Seattle mock expansion draft: Central Division's protection lists, picks
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This week, theScore's unveiling a five-part series in which we predict who will be protected and picked when the new Seattle franchise selects one player from every other NHL team except Vegas in 2021. Today, we project the Central Division.

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

Before diving into our Central Division projections, here's a refresher on the expansion draft process:

  • 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

Arizona Coyotes

Pos. Protected players
F Jordan Eberle*
F Alex Galchenyuk
F Clayton Keller
F Christian Dvorak
F Nick Schmaltz
F Christian Fischer
F Vinnie Hinostroza
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson
D Jakob Chychrun
D Kyle Copobianco
G Antti Raanta

Pick: Adin Hill (G)
Other considerations: Lawson Crouse (F), Derek Stepan (F, UFA 2021), Michael Grabner (F, UFA 2021), Jason Demers (D, UFA 2021), Alex Goligoski (D, UFA 2021)

We envision the goal-starved Coyotes - who will move to the Central Division upon Seattle's arrival - landing a consistent offensive producer in free agency, such as Eberle. Crouse, a hulking power forward and former No. 11 overall pick, could be a tempting expansion pick, but we have Seattle selecting its potential goalie of the future in Hill. Arizona could leave Ranta unprotected if he continues to be hampered by injuries, but it's still too early to say.

Chicago Blackhawks

Bill Smith / National Hockey League / Getty
Pos. Protected players
F Patrick Kane
F Jonathan Toews
F Alex DeBrincat
F Brendan Perlini
F Dylan Strome
F Brandon Saad
F Dylan Sikura
D Duncan Keith
D Brent Seabrook
D Henri Jokiharju
G Colin Delia

Pick: Dominik Kahun (F)
Other considerations: Michael Frolik* (F), Alexandre Fortin (F), John Hayden (F), Gustav Forsling (D), Anton Forsberg (G), Corey Crawford (G)

There are a variety of choices here for Seattle, including Frolik, the versatile two-way winger who we believe returns to the Blackhawks in free agency. Seattle could add a goalie - such as a re-signed Crawford - but the smart bet is on it picking Kahun, the 23-year-old shifty forward who was arguably the best player on Germany's silver medal-winning squad at the 2018 Olympics.

Colorado Avalanche

Pos. Protected players
F Nathan MacKinnon
F Gabriel Landeskog
F Mikko Rantanen
F Tyson Jost
F Alex Kerfoot
F J.T. Compher 
F Chris Kreider*
D Erik Johnson
D Tyson Barrie
D Samuel Girard
G Philipp Grubauer

Pick: Vladislav Kamenev (F)
Other considerations: Jason Spezza* (F) Nikita Zadorov (D), Conor Timmins (D), Cam Talbot* (G)

With plenty of cap space and a lack of scoring depth, we see the Avalanche filling this need by signing Spezza in 2019 and Kreider in 2020. We also project they will add Talbot after Semyon Varlamov departs in 2019. Under these circumstances, Seattle could consider Timmins, though there's a ton uncertainty swirling around the 2017 second-rounder, as he's missed this entire season with a head injury and has yet to play a professional game. Instead, we see Seattle taking Kamenev, a lesser-known key piece in the Matt Duchene-Kyle Turris three-way trade.

Dallas Stars

David Becker / National Hockey League / Getty
Pos. Protected players
F Tyler Seguin
F Jamie Benn
F Alexander Radulov
F Matt Duchene*
F Radek Faksa
F Denis Gurianov
F Devin Shore
D John Klingberg
D Miro Heiskanen
D Esa Lindell
G Ben Bishop

Pick: Jason Dickinson (F)
Other considerations: Valeri Nichushkin (F), Mattias Janmark (F), Julius Honka (D)

We project the Stars to land Duchene - 2019's biggest free agent - for a variety of reasons. They have both the cap space and need for a second-line center, have a win-now mentality, and are able to offer warm weather and Texas' low state-tax rate. In turn, Seattle selects the hard-working Dickson instead of underachievers Nichushkin and Honka.

Minnesota Wild

Pos. Protected players
F Zach Parise
F Mikael Granlund
F Jason Zucker
F Nino Niederreiter
F Joel Eriksson Ek
F Jordan Greenway
F Luke Kunin
D Ryan Suter
D Matt Dumba
D Jonas Brodin
G Kaapo Kahkonen

Pick: Jared Spurgeon (D)
Other considerations: Eric Staal (F), Nick Seeler (D), Devan Dubnyk (G, UFA 2021)

The Wild went to great lengths to keep their top four defensemen intact during the 2017 expansion draft, but it cost them Alex Tuch and Erik Haula - two valuable pieces for the Vegas Golden Knights. This time around, we see them learning their lesson. Still, Seattle scoops up Spurgeon, an effective two-way blue-liner who could potentially serve as a nice trade chip. Staal and Dubnyk will be too old for Seattle's liking.

Nashville Predators

Frederick Breedon / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Pos. Protected players
F FIlip Forsberg
F Ryan Johansen
F Viktor Arvidsson
F Eeli Tolvanen
D P.K. Subban
D Roman Josi
D Ryan Ellis
D Mattias Ekholm
G Juuse Saros

Pick: Kevin Fiala (F)
Other considerations: Kyle Turris (F), Calle Jarnkrok (F), Ryan Hartman (F), Pekka Rinne (G, UFA 2021)

Despite the lack of centers available, we think Seattle passes on Turris, who will be 32 in 2021-22, instead choosing Fiala, a promising winger who will be just 25 years old for Seattle's inaugural season. The Predators could go with the more popular 7-3-1 format, but then they'd almost certainly lose one of their elite defensemen. Subban, Ellis, and Ekholm are all locked up, and we envision Josi re-signing in 2020.

St. Louis Blues

Pos. Protected players
F Vladimir Tarasenko
F Ryan O'Reilly
F Brayden Schenn
F Jaden Schwartz
F Robert Thomas
F Jordan Kyrou
F Robby Fabbri
D Alex Pietrangelo
D Colton Parayko
D Vince Dunn
G Jake Allen

Pick: Ivan Barbashev (F)
Other considerations: Zach Sanford (F), David Perron (F), Joel Edmundson (D)

We predict new contracts for Schenn (2020 UFA), Schwartz (2021), and Allen (2021), which leads to the next question: could Perron be the first player ever to be plucked by two different expansion teams - and from the same team? We don't think so, as Seattle will look to fill a need by selecting Barbashev, a young two-way center who hasn't quite yet hit his stride.

Winnipeg Jets

Jonathan Kozub / National Hockey League / Getty
Pos. Protected players
F Mark Scheifele
F Blake Wheeler
F Patrik Laine
F Nikolaj Ehlers
F Bryan Little
F Kyle Connor
F Jack Roslovic
D Dustin Byfuglien
D Jacob Trouba
D Josh Morrissey
G Connor Hellebuyck

Pick: Sami Niku (D)
Other considerations: Logan Stanley (D), Nic Petan (F)

We project the Jets will remain contenders three years from now, but they will need the heart and soul of their team, Byfuglien, to make a run at the cup. This leaves two promising blue-liners - Niku and Stanley - exposed. Stanley, a 6-foot-7 former first-rounder, is far less proven than Niku, who was named AHL defenseman of the year last season.

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

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