welcome a move to Vegas so he can get some real NHL time.
Colin Miller – Miller has high upside and is a solid pick if the Knights are trying to keep a young core. Miller has had a wild few years with the Bruins and has lacked consistent playing time on a Bruins team that is backed up with bottom pairing defenseman. Miller can make some positive impact as an offensive defenseman and can push the pace of play. He’s gifted offensively but his play in the defensive zone could use work. Last season he played in 61 games and picked up 13 points and had a 0 +/-.
Cole Schneider – Schneider hasn’t had much NHL experience as he’s only played 6 games with 1 assist. However, he racks up points in the AHL and has had a great career there scoring 268 points in 353 games. With more opportunity in the NHL he might be able to produce but this is a good young option for Vegas to take a chance on.
Troy Brouwer – Brouwer is a veteran and can still put together a solid season and is certainly a presence in the locker room for younger players. He still recorded 25 points last year and helped the Flames reach the postseason with his penalty killing help. Brouwer has always been a hard worker and will give Vegas a good locker room guy and also a leader. He’s a good player for the young kids to learn from and he still offers valuable on ice play.
Lee Stempniak – Stempniak offers another valuable veteran presence and he’s still been able to rack up points no matter what team he’s on. He’s spent the last three seasons with five different teams and he has produced on every single one notching 119 points in 235 games. Seems no matter what line he’s on he can keep scoring which is a valuable asset for an expansion team since the most members of the team will have never played with each other.
Trevor van Riemsdyk – TVR is a solid defender but Chicago suffers from a backlog on the blueline and he was left as the odd man out most nights. TVR brings some upside as he only played in 58 games but in those games he performed well as he scored 16 points and maintained a +17. TVR looks like a solid option for Vegas to take and he’s another young player that could bloom into a solid defender.
Calvin Pickard – Pickard has shown some promise as a young netminder and with a real defense in front of him can turn in some good games between the pipes. He didn’t have a great season last year but the Avalanche as a team were a mess. However, during the past few years he challenged Varlamov for a fair share of starts in the crease. In 86 career games Pickard has posted a .914 SV% and a 2.77 GAA which is some great numbers for a starter or back-up.
Columbus Blue Jackets
William Karlsson – Karlsson has potential and made a good impression last year putting together 25 points in his second full season. He’s not going to be scoring 50 points a season but Columbus was able to protect their young studs and Karlsson is still a viable option. Vegas could use a centerman like Karlsson as he does pick up assists and points and he manages to stay out of the penalty box he’s only had 16 PIM’s in his two seasons in the NHL.
Dan Hamhuis – This Vegas team could use a core defensive defenseman and Dan Hamhuis is that guy. He’s been known to be a purely defensive player throughout his career but can occasionally put some points together. While Hamhuis is certainly past his prime he still put together a good season on the Dallas blueline with 16 points but a -7 +/-. He’s a good leader and can help develop some of the younger blueliners on the Golden Knights while also contributing some valuable minutes on defense.
Detroit Red Wings
Petr Mrazek – In a shocking move the Red Wings protected Howard and not Mrazek. This is an easy pick as Mrazek has shown potential to be a number one and provides a great goaltending option for the future. Worst case scenario the Knights could pick Mrazek and easily flip him to another team for a better player or a draft pick. There are teams who could use a goalie for the future just to name some Dallas, Vancouver, Philly, New York Islanders just to name a few.
Tyler Pitlick – Pitlick is recovering from a torn ACL but during his brief season he had 11 points in 31 games. Pitlick is gonna be a bottom 6 forward no matter where he is but Vegas could use an edge type player like him. Pitlick is not afraid to lay the body and has shown a slight scoring presence as a bottom forward and has a high shooting percentage at 14%. Pitlick won’t be a superstar in Vegas but can still provide some value as a role player.
Jonathan Marchessault – How Florida decided not to protect Marchessault is baffling. Marchessault had a breakout year and led the Panthers in goals (30) and was third in points (51). This is an easy pick for Vegas unless they work out a trade deal with Florida instead. Marchessault only has one year left on his deal and is at a great cap hit but if he has another 30 goal season he’ll be due for a pay-day which Vegas will likely afford if MArchessault keeps his production going.
Los Angeles Kings
Brayden McNabb – Mcnabb is another young defenseman and he is cut from the same cloth as Dan Hamhuis and would learn a lot from playing with Hamhuis. McNabb is never afraid to throw the body and is usually among the league leaders in hits but he only played 49 games last season and had 110 hits. He’s a good gritty bottom pairing defenseman that could be matched with one of the more offensive defenseman on the team.
Eric Staal – Staal had a bounce back year with the Wild and looked like his old self as he recorded 65 points in his 82 games. Staal could provide a large leadership role for the Knights as he spent his years in Carolina serving as the team captain. Staal also provides top line production and is on a pretty cheap deal for his point production. Also, his deal is only for two more seasons which means if Staal keeps producing the Knights will be able to get a modest return for him as a rental player in two seasons.
Daniel Carr – Carr is a good 200 foot player and is a responsible two-way forward. Carr would be a good pick for the Knights since he is still pretty young and hasn’t had too much opportunity in the NHL he only has 56 games of experience with 18 points and a +4 rating. He’s a grinder but he’s capable of holding down a third line role and playing well on the PK.
James Neal - Neal has to be taken. He’s one of the best players available in the entire expansion draft not selecting him would be a huge mistake. Neal is a proven goal scorer and may have had a down year last season but can still provide top line offense. He notched 41 points last year, which, is still good but not great. In the past 6 seasons he’s never had a point total below 37 which is the kind of consistency a brand new team would need.
New Jersey Devils
Beau Bennett – Bennett is an easy selection he can provide some offense and with an opportunity on a top line with other skilled players can score. In his years with Pittsburgh he produced well, he was on a line with Crosby though. That being said Eric Staal and James Neal on a line with Bennett would prove to be a skilled line with Benett picking up some scraps from the other two and since Staal still has playmaking ability I think Bennett could score at least 20 goals. Last year he had 19 points on the second line and first line playing time would only improve those numbers.
New York Islanders
Josh Bailey – Bailey has proven he has offensive talent on the wing and has been improving steadily each year with the Islanders. Bailey netted 56 points last year and showed he was a skilled playmaker. Bailey would serve as a second line player and paired with Marchessault’s scoring ability would likely wind up tallying another season with 30+ assists.
New York Rangers
Oscar Lindberg – Lindberg is a valuable role player and he is a talented centerman in the face off circle winning 52% of draws last season. Lindberg was also used as a penalty killer most of the season and is able to play well in the defensive zone which gives him value towards the end of the game when the Knights have a lead. Lindberg isn’t a dazzling scorer but he’s not afraid to get to the dirty areas and pick up some rebounds.
Chris Wideman – Wideman offers another defensive presence and is probably the best option to take from Ottawa. Ottawa didn’t have much to pick from but Wideman seems the likely selection as he has shown some defensive promise and he’s another young player. Wideman also played with a + rating in both of his seasons in the NHL.
Taylor Leir – Leir is another youthful player with little NHL experience, seems like a common theme on the Knights. He only has 16 games of NHL experience and has 2 points to show for it. In the AHL he’s played 192 games and racked up 117 points. Leir might be able to step into the NHL and produce but with a limited amount of experience it’s hard to tell.
Marc-Andre Fleury – This pick makes itself, Fleury is an established number 1 goalie and has the numbers and experience to prove it. Vegas should take him and use him as their number 1 goalie. However, a common theory seems to be they might trade him away in an attempt to get youthful players in return. There are plenty of teams who would pay top-notch for a goalie of Fleury’s caliber.
San Jose Sharks
Mikkel Boedker – Boedker has been a solid NHL player throughout his career and still has his patented speed. Boedker isn’t going to light the lamp like he used to but he still is a valuable player. He only had 26 points in 81 games last year but he’s the best option for Knights to take. Boedker is still young he’s only 27 and could flourish in a larger role like he did with Arizona.
St. Louis Blues
Kenny Agostino – Agostino has been a monster in the AHL he scored 83 points last year but has only played 17 NHL games putting up 5 points. Agostino falls into that same mold as a guy due for more NHL time. With some consistent play time he could become a good scorer. A guy doesn’t rack up those kind of points in the AHL by accident.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Slater Koekkoek – Koekkoek is a skilled defenseman and he has size to help in his own zone at 6’2″ and 200 pounds. He has no problem tossing the body and is learning to be an NHL ready defenseman. The 2012 9th overall pick is looking for a real NHL opportunity as he only has 41 NHL games played.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Kerby Rychel – Rychel is another young forward and since the Knights want to be able to compete this year and years to come. Rychel is a young forward who hasn’t established himself in the NHL but was a highly touted prospect before. Rychel still has time to develop he’s only 22 and has been a pretty good scorer in the AHL.
Luca Sbisa – Sbisa hasn’t been what he was expected to be for the Canucks but maybe a change of scenery could benefit Sbisa. He was supposed to be a solid second pairing option but his play has been more like that of a third pair. Sbisa is a good low risk high reward option of the Knights, hopefully a new home could turn him back into the player he was supposed to be. If not he can still work as a third pair defenseman.
Phillipp Grubauer – Grubauer has been a steady backup for the Capitals the past few seasons and if the Knights plan to ship off one of their new goalies Grubauer would do well in a back-up role or maybe he’d even get a shot at starting. Grubauer is young and has never had a real opportunity to be an NHL number 1 but he has the numbers to do so with a 2.28 GAA and a .922 SV% in 66 games.
Marko Dano – Dano is a clear-cut choice since he is the type of youthful player the Knights could use. He was the key piece in the deal for Andrew Ladd a few years ago. He has talent and still needs some more time to adjust to the NHL but he has 42 points in 107 games so the ability is there.