The NHL is in the process of formalizing the protection rules for its next expansion draft, which could take place in the summer of 2017. The proposed rules would allow teams to protect either seven forwards, three defencemen and one goaltender or eight skaters and one goaltender. Players in their first or second year in either the AHL or NHL would also be exempt from the draft.
The goal is to leave enough talented players unprotected for the potential expansion franchise(s) to build a competent team. The three previous expansion drafts allowed teams to protect either nine forwards, five defencemen and one goaltender or seven forwards, three defencemen and two goaltenders.
Those rules made it very hard for the baby franchises to get off the ground, and while the Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild were able to compete before too long, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Atlanta Thrashers weren’t so lucky.
Having said that, there were some decent players picked up in the ’98, ’99, and ’00 Expansion Drafts. Here are the top 10, starting with three players who were chosen, but never actually got to play with the team that drafted them.
Drafted by the Blue Jackets off of the New York Rangers, Schneider never did get to play for Columbus. He signed with the Los Angeles Kings two months after the expansion draft and went on to play nine more seasons. The defenceman retired with 743 points in 1,289 games.
Roloson was taken by the Blue Jackets in 2000, but decided to sign with the AHL’s Worcester IceCats (then affiliated with the St. Louis Blues) instead of playing with the Blue Jackets. The following season he signed with the Wild where he split the crease with Manny Fernandez. Roloson played 11 games in the team’s surprise run to the Western Conference finals in 2003, and was an all-star the following season. He was traded to the Edmonton Oilers in 2006 and was a big part of their run to the finals.
The Rangers left pending free agent Mike Richter unprotected in 1998, where the Predators took a shot at signing the former all-star. It didn’t work out, and Richter signed with the Rangers less than a month later. The Predators were left hoping one of the other four goalies they selected in 1998 would pan out.
Tremblay was just 23-years-old when the Atlanta Thrashers plucked him from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1999 NHL Expansion Draft. A defenceman, he finished fourth on the Thrashers in scoring with 31 points in 75 games in their inaugural season. His play was good enough to make Team Canada’s 2000 World Championship roster, which finished in fourth place.
He played with Atlanta for four more seasons before playing in Europe, where he won two Spengler Cups (2007, 2009) with Canada.
Kuba was taken by the Wild in the 2000 Expansion Draft after being left unprotected by the Calgary Flames. He spent five seasons in Minnesota, was an all-star once, and left the team as the highest-scoring defenceman in franchise history. He eventually moved on to Tampa Bay, Ottawa and Florida.
Staios had a solid, if unspectacular career, retiring after the 2011-12 season having played 1,001 NHL games. He was taken by the Thrashers in 1999 and he spent two seasons with Atlanta, scoring 20 points in his final season there as the team’s captain. He went on to sign with the Oilers where he played the bulk of his career.
O’Donnell was the first captain in Wild history, though not for long as the team rotated the C around on a monthly basis before finally settling on Mikko Koivu in 2009. O’Donnell was traded at the deadline in his first season in Minnesota (for Willie Mitchell), and finished his NHL career having played in 1,224 NHL games. He won a Stanley Cup in 2007 as a member of the Anaheim Ducks.
A former 40-goal scorer, Sanderson was left unprotected by the Buffalo Sabres after netting just 25 goals in the two seasons leading up to the 2000 Expansion Draft. He was the first forward taken (goalies, then defencemen were taken first) and he led the Blue Jackets goals (30) and points (56) in the 2000-01 season. He only played in 42 games the following year, but put up another strong season with 34 goals and 67 points in 2002-03.
The Czech netminder was left unprotected by the Montreal Canadiens in 1998 when he was snatched up by the Predators. Vokoun spent his first three seasons in Nashville backing up Mike Dunham, but he took over as a 26-year-old in the 2002-03 season and finished with a .918 save percentage and a 2.20 goals-against average in 69 games. He was an all-star the following season as the Predators made their first-ever playoff appearance.
Brunette bounced around between the AHL and NHL for a few seasons before the Predators took him away from the Washington Capitals in 1998. He played one season in Nashville before joining the Thrashers for their inaugural season. After two seasons in Atlanta he joined the Wild where he had the best season of his career, reaching 69 points in 2001-02. He retired with 733 points in 1,110 games.