Vegas Golden Knights – Expansion Mock Draft

Paul Zwambag


The Expansion Draft is a difficult thing to predict, not only do you have no idea how each of the 30 teams and GMs are planning to use their protection list, but also how Vegas is going to build their team. There’s also the matter of side deals, where George McPhee (Vegas GM) can make promises to teams that he will leave an unprotected guy alone and draft someone else from the team. I believe McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon (Vegas asst. GM) have a target list for every team and once they get the protected lists they will scratch their guys off the list. In the following exercise I kind of did the same thing, before I knew what players were being protected I made a list of 3-5 players who I thought would be worth drafting from each team. As the protection lists were made I then scratched off players from my target list and started to build my roster from there.

A couple of key notes, Vegas is allowed to draft 2017 UFA’s and RFA’s, but they must draft at least twenty 2017-18 contracts, so that leaves you with the maximum of ten UFA and RFAs, but can be a minimum of zero.

The next thing I determined was deciding if Vegas would be a Cap ceiling team or a team with a capped budget. In my mind an expansion team isn’t going to spend to the Cap in their first two to three years so they have flexibility when the UFA market is right for them and they can also sign bigger free agents for a little more money than their competitors.

With all that said, DobberProspects protection lists for each team were filed by their respective writers/scouts who cover the Prospects and the teams much more closely than if I did it myself. It also opened up having many different “managers” selecting what would be best for their “team”. Below is the full list of protected players from each team and small write-ups explaining the “GMs decisions they made with their lists.


*in alphabetical order*


Forwards: Corey Perry (NMC), Ryan Getzlaf (NMC), Ryan Kesler (NMC), Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Andrew Cogliano, Antoine Vermette

Defensemen: Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler, Kevin Bieksa (NMC)

Goalie: John Gibson

GM Lucas Main – “In this format I have not including any of the "what-ifs" meaning Bieksa has to be protected leaving Sami Vatanen and Josh Manson available on defense. One of these two guys would be selected under this format, Vatanen being the coveted right-handed, puck moving defenseman and Manson being the big, physical right handed defenseman. However, I feel Bieksa will move his NMC for the expansion draft which would set up this second scenario.”


Forwards: Shane Doan, Tobias Reider, Alexander Burmistrov, Radim Vrbata, Tyler Gaudet, Anthony Duclair, Jordan Martinook

Defensemen: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski (NMC), Connor Murphy

Goalie: Mike Smith

GM Keith Duggan “The Coyotes most likely make a few trades before the expansion draft since they only had 3 forwards that meet the requirements for draft selection. This made selecting 7 forwards somewhat difficult. Two forwards I selected to protect (Doan and Vrbata) are UFA's and one is a RFA they might not even tender an offer (Gaudet). Rieder was the only forward I protected that met the requirements. Goalie was the hardest spot to make a decision on. I went with Smith though because he helps the Coyotes hit the salary cap floor and while both netminders have been inconsistent, Smith has proven at certain times to be a number one goalie.”


Forwards: David Krejci (NMC), Patrice Bergeron (NMC), David Backes (NMC), Brad Marchand, Matt Beleskey, Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak

Defensemen: Zdeno Chara (NMC), Torey Krug, Colin Miller

Goalie: Tuukka Rask

GM Mike Drover“The team won't have any problem exposing career backup Anton Khudobin, but it unfortunately seems unavoidable that the Bruins will be exposing Malcolm Subban to the draft. Who to protect with the last forward slot and the last defender slot will be the interesting part for the Bruins. I believe that many will be surprised if the last forward protected isn't Matt Beleskey. On defence, I played with the idea that the Bruins would hang onto McQuaid for the grit and experience he adds to the lineup, but after some consideration I think that the team will actually protect either 22 year old Linus Arnesson or 24 year old Colin Miller.”


Forwards: Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo (NMC), Evander Kane, Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson, William Carrier

Defensemen: Rasmus Ristolainen, Zach Bogosian, Jake McCabe

Goalie: Robin Lehner

GM Max Marko“These decisions came down to protecting the best players on the team while exposing some players with a high cap hit to relieve. With most of the Sabres talent coming from the front end, the decision of a 7-3-1 protection was rather easy. Foligno and Girgensons were chosen to be kept based on the trade value they have and low cap hit.”


Forwards: Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Michael Frolik, Mikael Backlund, Sam Bennett, Curtis Lazar, Michael Ferland

Defensemen: Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, TJ Brodie

Goalie: Brian Elliott

GM Joel Henderson“The season long debate circled around whether or not to protect Troy B regardless of if he was part of some "Top7" forwards group. The fear around the remainder of his contract is looming and as the season progressed neither Shinkaruk or Poirier became legitimate protection considerations. The surprise addition of Curtis Lazar at the deadline sealed Brouwer's fate for me. You simply don't trade for an asset like Lazar and then expose him.”


Forwards: Jordan Staal (NMC), Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, Elias Lindholm, Joakim Nordstrom, Teuvo Teräväinen, Brock McGinn

Defensemen: Justin Faulk, Ryan Murphy, Trevor Carrick

Goalie: Eddie Lack

GM Kevin LeBlanc“The final two spots came down to four players, Joakim Nordstrom, Lee Stempniak, Brock McGinn and Phil Di Giuseppe. I would be fine with the Canes choosing to protect any of of the four but I chose Nordstrom for her versatility and penalty killing prowess. As far as keeping McGinn or Di Giuseppe, it was a personal preference of two young players.”


Forwards: Patrick Kane (NMC), Jonathan Toews (NMC), Marian Hossa (NMC), Artme Anisimov (NMC), Richard Panik, Ryan Hartman, Dennis Rasmussen

Defensemen: Brent Seabrook (NMC), Duncan Keith (NMC), Niklas Hjalmarsson (NMC)

Goalie: Corey Crawford (NMC)


Forwards:  Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Mikhail Grigorenko

Defensemen: Erik Johnson (NMC), Tyson Barrie, Francois Beauchemin (NMC), Nikita Zadorov

Goalie: Calvin Pickard

GM Hayden Soboleski“Good luck finding a contract worth taking in this bunch.”


Forwards: Brandon Saad, Brandon Dubinsky (NMC), Nick Foligno (NMC), Scott Hartnell (NMC), Cam Atkinson, Boone Jenner, Alexander Wennberg

Defensemen: Seth Jones, Jack Johnson, Ryan Murray

Goalie: Sergei Bobrovsky (NMC)

GM Peter Harling“All the selected players have either NMC clause or are young core assets and rather obvious selections. Several young players with upside remained exposed, but that was unavoidable with this team having such quality and quantity of prospects.”

DALLAS STARS – (7-3-1)

Forwards: Jason Spezza (NMC), Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn (NMC), Cody Eakin, Brett Ritchie, Radek Faksa, Valeri Nuchushkin

Defensemen: John Klingberg, Esa Lindell, Stephen Johns

Goalie: Maxime Lagace

GM Peter Harling“Exposing Rousell is a gamble, he is a valuable role player but only has 1 before he too is a UFA that doesn't leave much at the forward ranks with Curtis McKenzie, Travis Morin, and Gemel Smith as top options. Exposing Hamhuis is a huge risk but he is a UFA in 2018 too and protecting him would mean exposing two core young players. In goal exposing both Niemi and Lehtonen in hopes of purging one of those contracts off their cap may be wishful thinking considering the other goalie options that will be available.”


Forwards: Henrik Zetterberg, Frans Nielsen (NMC), Gustav Nyquist, Justin Abdelkader, Tomas Tatar, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou

Defensemen: Danny Dekeyser, Niklas Kronwall, Xavier Ouellet

Goalie: Petr Mrazek

GM Peter Harling“I gave serious consideration to exposing Zetterberg because of his health concerns and the length of his contract. Riley Sheahan was hard to expose as he has a long NHL career ahead of him. In goal Mrazek was the obvious choice. Howard timed his resurgent season well and has made himself an attractive option as the Vegas starting goalie. Look for the Wings to explore trade options for Howard”


Forwards: Jordan Eberle, Milan Lucic (NMC), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zack Kassian, Patrick Maroon, Leon Draisaitl, Tyler Pitlick

Defensemen: Andrej Sekera (NMC), Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson

Goalie: Cam Talbot (NMC)

GM Spencer Pomoty“I think Vegas will take a look at Griffin Reinhart, Benoit Pouliot, and Jujhar Khaira. The tough one for me was letting Khaira be exposed as he is a big body that can play the bottom six. But Tyler Pitlick showed he is an effective third line scoring winger when healthy.”


Forwards: Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck, Nick Bjugstad, Jussi Jokinen, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Huberdeau, Jonathan Marchessault

Defensemen: Keith Yandle (NMC), Alex Petrovic, Aaron Ekblad

Goalie: Roberto Luongo

GM Joel Gluss“Although the Panthers have had an inconsistent season, I still think they have a very solid core and promising future. With the priority obviously being to protect the young stars, I think they should also protect Jussi Jokinen. With 39 points in 68 games this year I believe he still has a lot to offer offensively and plays a huge role in the dressing room. On defence, I struggled with the final protection slot, however I ultimately chose Petrovic over Demers based on age and potential.”


Forwards: Anze Kopitar (NMC), Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson

Defensemen: Drew Doughty, Alex Martinez, Jake Muzzin, Derek Forbort

Goalie: Jonathan Quick

GM Peter Harling“Brown and Gaborik are both exposed because the Kings need to clear some cap space. Brown was stripped of the C and removing his cap would relieve pressure. Gaborik also has a high cap hit and while giving good return on it now, the term makes it unlikely Vegas selects him.”


Forwards: Zach Parise (NMC), Mikko Koivu (NMC), Jason Pominville (NMC), Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter

Defensemen: Ryan Suter (NMC), Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba

Goalie: Devan Dubnyk

GM Peter Harling“The Wild have a real challenge with their depth, the 7-3-1 format allows them to protect more overall but exposes more D than they would like. Only 1 player can be selected though so this format works best.”


Forwards: Max Pacioretty, Andrew Shaw, Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, Paul Byron, Phillip Danault, Charles Hudon

Defensemen: Shea Weber, Jeff Petry (NMC), Nathan Beaulieu

Goalie: Carey Price (NMC)

GM Mike Barrett“The top six forwards are protected for obvious reasons, but Hudon gets the nod over Jacob De La Rose as the Habs always seem to be lacking secondary scoring. On defence the decision comes down to Jordie Benn vs Alexei Emelin vs Nathan Beaulieu. Beaulieu is the youngest player with the lowest salary (at the moment as he is an RFA*) and possesses the most potential, so he gets the nod over the veteran defensive players.”


Forwards: Filip Forsberg, James Neal, Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson

Defensemen: PK Subban, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis

Goalie: Pekka Rinne (NMC)

GM Peter Harling“Jarnkrok would be a loss or Smith or Wilson, but rather than protect any two of them Nashville picked Ellis instead to secure their solid top four. With Irwin, Bietto and Mazanec as the best D and goalie options,Nashville is prepared to lose a forward”


Forwards: Taylor Hall, Travis Zajac, Kyle Palmieri, Adam Henrique

Defensemen: Andy Greene, John Moore, Jon Merrill, Damon Severson

Goalie: Cory Schneider

GM Kevin Wickersham“I think they take the 8/1 approach initially hoping a pricey, unprotected contract is snapped up. With 10 picks in this year’s draft this also leaves space permitting a last minute option – swapping a pick for a potentially unprotected but valuable player on a deeper team. If this happens they can then switch to the 7/3/1 route if warranted.”


Forwards: Andrew Ladd (NMC), John Tavares (NMC), Anders Lee, Casey Cizikas, Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome

Defensemen: Johnny Boychuk (NMC), Travis Hamonic, Calvin De Haan

Goalie: Thomas Greiss

GM Peter Harling“Kulemin and Grabovski are exposed in the hope they lose one of those contracts.Clutterbuck would be a loss but given the term remaining on his contract its likely more of a commitment to a fourth line player than Vegas would like. Shane Prince is a tempting option as is Alan Quine. On defence leaving Nick Leddy exposed is a risk but his contract may be too rich for Vegas with the far more affordable Hickey an option or even younger assets in Adam Pelech or Ryan Pulock.
Leaving Halak exposed is no surprise considering he spent time in the AHL and Berube is a UFA and Gibson isn't much of an option.”


Forwards: Rick Nash (NMC), Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Mas Zuccarello, JT Miller, Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes

Defensemen: Marc Staal (NMC), Dan Girardi (NMC), Ryan McDonagh

Goalie: Henrik Lundqvist (NMC)

GM Peter Harling“Grabner had a monster year but will be hard pressed to repeat, some good young options to choose from up front in Fast, Pirri, Puempel, or Jensen. Brendan Smith is a UFA and Klein and Holden each have one year and are servicable options. With King Henrik protected Anttti Raanta has had an impressive season and may be the better of the two goalies going forward.”


Forwards: Mike Hoffman, Derick Brassard, Mark Stone, Kyle Turris

Defensemen: Dion Phaneuf (NMC), Erik Karlsson, Marc Methot, Cody Ceci

Goalie: Craig Anderson

GM Peter Harling“The Sens final decision came down to either protecting a fourth defenceman or a fourth and fifth forward. Sens feel confident that neither Bobby Ryan or Clark MacArthur would be selected. That leaves Alex Burrows, Zack Smith and JG Pageau all exposed. Since one of those players will likely be taken the Sens choose to ensure their core defence remain intact.”


Forwards: Claude Giroux (NMC), Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Valtteri Filppula (NMC), Wayne Simmonds, Jordan Weal

Defensemen: Radko Gudas, Brandon Manning, Shayne Gostisbehere

Goalie: Anthony Stolarz

GM Peter Harling“Some interesting choices here, with so much talent coming on the blue line Philly chooses to expose non-essential assets and protect more forwards. Matt Read is a risk, with an affordable cap hit and only 1 year remaining he could be a target for Vegas. Raffle is a versatile player as well and could be an option.”


Forwards: Evgeni Malkin (NMC), Sidney Crosby (NMC), Phil Kessel (NMC), Patric Hornqvist, Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, Bryan Rust

Defensemen: Kris Letang (NMC), Olli Määttä, Justin Schultz

Goalie: Matt Murray

GM Mark Allan – “The hardest choice was between Schultz and Brian Dumoulin, both impending RFAs. Dumoulin is, at only 25, a sturdy defender who solidified eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh's second pairing when the team's blueliners were in flux. It would be hard to leave him unprotected. Schultz, a coveted free agent before the Oilers snared him and did their best to ruin him, blossomed this season with 12 goals and 48 points in 72 games so far as well as being plus-27. Right-handed shooting D-Men with these stats are precious and, at 26, he should have many productive seasons ahead, especially if it's with the high-powered Penguins. He also provides a ready replacement for Kris Letang when the oft-injured star is out of the lineup.”


Forwards: Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl, Jannik Hansen, Melker Karlsson, Chris Tierney, Ryan Carpenter

Defensemen: Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun

Goalie: Martin Jones

GM Zach DeVine“Sharks were all set up for the 4-4-1 system until Jannik Hansen came along. Now, suspecting the management likes him enough to protect him, the traditional 7-3-1 applies. Little changes for the Sharks as they still lose a defenseman from a deep blueline.”

ST. LOUIS BLUES – (7-3-1)

Forwards: Vladimir Tarasenko, Paul Stastny, Alexander Steen, Jaden Schwartz, David Perron, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka

Defensemen: Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson

Goalie: Jake Allen

GM Brad Phillips“There was some consideration given to leaving Paul Stastny and his $7,000,000 cap hit unprotected but ultimately he is the most talented centre on the team. Sobokta's KHL contract is up this season and GM Doug Armstrong seems pretty set on bringing him back over.”


Forwards: Steven Stamkos (NMC), Ryan Callahan (NMC), Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov, Jonathan Drouin

Defensemen: Anton Stralman, Victor Hedman (NMC), Joke Dotchin

Goalie: Andrei Vasilevkskiy

GM Brayden Olafson“For the purposes of this mock expansion draft, I’ve assumed that Tampa will not be successful in negotiating the waiving of any NMC’s (Callahan, Stamkos & Hedman). I’ve also assumed that the current roster will remain intact.”


Forwards: Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov, Kerby Rychel, Connor Brown, Josh Leivo

Defensemen: Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Connor Carrick

Goalie: Frederik Andersen


Forwards: Henrik Sedin (NMC), Daniel Sedin (NMC), Loui Eriksson (NMC), Brandon Sutter, Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, Bo Horvat

Defensemen: Alexander Edler, Erik Gudbranson, Andrey Pedan

Goalie: Jacob Markstrom

GM Peter Harling“Using the 7 forward option doesn't leave much to pick from in the forward group but does leave some options on defence. Chris Tanev is a solid option as he has a decent cap hit and plenty of term to work with. Sibs and Larsen could also be options. The decision to protect young potential stars in Gudbranson and Pedan made these defence exposed and the Canucks couldn't allow forwards like Granlund, Baertschi or Sutter to be available.”


Forwards: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, Lars Eller, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Brett Connolly

Defensemen: Matt Niskanen, John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov

Goalie: Braden Holtby

GM Pat Quinn “Reasoning for surprises: 1. Oshie is a UFA, having a great season (adding in this career high for goals), and will require a lot of money with term to keep as he potentially declines. The Capitals (and their cap) are best left letting him walk 2.Why keep Connolly: In bottom 6 minutes Connolly has played very well and is on his way to reaching 20 goals (knock on wood). At 24 there could be room to expand his role next season as Trotz knows his game over the younger players knocking at the door. 3. Capitals attempt to send picks to Vegas to take Orpik's albatross contract off of their hands. I do not think they bite, but this is the same GM who traded Forsber for Erat after all.”


Forwards: Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Shawn Matthias

Defensemen: Dustin Byfuglien (NMC), Toby Enstrom (NMC), Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba

Goalie: Connor Hellebuyck

GM Dave Dickenson –  “Given the Jets are forced to protect Dustin Byfuglien and the aging Tobias Enstrom due to their no-movement clauses, Winnipeg would have no option but to protect four defencemen for the Las Vegas expansion draft. Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers are too good of talents to leave up for grabs and you still have Josh Morrissey, Brandon Tanev and Logan Stanley who don't need to be protected to keep a nice deep blue line for the future.”




So there are the protected lists, now let’s get to the Expansion Draft!



Bobby Ryan (OTT)

Tyler Ennis (BUF)

Alexander Radulov (MTL)

Antoine Roussel (DAL)

Calle Jarnkrok (NSH)

Matt Read (PHI)

Trevor Lewis (LAK)

Michael Chaput (VAN)

Tom Wilson (WSH)

Dmitrij Jaskin (STL)

Joe Colborne (COL)

Troy Brouwer (CGY)

Phillip Di Giuseppe (CAR)

Oscar Lindberg (NYR)

Joel Armia (WPG)



Devante Smith-Pelly (NJD)


Jonas Brodin (MIN)

Sami Vatanen (ANA)

Nick Leddy (NYI)

Adam McQuaid (BOS)

David Schlemko (SJS)

Alexey Marchenko (TOR)

Slater Koekkoek (TBL)

Ville Pokka (CHI)

Derrick Pouliot (PIT)

Griffin Reinhart (EDM)


James Reimer (FLA)

Louis Domingue (ARI)

Jared Coreau (DET)

Anton Forsberg (CBJ)


I had a really difficult time deciding if Vegas would be a Salary Cap basement team or if they are going to spend to the cap. I decided that they would take a few chances with some high end UFA’s and at least get their rights to try to sign them before they hit the free agent market. The guys I thought who could be UFA targets were TJ Oshie, Alexander Radulov, Patrick Sharp and Ben Bishop. I decided that I would draft Radulov in hopes to sign him to a lucrative long-term deal and be the face of the Expansion team. He has been with an expansion team, Nashville, and that didn’t work out so well, but maybe things have changed since coming back to the NHL. Having a first line guy available and the potential to lock him up before July 1st is very enticing.

Another decision that was tough to make was filling my 2017-18 contracts, I drafted just above the minimum 20 contracts, 21 in total. I wanted to select a few more RFA players so I had their rights and could negotiate contracts or at least get something in return if they signed an offer sheet. But being limited to 10 contracts made it difficult, especially because there were some teams who all they had were one or two contracts that are 2017-18 eligible.

The goaltending is another very hard decision to make, I believe taking Reimer will help be the 1A 1B that Vegas will have for the first 2-3 years, until they either sign a free agent goalie or draft a blue-chip one. I have a feeling the Pittsburgh situation might end up giving Fleury to Vegas so the Penguins can keep Matt Murray. If that happens I still think Reimer could be drafted as a solid backup goaltender. Having the depth of Domingue, Coreau and Forsberg on the farm will be key to the success of their AHL affiliate team (not named yet) and being a relevant team in the AHL immediately.

In the end I feel like the Vegas Golden Knights will be a tough team, they may not have a lot of talent, especially down the middle. But having Bobby Ryan, American born, be a main piece of the new franchise will help get fans into the building. I am taking a chance that Radulov may not pay off in the end, but in terms of Montreal, it was a choice between Plekanec (depth centerman) or Emelin (depth defenseman). I decided to roll the dice and take my chances with UFA Radulov. The Golden Knights are a little weak down the middle, but in our Mock Draft I chose centerman Gabriel Vilardi of the Windsor Spitfires. Vilardi could become the Golden Knights #1 center in a few years, which moves that entire centermen depth chart down one and when you do that it looks a whole better. If Golden Knights miss out on Vilardi, they should have a chance at a number of centermen; Elias Pettersson, Michael Rasmussen and Cody Glass or even win the lottery and get Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier.


If you disagree or want more notes on any of the players drafted and why I chose them. Feel free to leave a comment or tweet me: @zwambag. I would be happy to give my reasons why I drafted the way I did.

Thanks for the long read! Hope you enjoyed this mock draft and enjoy your Fantasy Hockey offseasons!

T-minus 76 days to Expansion Draft, 73 days until the Protection Lists are revealed!

AND 78 more days until the 2017 NHL Draft. That week in June is going to be extremely fun!


Paul Zwambag



Name Fantasy Upside NHL Certainty
Xavier Bourgault 7.5 8.0
Jake Chiasson 5.0 4.0
Roby Järventie 7.0 6.0
Kevin Mandolese 6.2 5.2
Jérémy Davies 4.0 7.0
Brandon Biro 6.5 7.0
Maxime Lajoie 4.5 8.0
Mac Hollowell 5.5 7.0
Benoit-Olivier Groulx 4.5 8.5
Carson Meyer 5.0 3.5