Canucks: Expansion Draft Preview – The Selected (Part Three)

VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 22: Zack Macewen #71 of the Vancouver Canucks skates during NHL action against the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Arena on March 22, 2021 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 22: Zack Macewen #71 of the Vancouver Canucks skates during NHL action against the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Arena on March 22, 2021 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /

After a deep dive into projected protected list for the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, followed by the notable exposed players, the time has finally come to predict which player will be selected from the Vancouver Canucks.

On Saturday afternoon, the General Manager Jim Benning and his front office team officially submitted their finalized list of protected players, and are now playing the waiting game with the Seattle Kraken to see who they’ll snag from Vancouver.

No matter what happens in the coming days, it will be interesting to not only see what strategy Seattle takes, but also how NHL general managers will react this time around, especially given the success of the Vegas Golden Knights in their first four seasons. The NHL’s 31st team put up a regular-season record of 173-94-0-24 during that span, and has yet to miss the playoffs.

Given the incredibly high bar that has been put in place, there are a lot of possibilities that could be explored.

Will Seattle make selections with long-term competition in mind? Or will they attempt to replicate Vegas’ early success? Will GMs be more conservative? Or will they attempt to make more side-deals with the Kraken to make sure they don’t lose a significant piece? There is a cloud of uncertainty heading into this week, and the ripple-down effects of this expansion draft will likely create even more movement than it already has during the offseason.

It all began with the Los Angeles Kings, who pounced early on an opportunity and acquired top-six winger Victor Arvidsson from the Nashville Predators, officially opening the pre-expansion trade floodgates. The Canucks also jumped on board to take advantage of a strapped team, acquiring centre Jason Dickinson from the Dallas Stars in exchange for 2021 third-round pick. This was the first of many transactions that took place before the scheduled roster freeze on Saturday afternoon.

The shrewd move allowed the Canucks to pick up their potential third-line centre without giving up too many assets. Dickinson, who would’ve likely been an expansion draft casualty for Dallas, was one of Benning’s better transactions in the past few years, but it did change the landscape of the their protection list.

Although we don’t actually know what the projected forward list looked like prior to the Dickinson trade, we do know that the former Dallas Star replaced a current Canuck player, adding more intrigue and possibility to who Seattle might select from Vancouver.

With that being said, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of who could actually be selected from the Canucks.

Despite Vancouver’s low-talent list compared to the rest of the league, there are still a few different directions the Kraken can go. Do they want a veteran goaltender with a championship pedigree? If that’s the case, they should look no further than Braden Holtby. This selection would be a desirable result for the Canucks, given Holtby’s subpar performance last season, as well as his $4.3 million cap hit next year.

As expected, the reports have been going back and forth when it comes to Holtby. Some are saying that the Kraken are still interested, but would need Vancouver to retain salary, whereas a few insiders are confident that Seattle will instead look to Florida for its main netminder.

If Seattle end up selecting Driedger, it wouldn’t close the book on Holtby, who could still serve as the back-up. However, Holtby is considered in the middle tier when it comes to available netminders, and his current AAV might be the nail in the coffin that pushes Seattle away from acquiring him.

What about forwards? If Seattle wants to acquire veteran leadership and a strong locker-room presence instead, they could look to the Canucks for several options, such as Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel or Loui Eriksson .

The trio has been in the league for quite some time, with Beagle also having a Stanley Cup on his resume, and could be safe options for Kraken. Of course, it’s important to consider the financial burden that these players would bring with them, meaning Seattle could also play this smart and try to squeeze out an asset from the Canucks in return for taking on one of these undesirable contracts.

Although it would be nice to offload those contracts, or to find a more suitable back-up for current 1A Thatcher Demko, it’s likely that neither of those are the front-running options for Seattle. The Canucks will be up against the cap after free agency and trades, as well as after dealing with their three RFAs in Dickinson, Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, and wouldn’t be in a position to retain salary as a result. They also shouldn’t be considering moving another asset out to offload a bad contract, especially with all four of the deals mentioned above set to expire after this season.

In other words, hopefully the front office can practice being patient instead of being impulsive.

With all that being said, it’s likely that Seattle will try to go younger with their selection from Vancouver, putting the spotlight on players like Zack MacEwen, Matthew Highmore, Brogan Rafferty and Kole Lind. All four players wouldn’t have a big impact on Seattle’s cap space and, more importantly, have the potential to break out if given more significant roles.  Neither of these forwards will necessarily be notable losses for the Canucks but, as we saw last year, the team struggled with finding and developing cheap depth players, and would need to keep their focus on replenishing that department in the coming offseason.

So who would be the best option for Seattle?

If the Kraken want to add a young piece that could pillar their bottom-six group, they will likely look towards MacEwen. The physical winger enjoyed a solid campaign during the 2019-20 season, notching one goal and five assists in 17 games. His productivity dipped this past year, putting him in and out of the line-up as a result, but he still came away as a fan-favourite in the process. The Kraken wouldn’t be getting a player that would light up the scoresheet, but MacEwen has the potential to provide some depth scoring from the bottom-six. MacEwen also has an up-tempo, edgy style of play every time he steps over the boards, and definitely isn’t afraid to showcase his physicality. At just 24 years of age, MacEwen has the potential to cement himself as a regular NHLer.

Below are some of MacEwen’s highlights, giving Kraken fans a taste of what they could expect him from should Seattle select him.

MacEwen isn’t afraid to drop the gloves, and he’s known to stand up for his teammates when push comes to shove, both of which would make him instantly popular in the locker room and amongst the crowd.

He can find the back of the net, too.

MacEwen has an underrated shot and has a knack for putting himself and his teammates in positions to score. He definitely needs to improve on making the most of his opportunities, especially given his limited ice time, but that should hopefully come as he continues to develop.

All in all, MacEwen is a smart offensive player with the ability to forecheck hard and to throw his body weight around. Consistency hasn’t been his strong suit so far in the big leagues, but he still has strong hockey IQ and offensive instincts, and could round out any team’s third or fourth line if given another chance to.

Seattle is set to make all of their selections on Wednesday, July 21st at 5pm PT.

Other upcoming dates:

  • July 23rd: First round of 2021 NHL Draft (5pm PT)
  • July 24th: Rounds 2-7 of 2021 NHL Draft (8am PT)
  • July 28th: Restricted free agent/unrestricted free agent signing period begins (9am PT)

Next. Grading Vancouver's 2020 offseason moves. dark

What do you think, Canucks fans? Will Zack MacEwen be on the move to Seattle? If so, will he be a significant loss in Vancouver? Let us know in the comments!