On Sunday, NHL teams released their protected list with the 2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft slated for July 21. With notable names such as Carey Price and Vladimir Tarasenko, the Vancouver Canucks were lucky enough to be able to protect all their top players. The club chose to protect seven forwards, three defencemen and one goalie.
Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller, Tyler Motte, Tanner Pearson, Elias Pettersson and recently acquired Jason Dickinson made up the seven forwards the club chose to protect. Olli Juolevi, Tyler Myers and Nate Schmidt were the three defencemen, while Thatcher Demko was the lone goaltender Jim Benning and the front office decided to protect.
Canucks Decide to Protect NHL Ready Players
Instead of protecting some of the younger players in Kole Lind, Jonah Gadjovich, Zack MacEwen and Matthew Highmore, the Canucks decided to protect their veterans. The club protected their core players in Boeser, Horvat, Miller, Pettersson and Demko to no one surprise.
Veteran players in Pearson, Myers and Schmidt were also expected to be protected, while Juolevi is a young player who finally got his first chance to play with the main roster last season. Although he was impressive, he was a healthy scratch for the majority of the season due to the team’s tight cap space. Still, in the few games Juolevi played in, he looked like an NHL-ready defenceman who will likely play on the left side of the club’s bottom d-pairing.
Lastly, they traded a 2021 third-round pick (No. 73) to the Dallas Stars for Dickinson to add a third-line centre. For the Canucks to add and protect the forward shows they are looking to compete next season instead of waiting for their younger forwards to develop. The only question remains, which Canuck will the Kraken pick on Wednesday?
The Canucks selected Lind with the 33rd pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Lind played a full season with his WHL team, the Kelowna Rockets before joining the Utica Comets in the AHL at the end of the 2017-18 season. Through 126 games, he scored 24 goals and posted 70 points. Last season, he transitioned from playing on the wing to playing centre but only played in eight games. He scored five goals and posted eight points in those games before missing a majority of the season due to a facial injury. He then joined the Canucks late in the 2020-21 season, playing in seven games.
The 22-year-old could be a good pick-up for the Kraken. He’s a young player who could potentially become a middle-six forward in the NHL. He will likely split time next season between the NHL and AHL.
Similar to Lind, Gadjovich was drafted in the second round of the 2017 NHL Draft by the Canucks with the 55th overall pick. After playing his fourth and final season in the OHL with the Owen Sound in 2017-18, he joined the Comets. Over his three seasons with the AHL club, he gradually improved. In his first season, he scored four goals and posted 10 points. The following season, he scored 13 goals and posted 17 points, and finally, in 2020-21, he scored a team-leading 15 goals and posted 18 points in 19 games.
He has shown his ability to score in the AHL and could also be a useful addition to the Kraken. Similar to Lind, he will likely spend time between the AHL and NHL next season and could play on Seattle’s fourth line.
MacEwen is one of the exposed young players who has played in the NHL over the past two seasons. The 6’3, 205-pound winger provided good size and played a bottom-six role with the Canucks the past two seasons. MacEwen hasn’t been able to produce at the NHL level in the same way he did in the AHL. With the Comets, he posted 37 goals and 96 points in 155 games through three seasons. With the Canucks, he’s played 55 games, scoring six goals and posting nine points. At 25 years old, he is still finding his place in the NHL but could be a quality bottom-six pick-up for the Kraken.
The Canucks acquired Highmore in a trade deadline day deal from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Adam Gaudette. Highmore played in 73 games with Chicago, scoring four goals and posting 10 points. Through 18 games with the Canucks last season, he scored three goals and posted five points. Despite not showing an ability to produce offensively in the NHL, Highmore could be a depth player who plays with a lot of energy for the Kraken if they select him.
Holtby Could Be the Player the Kraken Select
Although the Canucks have a few young players unprotected, the biggest name left unprotected is Braden Holtby. The Stanley Cup champion and former Vezina winner brings a lot of experience to the table. With the report the Kraken will be selecting and signing Chris Driedger from the Florida Panthers, Holtby could be useful in splitting time in the crease for the next season. The Canucks also benefit from the Kraken selecting the goalie, as his $4.3 million cap hit comes off the books a season earlier than expected.
Although Holtby could be a good pickup, the Kraken have multiple options in net, from an elite goalie in Price to a young promising goalie in Kaapo Kahkonen. Therefore, Canucks fans should not be surprised if one of the four young forwards mentioned are selected this Wednesday.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.