Vegas NHL Expansion Draft: Five Best Forwards Rumored To Be Exposed

The goal of the NHL expansion drafts revolves around 30 teams striving to offer their least desirable players to welcome the team to the league. This rare tradition will take place between June 18th to June 20th, forming the core of the brand-new Vegas Golden Knights franchise. 

All franchises have been strategizing for this event, in some cases making trades to avoid exposing valuable assets. Franchise players like Carey Price are never available in the expansion draft, but some NHL rosters are deep enough to force teams to relinquish high-quality players. Vegas won’t become a winner overnight, but they’ll have a chance to put together a relatively competitive team if they play their cards right. These five forwards have the best odds to be among the best who will be exposed to the Vegas NHL expansion draft.

Jakob Silfverberg – Vegas Golden Knights Odds: 3/1

The Anaheim Ducks have amassed a great deal of forward depth in the process of becoming an annual contender out of the western conference. One of their smarter trades ended up sending Bobby Ryan to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and a first round pick. During his second year with the Ducks, Jakob revealed himself as a playoff performer, earning 18 points in 16 games during the 2014-15 post season. Since then, he’s chipped in 20+ goals per season, creating valuable scoring depth for Anaheim.

Similar to other franchises, the Ducks don’t want to lose any prospects in the expansion draft, which will likely force them to expose to expose Silfverberg despite his value and solid play. Depending on Anaheim’s plans for the future, management may attempt to convince Kevin Bieksa to leave by agreeing to remove his no-movement clause from his contract. If they want to focus on keeping their defensive core intact, they may try to convince Las Vegas to accept another one of their prospects instead of losing a consistent, 20-goal scorer. If the Ducks want to keep Jakob, look for GM George McPhee to leverage his position in the expansion draft to hold Anaheim management’s feet to the fire.

Sam Gagner - Vegas Golden Knights Odds: 8/1

Hard to believe that Sam Gagner has been in the NHL for a decade, but that’s what happens when young phenoms arrive in the NHL as teenagers. He never met his full expected potential after scoring 118 points with the London Knights, but he’s managed to become an above average offensive producer when given a chance. The main knock on Gagner tends to be his streakiness, which has resulted in him notching 8 points in a game and five points in a period, sharing the franchise record with Edmonton Oilers legends Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey and Jari Kurri. Despite this 8-point outburst, he still finished with fewer points in 2011-12 (47) than he did during his 49-point rookie year.

The Blue Jackets don’t really have much choice in who they protect and expose. There’s no way they’re giving up Alexander Wennberg, Cam Atkinson, Boone Jenner or Brandon Saad. Scott Hartnell, Brandon Dubinsky and Nick Foligno have no-movement clauses, so they’re staying put. Columbus doesn’t want to lose 50 points in secondary scoring, but the group of young forwards that forms the core of the Blue Jackets simply won’t include Sam in the long term, regardless of whether Las Vegas decides to select Gagner or not.

Eric Staal - Vegas Golden Knights Odds: 4/1

The Minnesota Wild signaled their intent to go all-in for the Stanley Cup when they signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, continuing to build through additional mercenaries like Eric Staal. He’s never going to get 100 points or score 40 goals again, but that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t been a key part of the Wild’s improvement this year. His presence has given the Wild exceptional strength down the middle of the ice, taking a bit of the pressure off Mikko Koivu.

After an awful 2015-2016 season where he played 83 games for the Hurricanes and the Rangers without cracking the 40-point mark, Staal has enjoyed a superb turnaround season, contributing strong play in all three zones and in all situations. Despite a late season rut, the Minnesota Wild appear to be in decent shape heading into the playoffs, which will give Staal a chance to use his Stanley Cup experience to help the Twin Cities win its first Stanley Cup.

A deep lineup may force management to protect younger talent and long established leaders, exposing players of an unusually high caliber to the expansion draft. One of them may be Eric Staal, who would also end up being a solid candidate for captain of the Golden Knights.

Michael Grabner - Vegas Golden Knights Odds: 3/1

Similar to Eric Staal, Michael Grabner ended up having a horrific 2015-2016 regular season, scoring only 9 goals in 80 games. However, this was with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who were in full free-fall mode and gunning to make the most out of a tank year. This was a far cry from the potential he showed when he broke out with the New York Islanders in 2010-11, notching 34 goals in his first, full campaign in the NHL. His nadir year with the Leafs took place after a few years of seasons of injury frustration with the New York Islanders.

In 2016-17, Grabner recaptured his form with the New York Rangers, recreating the magic he displayed during his 2010-11 campaign. This creates a bit of a dilemma for the Rangers, who have thrived partly because of the depth they enjoy on the offensive end. Some observers are suggesting that they’ll expose Rick Nash, who hasn’t had a decent offensive year since the 2014-2015 season, but the Rangers would likely prefer to keep him as a locker room leader. Holding on to younger talent and established leaders will be the only reason Grabner’s left exposed to the expansion draft, not the quality of his play.

Vladislav Namestnikov - Vegas Golden Knights Odds: 3/2

The Tampa Bay Lightning had to do a bunch of maneuvering to make sure that they won’t lose too much during the Las Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft, trading Valtteri Filppula before the deadline to avoid having to expose Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn or Tyler Johnson. Steve Yzerman managed to put together quite a few young, elite prospects, which means that he’ll need to protect Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin as well. This leaves Vladislav Namestnikov as one of the players that Tampa will probably have to expose for the expansion draft.

During his brief time in the NHL, he’s managed to show glimpses of his ability to be a playmaker, although he’s been hampered by injury and a Lightening roster which can’t seem to stay healthy. At the age of 24, he’s still a young prospect who has a chance to improve into a solid second line forward and power play specialist, adding valuable scoring depth. It’s relatively rare for a young prospect to become available for an expansion team, which gives the Golden Knights the opportunity to stock their cupboards with a blend of young, developing talent and seasoned vets who will teach the youngsters what it takes to win in the NHL.

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