Vegas Golden Knights Expansion Mock Draft
When the 2017-18 NHL season kicks off in October, they will do so with a new addition. As of March 1, the Vegas Golden Knights are officially an NHL team, and when this season’s playoffs end, all eyes will be on them and the June 21 expansion draft. NHL Fans have all been reading the rules over and over, but as a refresher, each team can protect either:
Seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender
Eight total skaters (forwards or defensemen) and one goaltender
Our good friends at CapFriendly.com have come up with a great tool to make it easy to do your own personal mock expansion drafts to give an idea of what the Golden Knights roster may end up looking like. I took the time to go through and make some selections, so here is how my version of the Golden Knights turned out. Keep in mind that these choices are based on current rosters and do not account for trades or players waiving their no-trade clauses (except in the case of Marc-Andre Fleury). I have also only chosen to write blurbs about the core players of the team to keep things light. We could write pages upon pages with reasoning on each selection. Without further ado:
Jakub Silfverberg, Anaheim Ducks – Anaheim opts to protect their young defensemen Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm, while Kevin Bieksa is auto-protected by a no-movement clause. Silfverberg is arguably one of the more valuable pieces available in the expansion draft and provides the Golden Knights with some scoring; he has 19 goals and 22 assists for 41 points in 66 games so far this season. At 26 years old with a $3,750,000 cap hit for 2 more seasons, he still has not reached his ceiling and brings a reasonable salary.
Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens – While Plekanec, at 33 years old, may be past his prime, he is still very sound defensively and could add some secondary scoring until Vegas can develop their younger centermen. Going from 3rd line minutes in Montreal to pivoting the top line in Vegas could be challenging for Plekanec, but teams will be reluctant to leave top centermen unprotected. Minnesota left Eric Staal available, but the opportunity to grab Matt Dumba would be too tempting.
[the_ad id=”693″]Thomas Vanek, Florida Panthers – Vanek has had a bounceback season with the Detroit Red Wings and Florida Panthers and, although he is not under contract for the 2017-18 season, for the purpose of this exercise, we will assume he re-signs with Vegas after being selected. At 32 years old, Vanek is still relatively young and should still be able to contribute offensively while helping the younger players with his experience. Vanek had a couple good playoff runs during his time with the Buffalo Sabres, and that knowledge could be invaluable to a young Golden Knights squad.
Curtis Lazar, Calgary Flames – The 22-year-old Lazar never found his stride in Ottawa after being thrust into the NHL too soon, which prompted a trade to the Flames at the deadline. In 5 games since being traded, Lazar has failed to crack the lineup and what better way to get a fresh start than to join a brand new franchise?
Other forwards selected: Zack Smith (Ottawa), Marian Gaborik (Los Angeles), Jimmy Hayes (Boston), Jamie McGinn (Arizona), Michael Raffl (Philadelphia), Marko Dano (Winnipeg), Riley Sheahan (Detroit), Nail Yakupov (St. Louis), Brock McGinn (Carolina), Mikhael Grigorenko (Colorado), William Carrier (Buffalo), Anton Lander (Edmonton), Seth Griffith (Toronto)
Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild – Dumba could conceivably become the best pick Vegas makes in the entire expansion draft. He was drafted 7th overall in 2012 and has the potential to be a No. 1/2 defenseman, but he has been the victim of a very deep blueline in Minnesota, falling behind Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella, all of whom Minnesota decide to protect over Dumba.
[the_ad id=”534″]David Savard, Columbus Blue Jackets – Savard falls victim to a young, deep group of forwards in Columbus. The Jackets protect Jack Johnson, Seth Jones and Ryan Murray on the back end and leave Savard exposed instead of forwards Alexander Wennberg and Boone Jenner. Despite being a 4th round pick in 2009, Savard has blossomed into a well-rounded top 4 defenseman and had a breakout year last season offensively, setting career-highs in goals (11) and points (36). He and Dumba would form an excellent top pairing for Vegas for the foreseeable future.
Erik Gudbranson, Vancouver Canucks – With many of their young forwards breaking out this season, Vancouver opts to leave Erik Gudbranson unprotected and keep Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, and Luca Sbisa
Karl Alzner, Washington Capitals – Alzner rounds out a solid top 4 d core who may not be the most lethal offensively but should help keep pucks out and will have no problem bruising opposing forwards.
Other defensemen selected: Thomas Hickey (Islanders), Brendan Dillon (San Jose), Ryan Ellis (Nashville), Jamie Oleksiak (Dallas), Trevor van Riemsdyk (Chicago), Jon Merrill (New Jersey).
Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins – It seems as though goalies have been the topic of discussion since the announcement of the Vegas franchise. While there were other No. 1 goaltenders available like Ben Bishop, Semyon Varlamov, Jimmy Howard, Roberto Luongo and Jaroslav Halak, among others, Pittsburgh ultimately convinces Fleury to waive his no-trade clause and Vegas pounces at the opportunity to select a 32-year-old, 2-time Stanley Cup champion starting goaltender.
Antti Raanta, New York Rangers – As stated above, there were many other goaltenders available who may have a more popular name or higher pedigree, but Fleury has proven he works better as the clear-cut number 1, and Raanta has been one of the better backups in the league the last couple years while being able to fill in for injuries as a temporary No. 1.
Kristers Gudlevskis, Tampa Bay Lightning – Vegas also could have gone with Malcolm Subban as their 3rd goalie, but his development in the AHL has raised a bit of a red flag. Gudlevskis has looked good in limited NHL action and had an outstanding World Championship with Team Latvia in 2013, putting up a 2.22 GAA and .925 SV% in 4 games. He could become the starting goaltender of the future after Fleury moves on.
Naturally, there are many different routes Vegas could take in order to stock their cupboard, but this roster seems to give them the most potential to be somewhat competitive right off the bat while still adding future core players. I wouldn’t expect this team to compete for a playoff spot, but they could make the wild card race interesting down the stretch. If you disagree with some of the selections, let me know what you would change in the comment section, I would love to see what kind of roster everyone can come up with!
Photo Credit: NHL.com