With the Vegas Golden Knights just having reached the Stanley Cup Finals in their first season, most people are wondering how they even managed to pull this off. It all started with the expansion draft before the start of the 2017-2018 NHL season.
Some teams managed to escape from the draft without a scratch while others lost huge parts of their team. Others didn’t even know what they were missing out on until it was too late. All these happenings only lead to one major question: Who were the biggest losers of the expansion draft? We will be taking a look at the teams who lost some big pieces that could’ve benefited their team, but were lost in the expansion draft.
The Ducks lost two big defensemen in the draft as Clayton Stoner and Shea Theodore were selected in the draft. While Stoner didn’t play much on the team, Theodore seems to have been the reason why Anaheim lost big in the expansion draft. Anaheim restricted Theodore to 53 games in a span of two NHL seasons and, in that time frame, he scored five goals, 12 assists, and 17 total points. These are pretty low stats, but again he is a defenseman.
When he arrived in Vegas, however, Theodore played 61 games and scored six goals, 23 assists, and a total of 29 points in a single season! Theodore is proving to be a huge defensive part on the team and is showing a lot of signs of great potential that Anaheim missed out on.
Boston was forced to give a defenseman as well in the draft as Colin Miller was sent to Las Vegas. Miller, like Theodore, had relatively low stats as a member of the Bruins. In two NHL seasons with Boston, Miller put up nine goals, 20 assists, and 29 points in the span of 103 games. His stats began to skyrocket with Vegas as he scored 10 goals, 31 assists, and 41 total points in 82 games! Vegas won big time with this expansion draft pick and Boston lost another potential-oozing player.
Deryk Engelland spent five years with the Pittsburgh Penguins and three years with the Flames. He isn’t much of a scorer as he put up five goals with Vegas, which was more than he ever put up for Calgary. Calgary seems to have lost, not a scorer, but a leader. The 36 year-old Canadian plays a huge leadership role on the Golden Knights as he is one of the players who wears the assistant captain, “A”, on his jersey. He even collected the Clarence Campell Bowl Trophy for the team, which shows how much they see him as a true leader. Calgary definitely needed a player to fill that leadership role and Engelland was that guy.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets seemed to escaped the expansion draft with merely a scratch as they had to give up forwards William Karlsson, who scored 16 goals, 31 assists, and 47 points for Columbus, and David Clarkson. Karlsson is the real interest here. With relatively low stats in three years, Columbus seemed to have won in this situation, but boy were they wrong! In just one season with Vegas, the sniping center man scored 43 goals, 35 assists, and 78 points, simply mind-blowing! Columbus lost a player who had so much hidden potential that was finally released.
Cody Eakin spent five years in Dallas, registering 61 goals, 85 assists, and a total of 146 points, which isn’t bad. Vegas wanted him badly, seeing a lot of potential in him. He put up 11 goals, 16 assists, and 27 points in his first year with the Golden Knights. The main reason why Dallas was one of the bigger losers of the expansion draft was Eakin’s ability to dish out some nice assists, which would propel his line-mate Alex Tuch to one heck of a season. His leadership was also key as he has a fairly decent amount of NHL experience.
Detroit Red Wings
Detroit lost out on a young forward in Tomas Nosek who hardly got any playing time in in two NHL seasons (17 total games). They seemed to have escaped unharmed with a possible “bust” of a young NHL player, but Nosek seemed to have found his game in Vegas as he was featured in 67 regular season games, scoring seven goals, eight assists, and a total of 15 points.
Detroit missed the playoffs by a large margin for the first time in almost two and a half decades and they are simply going to have to begin the rebuild process. Nosek is one of those young guys that the Red Wings could’ve used for the future. He is proving himself to be a big part of the Vegas offense and is starting to find his groove. The fact that he is only 25 year-old means that Vegas is about to see him shine brighter and only get better with more experience.
The Panthers are probably bigger losers than the Blue Jackets as they lost two huge offensive forwards in Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith. Smith played a huge part in the Panthers 2016 playoff run as he scored four goals and four assists in six games. During the regular seasons with Florida, Smith, put up 40 goals, 47 assists, and 87 points in 162 games (two seasons).
Smith scored 22 goals, 38 assists, and 60 total points for Vegas. He has two goals, 14 assists, and 16 points in the 2018 playoffs, which shows how much of an offensive power he can be. That was just part one though of the Panthers loss! Marchessault began to find his game in Florida as he put up 30 goals, 21 assists, and 51 points in a single season. Very impressive, but leaving him available in the expansion draft turned out to be a huge mistake. The Canadian centerman has put up 27 goals, 48 assists, and 75 points for his new team and is proving to be a valuable leader as well. In the 2018 playoffs, he’s scored eight goals and 10 assists so far. Vegas is rubbing it in their faces at this point.
Los Angeles Kings
Nothing stings more than having to give up a respected player to a future division rival. It stings even more when that division rival shuts you down and restricts you to three goals in the entire 2018 playoffs AND sweeps you. Yep, the Golden Knights got a steal with Brayden McNabb from the LA Kings. Not really known for his offensive dexterity, he is a huge part of their defensive core and the LA Kings have to be regretting their decision. They essentially picked their own poison as they contributed to their own demise.
The Wild were another one of those teams that seemed to escape the expansion draft unscathed, but, as the season went on, they slowly realized their mistake. They gave up the aforementioned Tuch in the expansion draft. He put up zero points for Minnesota in six games, which was why they thought they got out of the expansion draft alive. However, Tuch seemed to find his game in Vegas and has turned into a huge offensive power as he put up 15 goals, 22 assists, and 37 total points on the year. He is another young, potential-oozing player that is proving to be a huge offensive power for years to come. Sorry, Minnesota, but you have lost big time!
The “Real Deal” James Neal was the choice for Vegas from Nashville. Neal is an impressive offensive player as just a season ago he helped the Predators make their first ever appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals. He played a big part in the leadership role and has continued to play that role as well in Vegas. Neal is a clutch player and a fan favorite in Nashville and Vegas. Nashville lost a big offensive forward and a veteran leader, which is why they lost in the expansion draft.
The Senators giving up Marc Methot is a weird situation as he was a huge factor in Ottawa’s deep playoff run in 2017. In 2018, Ottawa began having troubles. They completely fell off the charts and sank to the bottom of the standings. One year they were one goal away from the Stanley Cup Finals, then, the next they were almost dead last. Having to let go of a big defensive player in Methot (who would later be traded to Dallas from Vegas) shows how big of an impact key players, like him, had on the Senators. Now, Methot’s absence from the Sens isn’t the full reason why they did so horribly, but it definitely was a key moment in the expansion draft that started Ottawa’s plummet.
Oh how the might have fallen! The Penguins let Marc-Andre Fleury as he was the starting goalie and the backbone for them for 13 years, winning three Stanley Cups along the way. Why would Pittsburgh give up such a valuable and, almost, irreplaceable player? The rules of the expansion draft were that each team could only protect one goalie and the Penguins were having some amazing success in rookie goalie Matt Murray who turned into the starting goalie for them and won two Stanley Cups in his first years.
With Murray being younger and a proven starter, the Penguins were forced to move on from Fleury, but he took it with so much class and respect, it was incomprehensible. The 33 year-old Canadian has been lights out against any team that faces the Golden Knights and he is the main reason for their success. Vegas not only got an amazing goalie, but a true class-act. It took no time at all for him to become a fan favorite.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues were forced to hand over forward David Perron in the expansion draft. Perron bounced around the league the last few years playing in two stints with St. Louis. He’s put up 75 goals, 77 assists, and 152 points during that span. The reason St. Louis lost with him was because the Blues were in desperate need for some sort of offense. Because of the lack of offense, which could’ve been found in Perron, the Blues heavily declined from being in the playoffs to being on the outside looking in.
The biggest losers were the Blue Jackets, Penguins, and the Panthers. Some teams just missed out on watching young kids turn into superstars, like Minnesota, Detroit, and Boston. Others were just forced to let go of some experienced veterans like Calgary, Nashville, and Anaheim. Those who escaped the expansion draft unharmed, like Arizona, Montreal, and Winnipeg, were lucky then, but the entire league is feeling the wrath of Vegas now!