Never underestimate the knowledge of fans and readers. Some are in the know and others just have insight and opinions to offer that shouldn’t be ignored or dismissed.
I enjoy interacting with our THW readers on social media and fans of teams on message boards to solicit feedback that is often worth heeding and sometimes repeating. We can all learn a thing or two from keeping our ears and minds open.
So, in saying that, as happy as I was with the results of my latest and greatest attempt at predicting the Vegas Golden Knights’ roster through a mock expansion draft, it generated plenty of productive debate that has prompted me to change at least a couple picks after the fact.
— The Hockey Writers (@TheHockeyWriter) May 7, 2017
I tried to draft the most realistic roster possible as opposed to the “best” roster possible, and I factored in the likelihood of trades as well as players waiving their no-move clauses.
As a result, 22 of my 30 picks were different than December. Strangely, or maybe not, half of my eight roster holdovers were still among my most scrutinized picks — those four being Curtis Lazar (Calgary Flames), Ryan Pulock (New York Islanders), Darren Helm (Detroit Red Wings) and Tyler Ennis (Buffalo Sabres).
By my count, and math isn’t my forte, 16 of these 30 picks have been challenged, criticized, disputed and refuted to some degree since my belated-Easter mock was published on May 7.
After taking it all in and digesting that fan feedback, I’ve decided to revisit and rehash my mock expansion draft — addressing each of those 16 players in question, weighing the pros and cons of counter-arguments from readers, and updating my lineup with the necessary tweaks while also presenting an alternative lineup.
Curtis Lazar, Calgary Flames
danielpalfredsson on HFBoards.com: One pick that stands out is Lazar. I don’t think it is realistic to expect the Flames to expose him after giving up a second-round pick for him at the trade deadline, seemingly considering this season a write-off for him and very much advertising him to their fans as a project they are willing to develop. If he’s available, Vegas should consider taking him. But I am almost certain he will not be available.
Scott MacMahon (@Scott_MacMahon) on Twitter: Why would Calgary trade a second for Lazar only to play him five games and then lose him for nothing? Makes zero sense. I’d bet they expose Troy Brouwer, but not sure Vegas wants that contract. Likely would be Brett Kulak or Matt Stajan maybe, depending on needs.
Tyler Cowie on Facebook: There is no chance Calgary will protect Brouwer over Lazar or Micheal Ferland!
RESPONSE: That’s the sense I am getting, that Brouwer will be the odd-man out amongst those three. Interesting since Brouwer was supposed to be such a key addition when signed as a free agent last summer, but he was a bust in his first season with Calgary. I figured Brad Treliving might be loyal to Brouwer in protecting him or that perhaps Brouwer had worked that condition into his contract, that he wouldn’t be exposed in the expansion draft a year later. That doesn’t appear to be the case, so the consensus seems to be Lazar and Ferland get protected, while Brouwer gets exposed by Calgary instead.
Add Brouwer to this list of options for Vegas: Alex Chiasson, Brett Kulak, Tyler Wotherspoon, Hunter Shinkaruk, Matt Stajan, Lance Bouma, Freddie Hamilton, Linden Vey, Emile Poirier and Matt Bartkowski.
So now what do the Golden Knights do? Is Brouwer of interest?
He might be, since he has a history with George McPhee. If Vegas is taking Eric Fehr from Toronto, as my mock suggests, it may make sense to pick Brouwer from Calgary and either Jason Chimera from the Islanders or Joel Ward from the Sharks to reunite that Capitals checking line from McPhee’s time in Washington. Chimera and Ward are also exposed based on my protected lists, so that potential is there. Those players are all a little longer in the tooth now, but they were an effective trio for years. The only issue with Brouwer is the contract that Calgary signed him to, with three more seasons remaining at a $4.5-million salary. Brouwer also has a no-trade clause next season and a modified no-trade clause in the final two years.
If not Brouwer, I listed the other options in my order of preference for Vegas. So Chiasson would be my next pick, followed by Kulak, Wotherspoon, Shinkaruk, Stajan and Bouma, among other less likely candidates. If the decision comes down to Brouwer or Chiasson, who is restricted free agent due a modest raise from $800,000, I’d likely go with the cheaper Chiasson, but McPhee may very well prefer Brouwer. Both are right-wingers, so the Golden Knights could go either way to plug the same roster spot.
Ryan Pulock, New York Islanders
Botz C Brian on Facebook: Pulock will be protected. Casey Cizikas won’t be protected. Vegas will take Calvin de Haan.
Romeo Martello on Facebook: Lol you think the Islanders aren’t protecting Ryan Pulock? *sigh
Emil Rempel on Facebook: No way Isles leave Pulock unprotected!
Sir Goose on HFBoards.com: I’m convinced the Islanders are going to protect four or even five defencemen. I’m setting my sights on one of Brock Nelson or Ryan Strome.
RESPONSE: As you’ll see, Sir Goose was full of constructive criticism (greatly appreciated, by the way). I’ll be honest, the thought of protecting five defencemen had never crossed my mind, but it is entirely possible and within the rules.
Those five would presumably be Johnny Boychuk (NMC), Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Pulock and de Haan. That would be doable under the 4-4-1 system, which is actually any eight skaters and one goaltender. So the Islanders would elect to protect 3-5-1, with the three forwards projected to be John Tavares (NMC), Andrew Ladd (NMC) and Anders Lee.
That would leave the following options for Vegas: Josh Bailey, Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, Casey Cizikas, Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Hickey, Jason Chimera, Cal Clutterbuck, Nikolai Kulemin, Alan Quine, Shane Prince, Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield.
The big question here is if the Islanders protect Pulock, are they going 4-4-1 and exposing three of Bailey, Strome, Nelson and Cizikas? Or would they stay with the 7-3-1 approach and expose (or more likely trade) one of Leddy or Hamonic?
Thinking it over again, Garth Snow probably goes 4-4-1 to protect Pulock, with Vegas picking Nelson or Strome rather than de Haan or Hickey. However, if Snow did go 3-5-1 to also protect de Haan over Bailey, the Golden Knights would get to choose between Bailey, Nelson or Strome. No matter how you look at it, protecting Pulock means losing another quality player and Vegas can’t really go wrong with either of those three forwards. I still like Strome’s upside, but my gut says Nelson would become the pick. Nelson or Pulock, who would the Islanders rather lose? Still a tough call.
Darren Helm, Detroit Red Wings
Matt Vandenbrand on Facebook: Really, the Golden Knights would select Darren Helm from Detroit and not Marcus Kruger from Chicago, are you kidding me? Helm is also older and more expensive, so why would the Knights select him? He has no offensive upside, and really why wouldn’t the Knights gamble on Riley Sheahan instead? He’s clearly not as bad offensively as he was this season. He’s also younger and cheaper than Helm.
Dan Huber on Facebook: I sure hope this is right and they take Helm. That contract was just silly.
Sir Goose on HFBoards.com: Don’t want that Helm contract. Hope McPhee sees it the same. Would much rather have Sheahan.
RESPONSE: For the record, Helm has four more years left at $3.85 million with a no-trade clause throughout and signing bonuses the next two years ($1 million, then $250,000). Not a great contract, but if Helm could stay healthy, he could certainly earn his keep. Keyword being “if” since Helm has been injury-prone at times, though he’s played 75-plus games in two of the last three seasons. So that concern could be overblown, but he’s 30 years old and not getting any younger.
Sheahan, on the other hand, is 25 and has one year left at $2.075 million. For those campaigning for Sheahan, that salary equates to more than a million dollars per goal this season and it took him until game No. 80 — well, No. 82 for Detroit . . . yes, the final game of the regular season — to finally score (not once, but twice). By contrast, Helm scored eight goals in 50 games during his injury-shortened season, which prorates to 13 goals over 80 games had Helm played as many as Sheahan. Helm finished with 17 points to Sheahan’s 13 despite playing 30 fewer games.
With that said, I can hear the case for Sheahan. He had an “off year” — like a really “off year” — and I do expect Sheahan to post a similar stat-line to Helm next season, possibly bouncing back to outproduce him offensively. Let’s say Sheahan scores 10-15 goals and 25-35 points next season, he could easily ask for “Helm money” on his next contract and likely even more since he’d be re-signing at 26 years old whereas Helm inked his extension at 29. Sheahan could ask for a four-year deal worth $16 million. So if Vegas picks Sheahan instead and if he does rebound, the Golden Knights would get one cheaper year out of him and then be paying Sheahan as much or maybe more than Helm going forward. Food for thought.
I picked Helm mainly because I envisioned him being a better fit on a line with Tyler Ennis and Eric Fehr as I was putting the team together. Remember, I was playing the role of GM and trying to find the right fits — not just the best players or the best contracts. Helm and Ennis played junior together in Medicine Hat way back when, so that familiarity played a factor in my decision.
If I took Sheahan from Detroit, which I did consider, then I probably wouldn’t have taken Ennis from Buffalo either. More on that later.
There are a million different ways to draw up this Golden Knights roster. It really depends on the type of team that Vegas wants to build and how competitive that franchise wants to be from Day 1. If the Golden Knights are simply “building for the future,” then go young and cheap. If the Golden Knights are wanting to be the “most competitive expansion franchise of all time and perhaps be in the playoff mix,” then draft players like Helm and Ennis who can help that “win-now” mentality. That was my rationale for those picks.
Detroit fans shouldn’t get their hopes too high for Vegas picking Helm. Sheahan and Luke Glendening are cheaper, younger options — Glendening is locked up for four more years at a very affordable $1.8 million. Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul both have good upside on defence and are cost controlled as well. Tomas Nosek, a Red Wings forward prospect, has been catching my eye in the AHL playoffs with Grand Rapids, so he’s probably catching Vegas’ eye too. No doubt, the Golden Knights are scouting the AHL playoffs closely. So Helm is one of many options from Detroit. He just happened to work best with my roster makeup.
As for the Kruger-Helm debate, I’ll get to that in a bit.
Tyler Ennis, Buffalo Sabres
Sir Goose on HFBoards.com: If you combine the Ennis contract with the fact that Linus Ullmark doesn’t need waivers next year, I go Ullmark every time.
RESPONSE: For those unfamiliar with Ullmark, he’s a goaltending prospect — an underrated one in my opinion. I own his rights in one of my fantasy keeper leagues, so I’m a fan of Ullmark and gave him plenty of consideration among those exposed by Buffalo.
If the Golden Knights aren’t keen on Ennis — he has been more injury-prone than Helm in recent years, with concussion concerns too — then Ullmark is the next-best option. That he’s still waiver exempt despite turning 24 years old in July is reason to pick Ullmark, but he might not be willing to spend another full season in the AHL. Ullmark doesn’t have much more to prove at that level and he’s a restricted free agent without a contract for next season. So it wouldn’t surprise me if Ullmark returned home to Sweden or somewhere overseas to make more money if he’s not re-signed to a one-way contract — be it by Buffalo or Vegas.
Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild
Nate Baustad on Facebook: I hope Minnesota loses a defender rather than Zucker. I could see the Wild not protecting Matt Dumba. He has a very good slap shot, but his defensive skills are inconsistent and sometimes really lacking. I like him as a player (and he is a really nice guy too), but he can be frustrating at times.
Sir Goose on HFBoards.com: I think Minny protects Zucker over Eic Staal, especially after that concussion Staal suffered in the last game. I’m hoping Marco Scandella is our pick.
RESPONSE: I could see Scandella, but I can’t see Dumba. Minnesota, much like the Islanders, is one of those teams that may be doing some wheeling and dealing in advance of the expansion draft as part of that anticipated “redistribution of players.” As it stands, Minnesota is going to lose a good player one way or the other. Sir Goose raises an interesting possibility of the Wild protecting Zucker over Staal, but I think Vegas would jump all over that — providing Staal could pass a baseline test for concussion protocol by June 21. Big, talented centres are hard to find and Staal proved he’s still got game this season. He’s also got two years left at a very reasonable $3.5 million. Staal will be 33 years old next season, but he’d be tough to pass up.
I would be surprised if Zucker is protected over Staal, though. Top-six wingers are easier to acquire and replace, so I feel like Staal would be a bigger loss to Minnesota than Zucker. Wild fans may or may not agree with that sentiment.
I also know capable top-four defencemen don’t grow on trees and Scandella could be one of the better ones available. Scandella would have more value league-wide than Zucker, in my opinion, but it’s not a big enough gap to overlook the fact that Zucker is from Las Vegas. That increases his value and worth to the Golden Knights quite significantly, just from a marketing and promotional standpoint. So I would stick with Zucker over Scandella. I would go Staal over Scandella too because there are fewer top-six centres than top-four defencemen being exposed across the league based on my protection lists. Having Staal and Vadim Shipachyov as a 1-2 punch down the middle would be pretty impressive for an expansion team, especially if the likes of Mathieu Perreault, Calle Jarnkrok and the aforementioned Helm were also on the roster as my mock suggests.
As for Dumba, I don’t see any way he’s exposed. Several teams would trade a first-round pick in this year’s “weaker” entry draft and/or other futures — picks, prospects and exempt young players — for Dumba, who would be an upgrade over the No. 3 defenceman on a number of protected lists. So it should be easy for Chuck Fletcher to find a trading partner without exposing Dumba and losing him for nothing.
The Wild could still protect Dumba if they decided to go 4-4-1 — securing Dumba, along with Ryan Suter (NMC), Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin — but that would force Minnesota to expose four of Staal, Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter. Granlund would likely be protected from that group after his breakout season, but the Golden Knights would be guaranteed a high-end forward with Staal, Coyle and Niederreiter all seemingly more valuable than Zucker. I still think the Wild will trade Dumba and go 7-3-1 to protect Coyle and Niederreiter in addition to Granlund, plus either Staal or Zucker.
Even if Minnesota moves Dumba for futures, the Wild would still be exposing Scandella, Christian Folin and Gustav Olofsson. I like all three of those blueliners and feel any of them would be a good pick for Vegas. However, their perceived value is comparable to Zucker so, all things being equal, how do you not pick the local guy?
Michael Grabner, New York Rangers
Mike McMahon on Facebook: Vegas would take Jesper Fast from the Rangers in a second. Fake news.
Salvatore Silipo on Facebook: We’ll gladly give you Nick Holden instead of Grabner . . .
RESPONSE: No and no thanks. Fast over Grabner? I like Fast’s skill-set and feel he has more offensive upside than he’s shown to date, but Grabner outscored him 31-9 in combined goals between the regular season and playoffs this year (46-27 in combined points, with Grabner playing eight more games). As much as I’m a fan of Fast — and Oscar Lindberg too, for that matter — I just think Grabner’s goal-scoring, blazing speed and penalty-killing ability, the fact he’s as dangerous shorthanded as at even strength, that combination has to be attractive for an expansion team.
Passing on Grabner is a risky proposition. If Vegas struggles to score next season, and Fast only nets 10-15 goals for the Golden Knights while Grabner gets 30 for the Rangers in the regular season, that makes McPhee look bad. If I’m a betting man, the odds are in favour of Grabner going to Vegas. As mentioned in the mock, my second choice is actually goalie Antti Raanta.
As for Holden, he only gets protected if Dan Girardi agrees to waive his no-move clause. Marc Staal has a no-move too and Ryan McDonagh is the obvious keeper on defence. The Rangers might extend Brendan Smith before the expansion draft as well, meaning he would likely be protected before Holden as the Rangers’ third blueliner assuming Girardi is willing to waive. Even if Holden ends up being exposed, I would still select Grabner simply because there will be more Holdens available around the league than Grabners.
One more thought here, I wonder if the Rangers are one of those teams that would trade a first-round pick to Minnesota for Dumba as an upgrade on Holden for their third defence keeper? If the Rangers don’t consider Holden a valuable asset and they don’t extend Smith prior to June 17 then, as long as Girardi waives, it makes sense to target Dumba or perhaps Sami Vatanen from Anaheim (another team with too many defence keepers).
If the Rangers could add Dumba or Vatanen for a first-round pick in this year’s “weaker” draft, then still sign Smith after June 17 while also winning the Kevin Shattenkirk sweepstakes in free agency, that would totally transform the Rangers’ defence from bottom 10 to top 10 in the league.
McDonagh and Shattenkirk, Smith and Dumba, Staal and Brady Skjei, yeah that would turn a weakness into a strength. However, that would leave Holden, Girardi, Kevin Klein and Adam Clendening outside the top six. The Rangers wouldn’t carry 10 defencemen on one-way contracts, so they would have to dump or buy out a couple of those depth defenders.
Mathieu Perreault, Winnipeg Jets
allan5oh on HFBoards.com: As a Jets fan, your write-up for Winnipeg is absolutely solid and well researched. I’m hoping we find a reason to keep Perreault, personally I’d much rather expose Adam Lowry. Or we may ask Tobias Enstrom to waive, or trade Tyler Myers. Then we can protect more forwards. Then Vegas would likely select whichever one of Joel Armia, Marko Dano or Andrew Copp that we don’t protect. If Perreault is exposed, McPhee snaps him up in a heartbeat. Top-six center and No. 1 power-play puck distributor.
RESPONSE: Well stated, on all fronts. Winnipeg’s decision may come down to protecting Perreault or Lowry, assuming the Jets do protect four defencemen with Enstrom not willing to waive and Myers not moving. Again, the Rangers could be a suitor for Myers. Lowry is five years younger and $3 million cheaper than Perreault, at least for next season. Perreault is a bit more skilled, but Lowry is much bigger with untapped offensive upside. I chose to protect Lowry, but Kevin Cheveldayoff might prefer Perreault.
If Enstrom does waive his no-move or if Myers is traded, then Vegas would be able to protect both Lowry and Perreault, plus two of those three in Armia, Dano and Copp. I agree that Vegas would probably pick the leftover forward, but even that would be a difficult decision for Winnipeg. Armia should be safe and I’d probably expose Copp, but Dano could also be the odd-man out.
Braydon Coburn, Tampa Bay Lightning
Kovacro on HFBoards.com: I think Tampa really likes Jake Dotchin and I could see them finding a way to protect him, even if it comes at the expense of Slater Koekkoek. You could also see a futures trade to ensure either player exposed does not get selected.
Sir Goose on HFBoards.com: Very curious to see who is the third defenceman that Tampa protects. I’d love to have Dotchin or Koekkoek if they’re available.
BlueBaron on HFBoards.com: Coburn would be a nice pick for captain.
RESPONSE: I liked the idea of Coburn wearing the ‘C’ too, but I also agree that Koekkoek or Dotchin would be tempting to Vegas. Dotchin did well in his late-season call-up and even paired with Victor Hedman, so it’s plausible that he could be protected over Koekkoek, who I believe has the higher upside between the two. If Koekkoek is exposed, I’d pick him over Coburn, but I still prefer Coburn over Dotchin. It’s close, though, so Vegas could see things differently. And Tampa Bay could definitely throw a pick or prospect at Vegas to prevent Koekkoek and Dotchin from being selected. The Lightning do have two second-round picks in this year’s draft.
Adam McQuaid, Boston Bruins
Sir Goose on HFBoards.com: McQuaid already said he doesn’t want to play in Vegas, will McPhee grant him that wish?
NY2LV on HFBoards.com: I’m a big McQuaid fan and love his old-school style, but Boston may have some other options with more upside.
RESPONSE: I’m of the belief that McPhee will also love McQuaid’s old-school style and ability to stand up for his teammates. The Golden Knights will need that kind of character player to aid the bonding process and help develop the culture in Vegas.
Granted, McQuaid is on the record saying he “hopes that’s not the case” and that he “can’t imagine playing for another team,” but I’m sure most players feel the same. There is always an attachment and a comfort level to their current team and city, especially for players with settled families, but I think the vast majority will take pride in being picked once they get that call from McPhee. Vegas isn’t exactly Siberia, so I’m sure McQuaid would show up and continue to play with his heart on his sleeve, proving to be a front-line soldier for the Golden Knights.
Malcolm Subban has potential as a goaltending prospect — he was my pick from Boston at Christmas — and Joe Morrow looked pretty good on the Bruins’ blue line in the playoffs. Jimmy Hayes and Tim Schaller are decent but dime-a-dozen forwards. Ryan Spooner will be traded before he’s exposed. Riley Nash might be available instead of Hayes or Schaller, but I don’t see a ton of upside in any of those three. Hayes would be my pick among them. All things considered, McQauid still strikes me as the safest pick and the best pick from Boston.
Derrick Pouliot, Pittsburgh Penguins
Bill Gordon on Facebook: Pouliot would be a great pickup.
danielpalfredsson on HFBoards.com: Maybe it’s a technicality but I might pencil in Marc-Andre Fleury as Vegas’ pick from Pittsburgh after the rumours came out after the deadline that the Penguins and Vegas might work something out. Could it be a trade? Maybe. But it’s entirely possible Fleury waives knowing that Vegas and Pittsburgh have negotiated to have Vegas select him. If Pittsburgh is giving Fleury to Vegas, I’d assume it would be worked out in a way that he would be the player the Golden Knights would select. The addition of Fleury would likely have an effect on which other goalies Vegas opts to choose.
BlueBaron on HFBoards.com: The Fleury talk makes little sense. Fleury has zero motive to allow a trade. He is better off forcing a buyout and signing a new deal with the team of his choice. Why would Fleury give up control to be traded to an expansion team? Anything is possible, he may love Vegas for all we know but, given what we know, he is a long-shot at best to ever be a Golden Knight.
Lenny Vegas on HFBoards.com: If McPhee made an agreement to draft Fleury, which I doubt because Fleury is still playing and still could be injured, could Fleury lose his NTC and NMC in the draft? If so, McPhee could likely trade Fleury to another team, which would be fine for me because Fleury is not our future.
RESPONSE: Mixed emotions about Fleury, to say the least. Lenny raises an interesting point about Fleury forfeiting his no-trade and no-move clauses if he agrees to be exposed in the expansion draft. I’m not sure how that works in this situation, but I know Nashville had the option to honour P.K. Subban’s clauses and chose not to. I assume Vegas would have that same option, but Fleury and his agent would likely negotiate all those details before waiving in the first place. Fleury would want something in writing that says Vegas will honour those clauses and prevent McPhee from flipping him to an undesirable landing spot.
It’s crazy we are talking about a Conn Smythe candidate in this manner. Fleury could emerge as the playoff MVP if Pittsburgh repeats as Stanley Cup champion and then be on the move a couple weeks later. Or maybe, just maybe, the Penguins will instead trade Matt Murray, but he’s supposed to be their goaltender of the future (and the present, really), so Jim Rutherford would presumably demand a ransom for Murray in comparison to Fleury. Calgary is the team most in need of a goalie for next season and I could see the Flames taking a serious run at both.
Something has to give in Pittsburgh, though the Penguins could send a substantial asset(s) to Vegas if McPhee promises not to pick Murray. That way the Penguins could protect Fleury, honouring his no-move and rewarding his playoff efforts, while keeping their tandem intact. I wouldn’t rule that out either, but it would be setting the Penguins up for a goaltending controversy next season.
I don’t know what to make of the Fleury to Vegas rumours, so I steered clear and instead picked Pouliot, who seems certain to be exposed. The jury is still out on Pouliot. I’ve always liked him from his Portland days in the WHL, but he and Morrow have both struggled in making the transition to pro hockey. Even Dumba, to an extent, who also finished his junior career in Portland. It was especially concerning and a bit of a red flag that Pouliot couldn’t crack Pittsburgh’s defence when Mike Johnston, his Portland coach, was behind the bench. Vegas would be aware of that and would be doing its due diligence on Pouliot while watching him closely right into the AHL playoffs.
Hopefully Ben was referring to Derrick Pouliot and not Benoit Pouliot from Edmonton. Otherwise, I beg to differ and don’t see Vegas taking him over Griffin Reinhart from the Oilers.
Trevor van Riemsdyk, Chicago Blackhawks
Matt Vandenbrand on Facebook: Really, the Golden Knights would select Darren Helm from Detroit and not Marcus Kruger from Chicago, are you kidding me? Helm is injury prone, highly unproductive and his defensive game isn’t even comparable to Kruger’s lol. Kruger is literally the perfect 3-4 center used in a shutdown role for a brand-new franchise. Considering his cap hit is rather friendly at just over $3 million.
RESPONSE: I didn’t give this much thought. Sure, Kruger is as good, arguably better than Helm (and cheaper), but picking Kruger from Chicago would mean passing on Trevor van Riemsdyk. I much prefer TVR to Kruger, a budding top-four defenceman to a pigeonholed third-line pivot. To me, it was irrelevant whether Kruger is better than Helm because TVR is the far better option from Chicago over Kruger. Moving along . . .
Mark Pysyk, Florida Panthers
Sir Goose from HFBoards.com: I’m guessing Gallant would prefer Alex Petrovic to Pysyk, but you can’t go wrong with either pick like you said.
RESPONSE: Gallant is certainly more familiar with Petrovic than Pysyk. He helped develop Petrovic into a full-time NHL player and got him trending towards becoming a top-four defender in their two-plus seasons together in Florida. Pysyk was only acquired by the Panthers last summer, in a trade from Buffalo, and Gallant was fired in November after just two months of association. So I can see how Petrovic makes more sense for Gallant, but part of the reason I picked Pysyk in a “coin flip” was his familiarity with Reinhart, my projected defence partner in Vegas. They played junior together with the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings. Either way, expect the Golden Knights to select a solid right-handed defenceman from Florida.
Jon Merrill, New Jersey Devils
mortaye (@mort_75) on Twitter: Why on earth do you protect Mike Cammalleri and Jacob Josefson. Keep Merrill for a later trade if you want.
RESPONSE: I’m not sure if this reader is suggesting the Devils, of all teams, protect 4-4-1 instead of 7-3-1? That would mean protecting Damon Severson, John Moore, Andy Greene and Merrill, plus forwards Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri. It would also mean exposing Cammalleri, Josefson and Stefan Noesen from my 7-3-1 protected list. I guess that’s not a horrible plan for New Jersey.
Cammalleri, who turns 35 in June, has two years left on his contract with a salary of $5 million. A goal-scoring left winger would seemingly be attractive to Vegas, with Cammalleri arguably an upgrade on Zucker, Ennis and Cody Eakin, the top-three left wingers on my depth chart. Cammalleri has been slowed by injuries in recent years and hasn’t played 70-plus games since 2008-09, but I think he could still produce on a line with Shipachyov and Bobby Ryan or with Perreault and Grabner. Adding Cammalleri would make for a decent top-six, in my opinion.
Of course, New Jersey has another left winger who could be even more of a scoring threat for Vegas. Yes, I’m referring to Ilya Kovalchuk, the 34-year-old Russian who is planning an NHL return for next season. Kovalchuk-Shipachyov-Ryan would be a legit top line, though Kovalchuk can’t be signed (or traded) until July 1, so he won’t be part of the expansion draft.
Jaycob Megna, Anaheim Ducks
Kovacro on HFBoards.com: Anaheim will have to really sweeten the pot for Vegas not to take Josh Manson. I will be interested to see the deal those two clubs strike prior to the expansion draft — you just know something will transpire.
Sir Goose on HFBoards.com: After watching this year’s playoffs, I’d really love to have Chris Wagner from the Ducks. Seems like a Gallant-type player.
RESPONSE: The Ducks are between a rock and a hard place, there’s no doubt. Manson, Vatanen, Jakob Silfverberg. Those are the big three, the most vulnerable trio, but it’s highly unlikely any of them will be exposed by Anaheim when the Ducks finalize their protected list. There will be a good trade market for each and every one of them, especially after their playoff performances. The Ducks won’t be losing one of them for nothing. Anaheim will find a trade partner prior to the expansion draft or work out some sort of deal with Vegas, though that may cost a top prospect like Sam Steel, the WHL’s leading scorer. The Ducks are definitely a team to watch between now and then.
Wagner would be a bottom-six forward with limited upside. He’s been impressive in these playoffs, similar in a sense to Washington’s Jay Beagle in past years, but I don’t think I would pick Wagner. I might change my pick, though, from Megna to Nic Kerdiles, who took his game to another level in the AHL playoffs with four goals and eight points in eight games. Unlike Wagner, there is plenty of potential in Kerdiles. Probably more so than Megna too.
Michael Mersch, Los Angeles Kings
Kovacro on HFBoards.com: From an L.A. perspective, Mersch has been a fringe player, at best. Maybe a change in organization helps him, but if Brayden McNabb or Trevor Lewis are available, I think Vegas chooses either.
Sir Goose on HFBoards.com: Mersch strikes me as a career AHLer. Would rather have Lewis.
RESPONSE: I doubt McNabb will be exposed. Some other team will step up and trade for him in the meantime (yes, add his name to the running list of possibilities for the Rangers). Lewis, on the other hand, will be exposed and is a strong bet to be picked by Vegas. Admittedly, a stronger bet than Mersch. Not only is Lewis more established at the NHL level, he’s also locked up to a very reasonable contract with three more years left at a salary of $2 million.
Lewis, at 30, is five years older than Mersch, who I consider a late-bloomer and wouldn’t go as far as labelling a career AHLer. A rare disagreement with Sir Goose. In hindsight, Lewis was the better pick from Los Angeles, but I wouldn’t write-off Mersch just yet.
Brock McGinn, Carolina Hurricanes
Sir Goose on HFBoards.com: As you hinted, I think Carolina protects McGinn over Joakim Nordstrom. As of now, the Hurricanes have to — since they need to expose two forwards to meet the 40/70 requirement, and that only leaves Lee Stempniak and Nordstrom. If they re-sign one of their other RFA/UFA forwards that meets the requirement and they expose McGinn, I’d love to have him.
RESPONSE: This is the last but not the least of Sir Goose’s 10 good points. Here’s a prime example of how readers are sometimes one step ahead of the writer. Assuming McGinn is protected, as the rules dictate, and Nordstrom is exposed, Vegas will likely select the latter instead. Nordstrom could work well alongside Lewis on a harder-to-play-against fourth line.
That leaves these 14 picks without any real complaints or serious objections. Readers even complimented several of these selections:
Bobby Ryan (Ottawa Senators)
Calle Jarnkrok (Nashville Predators)
Jacob de la Rose (Montreal Canadiens)
Reid Boucher (Vancouver Canucks)
Cody Eakin (Dallas Stars)
Nail Yakupov (St. Louis Blues)
Eric Fehr (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Teemu Pulkkinen (Arizona Coyotes)
David Schlemko (San Jose Sharks)
Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton Oilers)
Mark Barberio (Colorado Avalanche)
Michal Neuvirth (Philadelphia Flyers)
Philipp Grubauer (Washington Capitals)
Joonas Korpisalo (Columbus Blue Jackets)
My Original Golden Knights Lineup
Jason Zucker-Vadim Shipachyov-Bobby Ryan
Cody Eakin-Mathieu Perreault-Michael Grabner
Tyler Ennis-Darren Helm-Eric Fehr
Reid Boucher-Calle Jarnkrok-Nail Yakupov
Brock McGinn-Curtis Lazar-Teemu Pulkkinen
Jacob De La Rose/Michael Mersch
Braydon Coburn-Adam McQuaid
David Schlemko-Trevor van Riemsdyk
Griffin Reinhart-Mark Pysyk
Derrick Pouliot-Ryan Pulock
Mark Barberio-Jon Merrill
My Tweaked Golden Knights Lineup
Mike Cammalleri-Vadim Shipachyov-Bobby Ryan
Jason Zucker-Brock Nelson-Nail Yakupov
Cody Eakin-Mathieu Perreault-Michael Grabner
Tyler Ennis-Calle Jarnkrok-Alex Chiasson
Joakim Nordstrom-Riley Sheahan-Trevor Lewis
Reid Boucher-Jacob De La Rose-Teemu Pulkkinen
Nic Kerdiles/Eric Fehr
Braydon Coburn-Trevor van Riemsdyk
David Schlemko-Adam McQuaid
Griffin Reinhart-Mark Pysyk
Derrick Pouliot-Mark Barberio
Fans Alternative Golden Knights Lineup
Mike Cammalleri-Vadim Shipachyov-Bobby Ryan
Cody Eakin-Brock Nelson-Nail Yakupov
Riley Sheahan-Adam Lowry-Trevor Lewis
Reid Boucher-Calle Jarnkrok-Jesper Fast
Scott Laughton-Eric Fehr-Troy Brouwer
Joakim Nordstrom-Marcus Kruger-Chris Wagner
Jacob De La Rose/Teemu Pulkkinen
Jack Johnson-Marco Scandella
Nate Schmidt-Alex Petrovic
David Schlemko-Mark Barberio
Griffin Reinhart-Jake Dotchin
As you can see, this Golden Knights roster can be shaped in many different fashions.
My tweaked lineup would be the deepest offensively, with the potential to roll four scoring lines. The defence and goaltending would remain much the same, solid but nothing special.
The fans’ alternative lineup would boast better goaltending and arguably a better defence corps, although there would be a lack of right-handed blueliners and that forward group doesn’t have as much firepower as mine.
Which of these three lineups do you prefer? Which is the most realistic?
Larry Fisher is a senior writer and head scout for The Hockey Writers, having been an at-large contributor for THW since August 2014. Fisher covers both the NHL and the WHL, specializing in prospects and NHL draft content, including his annual mock drafts that date back to 2012. Fisher has also been a beat writer for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets since 2008, formerly working as a sports reporter/editor for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada from 2008-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.