NHL Expansion Draft: Which Player Will Your Team Lose?

June 18th, 2017 No Comments

The NHL Expansion Draft is just a week away- which player will your team lose?

With the much anticipated NHL Expansion Draft List finally being revealed today, many hockey fans are wondering which player Las Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee will select off of their favorite teams roster. On the surface, drafting an expansion roster will be no easy task, but there will be a number of excellent players available.

McPhee is on record as saying that he intends to use the NHL Entry Draft to build his franchise. That means, not only will McPhee be looking to acquire assets via the Expansion Draft, but he will also have an eye on a long term plan that will ensure his team will be competitive for the long haul via the Entry Draft.

There a couple of considerations McPhee must make. In the past, many expansion teams took the philosophy of drafting a lineup that would make their team competitive from the jump. For many, this would not be the best plan of action for McPhee as it is believed that he will put a premium on young players that he can control for a measure of time with an eye on also selecting proven players that McPhee feels he can turn into assets down the road via the trade market.

Selecting and building an expansion team is a marathon, not a sprint. With that in mind, let’s take a look at which players McPhee may draft and the philosophy behind each selection.

First, let’s take a look at the template that McPhee will have to adhere to as mandated by the NHL. In order to adhere to the rules that the NHL has established for McPhee he will have to draft a total of 30 players. This will include having to draft a minimum of three goaltenders, nine defensemen, 14 forwards, at least 20 players that are under contract for 2017-2018 and the total team salary must be 60-100% of the prior season’s salary cap of ($73,000,000-USD).

Of course, a number of factors will come into play. Many teams have exposed players that they would prefer to keep on their roster. McPhee has let it be known that he intends to offer all 30 teams the opportunity to make a deal should they wish to keep their rosters in-tact…but at what price? That means McPhee will likely be approached by teams that will be willing to make a deal in order to keep their preferred player. Draft picks and prospects will be the currency that teams will use to entice McPhee to forgo drafting a player that an NHL team deems valuable to their franchise, which will be enticing for a GM that seems content to build through the Entry Draft instead of icing a team that will be competitive right away.

In some instances, McPhee may be approached to draft a player that carries a hefty contract, with McPhee being asked to “eat” the contract in favor of acquiring draft picks or prospects that may benefit the Knights long term growth. It is my belief that unless a team is willing to overpay, McPhee will chose to avoid acquiring contracts that will handcuff his team, but hey, anything is possible.

Without further ado, here is my mock Expansion Draft and the reasoning behind each pick.

Ahaheim Ducks- At first glance, the most enticing players for McPhee’s consideration include defensemen Josh Manson and Sami Vantanen while also considering forwards Emerson Etem and goaltenders Jonathan Bernier and Dustin Tokarski. All five of these players would be a decent acquisition for McPhee, but the prevailing thought process is that McPhee will likely look at one of Anaheim’s young defensemen. Should Anaheim see value in keeping Vantanen over Manson, they may choose to make a side deal with McPhee, freeing up Manson to be drafted. This would allow McPhee to draft a solid/physical NHL-ready defenseman that, at just 25-years of age, still has a ton of upside. Look for McPhee to work out a deal with Anaheim, select Manson and bolster his future via the addition of a draft choice. Player chosen: Defenseman Josh Manson (plus a pick).

Arizona Coyotes- The Coyotes list of available players is not as enticing as Anaheim’s, but there is still some talent to be had. At just 25-years old, Alex Burmistrov still has time to grow as a player and will help the Knights down the middle. Player Chosen: Centre Alex Burmistrov

Boston Bruins- The Bruins submitted a less than stellar crop of players for the Expansion Draft. Good teams need reliable defensemen and, while Adam McQuaid may not be a game changer, he can play significant minutes and provide the Knights with some solid defense at a reasonable price ($2.75 million). Player Chosen: Defenseman McQuaid.

Buffalo Sabres- While players such as Dmitry Kulikov and Matt Moulson jump out at you, it says here McPhee will turn to Zach Bogosian to help fill the void on defense. Tough, versatile and still full of upside, Bogosian (26) will be a nice addition that McPhee can either hang onto or use as a bargaining chip down the road. Player Chosen: Defenseman Zach Bogosian.

Calgary Flames- The Flames have chosen to expose a number of veterans on their Expansion Draft List. Keeping with McPhee’s preferred philosophy of targeting younger players with upside, look for him to select a player that, with increased ice time, might be able to hit the 20-goal mark next season. Player Chosen: Right Winger Alex Chaison (26).

Carolina Hurricanes- As discussed earlier, McPhee will have to select three goaltenders. With that in mind, look for him to draft his first netminder here. With experience as both a starter and backup and a reputation for pushing the competition, McPhee will select veteran Netminder Eddie Lack (29). Player Chosen: Goaltender, Eddie Lack.

Chicago Blackhawks- While there have been reports that the Blackhawks will attempt to make a deal with McPhee to avoid losing this player, if that does not materialize it appears as if defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk (25) would be a good fit. Player Chosen: Trevor van Riemsdyk.

Coloarado Avalanche- Despite playing on a struggling squad last season, goaltender Calvin Pickard put up decent numbers and appears ready for prime time. That said, with so many teams exposing netminders and so few making quality forwards available, look for the Golden Knights to select Centre Mikhail Grigorenko (23). This kid has plenty of tools; a cap-friendly $1.3 million cap hit and, with additional playing time, has the potential to be a 50-point player. Player Chosen: Centre Mikhail Grigorenko.

Columbus Blue Jackets- Numerous reports suggest that the Columbus Blue Jackets will be willing to pay the Knights a decent return to hold onto their assets. Barring a deal, it is tough to imagine the Golden Knights passing on centre Sam Gagner (27). With 50 points last season and a paltry $650,000 cap hit, Gagner (a UFA this summer) will be in line to get a hefty raise but it makes all kinds of sense for the Knights to make him an offer he can’t refuse. Keep in mind, the Golden Knights will have plenty of cap space to work with, so McPhee can make this happen. After all, he is going to want some offense and Gagner can deliver in that respect. Gagner would also be an intriguing trade asset that may land McPhee a healthy return down the road. Player Chosen: Centre Sam Gagner.

Dallas Stars- McPhee could go in a number of directions here; forward Cody Eakin, netminder Antti Niemi or veteran forward Patrick Sharp. In the end, I see them going for RFA defenseman Jamie Oleksiak (24). Player chosen: Defenseman Jamie Oleksiak.

Detroit Red Wings- Despite his decent play, it will be tough for McPhee to select goaltender Petr Mrazek when you consider his $4.0 million cap hit. With that in mind, look for the Golden Knights to roll the dice on snake-bitten forward/centre Riley Sheahan (25). This kid is big, has decent hands (despite his goal scoring struggles), carries a cap hit around $2.0 million and it wasn’t too long ago that he was a highly touted prospect. Bottom line, Sheahan is worth the risk. Player Chosen: Centre Riley Sheahan.

Edmonton Oilers- Not only are young defensemen vital to an expansion teams success, there is also a significant market for such players as trade bait. To me, the most likely scenario would see McPhee select 23-year old defenseman Griffen Reinhart. Player Chosen: Defenseman Griffen Reinhart.

Florida Panthers- This might just be the easiest “no-brainer” selection on the list. Florida has elected to make 26-year old/51 point getter Jonathan Marchessault available. McPhee should select him. Player Chosen: Centre Jonathan Marchessault.

Los Angeles Kings- Every team needs a measure of “grit” to compete. The Los Angeles Kings have elected to leave a number of players with sandpaper (Dustin Brown, Kyle Clifford and Jordan Nolan) available in the Expansion Draft. Brown’s contract would not be easy to move and while Nolan fits the bill, Clifford’s long term/affordable contract may actually be enticing to the Golden Knights. Player Chosen: Left Winger Kyle Clifford.

Minnesota Wild- Once again, McPhee will go with a young defenseman with upside and potential trade value here. At just 22-years of age, offensive upside and a decent contract of $2,550,000, Matt Dumba is the reasonable choice here. Dumba is an RFA this summer, but a young player may see the Knights as an excellent opportunity to be a top pairing defenseman and be a leader- so it is reasonable to expect the two sides to get a deal done. Player Selected: Defenseman Matt Dumba.

Montreal Canadiens- Free agent forward Alexander Radulov would be a great addition for a team that will be looking to bring some exciting players into the fold so they can sell tickets, but what are the odds that Radulov would want to be part of an expansion team? With that in mind, McPhee goes the safe route and selects cap-friendly 22-year old left winger Charles Hudon. Player Selected: Left Winger Charles Hudon.

Nashville Predators- Once again, McPhee looks to afford himself a measure of offense via the forward ranks. Colin Wilson (27) looks to have finally arrived as an NHL regular and he carries a reasonable cap hit. Player Chosen: Left Winger Colin Wilson.

New Jersey Devils- There are two players that are rather intriguing here- 25-year old Right Winger Beau Bennett and 25-year old Right Winger Devante Smith-Pelly. Both players have potential upside, but Bennett’s cap-friendly hit makes him all the more enticing. Player selected: Right Winger Beau Bennett.

New York Islanders- To me this comes down to two players: 27-year old Right Winger Josh Bailey (56 points in 2016-2017) and 25-year old Left Winger Brock Nelson (45 points in 2016-2017). One could make an argument for both players, but in this case I see McPhee selecting Nelson due to his favorable contract situation (RFA in 2018-2019 Vs. Bailey being a UFA in 2018-2019). This could also serve as an opportunity for McPhee to back off of Bailey and use the leverage to garner additional draft picks and/or prospects from the Islanders who likely place high value on Bailey. Player Chosen: Left Winger Brock Nelson.

New York Rangers- In the mind of many NHL experts, Netminder Annti Raanta (28) is ready to take the next step as a 1A or 1B goaltender and he comes at a cap-friendly hit of just $1.0 million. The Knights need to select a minimum of three goalies, so Raanta makes a lot of sense here. Player Chosen: Goaltender Annti Raanta.

Ottawa Senators- McPhee can go one of two ways here: select the obvious choice of veteran Defenseman Marc Methot (31) or chose to play ball with the Senators and select the veteran Andrew Hammond (29) to help man the pipes. Barring a hefty return I see McPhee selecting Methot- he would be a valuable addition, leader and potential trade bait down the road. Player chosen: Defenseman Marc Methot.

Philadelphia Flyers- While he has been inconsistent at times, Michal Neuvirth is another netminder that has the potential to play a key role with the Golden Knights and carries a reasonable cap-hit of $2.5 million through 2018-2019. I am not convinced that defenseman Michael Del Zotto would sign with the Knights (pending UFA this summer). Player Chosen: Goaltender Michal Neuvirth.

Pittsburgh Penguins- Without question, there will be a strong amount of interest in veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fluery. McPhee could select Fleury with the mindset that he will fill the void between the pipes for his expansion team or he may be able to flip him to a contender that is in need of an upgrade between the pipes. Bottom line, Fluery is just too enticing to pass on. Player chosen- Goaltender Marc-Andre Fluery.

San Jose Sharks- The Sharks have elected to make three valuable veterans available in the Expansion Draft: Joe Thornton (UFA), Patrick Marleau (UFA) and Joel Ward (one year left at a $3.275 cap hit). Let’s face it, Marleau and Thornton would prefer to play for a contender and so would Ward. That said, Ward’s leadership and scoring prowess could be valuable to the Knights and his trade value could be considerable should he have a good season in Las Vegas. Player Chosen: Right Winger Joel Ward.

St. Louis Blues- While he was not successful in his first go around with an up and coming roster in Edmonton, I suspect that McPhee would take a shot on pending RFA Nail Yakapov (23). He’s still very young, has decent upside and, in the right situation, may thrive. Yakapov also has very little bargaining power so he should come cheap to the Golden Knights. Bottom line, Nail is worth the risk. Player chosen: Right Winger Nail Yakapov.

Tampa Bay Lightning- Pending RFA defenseman Slater Koekkoek (23) was once regarded as a top prospect. This kid still has a lot of upside and he should be available for a very reasonable contract. With that in mind, he would be an excellent choice for McPhee. Player chosen: Defenseman Slater Koekkoek.

Toronto Maple Leafs- Three players stick out on Toronto’s list- Defensemen Alexey Marchenko and Martin Marincin and Centre/Forward Brendan Leipsec. Leipsec will be an RFA this summer, while Marchenko and Marincin both carry reasonable cap hits. While he was unable to crack the Maple Leafs forward lines on a regular basis, I believe the speedy Leipsec has the most upside out of these three players. Player chosen: Centre Brendan Leipsec.

Vancouver Canucks- While defenseman Luca Sbisa would appear to be a “safe pick”, 23-year old centre Brendan Gaunce has the bigger upside. McPhee takes a shot and selects Gaunce. Player Chosen: Centre Brendan Gaunce.

Washington Capitals- Four veterans : defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner, forwards T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams (all pending UFA’s) would be excellent additions to the Golden Knights, but are any of them likely to sign in Las Vegas long term? Besides, all of them will be available via the UFA market, so if McPhee wants any of these players he can make a pitch soon enough. The Capitals did not leave a lot of talent on their Expansion Draft List, so I see McPhee drafting the best player available. In my mind that is right winger Brett Connolly, who, in the right situation, may thrive. Player chosen: Right Winger Brett Connolly.

Winnipeg Jets- With the last pick in the NHL Expansion Draft, McPhee will turn to the Winnipeg Jets. Rumours suggest that McPhee will go with veteran defenseman Tobias Enstrom. He has one-year left on his contract at a cap hit of $5,750,000. Enstrom is a steady defenseman that can still play heavy minutes and he may have trade value down the road. Player selected: Defenseman Tobias Enstrom.


In conclusion, here is how I think George McPhee’s Expansion Draft Roster will look like:


Alex Burmistrov (C)

Alex Chaison (RW)

Mikhail Grigorenko (C)

Riley Sheahen (C)

Jonathan Marchessault (C)

Kyle Clifford (LW)

Charles Hudon (LW)

Sam Gagner (C)

Colin Wilson (C)

Beau Bennett (RW)

Brock Nelson (LW)

Joel Ward (RW)

Nail Yakapov (RW)

Brendan Leipsic (LW)

Brendan Gaunce (C)

Brett Connolly (RW)




Josh Manson

Adam McQuaid

Zach Bogosian

Trevor van Reimsdyk

Jamie Oleksiak

Griffen Reinhart

Matt Dumba

Marc Methot

Slater Koekkoek

Toby Enstrom




Marc-Andre Fluery

Eddie Lack

Antti Raanta

Michal Neuvirth

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