2017 Expansion Draft Preview

 

expansionpreview

A new team is entering the fold in the NHL and for the first time since 2000, there will be an expansion draft.

The expansion draft is always a big area for debate as the league is constantly looking to make teams a competitive as possible without taking away from other teams.

The expansion draft allows the new team to fill their roster with NHL talent rather than relying on free agents from outside the NHL and young players to try to compete.

The idea behind the expansion draft is to give the new team a fighting chance at actually being competitive in the near future.

It isn’t to create a power team at the expense of the other 30 teams in the league but it is also not to just hand the expansion teams scraps that will keep them in the basement for the next decade.

That has become even more important in this new era as the NHL, much like other leagues, is in a strong place and looking to expand.

To expand they want to make sure that they don’t create a new team that will just syphon money from the other 30 teams from revenue sharing.

There are already two specific teams in that situation more often than not and that in itself is too many.

Creating a competitive team is important to the success of the expansion team because excitement for a new team will only last so long, eventually, they need to compete or interest will go away.

That leaves a big debate in the league especially with the introduction of the Vegas Golden Knights.

It is a team that is in a place that many have been worried about going and hockey is not the most natural fit.

With a team in the desert already struggling, the Coyotes are still in limbo when it comes to an arena, and putting a team in another desert has left some to wonder if it will work.

Added to the fact that Nevada is far from a hockey state, Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world so how will the Knights cut through the noise.hockey-sidebar

The biggest shows are held in Las Vegas from massive MMA cards to the biggest boxing matches and concerts along with the constant shows in the casinos throughout the strip.

There is a lot to do in Vegas so why will someone pick the Golden Knights as an option if they are visiting.

Another issue could be the fact that the Vegas population is not the best and that this team will likely have to rely on tourists, of which there are plenty, to sell out games.

All of these factors will only be exacerbated if the product on the ice is terrible but at the same time, they can’t have free reign to take from the other 30 teams that have been building for years.

The NHL looks to find that balance with this year’s expansion draft as the rules seem to be more favourable to the Knights than other expansion teams but the other teams are still able to keep their stars.

For the Knights, this is the biggest day since they officially got a team as the draft will finally give them more than two players.

Not only that but they might be able to get some stars and actually put together a competitive team.

They won’t be in the running for the Stanley Cup this year but when the protection lists were released by the other 30 teams things are looking up for the newest team.

The biggest names in the game are clearly not available but there are players that can make a difference for the near future of this team.

The Knights will enter the expansion draft hoping that they can assemble a team that can compete in the very competitive Pacific Division.

It’s not going to be easy and many of the available players are in that weird spot where they can be great but have to meet their potential.

There are a number of veterans reaching the end of their careers that only have a few seasons left but could provide the leadership that this team will need.

There are also a number of players that seemed like they would never be available but in the last few years became expendable to their teams.

These players could be big for Vegas but if they continue their slide they might just be a wasted pick.

It will be interesting to see how the management group views the group that they can pick from as they look to put together a competitive team that can kick off a new era in Vegas sports with a bang.

goalies

It can be the most important position on a hockey team as there are not teams that win the Stanley Cup without having a good goalie. Getting this decision right could mean that the Knights can worry about the other aspects of their team and the development of younger players. Goaltending is hard to get right though and drafting a future prospect is good but not something that will make a difference any time soon. So this expansion draft will be a very important part of their team for the future. The biggest name available for the Knights is Marc-Andre Fleury who became expendable for the Pittsburgh Penguins with the rise of Matt Murray. Fleury has been a top goalie in the league but he has struggled in the past few years giving Murray a chance to rise through the ranks and take over the starting role. Still, he is a good goaltender and possibly the best option for the Knights as an immediate starter. They might also go younger though and in that respect, there are some very good players available for them to choose from. Calvin Pickard, Malcolm Subban and Antti Raanta are all goalies with big potential and Raanta has experience behind one of the greatest of all time in Henrik Lundqvist making him a good option for a backup role. If the Knights take Fleury they will have some time and plenty of talent to pick from but if they go young right away to concentrate on the best contract they can get they could be gambling a bit. The younger goalies could be huge for them given the chance to start but they also might crumble under the pressure. Not that Fleury hasn’t had some experience with that but he does seem like the best option right now for the Knights as they try to create a team that can at least compete with the others in the league.

forwards

The forwards available are an interesting group that provide the Knights with a lot of options on how they want to approach their first season. The list of available players up front is a collection of young potential stars, veteran players that are nearing the end of their careers and players with great potential that have struggled to meet expectations. There are a lot of options for the Knights and who they pick here will go a long way to determining what type of team they have. They will likely take a leader quickly and in that spot could be Joe Thornton who was left unprotected by the Sharks. Someone like Thornton might not provide the biggest offensive boost but finding leadership for a brand new team is a tough thing and Thornton certainly provides that leadership. There are also veterans like Jaromir Jagr, Mike Cammalleri and Marion Gaborik available that won’t be their top scorers, aside from maybe Jagr, but that can provide some leadership. The biggest prize in the pool of players up front though is James Neal who is a consistent 20-goal scorer and is a Stanley Cup Champion along with being a part of the western champion Predators last year. He seems like the best option to get a consistent goal scorer on the team so it would be surprising if he is not on the team. Others like Bobby Ryan, Cody Eakin and Ryan Strome have all had high potential but none have consistently met those expectations. A new environment could change that and in the case of Strome and Eakin, the contracts make more sense while taking on Ryan’s contract might lead to other tougher decisions later. There is plenty of talent to pick from but most of these players do have something to prove before anyone can claim that they are a good pick. Depending on the Knights’ strategy they could get anything from a veteran-laden team to a young team with a high ceiling. It will determine a lot about what they do in the first few years and with these options, they will hope to get some consistency up front for their first few years.

defence

Defencemen are a tough thing to find in the NHL as there are few really great defensive studs in the league. Teams have been searching for top-pair defencemen for years without finding any and continuing to struggle. The Knights get the chance at finding those blue liners in the expansion draft but there are few really great top-pair defencemen available. Instead, they will hope that whoever they pick can come alive with the chance to play more minutes than on their former teams. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t talent with some good defenceman available and some young prospects that could be great. The biggest targets seem to be Marc Methot and Sami Vatanen who have that potential to form a top pair worthy of being considered a top pair defence in the NHL. There is a lot of mystery behind either player though as Ottawa and Anaheim have reportedly been very active in trying to make a deal with Las Vegas to ensure that both defencemen stay in their respective cities. As for the young players both Matt Dumba and Brenden Dillon have a lot of experience for a young defenceman and although both of their teams are willing to part with them they still have time to develop into something special. It is interesting in this section as teams had to release a certain number of players but they are not too happy about letting some of them go. That is true for defence as finding the right combination has been attempted for years by some teams and giving that up for nothing seems like it is getting certain teams on the phones. That could be the defining factor as they look at defenceman as teams seem to be actively hoping that they avoid losing some of their top guys. It obviously won’t be easy as the Knights will likely have high asking prices to avoid these players but there will be some teams willing to pay those prices. If they do make a deal some of the top defencemen will be passed over and the Knights could be left with a young defensive corps that has plenty of potential but lacks some experience.

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