On Wednesday, the Vegas Golden Knights will officially join the NHL as the league’s 31st team and build a roster in the NHL Expansion Draft. The Knights will select one player from each franchise, until they have 30 new members for their inaugural season.
For the Vancouver Canucks, the draft couldn’t come at a better time. After finishing 29th in the league, Vancouver isn’t in the same bind that many other teams find themselves in. With Jim Benning offloading assets like Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen at the Trade Deadline in February, the Canucks lineup had a pretty cut and dry group to put on the protection sheet on Saturday.
Nonetheless, the Canucks will lose a player to the Golden Knights, and today we’re going to preview what we might see on Wednesday night. Due to the Canucks’ lack of depth, the choices weren’t too difficult to make.
The Protected Players
Let’s start by looking at the Canucks’ list of protected and unprotected players. Due to the Canucks’ lack of depth, the choices weren’t too difficult to make.
Vancouver Canucks. Protected and Available.#NHLExpansionDraft pic.twitter.com/yvYVXoW85f
— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) June 18, 2017
The one tough decision for most fans has been whether to protect Brandon Sutter or Brendan Gaunce. Vancouver chose to protect Sutter, which due to his trade value (don’t laugh, it’s true) made it the right call.
Which brings us to the top five players for Vegas’ GM George McPhee to choose from. While there are plenty more options than these five, these are the Canucks that the Knights will certainly take the closest look at.
Dorsett is the veteran of the group, having played in almost 500 NHL games with the Canucks, Blue Jackets and Rangers. A solid depth player, Dorsett’s led the NHL in penalty minutes twice in his career, most recently in the 2015-16 season. Last season he played just 17 games due to a neck injury that required surgery in December.
Gaunce played in 57 games last season, but managed just five assists all year. While those numbers aren’t very impressive, he’ll enter just his third NHL season in 2017-18 and still has lots of time to develop. Gaunce’s entry level deal is also up on July 1, meaning the Knights will have to negotiate a new contract if they select him.
Ah, fan favourite Jayson Megna. Megna signed a new one-year, $675,000 contract near the end of the season, after tallying eight points in 57 games. Former Canucks’ head coach Willie Desjardins used Megna in numerous high-pressure situations last season; whether that adds any value in Vegas’ eyes remains to be seen.
Here’s another, um, popular Canuck; Luca “Deep Dish” Sbisa. Sbisa was brought to Vancouver as a shutdown defensemen in 2014, and earned a three-year extension in 2015. Last year he played in all 82 games and picked up 13 points along the way, his highest totals since 2011-12. Sbisa brings a physical game to the table with the ability to take on big minutes, both attributes that the Golden Knights are likely looking for.
Reid Boucher was frequent waiver wire last year, moving from New Jersey to Nashville and back to the Devils before finding a permanent place in Vancouver. Boucher scored five goals and two assists in 27 games, and at age 23 he still has lots of growing ahead. As with Gaunce, Vegas will need to make an offer for the RFA winger or ship him to his fourth club in two seasons.
The Knights’ management have been pretty clear in interviews that they plan on taking the “win now” approach to the draft. With the Las Vegas’ population being new to hockey, the club has made earning a playoff spot as soon as possible a priority over building a contender down the road.
That’s why I believe that the Golden Knights will take Luca Sbisa at the Expansion Draft. Out of the players that the Canucks could leave on the table, Sbisa gives Vegas the best chance to win right out of the gate.
If Vegas doesn’t want a defenseman, the most likely option would be Reid Boucher. Out of all the Vancouver forwards left for Vegas, Boucher is arguably the most ready for full-time NHL play. Gaunce will also warrant a serious look from the Golden Knights, but he needs more development time before he’ll be able to take a major role in Las Vegas.
Thanks for reading! Which Canuck do you think will be plucked by the Vegas Golden Knights at the NHL Expansion Draft? Leave a comment below!