NHL Expansion Mock Drafts

The picks are in! Kyle, Peter, and I spill our guts on how we think the Golden Knights will be put together.

It’s finally happening!  After going team by team to determine protections, we’ve finally gotten to our mock drafts.  If you’re still with us here, I’d hope you’re familiar with the Expansion Draft rules and how we’ve made our protections.  If you aren’t, you can browse thru the storystream and find our previous posts where we cover rules, regulations, and intricacies of the Expansion Draft.

As per usual, we’ve used the Expansion Draft Tool at www.Capfriendly.com to organize and make our selections.  Go there, play around, and let us know how different your selections look!

The Picks

You’ll notice two Alternate Picks on each of our drafts - one for the Winnipeg Jets, and one for the Anaheim Ducks.  That’s because we know they’re trying to move players we currently have as either protected, or the most likely selection by Vegas.  Think of these two as a contingency plan.

Mike’s Mock Draft

Forwards:  Alex Killorn (TBL), Patrik Berglund (STL), Josh Bailey (NYI), Michael Raffl (PHI), Riley Sheahan (DET), Jason Zucker (MIN), Joakim Nordstrom (CAR), Riley Nash (BOS), Curtis McKenzie (DAL), Josh Leivo (TOR), Sven Andrighetto (COL), Nick Shore (LAK), Sam Gagner (CBJ), Charles Hudon (MTL), Micheal Ferland (CGY), Josh Jooris (ARI), Pontus Aberg (NSH)

Defense:  Tyler Myers (WPG), Cam Fowler (ANA), Cody Ceci (OTT), Ian Cole (PIT), John Moore (NJD), Nick Holden (NYR), Trevor Van Riemsdyk (CHI), Dylan DeMelo (SJS), Cody Franson (BUF)

Goalies:  James Reimer (FLA), Laurent Brossoit (EDM), Richard Bachman (VAN), Philipp Grubauer (WSH)

Alternative Picks for Winnipeg and Anaheim:  Andrew Copp (WPG), Josh Manson (ANA) - If Andrew Copp has to be selected, Vegas will need to take Jack Johnson instead of signing UFA Sam Gagner.

Mike’s Strategy

OK, here’s the thing... this team is not going to be “good”... unless they can attract some major free agents and hit home runs with them, as well as with some real gamble picks.  In their first year of operation, that could be a long-shot unless they have better than average scouting.

With that in mind, how does one assemble a good team?  If you look at the current Stanley Cup Finals teams, you can either go for strength down the middle, or stability on the back-end.  I started with defensive stability, drafting the requisite 9 blue-liners, then moved to goalie, and filled the rest of the roster out after those 12 initial picks.

Overall, I went for defensive stability on the ice that could allow me to gamble a bit more at the forward positions.  While the stability of the defensive corps long-term seems to be in jeopardy, one could argue that this selected defense may be better than what the Red Wings will ice in the ‘17-’18 season.

5 Notable Picks

Riley Sheahan:  Honestly, I really thought I was going to pick Jimmy Howard here.  But, the reality is that the Vegas team will need to grow into themselves - they won’t be a ready-made contender.  At Howard’s age, he’s of questionable use to a team that may not be competitive for another 5 years.  Sheahan can grow with the Golden Knights and offers more upside than he was able to show this past season.

Sam Gagner:  The 27-year-old had a career year, putting up 50 points in the regular season with 18 coming on the power play.  This will certainly make him an attractive option for Vegas, who will be looking for several someones to be key contributors with the man-advantage.  The only wrinkle is that Gagner is a UFA - he could choose to not sign with the Golden Knights.  If he doesn’t, you could pencil in any of Jack Johnson, Joonas Korpisalo, or Anton Forsberg to take his spot from Columbus (possibly in that order).

Cody Franson:  To be frank, there aren’t really any great options when it comes to selecting a player from Buffalo.  However, Cody Franson has been around the block and has had a degree of success previously in his NHL career.  He may even be serviceable as a 2nd pair defenseman - which, if my selections hold true, may be all he needs to be.  Last season, he actually compared favorably to a statistically average 2nd pair defenseman per his HERO chart from www.ownthepuck.blogspot.ca:

If Franson can’t be had as a free agent, I’d recommend going after William Carrier and finding another defenseman elsewhere.

John Moore:  This pick is a bit of a gamble.  Moore’s advanced stats haven’t been fantastic, and his points production isn’t stellar, but he should be serviceable as a 3rd pair guy.  He’s even gotten experience on the power play, making him a decent choice to add depth to the Vegas roster in the event of injuries.

Laurent Brossoit:  The Oilers youngster is trapped behind Cam Talbot, but looks like he could have made a break-thru this past season.  While he only played in 8 games in the 2016-2017 season, he was able to post a 1.99 GAA and 0.928 SV%.  He’d still probably be trapped behind Reimer and Grubauer with these selections, but if he comes into his own it allows Vegas to hold a great trading chip for an upcoming trade deadline - 3 potential starting goalies.

Mike’s Wrap-up

Again, this isn’t going to be a great team this season.  Maybe not even a good team.  But they can take the steps to get good, and that starts with the blue-line and getting some prospects that could be ready to come up as soon as this season - relative unknowns like Hudon, Andrighetto, and Aberg.  Vegas will have a chance to fill out their prospect pool at the Entry Draft, and may even land some talent that could make an impact starting in 2018.  This team will be interesting to watch over the summer and into the season.

Peter’s Mock Draft

Forwards: Alex Killorn (TB), Jamie McGinn (ARI), Matt Stajan (CGY), Blake Comeau (COL), Dale Weise (PHI), Riley Sheahan (DET), Calle Jarnkrok (NAS), Jordan Nolan (LAK), Lukas Sedlak (CBJ), William Carrier (BUF), Adam Cracknell (DAL), Tom Kuhnhackl (BOS), Phillip Di Giuseppe (CAR), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (OTT), Brendan Gaunce (VAN)

Defense: Tyler Myers (WPG), Jay Bouwmeester (STL), Jonas Brodin (MIN), Cam Fowler (ANA), Kevan Miller (BOS), John Moore (NJD), Martin Marincin (TOR), Trevor Van Riemsdyk (CHI), Calvin de Haan (NYI), Griffin Reinhart (EDM), Nikita Nesterov (MTL)

Goalies: James Reimer (FLA), Anti Raanta (NYR), Aaron Dell (SJ), Phillip Grubauer (WSH)

Alternative Picks for Winnipeg and Anaheim: Shawn Matthias (WPG), Josh Manson (ANA)

Peter’s Strategy

There are more good goalies and defensemen available than forwards, so I focused on those areas first. I picked James Reimer as the veteran goalie because he’s cost-controlled for 4 seasons (including the upcoming one). He’s not a top goalie, but he’s in that tier where he should be good enough to play a season or two until one of the younger goalies is ready.

I think Grubauer will be a good starter either this coming season or the season after. I selected an extra goalie, but I think Vegas will be able to use players like Raanta and Dell as trade chips, since they are both proven to be strong backups and potential future starters. I think those are the two most valuable players for Vegas to draft and trade from New York and San Jose.

Other than that, I tried to go young with enough veterans to have a good balance for the playoff push....hahahahaha I couldn’t get through that sentence without dying laughing.

5 Notable Picks

Riley Sheahan - I still think it’s about 50/50 that Vegas will pick Sheahan or Helm. I’ll go with Sheahan. Vegas could take Howard, but I think they will have other options in goal they will go for.

Calvin de Haan - The Islanders likely can’t protect all the defense they want to, and if they use our selections, I think de Haan is going to be the one taken.

Jay Bouwmeester - Vegas doesn’t have to take many expensive contracts, but I think this would be a good one for them to take. He’s not nearly as good as he used to be, but he should be able to provide a good veteran presence.

Martin Marincin - This would be a smart choice for Vegas. Marincin is already good, and could continue to improve. He was top of the Leaf’s defense in expected Goals For %, and third in CF%.

Phillip Di Giuseppe - If Carolina leaves him unprotected, this would be a great selection for Vegas. I have a feeling that the Hurricanes will try to figure out a way to keep him.

Peter’s Wrap-up

Based on the players Vegas can take in the expansion draft and potentially sign during their signing window prior, Vegas will not have a very competitive team, at least not right away. It’ll be very interesting to see what they will do in the regular free agent market as well as the trade market before and after the expansion draft.

Kyle’s Mock Draft

Forwards: Benoit Poulliot (EDM), Colin Wilson (NAS), Patrik Berglund (STL), Jamie McGinn (ARI), Matt Stajan (CGY), Marcus Kruger (CHI), Derek Dorsett (VAN), Michael Raffl (PHI), Riley Sheahan (DET), Jason Zucker (MIN), Melker Karlsson (SJ), Tom Wilson (WAS), William Karlsson (CBJ), Shane Prince (NYI), Cedric Paquette (TB), Nicolas Deslauriers (BUF)

Defense: Tyler Myers (WPG), Cam Fowler (ANA), Kevin Klein (NYR), Cody Ceci (OTT), Ian Cole (PIT), Brayden McNabb (LAK), Martin Marincin (TOR), Jon Merrill (NJD), Jordie Benn (MTL), Greg Pateryn (DAL), Mark Barberio (COL)

Goalies: James Reimer (FLA), Eddie Lack (CAR), Malcolm Subban (BOS)

Alternative Picks for Winnipeg and Anaheim: Shawn Matthias (WPG), Josh Manson (ANA)

Kyle’s Strategy

First was getting to the cap floor. So, taking players who I believe have something to offer and are on contracts that will help you get there was a strategy. Next was making sure to focus on players that were younger, and still have time to develop into better or even different players.

5 Notable Picks

Jason Zucker: I took him over Marco Scandella or Jonas Brodin, which is probably an unpopular way to go, but I think Zucker is a stud.

Tom Wilson: The butt-end of a lot of jokes, but I think any team would love to have him for what he is. Good chance that he turns into a different type of player under a new system.

James Reimer: Underrated goaltender on a great contract for a long time. This will give the Knights a lot of flexibility, and alongside a guy like Eddie Lack, they'd have a 1A/1B situation.

Ian Cole: The picks on defense weren't very sexy, but I'd take a guy like Cole on most teams. Simple, reliable, not expensive.

Riley Sheahan: Under Mike Babcock he was an analytics darling. I still believe in him and I think the Knights will, too. Smartest move available coming out of Detroit.

Kyle’s Wrap-up

They're going to lose a lot of games. I doubt they'll be any good anytime soon, which raises the question of why the NHL didn't do more to help them be able to hit the ground running. I do think they'll splash into free agency, make a pitch for a big name like Kevin Shattenkirk, or even try to convince Joe Thornton to go on a one-year paid vacation where he plays hockey as a grizzled veteran in limited minutes.

The Golden Knights have no choice but to depend on stellar scouting and player development to gain traction. They'll get a few good prospects in this years entry draft, but they need smart analytical minds who stress draft & develop. What they'll need even more than those minds is a front office that listens to them.

Up Next

We’re sure that, once the Cup Finals are done, we’ll see a few more moves happen - notably, one involving either Marc-Andre Fleury or Matt Murray, which we’ve accounted for in our drafts.  As moves happen, we’ll fill you in and keep you posted on the impacts they’ll have.

A reminder, protection rosters are due by 5:00pm on June 17th - about 3 weeks from now.  We do know that the protected lists will be made public, but we aren’t sure when.  Our intent is to do another set of mocks once the protection lists are released, hopefully before the formal Golden Knights roster announcement on June 21st.  If the lists aren’t made public on a convenient timeline, we’ll still be ready to analyze the roster as soon as it’s announced and complain about why other GMs didn’t protect players the same way we did.

Edit - we have confirmation from Pierre LeBrun that protection rosters will be released prior to the official roster announcement:

Who’s made the best predictions?

Mike’s roster looks set to compete...88
Peter’s roster will make a run at a Wildcard spot...93
Kyle’s roster hungers for the Cup...57
You’re all crazy, let me tell you about MY selections in the comments...181