Canucks: Expansion Draft Preview – The Protected (Part One)
The Vancouver Canucks fell mightily during the 2021-21 season after a deep playoff run in the bubble. Now, the team enters a crucial offseason with a variety of key pieces that need to be addressed, including preparation for NHL Entry Draft, attempting to land a third-line centre and/or top-four right-handed defenceman, and finalizing the new contracts of current restricted free agents and franchise stars Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes.
The most important event, however, and the one that is nearest on the calendar, is the NHL Expansion Draft. During this draft, the Seattle Kraken, the league’s 32nd team, will look to fill its roster with different players from 30 other teams. The Vegas Golden Knights, who entered the league in 2017, are exempt from the process.
Below is part one of a three-part series covering every angle of the expansion draft for the Canucks, and how the organization could approach this pivotal moment.
First, let’s start with a deep dive into the projected protected list.
Expansion draft talk is always a fun topic to discuss, looking at the possibility of each selection and at which player could take the next step in an expanded role. In other words, which player becomes the next William Karlsson for the newly minted expansion team.
Fortunately, the Canucks don’t really need to worry about that, considering the slim-pickings that the Seattle Kraken will be selecting from when it comes to their projected exposed list.
The Vancouver Canucks will likely be going with the seven forwards, three defencemen and one goalie route for their protection list.
First, let’s begin with the exempt list; this includes players that have played in fewer than three professional seasons across the NHL and AHL. The Canucks are on the right end of this list as key players like Hughes and Nils Höglander fall under that category. Also on the list are promising prospects Jack Rathbone, Micheal Dipietro, Jett Woo, and William Lockwood. The list is capped off with Micheal Ferland (LTIR), Carson Focht, Marc Michaelis and Arturs Silovs.
Projected Protected List:
Elias Pettersson (C): This one is as no-brainer as they come. The face of the franchise has proved to be nothing but spectacular since he arrived on the scene in 2019. A wrist injury cut his 2020-2021 season short, but he should be ready to go come September 2021. A rejuvenated and motivated Pettersson is primed for a superstar-type season as he hopes to put himself in the upper echelon of the league’s stars.
Bo Horvat (C): Captain Bo, who most would describe as the engine that drives the bus for the Canucks, has put his all into this organization for seven seasons. The 26-year-old, who was selected ninth overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, has two years remaining on his current deal and should be expected to re-sign with the club in the future. All of this should make Horvat another lock when it comes to protections.
Brock Boeser (RW): The 24-year-old Burnsville, Minnesota native enjoyed a bounce-back season, leading the team in goals (23) and points (49) after a lingering wrist injury and significant back injury stagnated his progress after his rookie season. Boeser will be entering the final year of his three-year bridge deal, and should be rewarded with a pay raise before the 2021-22 campaign. Another cornerstone of the franchise that should 100% be protected for the expansion draft.
JT Miller (LW/C): The talented winger has been nothing short of incredible since he arrived in Vancouver following the 2019 draft-day trade. In 122 games with Vancouver so far, Miller has registered 42 goals and 76 assists. He also led the team in scoring during the 2019-20 season with 72 points. There had been some talk that Miller wanted to request a trade after a tough 2020-21 year; however that was quickly shot down at the end of the season. Like his Lotto linemates, don’t expect the Canucks to expose Miller.
Tyler Motte (LW): Here’s where it gets interesting; Motte, although nothing more than a bottom-six energy player, has cemented himself as an essential part of the Canucks’ lineup. Motte enjoyed a productive playoff run in the bubble a season ago, and picked up right where he left off at the beginning of this season before falling to numerous injuries. He should earn a protection with his hard-nosed style of play that proved to be vital for the Canucks’ line-up.
Tanner Pearson (LW): Most expected Pearson to be dealt away at last season’s trade deadline. Instead, he was given a three-year extension, signalling that General Manager Jim Benning would clearly like to have him in the team’s future plans. Pearson, a solid middle-six forward, should more than likely be protected. He also has a NTC for the first year of his new deal.
Kole Lind (LW/RW): This one may raise some eyebrows, considering the fact that Lind has only played in seven NHL games, failing to record a point in any of them. However, Lind has shown significant promise in his last two seasons in the AHL. The 22-year-old should be given an extended look at training camp next season and should earn a spot in the team’s bottom six.
Tyler Myers (D): One of the most polarizing player on Canucks’ Twitter, Myers is an interesting name for the protection list. You could look at possibly daring Kraken General Manager Ron Francis to take on his contract by leaving him unprotected, but with three years remaining at a $6 million AAV, it’s unlikely that the Kraken would bite. In addition, with how bleak the Canucks’ defensive depth is, losing Myers would be a significant hit, which is why it wouldn’t be a surprise if the organization ended up protecting the 31-year-old.
Nate Schmidt (D): Schmidt didn’t exactly live up to expectations this past season, but his ability to move the puck from the back-end and eat-up minutes have proven to be vital for the Canucks. Schmidt is able to play on both the powerplay and penalty kill, and was fifth on the team in average TOI with 20:06. It was recently speculated that Schmidt has requested a trade from the team but, until that report is actually confirmed and taken care of, expect the Canucks to protect him from Seattle.
Olli Juolevi (D): This one was the most challenging protection slot. It came down to Juolevi, Jalen Chatfield, and Brogan Rafferty. In the end, the decision to protect Juolevi came down to his upside and potential to become a mainstay NHL defenceman. An up-and-down season, Juolevi found himself in and out of the lineup, where he only registered two goals, one assist and a minus three rating in 23 games. However, out of the three players in this conversation, Juolevi provides the team with the likeliest chance of becoming a regular contributor, and should garner protection conversation.
Thatcher Demko (G): Similar to Pettersson, this one’s pretty much a no-brainer as well. The Canucks recently committed to Demko for the next five seasons to the tune of a $5 million AAV. Demko carried his spectacular play from the playoffs into this past season, proving that he is not only ready to be the goaltender of the future for this team, but also proving that “Bubble Demko” is here to stay.
Benning recently reiterated during the Sedins’ introductory press conference that the Canucks won’t have much trouble with their protection list. Benning appears to have a pretty good idea of what the list will look like come July 17th, the deadline in which all 30 teams must submit their lists to the league. Benning also went on to state that they have been canvassing the league in preparation for pre-expansion draft trades, should some teams have difficulty fitting all of their players into their protected lists.
Overall, the Canucks are in pretty good shape as they head into the Expansion Draft, and could even take advantage of the trade market for players that usually wouldn’t be available under normal circumstances.
- July 17th: Deadline for teams to submit protected lists for 2021 NHL Expansion Draft (5pm ET)
- July 21st: 2021 NHL Expansion Draft (8pm ET)
- July 23rd: First round of 2021 NHL Draft (8pm ET)
- July 24th: Rounds 2-7 of 2021 NHL Draft (11am ET)
- July 28th: Restricted free agent/unrestricted free agent signing period begins (12pm ET)
There you have it! Part one of The Canuck Way’s expansion draft series.
What do you think, Canucks fans? Would you change any of the protection choices? Make sure to drop a comment below, and stay tuned for part two!