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?
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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.
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.
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.