Seattle mock expansion draft: Atlantic Division's protection lists, picks

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Seattle's freshly unveiled NHL franchise may not have a moniker or a general manager - or even a timetable for announcing them either - but it does have a timeline for something rather juicy: the next expansion draft.

In June 2021, the GM of the Seattle Whatevers will acquire 30 players in one day. Following the same rules and regulations as the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017, Seattle will partake in the league's second expansion draft in four years, selecting one player from each NHL team except Vegas.

Because it’s fun to forecast, we’ve brought out the crystal ball here at theScore to look deep into the future and craft a dangerously early Seattle mock draft.

Others in the series: Metropolitan | Central | Pacific | Full Seattle Roster

Guided by the invaluable, we’ll be rolling out protected lists and picks this week for all four divisions, starting with the Atlantic.

First, though, a refresher on the expansion draft process and its criteria:

  • Teams must submit a protected-players list of either seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie OR eight skaters and one goalie
  • All players with no-movement clauses must be protected

  • All first- and second-year players, as well as unsigned draft picks, are exempt and can't be picked

  • Any player with a career-ending injury is also exempt

And some notes about our process:

  • We assumed most 2019 and '20 restricted free agents will re-sign with their current club
  • We made judgment calls on 2019 and '20 unrestricted free agents, projecting some will stay with their current team and others will leave

  • We didn't factor in any trades or buyouts between now and June 2021

  • In the tables below, * indicates the player is a projected free-agent signing before 2021, while bold text indicates the player has a no-movement clause

With all the disclaimers out of the way, here are our educated guesses for the Atlantic Division squads:

Boston Bruins

Pos. Protected players
F Patrice Bergeron
F Brad Marchand
F David Pastrnak
F Jake DeBrusk
F Kevin Hayes*
F Ryan Donato
F Trent Frederic
D Charlie McAvoy
D Torey Krug
D Brandon Carlo
G Dan Vladar

Pick: Matt Grzelcyk (D)
Other considerations: Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (F), Anders Bjork (F), Tuukka Rask (G, UFA 2021)

Could Grzelcyk be to Seattle what Nate Schmidt was to Vegas? The smooth-skating blue-liner has a tough path to big minutes with the Bruins, and barring a breakout season, it's unlikely he'd be protected over Carlo. Forsbacka Karlsson is also tempting due to the lack of centers available. Rask will be 34 for the 2021-22 season and without a contract, making Boston's decision to protect the 6-foot-5 Vladar an easy choice.

Buffalo Sabres

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Pos. Protected players
F Jack Eichel
F Jeff Skinner
F Sam Reinhart
F Conor Sheary
F Tage Thompson
F Casey Mittelstadt
F Alexander Nylander
D Rasmus Ristolainen
D Rasmus Dahlin
D Lawrence Pilut
G Linus Ullmark

Pick: Chris Tanev* (D)
Other considerations: Kyle Okposo (F), Evan Rodrigues (F), Carter Hutton (G, UFA 2021)

We're projecting Tanev signs a deal with the contending Sabres as a free agent in the summer of 2020 but becomes the odd man out in the draft thanks to the emergence of Pilut. Tanev, a right-handed veteran, would bring stability to Seattle's defense corps or serve as a possible trade chip. The Golden Knights flipped many defensemen they selected.

Detroit Red Wings

Pos. Protected players
F Dylan Larkin
F Anthony Mantha
F Andreas Athanasiou
F Michael Rasmussen
F Tyler Bertuzzi
F Evgeny Svechnikov
F Martin Frk
D Dennis Cholowski
D Filip Hronek
D Jake Muzzin*
G Jimmy Howard

Pick: Vili Saarijarvi (D)
Other considerations: Christoffer Ehn (F), Joe Hicketts (D)

The Red Wings don't project to leave a whole lot for Seattle, but Saarijarvi, currently a 21-year-old defenseman, is having a solid season in the AHL. As for some of Detroit's veterans missing from this list, Frans Nielsen will be far too old to be protected by then, while we have Gustav Nyquist departing as a free agent in 2019.

Florida Panthers

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Pos. Protected players
F Aleksander Barkov
F Jonathan Huberdeau
F Vincent Trocheck
F Evgenii Dadonov
F Charlie Coyle*
F Jared McCann
F Henrik Borgstrom
D Aaron Ekblad
D Keith Yandle
D Michael Matheson
G Samuel Montembeault

Pick: Denis Malgin (F)
Other considerations: Frank Vatrano (F), Alex Petrovic (D), Mark Pysyk (D), Nick Bjugstad (F, UFA 2021)

Malgin has failed to take a step forward with the Panthers this year, but his potential and ability to play center could be too enticing for Seattle to pass up. Vatrano might be a future 20-goal scorer, but such players are a dime a dozen for Seattle. Also of note: James Reimer's contract will be expiring, while Roberto Luongo will be 42 during the 2021-22 season, making Montembeault, a 2015 third-rounder, Florida's protected goalie.

Montreal Canadiens

Pos. Protected players
F Jonathan Drouin
F Brendan Gallagher
F Max Domi
F Jesperi Kotkaniemi
F Tomas Tatar
F Gustav Nyquist*
F Artturi Lehkonen
D Shea Weber
D Jake Gardiner*
D Noah Juulsen
G Carey Price

Pick: Victor Mete (D)
Other considerations: Joel Armia (F), Paul Byron (F), Phillip Danault (F, UFA 2021)

With plenty of cap room, we're thinking the Canadiens splurge in the summer of 2019, reuniting old friends Tatar and Nyquist, and stealing Gardiner from a division foe. This manufactures a tough decision for the Canadiens: protect Mete or Juulsen on the back end, and Armia or Lehkonen up front? Seattle opts to take the exposed Mete, who will be just 23 in 2021-22.

Ottawa Senators

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Pos. Protected players
F Mark Stone
F Bobby Ryan
F Chris Tierney
F Colin White
F Brady Tkachuk
F Drake Batherson
F Logan Brown
D Thomas Chabot
D Tyler Myers*
D Maxime Lajoie
G Filip Gustavsson

Pick: Ryan Dzingel (F)
Other considerations: Ryan Spooner* (F), Zach Bogosian* (D), Cody Ceci (D), Dylan DeMelo (D), Jacob Markstrom* (G)

With an abundance of cap room after Matt Duchene's projected departure via free agency, it would make sense for the Senators to address their blue line by signing Myers in the summer of 2019 and Bogosian in 2020. Assuming Craig Anderson retires once his contract is up in 2020, perhaps Markstrom is brought in to bridge the gap until Filip Gustavsson is ready. Forced to protect younger players and the immovable Ryan, Ottawa could easily lose a top-six forward in Dzingel, who's on pace for 30 goals this season.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Pos. Protected players
F Steven Stamkos
F Nikita Kucherov
F Brayden Point
F Yanni Gourde
F J.T. Miller
F Mathieu Joseph
F Anthony Cirelli
D Victor Hedman
D Ryan McDonagh
D Mikhail Sergachev
G Andrei Vasilevskiy

Pick: Tyler Johnson (F)
Other considerations: Ondrej Palat (F), Alex Killorn (F), Erik Cernak (D), Connor Ingram (G)

Even if the Lightning make some trades in preparation for the expansion draft, it's clear they're going to fork over one of their top players to Seattle. While Palat and Killorn are tempting, Johnson is the choice here, and not just because he's a native of Spokane, Wash., but because he instantly becomes the team's No. 1 center and potential inaugural captain.

Toronto Maple Leafs

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Pos. Protected players
F Auston Matthews
F John Tavares
F Mitch Marner
F William Nylander
F Kasperi Kapanen
F Nazem Kadri
F Andreas Johnsson
D Morgan Rielly
D Travis Dermott
D Nikita Zaitsev
G Frederik Andersen

Pick: Connor Brown (F)
Other considerations: Andreas Borgman (D), Garret Sparks (G), Zach Hyman (F, UFA 2021), Calle Rosen (D, UFA 2021)

As it stands now, the Maple Leafs look primed to protect all of their top NHL assets. Plus, up-and-coming defensemen Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren - the club's most recent first-round picks - are exempt. Seattle then projects to select Brown, the hard-working, versatile winger.

Seattle mock expansion draft series:
Atlantic | Metropolitan | Central | Pacific | Full Seattle Roster

Seattle mock expansion draft: Atlantic Division's protection lists, picks
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