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Predicting the Expansion Draft: Washington and Winnipeg

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NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Toronto Maple Leafs Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the final countdown!

I apologize in advance, but I cannot make a reference to that classic song without taking a moment to introduce people to the worst greatest cover song of all time.

I would say it’s impossible to get through, but we’ve been watching the Red Wings this year, so who knows?

Anyway, welcome to the last installment of this section of our series about the NHL Expansion Draft. We are going to take a little time off, but we have more planned soon.

Our current plan is to have at least one article after the trade deadline addressing possible implications of trades made in that time period. We plan to have at least one article near the end of the season looking at how trades have changed the picture from the trade deadline until then.

After that, Mike and I plan to do a mock draft article using our predictions from this series as well as the above changes.

I believe we will have additional content on the site about the draft, but I don’t know exactly what that will be yet, so stay tuned!

If you haven’t been following our series, each week we have two articles, with each one looking at two NHL teams and predicting whom they will protect in the NHL expansion draft.

Because we explained how free agents and exemptions are going to work in great depth in the Detroit article, scroll down to the bottom and click on the Detroit article in the story stream if you need more information on those topics.

As always, here is a link to the CapFriendly expansion draft tool. Take a quick look at the teams for today’s article before you read, if you want to see who’s exempt, etc.

Washington Capitals

SB Nation: Japers’ Rink

Daily Faceoff Current Lines: Here

Predicted Protection Option: 7 Skaters, 3 defensemen, and 1 Goalie

Forwards

Let’s get the easy ones out of the way first.

Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov are all safe bets. TJ Oshie and Justin Williams are UFAs, which helps Washington out a lot. Oshie is a bit of a wild card, as the Capitals would likely want to re-sign him, and they might want to try to lock him up ahead of the expansion draft. If they do, they will use a protection slot on him.

Andre Burakovsky seems to be next most likely pick. He’s 22 and an RFA after this year. He’ll be due a raise, but it shouldn’t be so excessive that they’d rather lose him.

Lars Eller is our next selection. He’s not having a dynamite year offensively, but his 5v5 SACF% is the highest on the team for players over 125 minutes, so he’s provided value to the Caps.

That leaves one slot. Tom Wilson and Jay Beagle are the remaining NHL players that aren’t UFAs after this year. I looked at stats from players in Hershey to see if anyone is torching the AHL (and is relatively young), but there’s nobody that jumps out at you.

Beagle is older, but he costs less and puts up more points, so we’re going with him. Either way, neither player is something that can’t be easily replaced. Also remember, if Oshie re-signs this spot would already be taken anyway.

Defense

Karl Alzner is a UFA. As with Oshie, he could re-sign, in which case he would take up a spot, but we’ll go with him re-signing later (or testing the market).

Brooks Orpik has a 5.5M cap hit for two more years. Since he’s also 36 years old and declining, it would be foolish for the Caps to use a spot on him.

So with that out of the way, we are predicting Matt Niskanen, John Carlson, and Dmitry Orlov as their three protected defensemen.

Goalie

Braden Holtby.

It’s worth pointing out that Washington’s backup, Phillip Grubauer, is likely the best player Vegas can take. They might be a team that will make a trade with Vegas to keep them from taking him.

This protection group would mean they would have to expose one additional forward who meets the exposure requirements. It shouldn’t be hard for them to finagle that.

Final Protected List

Forward: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, Lars Eller, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Jay Beagle.

Defense: Matt Niskanen, John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov

Goalie: Braden Holtby

Winnipeg Jets

SB Nation: Arctic Ice Hockey

Daily Faceoff Current Lines: Here

Predicted Protection Option: 7 Skaters, 3 defensemen, and 1 Goalie

Forwards

Winnipeg is a very interesting team for their defense, but first we are going to talk about forwards. Patrik Laine is exempt, as is Nikolaj Ehlers, so the team doesn’t have to use a slot on either of them. No-brainers are Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, and Bryan Little.

Drew Stafford is a UFA, so our next pick is Matthieu Perreault.

From doing some reading on the Jets, the consensus seems to be that there are some young forwards the team would rather not expose. These include Adam Lowry, Marko Dano, and Joel Armia.

I reached out to Garret Hohl (manager of Hockey Graphs and contributor to Jets Nation) and Cara Thorington (from Arctic Ice Hockey) because I don’t know too much about Winnipeg’s prospects. From what they told me, I feel pretty confident in these picks, as things stand now. If I’m wrong however, blame me, not them.

Defense

The big issue here is the NMC that Toby Enstrom has. Dustin Byfuglien also has a NMC, but he would be protected either way.

The reason this is an issue is that if they go with the 7-3-1 option, the team cannot protect both Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers.

Of course, going 8-1 makes this problem go away, but the articles I’ve read seem to think highly enough of their forward prospects that they don’t consider this an option.

Remember that they could trade one of these two, which would also solve the problem. Perhaps Trouba might look good in red and white?

Here are the HERO charts for Trouba and Myers. Trouba looks like the clear choice, but the team may want to keep both.

Own The Puck
Own The Puck

We’ll pick Trouba here, but if the team trades him, it would be Myers. Additionally, keep in mind that the team may try to make a trade with Vegas to keep them from taking Myers. Or I could be thinking he’s better than he is. And he’s been injured for most of the season.

No matter what, Trouba is easily worth protecting over Myers.

Goalie

None of the Jets’ goalies has been good this year, but Connor Hellebuyck has been the best, so we’re picking him.

The team would have to expose one additional forward who meets the exposure requirements to make these picks work.

Final Protected List

Forward: Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Matthieu Perreault, Adam Lowry, Marko Dano, Joel Armia

Defense: Dustin Byfuglien (NMC), Tobias Enstrom (NMC), Jacob Trouba

Goalie: Connor Hellebuyck