It’s official – the Seattle Kraken are part of the NHL now. After recently making their final payment to the league, franchise No. 32 is the real deal. They can vote on league activity, make trades, sign players, and it also means the July 21 Expansion Draft is a go.
Not that it was ever really in doubt, but it’s only a little more than two months away.
With that in mind, it’s time to update our LA Kings Protection List Power Rankings.
For those just now jumping into the conversation — or for those perhaps needing a quick primer — we encourage you to read the original article in this series, as we answered every conceivable question possible about the Expansion Draft.
For those into brevity, here are the two most salient points:
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 original article, we explored the idea of the Kings opting for choice B, primarily so they could protect four defensemen. Of late, our sources have indicated the team 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. This season, he’s split time between the NHL and AHL. At different points this season, Clague was up with the Kings, making his final push to be protected.
2. Nearly all of LA’s top prospects will not be eligible for the Seattle Expansion Draft.
Exempt Forwards – Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Quinton Byfield, Martin Chromiak, 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 less than two weeks remaining in the NHL’s 2021 regular season, here’s how we currently see things shaking out:
LA KINGS PROTECTION LIST POWER RANKINGS – MAY 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 – Steady Eddie is part of LA’s future on the blueline
3. Sean Walker – as mentioned on KOTP recently, could eventually be included in a trade for a top-4 LHD this summer, yet that is more likely after the Expansion Draft
1. Anze Kopitar – one point away from 1,000 in his NHL career, and plenty of good years still ahead of him, LA’s captain isn’t going anywhere (and contrary to reports elsewhere, he does not have a contract that requires protection)
2. Alex Iafallo – the Matt Roy of forwards; nothing flashy, yet certainly effective
3. Adrian Kempe – experiencing a bit of a coming out party this season at 24 years old, he’s making the most of trust placed in him by coach Todd McLellan
4. Trevor Moore – with double digit goals this season there might not be a bigger surprise on the team’s NHL roster, he’s gone from a ‘throw in’ in the Jake Muzzin trade to a productive bottom-6 forward
5. Andreas Athanasiou – despite missing eight games, AA is among the top-five in goals scored on the Kings; an RFA at season’s end, expect the announcement of a two-year contract extension if all goes according to plan
6. Lias Andersson – management has been patient with the 22-year-old Swede after acquiring him via trade in October; was a point-per-game player in the AHL this season, where he was sent to round out his game while being transitioned from a center to left winger
7. Dustin Brown – given the season he’s had, LA may not want to tempt fate and roll the dice with Brown, leaving him exposed in a second Expansion Draft
At this point, the only real decision GM Rob Blake will likely have to make comes down to the seventh forward on his list. Will Blake opt to protect a 36-year-old winger who leads his team in goals — which flies in the face of traditional thinking — or go with a much younger Carl Grundstrom, Blake Lizotte, or Austin Wagner?
Given the intangibles Brown brings over the latter three, and his place in the lineup (even if he’s moved off the top line next season, he’d still most likely be on the second line), it would seem Brown has earned the right to finish his career with the Kings. Further, while that trio of bottom-6 players may all bring unique skill sets to the organization, they still remain bottom-6 forwards, which means they should be easy enough to replace if one of them were selected by Seattle.
For reference, using the above protected list, below is a full list of which Kings players would be eligible for the 2021 Expansion Draft:
Forwards – Mikey Eyssimont (RFA), Martin Frk, Carl Grundstrom (RFA), Boko Imama (RFA), Brendan Lemieux, 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
On July 21, Seattle will only get to select a single player from each of the NHL teams — sans Vegas, they’re excluded from the entire process (a rule that was created before VGK ever played their first NHL game, largely because they don’t get to share in any of the Seattle expansion money) — so the Kings only stand to lose one guy from the entire pool of players they leave exposed.
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