Another month has passed since we last looked at the upcoming Seattle Expansion Draft. Scheduled for July 21, that puts it just shy of four months away – which, undoubtedly, will be here before we know it. Thus it’s time to update our LA Kings Protection List Power Rankings.
In an attempt at brevity, we’ll try to avoid going through all the rules again — if you need a quick primer, see the previous article in this series, we answered every conceivable question possible.
With that in mind, here are the two most important table setters:
1. NHL teams must decide if they want to protect (A) seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie or (B) eight skaters total – regardless of position – and one goalie?
In the last article, we explored the idea of the Kings opting for choice B, primarily so they could protect four defensemen. Since then, we’ve gathered additional intel from our sources and it looks like the Kings are leaning more toward choice A. While this would most likely mean they’d end up exposing Kale Clague, part of the rationale here is that he’s out of waiver options anyway. Which means, come training camp next season, he’d either need to make the Kings Opening Night Roster or be placed on waivers before being reassigned to the AHL.
This is obviously a tricky move, as Clague will have just turned 23 years old at the time of the Expansion Draft. He’ll have three years of AHL experience under his belt after a stellar junior career. He looked good during his NHL callup earlier this season. However, he hasn’t quite forced the issue since rejoining the Reign – say, the way Rasmus Kupari has, having gone through a similar experience. As wrote about here, Clauge is in a dogfight right now. If the Kings ultimately opt to protect him, that also changes their list back to 8 skaters, meaning only four forwards total could be included.
2. Nearly all of LA’s top prospects will not be eligible for the Seattle Expansion Draft.
Exempt Forwards – Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Quinton Byfield, Aidan Dudas, Sammy Fagemo, Arthur Kaliyev, Rasmus Kupari, Tyler Madden, Kasper Simontaival, Johan Sodergran, Akil Thomas, Alex Turcotte, and Gabe Vilardi
Exempt Defensemen – Mikey Anderson, Tobias Bjornfot, Sean Durzi, Brock Faber, Helge Grans, Cole Hults, Kim Nousiainen, Markus Phillips, and Jordan Spence
Exempt Goaltenders – Jacob Ingham, Lukas Parik, and Matt Villalta
With that in mind, here’s how we currently see things shaking out:
LA KINGS PROTECTION LIST POWER RANKINGS – March 2021
1. Cal Petersen
1. Drew Doughty – even without a contract stipulation requiring he be protected, there would be zero chance Doughty wasn’t protected
2. Matt Roy – nothing flashy, yet steady as they come, aka Scuderi
3. Sean Walker – still a potential wild card, might have to be included in a trade for a top-4 LHD this summer
1. Anze Kopitar – one of the best two-way players in the game, he’s a lock
2. Alex Iafallo – he’ll get a new contract at season’s end and will be in LA for many years to come
3. Adrian Kempe – beginning to thrive under McLellan, developing into versatile player with offensive upside
4. Lias Andersson – too much talent to expose him, team is working to round out his game
5. Trevor Moore – never imagined he’d be on the list, yet here he is
6. Carl Grundstrom – by going with 3+7 the Kings now have room to protect Grundstrom
7. Dustin Brown – this is a tough ask at 36, but Matt Luff needs to play to replace him on this list
For reference, below is a full list of other Kings players eligible for the Seattle Expansion Draft:
Forwards – Michael Amadio (RFA), Andreas Athanasiou (RFA), Jeff Carter, Mikey Eyssimont (RFA), Martin Frk, Boko Imama (RFA), Blake Lizotte (RFA), Matt Luff (RFA), Drake Rymsha (RFA), and Austin Wagner
Defensemen – Mark Alt (UFA), Daniel Brickley (UFA), Kale Clague (RFA), Kurtis MacDermid, Olli Maatta, Jacob Moverare (RFA), and Austin Strand (RFA)
Goaltender – Jonathan Quick
In the end, Seattle will only get to select a single player from each of the NHL teams — sans Vegas, they’re excluded from the entire process — so the Kings only stand to lose one guy from the entire pool of players they leave exposed.
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I’m not of the variety that’s saying tank job while saying playoff run out of the other side of their mouth by the LA Kings. I do wonder though if the playing of MacD is to get him over the threshold for minimum games played. Why? That opens up trade options: packing Walker and Matta with a few other assets for team needs (someone other than Kopitar who wins 52+% of FO, an established scoring 1st line winger, that top pairing lhd).
I’m not sure I even buy my own hypothesis given that neither Strand or Clague or Brickley, guys likely to fill the voids created by said moves, have more than a cup of coffee in the NHL , and making such a move on faith can be disastrous. Yet, it does appeal to a certain logic trying to explain why MacD continues to play instead of looking for a better than average player to replace him on the lhs from within the organization (Brickley, Clague, Moverare, Phillips).
I totally get keeping MacD as a 7D. On a young team you need culture and practice guys who drive the youngsters to do their best. MacD gives everything he’s got. That rubs off on people—ala Clifford. Yet, with Matta hurt, the Todd-Father goes with MacD who just sometimes really looks a step or two behind the pace of play, and it’s not physically as he can skate and handle the size of players.
He’s not The Worst, and I wish people would stop blaming him for Ls. Yet, there’s probably better options internally to help with a playoff push.