Editor’s note: This is the first of four mock drafts at Knights On Ice as we prepare for Wednesday’s expansion draft. Stay tuned for parts 2-4.
Despite the NHL not doing what it was supposed to do at 7 a.m. like it promised, we are finally here.
It’s time for the Vegas Golden Knights to pick a team.
First glance at the lists of available players shows there’s plenty of talent available for Vegas to snatch. Everyone went into this process knowing teams would have to make tough decisions on who to keep, and if the Golden Knights play their cards right, they might be able to field a competitive team right out of the gate.
A reminder: Vegas must choose 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies in Wednesday’s expansion draft. Teams will surely be calling general manager George McPhee between now and Wednesday to strike some sort of deal to keep certain players available, so this could be totally wrong 72 hours from now.
Let’s give this a shot.
- Anaheim Ducks - Josh Manson, D: Don’t be shocked if Anaheim tries to get a deal done with Vegas before Wednesday. Manson and Sami Vatanen are both available, and the Ducks would surely like to keep them. Manson is a physical 6-foot-3 defender who comes in really cheap ($850,000 next year).
- Arizona Coyotes - Alexander Burmistov, F: The former No. 8 pick in the 2010 draft hasn’t had a career like one so far, but Burmistov showed some promise in the 23 games he played in Arizona when claimed off waivers from Winnipeg, scoring 14 points.
- Boston Bruins - Adam McQuaid, D: It was a toss up between McQuaid and Colin Miller, but I took the defender who’s more experienced and is on the books for the next two years.
- Buffalo Sabres - William Carrier, F: Nothing wrong with getting a 22-year-old former second-round pick on the roster. Carrier couldn’t break through in Buffalo, but a chance to play in Vegas could signal a turnaround.
- Calgary Flames - Alex Chiasson, F: Was last year a sign of things to come for Chiasson? He doubled his point output (yes, even if it was only 24 points). One would like to think there’s some hope for Chiasson, and maybe Lady Luck is what he needs.
- Carolina Hurricanes - Matt Tennyson, D: The defenseman has not been healthy his entire career, but he’s an unrestricted free agent and might be the best option coming out of Raleigh for the Golden Knights.
- Chicago Blackhawks - Marcus Kruger, F: The Sweden native is another guy in need of a change of scenery. It’s not his fault he plays behind guys like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
- Colorado Avalanche - Calvin Pickard, G: Pickard lost 31 of 46 games he was in net for the Avalanche last year. In the last three years, he’s saved 91 percent of shots his way. Colorado isn’t good, but that’s a pretty good netminder.
- Columbus Blue Jackets - William Karlsson, F: Columbus is willing to give Vegas a first-round pick if the Golden Knights take Karlsson off its hands. So it be done. The Swede scored a career-high 25 points last year and had a plus-minus of +10. That’s a good trend.
- Dallas Stars - Cody Eakin, F: The Stars have had one of the worst defenses in hockey the last few years, so taking a defenseman makes little to no sense. They might as well be nice and take Eakin off their hands.
- Detroit Red Wings - Petr Mrazek, G: This one was a shocker. Mrazek was a playoff goalie two years ago, but a lackluster 2016-17 campaign derailed that momentum. Not a bad choice for a backup to who should be the eventual starter.
- Edmonton Oilers - Tyler Pitlick, F: Another case of grabbing someone just for the sake of it. Pitlick scored eight goals last year and is a unrestricted free agent. He wouldn’t be bad for depth purposes or someone to stash in Chicago or Moline.
- Florida Panthers - Jonathan Marchessault, F: We talked it about Saturday when his name surfaced as a potential VGK target. He has the chance to be a one-liner from Day One. Which is why I think Florida is trying to come up with a trade.
- Los Angeles Kings - Brayden McNabb, D: This expansion draft is loaded with quality defensemen. Vegas snags one of its first-line defenders right here, courtesy from a division rival.
- Minnesota Wild - Matt Dumba, D: And here’s McNabb’s potential first-line teammate. Minnesota had a tough call to make with their protections, and the odd man out is Dumba, who could be a building block for Vegas for years to come.
- Montreal Canadiens - Tomas Plekanec, F: It’s almost cruel to take someone away from a team who has been there his entire career. But if it’s time for Plekanec to move on, he’s a quality veteran presence Vegas should consider.
- Nashville Predators - James Neal, F: Plenty of tough calls for the Western Conference champions, and Neal might be the odd man out. He might not be a first-line wing, but he’ll provide quality depth.
- New Jersey Devils - Ben Lovejoy, D: The 33-year-old defenseman is signed on for two more years at $2.5 million per year. Not a bad price for another veteran presence.
- New York Islanders - Calvin de Haan, D: Newsday reports Vegas could get New York’s 15th overall pick if they steer away from de Haan. Let’s roll the dice here. It might take more than that if George McPhee has his way.
- New York Rangers - Michael Grabner, F: Another talented goal scorer who would line up along with Marchessault, it would be a shocker if Grabner did not get picked up by Vegas to solidify the wings.
- Ottawa Senators - Marc Methot, D: The Senators are adamant about keeping Methot. This is something to watch for. If Vegas wants him, it may take another first-round pick. Wash, rinse, repeat.
- Philadelphia Flyers - Michael Raffl, F: Raffl missed 30 games with a left knee injury, but when healthy, he’s someone who could anchor the third or fourth line for Vegas. Philadelphia won’t be missing much.
- Pittsburgh Penguins - Marc-Andre Fleury, G: Here we go. The starting goalie for the Golden Knights next year, barring any unforeseen circumstances that would bend the time-space continuum and prove reality to be something cruel. Fleury has a few good years left. He may not be dominant, but he gives Vegas that steady presence inbetween the pipes.
- San Jose Sharks - Brenden Dillon, D: The San Jose Mercury News has the Golden Knights taking Dillon or David Schlemko. Dillon has only missed seven games in the last two years, proving to be a reliable force defensively.
- St. Louis Blues - Scottie Upshall, F: The 33-year-old forward hasn’t had the kind of career warranted for a former No. 6 pick, but something’s kept him around this long.
- Tampa Bay Lightning - Jason Garrison, D: Here’s another name to look out for if Tampa Bay wants to swing a trade involving, you guessed it, a first-round pick, because why not?
- Toronto Maple Leafs - Joffrey Lupul, F: Toronto is expecting Lupul to be grabbed by the Golden Knights, so this would make sense. Again, be on the lookout for a trade.
- Vancouver Canucks - Anton Rodin, F: Here’s the wild card. Rodin has played in three games in his NHL career. Is he someone Vegas can risk a pick on? Why not? Let’s get crazy.
- Washington Capitals - Tom Gilbert, D: Gilbert is about to play for his third team in four years as an unrestricted free agent. Might as well make a trip to Vegas out of it.
- Winnipeg Jets - Toby Enstrom, D: Good thing the Golden Knights will be making picks based on standings. They’d go nuts if they did alphabetical order.