NHL Power Rankings: Best all-time expansion draft moves

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we are going to take a look back at the all-time best expansion draft moves.

The Seattle Kraken are set to enter the NHL and will officially announce their initial roster with Wednesday’s expansion draft. There are a lot of interesting (and big name) players available for them, and depending on how they build their roster and use their leverage with other teams they could be an initial success like the Golden Knights. Maybe not to that extreme, but certainly within playoff contention.

Vegas built itself into an immediate contender with some smart expansion picks and shrewd deals taking advantage of other team’s desperation and worry about who they would lose. Several of those moves make this week’s list.

This list includes both actual expansion draft picks, and side deals that were made during the process.

Which moves make this week’s NHL Power Rankings?

To the NHL Power Rankings!

1. New York Islanders select Billy Smith (1972). Smith was the Islanders’ second pick in the 1972 expansion draft, taking him from the Kings following his rookie season. He would go on to be one of the most important players in the history of the franchise, serving as their starting goalie for more than a decade-and-a-half and backstopping the team to four Stanley Cups in the 1980s. On an individual level he won a Vezina, a Jennings, and the Conn Smythe Trophy during his Hall of Fame career.

2. St. Louis Blues select Glenn Hall (1967). The Blues were initially the most successful of the 1967 expansion teams, and goaltending played a huge role in that. They represented the new division in the Cup Final in each of their first three seasons, with Hall playing a central role in a lot of that success. He won the Conn Smythe in a losing Cup Final effort in 1968, and then followed that up with a Vezina the next year.

3. Vegas Golden Knights acquire Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith from Florida (2017). This is probably the signature move of Vegas’ expansion draft as Florida traded Smith to Vegas in exchange for the Golden Knights selecting Marchessault in the expansion draft. The Panthers wanted to shed Smith’s contract, knew Marchessault was in line for a raise, and wanted to protect four defensemen (including Mark Pysyk and Alex Petrovic). It proved to be a disastrous for Florida and a key foundational piece for Vegas. Marchessault was Florida’s top goal scorer while Smith had a proven track record of being a top-six winger (even if inconsistent). Together they have helped form one of Vegas’ top lines and been a key part of their continued success.

[Related: Lessons Kraken, rest of NHL can take from Golden Knights expansion draft]

4. Vegas Golden Knights select Marc-Andre Fleury (and gets a second-rounder) from Pittsburgh (2017). Everybody knew the Golden Knights were going to get a goalie from Pittsburgh, who had the dilemma of protecting either Fleury or Matt Murray. They opted to go with the younger, cheaper option that had just backstopped them to consecutive Stanley Cups. A sensible move that any team would have made. To ensure that Vegas took Fleury and his remaining contract the Penguins gave the Golden Knights a second-round pick. Fleury helped lead the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in year one and this season won his first ever Vezina Trophy.

5. Nashville Predators gets Kimmo Timonen from the Kings (1998). When the Nashville Predators entered the NHL for the 1998 season the Kings really did not want to lose 35-year-old defenseman Garry Galley. So much so that they traded Timonen and Jan Vopat to the Predators in exchange for them not selecting Galley. Timonen went on to become one of Nashville’s top players and a top-line defensemen for years, while Galley played just three more mostly forgettable seasons for the Kings.

6. Philadelphia Flyers select Bernie Parent  (1967). Parent is the greatest goalie in Flyers history and was one of the foundational pieces of their mid 1970s Cup winning teams. The only reason he is not higher on the list is because his time with the Flyers was split up. Following his selection in the expansion draft he played three-and-a-half years with the Flyers before being traded to Toronto. He spent two years in Toronto, then a year in the WHA, and was eventually traded back to Philadelphia in 1974 just in time to start their Stanley Cup runs. Had his time with the Flyers been continuous this pick would have been in the top-two.

[Related: NHL Mock Expansion Draft, projecting Seattle Kraken roster]

7. Vegas Golden Knights acquire William Karlsson, first-rounder from Blue Jackets (2017). Columbus really wanted to shed David Clarkson’s contract and make sure that Vegas did not take a collection of players that included Josh Anderson. So they sent a first-round pick and Karlsson to Vegas in exchange for eating Clarkson’s contract and not taking a select group of players. Karlsson had an immediate breakout season in Vegas and has been one of its top players for the past four years, while the first-round pick was used to select Nick Suzuki who was later traded for Max Pacioretty.

8. Nashville Predators select Tomas Vokoun  (1998). Goalies tend to be the one position that teams have consistently been able to find in the expansion draft, and the Predators found a couple of them in Mike Dunham and Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun ended up being the best of the two and had one of the most underrated careers of his era. A consistently top-tier goalie that rarely received the attention for his strong play.

9. Florida Panthers select Scott Mellanby from Edmonton Oilers (1993). The early 1990s expansion drafts were dreadful for new teams entering the league and played a major role in their early struggles. But one of the few gems that a team managed to find was Florida getting Mellanby from the Oilers. He became one of the best of the original Panthers and had a very productive career in Florida, helping the team to the 1996 Cup Final. He is also responsible for the start of the “Rat Trick.”

10. Vegas Golden Knights get Shea Theodore from Ducks (2017). The Ducks were so desperate to get rid of Clayton Stoner (and also to protect Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm; while also using a spot on Kevin Bieksa due to his no-trade clause) that they sent Shea Theodore to Vegas in exchange for selecting Stoner. Stoner never actually played a game for the Golden Knights, but Theodore has become one of the league’s best all-around defenders and become a key part of their defense.

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    Mitch Marner extends Maple Leafs-record points streak to 21 games

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    TORONTO — Mitch Marner extended his franchise-record points streak to 21 games with a second-period goal and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Los Angeles Kings 5-0 on Thursday night.

    Marner gave Toronto a 4-0 lead with his 11th goal of the season, scoring on a slap shot after a Los Angeles turnover inside its blue line.

    Marner became the 10th player in the past 35 years to string together a streak of 21 or more games. He has 10 goals and 16 assists during the run.

    Auston Matthews, Pierre Engvall, David Kampf and William Nylander also scored for Toronto. Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves for his first shutout with the Maple Leafs and the seventh of his career.

    Toronto has won seven of eight to improve to 17-5-6.

    Los Angeles dropped to 14-11-4 with its seventh loss in 10 games. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made 36 saves.

    Penguins’ Kris Letang returns to practice 10 days after stroke

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    PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang returned to practice with his teammates just 10 days after suffering the second stroke of his career.

    The 35-year-old Letang remains out indefinitely, with the club describing him as “day to day.”

    Letang said he felt “pretty good” after being greeted by stick taps from his teammates when he skated onto the ice at the team’s practice facility. Still, the married father of two called the experience “scary,” particularly for his family.

    “My kids, they don’t care if I’m a hockey player or not,” he said. “They care about having a dad. Same with my wife. She could care less about hockey. She knows there’s so much more. After hockey, there’s a long time and you want to be able to enjoy those moments with your family, with your kids.”

    Letang missed more than two months in 2014 after his first stroke, which was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. The condition also led to the second stroke, which Letang suffered on Nov. 28 after dealing with a series of debilitating headaches.

    This time, the symptoms have resolved themselves much more quickly, according to team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas, who described this stroke as “smaller” than the one Letang endured in 2014.

    Letang began skating on his own just two days after the diagnosis and was cleared to return to practice on Thursday though both Letang and Vyas stressed they are in no rush for him to play in games.

    “We don’t think this is accelerated in any way,” Vyas said. “We are taking all the right precautions to make sure that it is safe to go out and play and when that time comes we’ll let him go back to playing his sport.”

    Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said it was a “relief” to see Letang back at work.

    “It’s a great visual that he’s making progress,” Sullivan said. “Our medical team that has monitored him extremely closely feels comfortable with some of the progress that he’s making and the steps he’s taken. Everyone was excited for him to join the group.”

    Letang signed a six-year contract extension over the summer that will carry him into his 40s if he decides to play that long. Vyas said the data around strokes is “evolving” though it is unclear if Letang is now more susceptible to having additional strokes now that he’s had a second one.

    The six-time All-Star is cautious but optimistic.

    “We’ve been through this,” Letang said. “Me and Dharmesh have a clear understanding that we’re going to take all the time we need and make sure the research is possible and it’s no danger for me to keep going.”

    The Penguins are 8-1-1 over their last 10 games and have won three straight heading into a home-and-home series with the Sabres. They’re also eager to have Letang’s familiar No. 58 back in the lineup, but only when he’s ready.

    “He’s been here for a long time and his experience and everything that he brings on and off the ice, the way he competes (is important),” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “But I think in the (locker) room, (he has) poise and (he’s) somebody who’s been around a long time and whose experience you feel when he’s around.”

    Thompson nets 4 in 1st, 5 overall, as Buffalo tops Columbus

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    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tage Thompson matched an NHL record by scoring four times in the first period and finished with five goals and an assist as the Buffalo Sabres won their third straight road game, 9-4 over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.

    Thompson is the second U.S.-born player to score five goals in a game. He is the fourth player in NHL history to record four goals in the first period of a regular-season game, joining Peter Bondra (1994), Grant Mulvey (1982) and Joe Malone (1921). He is also the fourth active player to score five goals in a game, joining Timo Meier (Jan. 17, 2022), Mika Zibanejad (March 5, 2020) and Patrik Laine (Nov. 24, 2018).

    “It’s definitely a rewarding feeling,” Thompson said. “You’ve spent a lot of years working to get to this point and to be rewarded for it is a pretty good feeling and it just leaves you hungrier.”

    Thompson’s outburst helped Buffalo score six times in the first 16:40.

    “That was an amazing performance by Tage, and really, the whole group set the table,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “I thought the energy, the collective effort, the focus to start was really good and enabled that to happen.”

    Alex Tuch had a goal and three assists, Dylan Cozens added a power-play goal and two assists and Rasmus Dahlin finished with a goal and two assists. Peyton Krebs also scored. Jeff Skinner picked up four assists and Jacob Bryson had two. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 20 shots.

    Patrik Laine and Gustav Nyquist each scored twice for Columbus.

    Joonas Korpisalo stopped two shots before being pulled in the first in favor of Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped 15 shots through the second period. Korpisalo returned in the third and finished with six saves.

    Columbus has lost six straight home games and five of its last six overall.

    “We didn’t have an answer for that one line,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “Tage Thompson just tore us up tonight.”

    Buffalo dominated from the puck drop, scoring four goals on its first six shots.

    Cozens put the Sabres on the board at 3:21 of the first, 53 seconds into a Blue Jackets penalty, and Thompson made it 2-0 just 2:09 later. Dahlin scored Buffalo’s third goal at 7:28 of the first, driving Korpisalo from the net in favor of Merzlikins, who gave up Buffalo goal No. 4 to Thompson 32 seconds later.

    Thompson’s third career hat trick and second of the season came on a power-play goal at 12:22 of the first. He followed with his fourth goal, also on the power play, at 16:40.

    Columbus scored two goals in just over a minute, with Laine at 10:49 and Nyquist at 12:04, before Buffalo reeled off three straight in just over three minutes to end the period, including Thompson’s fifth, and goals by Krebs and Tuch.

    Laine and Nyquist scored in the third period for Columbus.

    STREAKING

    Cozens has 12 points in his last five games and is riding a career-best, five-game point streak. Thompson has eight goals and five assists in his last five games and 10 multi-point games. Dahlin has a five-game point and assist streak, and Gaudreau stretched his points streak to six games.

    NOTES: The Sabres joined the Kraken as the second team this season to score nine goals in a game. … Thompson is the second player in Buffalo history to have five goals in a game, joining Dave Andreychuk, who had five goals and an assist on Feb. 6, 1986.

    UP NEXT

    Buffalo: Hosts Pittsburgh on Friday.

    Columbus: Hosts Calgary on Friday.

    Ovechkin, Strome lead Capitals past struggling Flyers 4-1

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    PHILADELPHIA — Alex Ovechkin scored two empty-net goals, Dylan Strome had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Wednesday night.

    T.J. Oshie also scored for the Capitals, who finished 3-3 on a six-game trip. Charlie Lindgren made 29 saves.

    Kevin Hayes scored for Philadelphia, which has lost 13 of 15 games. Carter Hart made 23 stops.

    Strome broke a 1-all tie with 10:41 remaining when he deflected John Carlson‘s shot from long range past Hart.

    Hayes had a golden opportunity to tie it on a Philadelphia power play, but Lindgren made a great right pad save on a try from close range with 8:20 remaining.

    Ovechkin iced it, scoring into an empty net with 1:35 left and adding another empty-netter with 8.2 seconds left for his 15th of the season. Ovechkin has 795 career goals, good for third all-time. He is six goals away from tying Gordie Howe for second place. Wayne Gretzky, with 894 goals, tops the list.

    Hayes scored his ninth goal of the season for his team-leading 28th point with 4:14 left in the first period to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Hayes rushed to the bench after breaking his stick on a slap shot attempt, and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot with his new stick.

    The Flyers had a power-play goal for the third straight game and have four overall in that stretch. Philadelphia, which began play ranked 30th in the NHL in scoring on the man advantage, now has converted 16.7% (14 of 84) of its chances.

    Oshie tied it 3:51 into the second on the Capitals’ fourth power play as the Flyers continued to take sloppy penalties. This time, James van Riemsdyk committed Philadelphia’s third tripping minor of the game. Oshie made them pay with his fifth goal of the season when he finished a nifty passing sequence with Strome and Evgeny Kuznetsov with a perfectly placed one-timer over Hart’s left shoulder.

    NOTES: Van Riemsdyk returned after missing the last 20 games due to a broken right index finger. . Flyers forward Tanner Laczynski was placed on injured reserve after departing midway through the third period of Monday’s 5-3 win over Colorado with what looked like an injury to his left leg. . Washington was without several injured players, including starting goalie Darcy Kuemper (upper body). Kuemper was with the team, but missed his second in a row. . Carlson had two assists. . Philadelphia’s Cam Atkinson, out all season with an upper body injury, has been practicing and is close to returning.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: Host Seattle on Friday night.

    Flyers: Open four-game trip at Vegas on Friday night.