It has been a wild week in the NHL with the Seattle expansion draft coming up. With the protection lists that came out on Sunday, many of us fans are bracing for the potential loss of some of our favourite players, and while that’s certainly the case for me, I am also enjoying all of the fun that comes with an expansion draft. Most of all, the mock drafts.
Coming into the expansion draft, it was thought that maybe the quality of forwards available wouldn’t be as high as it is. It’s interesting to me how when I was doing my first quick mock draft a week ago, I was giving myself issues by picking too many defencemen and not enough forwards. I found it to be the opposite this time around, as there were a number of forwards that I wanted that I didn’t take. Last week I had no idea that a few of the guys that I ended up picking in this mock draft would even be available.
Ultimately, I built a team that I think is very good, and while the whole team that I picked was fairly close to the salary cap, after flipping some players, I still left a solid amount of cap space. I did not make any assumptions in terms of side deals. I just felt like the likelihood of accurately predicting what side deals will happen with what teams was very low, so in order to maintain as much accuracy as possible I stayed away from that.
Without further ado, here are each of my picks for the Seattle Kraken:
ANA: Sonny Milano, LW (1 year, $1.7M)
A first round pick (16th overall) in the 2014 NHL draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Milano is a talented player who despite showing flashes, never got an opportunity to step into a bigger role with Columbus, and now has only played 15 games over the past two seasons in Anaheim. Time may be running out on Milano, but I wasn’t particularly high on any of the other options. What he might just need is to get an opportunity with some offensive players, and if it doesn’t work out for him, the opportunity cost wasn’t terribly high.
Other players considered: Alexander Volkov, Kevin Shattenkirk, Haydn Fleury
ARI: Dryden Hunt, LW (RFA)
This was an example of me simply being underwhelmed by the other options available. I decided to go with a guy who despite playing no more than 31 games in any season, has had a strong defensive impact in each season he’s been in the league, and hasn’t been a total drag offensively. The type of guy that can be a good depth player, and a guy you can plug in on either wing in your bottom six.
Other players considered: Ilya Lyubushkin
BOS: Ondrej Kase, RW (RFA)
Kase is a bit of a high risk, high reward pick. There are injury concerns here, as he’s only played 9 games for Boston since they acquired him at the 2020 trade deadline, but if he can stay healthy, he’s the best player available on the Bruins and it isn’t particularly close. I don’t feel like the opportunity cost was all that high, as I feel like Nick Ritchie is a solid but replaceable player, and I wasn’t enamoured with the other available players.
Other players considered: Nick Ritchie
BUF: Colin Miller, RD (1 year, $3.875M)
There was almost nobody to choose from Buffalo. Colin Miller played extremely well in a smaller role with both Boston and Vegas, so maybe there’s a possible return to form in a diminished role. Ultimately though, this is a player I’m flipping for whatever I can get. Let’s be honest, there wasn’t anyone else with any real value that I could have picked.
Other players considered: none
CGY: Mark Giordano, LD (1 year, $6.75M)
A lot of people have Giordano in their starting lineup for Seattle. I actually don’t. I liked the other players I had at left defence at least as much as Giordano for different reasons, so I am flipping Giordano and his $6.75M for assets. The pick itself was a no-brainer, as no one else I could have picked from Calgary would be on my roster, and none of them have much trade value.
Other players cosnsidered: none
CAR: Jake Bean, LD (RFA)
This was a pick that I had to come back to. I had a very hard time not selecting Nino Niederreiter. I ended up going with the young defenceman with upside. Bean has been in the unfortunate situation of being buried in the AHL behind a stacked blue line in Carolina. He produced a lot in the AHL in his two years there from 2018 to 2020, and held his own in his first extended action in the NHL this past season. Bean has top four upside, and ultimately I decided to go with that instead of one year of Nino Neiderreiter.
Other players considered: Nino Neiderreiter
CHI: Nikita Zadorov, LD/RD (RFA)
I picked Zadorov both because it’s been reported Andy Strickland that Seattle is likely to take him, and because I think he makes the most sense. Not because he’ll be in the lineup, but there will be GMs who covet Zadorov’s size and physicality if Seattle flips him.
Other players considered: Calvin de Haan
COL: Joonas Donskoi, RW/LW (2 years, $3.9M)
Donskoi is a talented, speedy winger who was succeeding playing top six minutes by the end of the season on the best team in the NHL. He could be an important player for the Kraken. This came down to a decision between him and defenceman Jacob MacDonald. MacDonald had outstanding results in 33 games playing bottom pair minutes this year, including a chunk of time playing with Sam Girard. Considering he’s already 28 years old though and has only played 35 games in his NHL career, I went with the more proven Donskoi.
Other players considered: Jacob MacDonald
CBJ: Dean Kukan, RD/LD (1 year, $1.65M)
Kukan has flown under the radar for Columbus with the likes of Seth Jones and David Savard ahead of him on the depth chart. He’s been a solid player for them, and I chose him as a guy who can play both sides to be the 7th defenceman. Max Domi was tempting, but I’m not keen on his lack of defensive ability, and I felt like Kukan was the value pick here.
Other players considered: Max Domi, Kevin Stenlund
DAL: Ben Bishop, G (2 years, $4.917M)
Bishop missed this past season with a torn meniscus, but had previously been one of the best goalies in the NHL. It’s a little bit of a roll of the dice, but every other name available was pretty underwhelming.
Other players considered: Adam Mascherin, Nicholas Caamano, Colton Point
DET: Troy Stecher, RD (1 year, $1.7M)
This was a slam dunk. Stecher is a solid defenceman, and there was just about nothing to choose from aside from him. He is in the top six on opening day for me barring a Dougie Hamilton signing in the offseason.
Other players considered: none
EDM: Tyler Benson, LW (RFA)
Benson is a player Oilers fans have been hoping to see in the lineup for a couple of years now, but hasn’t cracked the roster. He’s 23, so it’s rather unlikely at this stage he ends up making a major impact in the NHL, but there was very little to pick from here. Benson probably goes on waivers for me to start the season and gets sent to the AHL.
Other players considered: Dominik Kahun, William Lagesson
FLA: Chris Driedger, G (3 years, $3.5M)
It has been widely reported that the Kraken are signing Driedger, which would make him their pick. He obviously played very well for the Panthers this past season, saving 7.03 goals above expected (as per MoneyPuck). A small sample tp be sure, which is always risky for goalies, but it could pay off big time.
Other players considered: none
LA: Blake Lizotte, C (1 year, $925K)
Lizotte is a guy who has gone under the radar as a third liner. He’s played 107 games in the NHL with some pretty strong underlying results, especially offensively, but the goals haven’t followed the expected goals just yet. I think he can be a good third line centre for the Kraken, and that’s exactly where he slots into my starting lineup.
Other players considered: Kale Clague
MIN: Kaapo Kähkönen, G (1 year, $725K)
My third and final goalie selected, Kahkonen has a great track record in Liiga and the AHL. He didn’t have a great season last year, but seems like a great pick as a third goalie. With Ben Bishop having the potential at any point to end up on long term injured reserve, he may be needed at some point.
Other players considered: Nick Bjugstad
MTL: Brett Kulak, LD (1 year, $1.85M)
This was an interesting one. No, Carey Price is not going to be selected by the Kraken. The risk of him flopping with a cap hit of $10.5M for five more seasons? That’s too much. The other interesting name I thought hard about taking was Jonathan Drouin. Obviously he’s never had the impact people thought he was going to after being selected 3rd overall in the 2013 draft. He has crazy talent, but has been unable to put it together for more than some small stretches of time in the NHL. Ultimately, I couldn’t trust his underlying results. Kulak himself is a player I’ve always liked. He’s real solid in transition, and his team tends to give up less dangerous scoring chances when he’s on the ice. He had a bit of an off year this year, but typically has been very good. I’m betting on a bounce back from him, and even if I don’t get it, I still get an NHL calibre defenceman.
Other players considered: Jonathan Drouin
NSH: Yakov Trenin, LW/C (1 year, $725K)
Trenin hasn’t been a big time scorer coming up the ranks, but he looks like a very good two way player that can be plugged into the bottom six, and so far has the appearance of a guy who can drive some play. He’s played mostly fourth line minutes, and worked his way up to third line minutes toward the end of this season. I’m plugging him in at my 4C for the Kraken.
Other players considered: Connor Ingram
NJ: Andreas Johnsson, LW (2 years, $3.4M)
Johnsson has been an above average winger in his time in the NHL. He had a rough year in terms of on-ice shooting percentage, but his shot and expected goal impacts remained solid, as they have been throughout his career. Johnsson is a strong bet to bounce back and be an impact player, and he’ll start in my top six. P.K. Subban was a shiny possibility in terms of having a marketable name, but I don’t honestly think he’s better than any of the options I have at right defence at this point in his career.
Other players considered: P.K. Subban, Will Butcher
NYI: Jordan Eberle, RW (3 years, $5.5M)
This was a slam dunk. Eberle may be 31, but he’s still an outstanding hockey player, and an elite play driver. Josh Bailey has put up more points in recent years than Eberle, but doesn’t drive play at anywhere near Eberle’s level, so it was an easy choice. Eberle will start on my top line.
Other players considered: none
NYR: Julien Gauthier, RW (1 year, $863K)
This was an instance where I had very few options, so I went with the young player that might still have some upside. I’m not sure that he’s an NHL player when he hits his peak, but my options were quite limited.
Other players considered: Colin Blackwell
OTT: Evgenii Dadonov, RW/LW (2 years, $5M)
I wasn’t overly excited about the player. He had a down year in scoring, and can struggle in his own end at times. He can drive offence to a degree. This is a player I’m looking to flip, as I’m not sure he’s a great fit on this roster.
Other players considered: Joshua Brown
PHI: James Van Riemsdyk, LW (2 years, $7M)
This was an interesting one because there were a number of options. Ultimately I went with who I thought the best available player was. At 32 years old, JVR is still a very nice player who’s not great at any one thing, but pretty good at everything. He fits in nicely on my top line. I stayed away from Voracek, as I don’t believe he’s worth his contract, especially for three more years. I could have gone with Shayne Gostisbehere or Justin Braun, but I think Van Riemsdyk will have the opportunity to make a stronger impact on the top line, whereas Gostisbehere or Braun would be at the bottom of my lineup.
Other players considered: Shayne Gostisbehere, Justin Braun
PIT: Zach Aston-Reese, LW/RW (RFA)
This was another one where there were a few different options. I think the popular pick here is Marcus Pettersson. I went in a different direction. I wanted to have one elite defensive line, and for me there was no better pick for that role than Aston-Reese. He has been one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL for three seasons now. He doesn’t have much outright offensive ability, but he’s so good at controlling possession that his team doesn’t really lose out offensively when he’s on the ice either. He’ll be an important piece in the bottom six.
Other players considered: Marcus Pettersson, Juuso Riikola
SJ: Ryan Donato, LW/C (RFA)
There wasn’t another player here that was really worth much of anything. Donato is a solid bottom six forward with pretty much average impacts across the board, whether it be offensively, defensively, or with his shot. He ends up being a depth forward for me.
Other players considered: none
STL: Vince Dunn, LD (RFA)
This was another interesting one. It would have been tempting to take Tarasenko and flip him, but I think Dunn is just worth much more than that as a player. He hasn’t been given a large role on his strong side yet in the NHL, but has absolutely crushed it in a third pair/power play role. He struggled a bit on his off side this year playing with Marco Scandella, but I’m not playing him on his off side. He gets the opportunity on my top pair, and I am excited for that he can do.
Other players considered: Vladimir Tarasenko
TB: Yanni Gourde, C/W (4 years, $5.167M)
This was a no-brainer. Yanni Gourde played the fourth most minutes among all Lightning forwards in the regular season, and the third most in the playoffs, and he was outstanding throughout. On top of posting elite defensive results, he had a bounce back year offensively. He can play and succeed in all situations, and in my opinion is the perfect second line centre. There were lots of good players who would have stepped right into the lineup had I picked them, but Gourde was a significant step above the rest, and also has the added benefit of being a centre.
Other players considered: none
TOR: Jared McCann, C/LW (1 year, $2.94M)
Jared McCann has flown under the radar as one of the league’s more underrated players for the last few seasons. He took another big step forward this year, and seized the opportunity as the second line centre in Pittsburgh when Evgeni Malkin went down with injury. He put up elite results, and I was surprised to see his name on the exposed list after he was traded to the Leafs. I think there’s a chance he could jump into a 1C role with good players around him and succeed, just as he did in the 2C role in Pittsburgh.
Other players considered: Travis Dermott
VAN: Kole Lind, RW (RFA)
Simply put, there were no options. I had to go with the guy that had some chance of making the NHL. He was a strong producer in junior and put up 8 points in 8 games in the AHL this year, so there may be an NHL player here.
Other players considered: Jayce Hawryluk
WSH: Nick Jensen, RD (2 years, $2.5M)
Nick Jensen has been a steady defensive defenceman in his time in the NHL. He’s played mostly second to third pairing minutes, but has done well in those minutes. Vitek Vanacek was in consideration, but I liked Jensen better than the alternatives for the goalies I ended up selecting.
Other players considered: Brenden Dillon, Carl Hagelin
WPG: Dylan DeMelo, RD (3 years, $3M)
Quite frankly, exposing Dylan DeMelo made absolutely no sense for the Jets. Logan Stanley has NHL upside, and Josh Morrissey kind of still exists, but neither of them are as good as Dylan DeMelo, and with right handed defencemen as scarce as they are, they are overvaluing both Stanley and Morrissey by choosing them over DeMelo. This was a slam dunk for me as pretty clearly the best right handed defenceman available, so I am gonig to make Jets fans cry and take Dylan DeMelo. He slots right into my top pair.
Other players considered: Mason Appleton
Opening day lineup:
Van Riemsdyk / McCann / Eberle
Johnsson / Gourde / Kase
Milano / Lizotte / Donskoi
Aston-Reese / Trenin / Hunt
Dunn / DeMelo
Kulak / Stecher
Bean / Jensen
In the end I toed the line and drafted just 20 players under contract next year. I ended up with a $63.8M cap hit for next year before flipping any players. I think this gives me more than enough flexibility to get my RFAs signed, and even make a big splash in free agency if I want to.
At the end of the day, I’m very proud of the team I made, and I believe with its outstanding depth, it is a playoff team. If I get big hits out of Ondrej Kase and Ben Bishop, I think they could really make some noise in year one.