CapFriendly’s excellent and slightly addictive expansion draft tool has now been used more than 40,000 times.
With interest in the Vegas Golden Knights’ unknown roster gaining steam, we asked the site’s lead developer, Jamie Davis, to give us a list of the most frequently selected players in those tens of thousands of fan-run mock expansion drafts.
It’s worth noting that all but one of the top 10 potential draftees belongs to a team that has either clinched or is targeting a 2017 playoff berth. And not one of the top 10 hails from a Canadian franchise. (Also: Looks like the Knights may need a left-winger at some point.)
Taking a good look at the list, we break down the likelihood of these popular picks actually being chosen when Vegas GM George McPhee submits his list of 30 players on June 20.
1. Jakob Silfverberg, RW, Anaheim Ducks
We expect Bob Murray to try to finagle a deal with McPhee here, but it’s difficult to see a scenario in which Anaheim does not lose a good player in the expansion draft. The Ducks must protect Rickard Rakell after his 32-goal outburst this season, so Silfverberg would appear the odd man out. The winger ranks fourth in team scoring (48 points), has more goals (23) than Corey Perry and skates in excess of 18 and a half minutes a night. Could well be the Golden Knights’ 2017-18 leading scorer.
2. Matt Murray, G, Pittsburgh Penguins
All Murray, a Stanley Cup champion, did Sunday night was improve his record to 30-10-4 and become the first rookie goaltender in Penguins history to win 30 in a season. Expect Pens GM Jim Rutherford to instead trade Marc-Andre Fleury, perhaps straight to Vegas (maybe toss in a pick?), so he can protect Murray.
“A lot of people,” Sportsnet insider Nick Kypreos reported in March, “believe that George McPhee is targeting Marc-Andre Fleury. Let’s face it: He’s the best goalie out there that is available, he can be a franchise type of player and might be the guy that ends up being the face of that franchise in the very near future.”
3. Trevor van Riemsdyk, D, Chicago Blackhawks
Chicago’s good, young (25) third-pairing defenceman is enjoying a career season — five goals, 16 points, plus-17 — and could easily be a top-four guy in Vegas.
Question is: How badly will Stan Bowman try to keep TVR in Chicago for one more season when his imminent raise at the end of 2017-18 will make that difficult anyway?
Vegas might instead target depth centre Marcus Kruger from the deep Blackhawks roster.
4. Jonas Brodin, D, Minnesota Wild
As is the case in Anaheim, Minnesota appears bound to lose a good 20-something defenceman this off-season, either via trade or the expansion draft. McPhee must be eyeing 23-year-old Brodin, a responsible top-four D-man who bounced back from a so-so 2015-16 to put up career offensive numbers.
5. Vladislav Namestnikov, C, Tampa Bay Lightning
A solid and seldom-discussed centre on a Lightning team flush with forwards, the 24-year-old Namestnikov is a bargain for one more season ($1.94 million) before he turns RFA. One of a number of forwards (Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin) with uncertain futures in Tampa as Steve Yzerman will once again be forced to balance a constraining budget.
6. Jack Johnson, D, Columbus Blue Jackets
Johnson, 30, could provide Vegas with experience, leadership and a presence below the hash marks. A veteran of Team USA, Johnson has flipped from a minus-16 to a plus-21 this year.
He becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2018, and with the Jackets’ defence transitioning to the hands of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, now might be the time to let Johnson move on. He is a John Tortorella favourite, though.
7. Luke Schenn, D, Arizona Coyotes
Schenn is only 27 yet could see himself on his fifth different NHL team. Won’t put up points, but he could find a home on the Golden Knights’ second or third pairing.
8. Nail Yakupov, RW, St. Louis Blues
We’re guessing Yakupov, 23, appears here on this frequently mock-drafted list on the strength of his name recognition as the Oilers’ No. 1 overall draft pick in 2012. The Russian forward already went the fresh-start route this year. He ranks 19th in Blues scoring and has been a frequent healthy scratch.
If McPhee does gamble that Yakupov is merely a late-blooming NHLer, he could start off with a top-six role on a team that should be starving for goals.
9. Michael Grabner, RW, New York Rangers
Arguably the most interesting name on the list.
We have to agree with this New York Post headline on Grabner: “Each goal by Rangers’ revelation is an expansion-draft headache.”
Fast with finish, the 29-year-old Grabner has gone from nearly playing his way back to Europe with a bad Leafs team to lighting it up on Broadway.
Grabner’s 27 goals for the Rangers this season cost a mere $1.65 million. Unless GM Jeff Gorton can tempt McPhee to steer clear with a prospect or pick — or McPhee wants goaltender Antti Raanta instead (a real possibility) — Vegas is taking the Austrian.
10. Malcolm Subban, G, Boston Bruins
Subban’s minniscule NHL sample size has been a disaster (.727 save percentage in two appearances), but few goalies peak at 23.
The 2012 first-rounder has been solid in the AHL and would be a smart pickup for the Golden Knights’ goaltending depth. (Remember, Vegas must select three goaltenders in the draft.) One assumes Subban — not a party animal — would be fine with a clean slate after the way things have gone in Beantown.