The protection lists for all NHL teams have been released. There are some major surprises, and that’s good for the Vegas Golden Knights. What is the best team available in the NHL Expansion Draft?
New York Islanders forward John Tavares (91) plays the puck and Ottawa Senators defenseman Marc Methot (3)defends. Methot is available in the NHL Expansion Draft. (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)
The Vegas Golden Knights have a few barriers to having their best roster in the NHL Expansion Draft.
They will make some trades, they will want to stay near the cap floor, and they just won’t take some contracts.
But what is the best possible team for the Golden Knights? Who, barring any outside influence from the NHL Expansion Draft, would be drafted?
And how would the Vegas Golden Knights look? What type of roster does this NHL Expansion Draft lead to?
Can the Golden Knights be competitive? Or do they draft for the future of the franchise, taking restricted free agents and young players?
(Oh, and by the way, sorry to Washington and Winnipeg fans. Through our NHL Expansion Draft strategy series, we didn’t get to you alphabetically [at least before the official lists were published]. My bad.)
At best, Petr Mrazek is a backup goaltender on the Vegas Golden Knights roster. There are cheaper options to be had, and they had better 16-17 seasons. I don’t want to pay a backup 4 million.
Kronwall is a legend, and for a while was the partner of the best defenseman of the modern era (Niklas Lidstrom). Still, Kronwall has fallen off in his older age, playing just 19 minutes a night last season.
Still, Kronwall has fallen off in his older age, playing just 19 minutes a night last season. Add to that that his contract is unsustainable, it’s not a good mix.
Which leaves Helm, an expensive defensive center, and Ouellet, a defensive prospect. I’m taking Ouellet. Ouellet played 66 games last year, totaling 17 minutes a night.
Still, there will be plenty of room for Ouellet in the AHL, and hopefully the 23-year-old can continue his development with less pressure.
Reilly Smith. Just take Reilly Smith. Two fifty point seasons, he’s just 26, and he’s on a long-term contract. One of those fifty point seasons, by the way, came under Vegas coach Gerard Gallant.
You really gotta take Smith. I know Marchessault might seem enticing, but he has yet to prove whether he is a perennial 30-goal scorer or if it was just a fluke. If it was a fluke you miss out on Smith.
Jake Dotchin versus Cedric Paquette. Both are twenty-three, both are restricted free agents (Dotchin this year Paquette the next).
But one is infinitely more valuable for me: Jake Dotchin. In his 35 games this year, Dotchin posted totals of 11 points and 18 minutes a night. In his rookie season, Dotchin was playing 4th/5th defenseman minutes.
Which means his progress could lead to some pretty high places. I like what the future has in store for Dotchin more than Paquette, and Vegas should too.
William Karlsson, Josh Anderson, Jack Johnson. Those are the three guys Vegas should consider most in the NHL Expansion Draft. Of course, it’s rumored CBJ has dealt a first for the protection of Josh Anderson.
Although this is a test of the best possible team regardless of outside influences. That first should tell you everything you need to know about Anderson.
At just 23, in his official rookie season, Anderson posted 29 points, including 17 goals. Surround him with better linemates and he should be good for more.
That’s why Vegas should/would take him. But as a better predictor, outside of Anderson, Johnson is one to watch. Capable of playing top pairing minutes, another defensive defenseman, and relatively young.
Johnson would make a good pairing for Marc Methot.
It’s Raanta. The Golden Knights must take 3 goaltenders in this draft. If Raanta isn’t one of the best 3 goaltenders in this NHL expansion draft (he is) he’s on one of the best three contracts. And he’s just 28.
The Knights, once again, must plan for their future. While Marc-Andre Fleury is (very) likely their current goaltender, they’ll need one for the future. Raanta could be that future goaltender.
Nate Schmidt is a solid young defenseman. Grubauer is a solid young goaltender. Both are currently restricted free agents, both are 25.
I personally would take Grubauer. There’s a lot of noise out there about Nate Schmidt, though. But there are younger defensemen in the NHL Expansion Draft. There are no better younger goaltenders in the NHL Expansion Draft.
If Raanta isn’t the goaltender of the future for the Golden Knights, then Grubauer is. In my opinion, Vegas has to draft Grubauer.
Marko Dano is only making 850K next year in what seems like a handover deal for the Vegas Golden Knights. By that I mean, that contract seems like it was made for the NHL Expansion Draft.
A young center who’s still an RFA for a while on a cheap contract? Plus Dano put up 11 points in 38 games, including 4 goals. He played on the power play and still started 55% of his shifts in the defensive zone.
Dano has versatility and potential, still just 22. Vegas would be wise to take him off a lackluster Jets list.
It’s between two younger prospects – Griffin Reinhart at defense and Laurent Brossoit at goaltender. The Golden Knights will have plenty of prospects on defense.
No such luck at goaltending. Brossoit, one of the youngest goaltenders available in the NHL Expansion Draft, will be an interesting prospect to watch.
And it’s because of his youth and his position that I believe he will be picked by Vegas. He’s played less than 10 games in each of the last three seasons, serving as the official backup last year as Talbot started 73 games.
Brossoit looked really good in his 8 games. With four of those being starts, Brossoit had 4 wins, a .928 SV% and a 1.99 GAA.
He’s a restricted free agent next year and is currently making just 750,000 this year. Both of those should be attractive for Vegas.