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Initial Look at Vegas Expansion Draft Roster

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So, that wasn’t hard to follow at all

Pittsburgh Penguins Victory Parade And Rally
At this point, Fleury seems like the only lock to still be on the team on Thursday
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Well, the day that Mike and I spent months preparing for has came and went, and....wow.

It’s going to take a little while to unpack Vegas’ decisions, and we’ll have to wait for the details of the side-deals to come out, as well as any trades Vegas makes using players they selected or assets they acquired.

Following on Twitter today as the leaks started to come out had me feeling like this:

(For a second, I really wanted this photo to be the entire article, but I will push on).

I have to say that at this point, I’m not really sure that Vegas will have taken advantage of this situation the best they could have. In some cases, it sounds like they would have been better off just taking an exposed player than accepting the deal to not take that player.

It reminds me of the great scene in Family Guy:

To be fair, we can’t really evaluate Vegas’ choices until we see how all their trades play out.

I plan on having a more in-depth look at that later today or on Friday, when hopefully we will know more about Vegas’ wheeling and dealing. So, until then, here’s an initial look.

Nolan or Nico?

With the number of picks Vegas will certainly end up with, I would not be surprised in the least for them to trade with either New Jersey or Philly to take either Nico or Nolan. If Vegas had kept the 4th pick in the first round, I would be almost positive a deal with New Jersey would happen, as there have been rumblings of New Jersey being more interested in a defenseman.

I think this is a definite possibility, and would obvious be a big boost in terms of both on-ice ability and marketability.

I started writing this while the selections were leaking out, and now that I know that Vegas now also has the 13th and 15th overall picks (at least), I think it’s more probable than not that they move into the top 2.

Goal

So, it looks like Marc-Andre Fleury will be cemented as the starter, but Vegas passed on many intriguing goalie options. They could have taken Antti Raanta, but instead selected Oscar Lindberg. I was high on Phillip Grubauer, but at least Nate Schmidt makes sense as a pick. They had the Islanders over a barrel (well, not a huge barrel, but go with me), and the price they extracted was J-F Berube? (Yes, I know they also got a first round pick, but they could have pushed for a better player)

Vegas ended up taking Calvin Pickard, and while that’s not a bad choice at all (especially with such little else available from Colorado), I still see Raanta as the better choice if you wanted Schmidt from Washington.

Also, during the draft, we learned that Vegas planned on taking Fleury anyway, so Pittsburgh wasted their pick to make sure McPhee took MAF. That’s kinda funny, right?

Defense

Looking at the players Vegas had to choose from, many thought that Vegas should come out of this with a pretty solid d-corps. They likely will, but it sounds like some of their best selections could be flipped Friday morning when trades start to be announced. Like I said up top, it’s pretty tough to analyze how well they did before seeing the trades.

Notable defense acquisitions so far include: Shea Theodore, Colin Miller, Nate Schmidt, Brayden McNabb, Alexei Emelin, Marc Methot, and David Schlemko.

I’m saying so far because they will likely trade some of the above players, and will likely acquire more defensemen.

Taking Emelin over someone like Brandon Davidson or Charles Hudon is a bit of a head-scratcher, although I assume Vegas is getting something more from Montreal.

Hold on just a second. I’ll be right back.

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL (breath) LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL (breath) LOLOLOLOLOLOL

Well, ok then. Unless McPhee is flipping Emelin for big haul, this does not seem to be optimal asset management. OK, that’s understatement. This would be an extremely bad decision. This was the worst selection of the draft.

Forwards

Vegas took the minimum amount of forwards they could possibly take. They had a clear strategy to load up on defensemen over forwards, probably because on average there is a higher trade market for a defenseman.

Hey guys...(and girls)....

Vegas took Teemu Pulkkinen. Yes, I know that some people will say this shows that we shouldn’t have gotten rid of him (if you don’t think people will say that, you should try Twitter, it’s fun (and terrible sometimes). Granted, they didn’t have a lot to choose from, but based on the reaction online, nobody saw that coming.

They picked up Jonathan Marchessault and Rielly Smith from Florida. Those two should be solid forwards for Vegas, although we’ll see if they flip them. In exchange, Vegas sent back a 4th round pick, which seems like a pretty small price to pay.

James Neal and David Perron are solid veteran forward selections.

Toronto was likely to lose either Brendan Leipsic or Kerby Rychel. I picked Rychel in my mock draft, but Leipsic is a really good pick too.

Trades

We won’t know the full extent of Vegas’ dealing for a while. We will find out the initial batch of trades starting 8am today (Thursday). I’m posting this article before those trades start being reported, so you can use this as a place to discuss those trades in the comments as they come out. I’m going to have another round up article either this afternoon or tomorrow.

Based on the trades we do know so far, Vegas made some trades that look good and some questionable ones.

For example, Vegas picked Forward Connor Brickley from Carolina, in exchange for a 5th round pick. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to select Lee Stempniak, then trade him at the deadline as a rental? Maybe not.

Tampa traded a 2017 second round pick, a 2018 fourth round pick, and winger Nikita Gusev (currently in the KHL), in exchange for taking Jason Garrison.

On paper, it looks like Vegas got the better deal, and they very well could have. But Slater Koekkoek seems to be on track to at least be a good second pair defenseman in the NHL. Gusev scored 71 points in 51 KHL games last year, but 1. KHL success doesn’t always transfer to NHL success, and 2. There’s no guarantee he comes to the NHL.

Again, this trade could very well work out for Vegas, but there’s a decent possibility that in a few years it looks like Vegas should have just taken Koekkoek.

I talked about the Islanders trade in the Goalie section. The 15th overall pick is the big piece here, and I get this move, although if I were Vegas, I would have tried to get someone other than Berube as my selection.

Vegas also acquired Alex Tuch from Minnesota in exchange for not taking Matt Dumba or Marco Scandella. I don’t know enough about Tuch to have an opinion right now, but I have seen him referred to as a “top prospect,” so that could end up being a good deal. Time will tell.

Overall

I seem to be far from alone in thinking that Vegas made some very unusual decisions. The Vegas roster today will be likely very different than the Vegas roster tomorrow and beyond.

My initial reaction is that Vegas missed some great opportunities. Building through the draft is great, but in some cases, I think it was better to just take the boat than the mystery box.