As the expansion draft process kicks off tomorrow night, it is time to wrap up the Habs Expansion Draft Plans series. This will be the 3rd and final part of the 3 part mini-series. In the 1st article, we looked at everything you need to know in preparation for the expansion draft (See Here). In the last article, we took a look at who the Habs should protect and built a protection list (See Here).
Today, we will be finishing off by taking a look at the players who might get selected by Vegas is the expansion draft. I will be ranking the 5 players I believe are the most likely to be selected from the Habs by Vegas. Of the players I am listing, #5 is the least like to be selected, and #1 is the most likely to be protected.
Also, as you probably know, the Habs recently acquired Jonathan Drouin from the Tampa Bay Lightning in a blockbuster trade on Thursday. This means Montreal will be protecting him instead of another forward that was on my previous protected list in part 2. You will find out which player I believe will be left unprotected that was on my originally later on in the article in one of the ranking spots.
For each player in the ranking, I will be talking about why they might get selected by Vegas. I will also note why Vegas may shy away from them and prefer to choose other players. Lastly, I will go over what losing the player means for Montreal.
Now that you understand the process, it’s time to get into the final segment of the Habs expansion draft mini-series.
Just Fell Short
Nikita Nesterov→ Although Nesterov is young and has the potential to be a decent offensive defenseman in the NHL, there are better D options on Montreal like Benn and Davidson that would be more valuable to Vegas.
Torrey Mitchell→ Mitchell could be a serviceable 4th line player for Vegas. With that being said Vegas isn’t wasting a pick on a 4th liner with no room to improve.
Alexei Emelin→ In all honesty, Emelin is not very good, and there is little to no chance Vegas would waste a selection on a below average 30-year-old defensemen with only 1 year left on his contract.
Daniel Carr→ Although Carr has the potential to be a solid bottom 6 player, he does not have the intriguing upside of the other young players featured in my rankings.
#5: Tomas Plekanec
Despite having a rough 2016-17 season, Tomas Plekanec has been a very good player in the past for Montreal. His success in previous years may draw the interest of Vegas. Plekanec has had 7 20-goal seasons in his career with the Habs and has also been a top defensive player. In addition, his experience and strong defensive play will benefit the younger players of Vegas’ roster greatly.
Although all this may sound intriguing to Vegas, I still believe there is a very small chance that he is actually selected. There is a strong chance that Plekanec continues his decline and poor play from last season. Also, he is very old at 34, and only has 1 year left on his contract. Many people have been saying Vegas will take Plekanec and his $6 million cap hit in order to reach the cap floor. Although many are convinced Vegas needs to select some bad contracts in the draft, this is a myth. By selecting the best player available, plus their other trades and signings, Vegas should have no problem reaching the cap floor. If Vegas does select Plekanec, it will be a blessing in disguise for the Habs. By getting rid of Plekanec’s cap hit, they can go ahead and sign up all players that need contracts, and will also be able to make a splash in free agency
#4: Brandon Davidson
Although Davidson may not be the most intriguing defensemen, he quietly had a good year. Despite only having 3 points in 38 games, Davidson was able to control the offense for most of his time in Montreal, putting up good Corsi numbers. Davidson also provided a good puck moving option on the back end. Davidson is still only 25 years old, and still, has tons of room to grow. Despite the potential, Davidson still may only cap off as a bottom pairing or depth defender. Vegas can easily acquire a player with more potential instead of Davidson. There are also a lot of young defensemen that will potentially be available to Vegas, so Davidson may not be as intriguing as the others. Losing Davidson would not be ideal, but at the same time is not game breaking. He provides the Habs will some great depth, but then again can easily be replaced.
Despite the potential, Davidson still may only cap off as a bottom pairing or depth defender. Vegas can easily acquire a player with more potential instead of Davidson. There are also a lot of young defensemen that will potentially be available to Vegas, so Davidson may not be as intriguing as the others. Losing Davidson would not be ideal, but at the same time is not game breaking. He provides the Habs will some great depth, but then again can easily be replaced.
#3: Jacob De La Rose
With the way Vegas is most likely heading, De La Rose would be a great fit. The 22-year-old forward is very good defensively with the only knock on him being his poor offensive play. The young Swede was able to prove everyone wrong this past season and began to show some signs of offensive upside. De La Rose had 14 goals and 31 points in 62 games in the AHL for the IceCaps this past year. If De La Rose is able to continue his offensive improvement and add on to his already very strong defensive play, he has the potential to be a very good player in the NHL.
Along with this, there is also a lot of risk with De La Rose. If he is not able to produce at the NHL level, he will be limited to a bottom 6 role and may be a wasted pick for the Golden Knights. Vegas may not be willing to take this risk and as a result, they may shy away from De La Rose. If the Habs were to lose De La Rose, it would put a big hole in Montreal’s already weak prospect pool. At the same time, as the Habs are in win now mode, losing a prospect as opposed to a roster player may be better for Montreal.
#2: Jordie Benn
After being acquired by Montreal at the trade deadline, Jordie Benn was able to take his game to another level. Benn was as solid as they get defensively, rarely giving up chances, blocking tons of shots, and playing a big role on the PK. Despite only scoring 2 goals with no assists during his short time in Montreal, Benn could always be relied on and became a valuable piece on Montreal’s roster. An experienced, shutdown defensemen could be exactly what Vegas needs. With many young, inexperienced defensemen likely heading Vegas’ way, Benn and his style of play will complement them nicely. The only downside on Benn is that he never does anything too special, but with all the talent Vegas will be picking up, this should not be a problem. As mentioned, Benn became a valuable part of the Habs roster, and losing him would hurt the Habs greatly on the backend.
The only downside on Benn is that he never does anything too special, but with all the talent Vegas will be picking up, this should not be a problem. As mentioned, Benn became a valuable part of the Habs roster, and losing him would hurt the Habs greatly on the backend.
#1: Paul Byron
As mentioned earlier in the article, new acquisition Jonathan Drouin will now occupy one of the spots on Montreal’s protected list. Unfortunately, this means Paul Byron is the odd man out. A few years ago, Byron would not have even been in the picture, but since being picked up off waivers by the Habs in 2015-16, Byron has transformed into a great middle 6 forward. Byron scored 22 goals last season for the Habs, and also added 21 assists. Vegas would love to add a 20 goal scorer to their roster. Although Byron is unlikely to maintain his 22.9% shooting percentage, he still proved to everyone that he can be a good offensive player. He can also be a top penalty killer for Vegas. With many young offensive players coming in, this is a position that needs to be filled and Byron fits it perfectly. Byron also still has several years of strong play as he just turned 28 a few months ago. For the Habs, Byron would be a terrible player to lose. The Habs already struggle to put the puck in the net and losing a 20 goal scorer and their 2nd leading goal scorer from last season would only make their forward core even worse. Thankfully, the new addition of Drouin will likely soften the blow. Also, as Drouin is also a left winger, Byron may end up being stuck on a bottom line or playing in one of his weaker positions.
For the Habs, Byron would be a terrible player to lose. The Habs already struggle to put the puck in the net and losing a 20 goal scorer and their 2nd leading goal scorer from last season would only make their forward core even worse. Thankfully, the new addition of Drouin will likely soften the blow. Also, as Drouin is also a left winger, Byron may end up being stuck on a bottom line or playing in one of his weaker positions.
Sadly, this marks the end of the 3 part Habs expansion draft mini-series. Although the series is over, there will still be a few more expansion draft articles from myself and the other Puck Planet writers as we edge closer and closer to the NHL Awards on June 22nd. Feel free to leave a comment on which player you think the Habs will lose. Go Habs Go!