The draft is almost here!!! And no, not the NBA draft that has been scrutinized from every angle by a hundred critiques, but the Golden Knight’s expansion draft is this Wednesday.
The last time an actual Las Vegas athlete was in the limelight – the Cavs were selecting their second straight #1 overall pick. Cleveland went with a surprise pick hailing from UNLV: Anthony Bennett (hopefully, the Sixers do a little better with their second straight #1 overall pick this Thursday).
The Golden Knights’ general manager and owners will get to do something that all of us love the most about fantasy sports – build an entire roster from scratch. So, let’s play along for a moment and attempt to pick which players that Las Vegas’ newest NHL team will select.
Note, we are only going to focus on the playoff teams because that is where all of their top line talent will be coming from, as bad teams can protect all of their prospects and good players.
In this “Part One,” we’ll look at the Eastern Conference including players that the defending champs will have to give up, the choke artists from Washington, and most of the Original Six.
Washington Capitals – Justin Williams
The Capitals didn’t protect a trio of unrestricted free agents: Williams, TJ Oshie, and Kevin Shattenkirk. Many writers will focus on the possibilities of them grabbing one of the headliners, but I believe that they would be best served attempting to grab the 15-year veteran, Justin Williams. He is known for his playoff heroics including a Game 7 clincher in the Western Conference finals over the Blackhawks as a member of the LA Kings. Williams will not only give the Knights a great veteran presence, but will also fill the all-important role as the player that every fan hates on a team.
Boston Bruins – Colin Miller
The 24 year old would be a great, young third-line defensemen for the Knights. He has showed some scoring ability with 6 goals in 61 games last year. He’s only going into his third year in the NHL with plenty of opportunity to improve.
Columbus Blue Jackets – William Karlsson
The Blue Jackets are without a doubt one of the youngest and most talented young teams in the NHL. Thus, they had more players to protect than your average team. So, how did their GM deal with this conundrum? A trade with a handshake deal to leave some of his other players protected. The Knights will get a first round pick and one of the Blue Jacket’s top prospects to not take unprotected Goalie phenom, Joonas Korpisalo, forward, Josh Anderson, or defensemen, Jack Johnson.
Montreal Canadiens – Tomas Plekanec
This is merely a salary cap pick with a requirement that the Knights take at least $45 million in the draft. Plekanec’s $6 million contract will go a loooong way. He can play center on the second line and with the added bonus of being one of the best players on this new team.
New York Rangers – Antti Raanta
This is my LEAD PIPE lock of the draft. Antti Raanta has one year left on his contract for a sweet $1 million. I pick him and immediately start long term contract negotiations. He has proved himself as a superb goalie in the two biggest American Hockey cities – Chicago & New York. This guy has the stuff to lead their team from between the posts. This is an easy pick! Sorry Rangers fans, no chance that he will be returning.
Ottawa Senators – Alexandre Burrows
Knights do not fall for the Bobby Ryan trap – that contract is an albatross. He has never truly lived up to the $7 million annually, since his move to Ottawa. I say Las Vegas goes with another veteran right-wing bad guy in Alexandre Burrows. The Golden Knights can set themselves up to have a symbiotic fan base with the Las Vegas Raiders by also building a tough and mean hockey team in the desert. With Burrows and Justin Williams, no defensemen will being looking forward to a trip to Sin City.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Bryan Rust
He scored 15 goals in his breakout 2016-17 campaign and is only 25 years-old. He will be a restricted free agent following next season, which assures the Knights some control over his future, which is a bonus. Unfortunately, I have gone with three RWs out of these eight teams, so I am either hedging my bets or someone is going to have to play out of position.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Eric Fehr
I wanted to go with Brian Boyle as this team would be more badass then the Mighty Ducks with the Bash Brothers, but another unrestricted free agent is unlikely. That is why I go with Fehr here. A prototypical fourth-line center and he will not only be another veteran to the squad, but some championship pedigree from his time with the Pens.
Everyone in the world has them going with Fleury as the starting goalie and maybe Raanta as the back-up, but I think Rust is too good of a player for them to pass up on at this time. He is young and will be a restricted free agent following this season, which gives the Knight’s good control on him for the future. Looking at these top 8, I would place a very strong bet on the Golden Knights going with Brooks Orpik from the Capitals. He would be a top line defensemen and could very well finish his career off in Las Vegas.
Viva Las Expansion Drafts & Viva Las Vegas,