The date is set for the NHL 2021 Expansion Draft, which will see the entry of the Seattle Kraken organization into the league. Fans, players, and staff all wait anxiously together as each team prepares their list of who they will protect, and who they could see playing for the new kids on the block.
The Ottawa Senators are fortunate in this matter, however, as a fair bit of their star power is still under entry-level contracts, and as such are not eligible to be picked. This rule makes it so that young stars such as Tim Stutzle, Josh Norris, Shane Pinto, and Artem Zub are all safe from the selection. The rule saves the Senators franchise as the majority of their lines will remain fully intact.
Who To Protect
An obvious inclusion to the list would have to be star forward and alternate captain Brady Tkachuk. Tkachuk is a young player who has already made a massive impact on the team, even being proposed as a possibility for the next captain of the team. As well, the team would be remiss to not include newly rising star Drake Batherson. Both Batherson and Tkachuk played together on the first line and contributed some of the most points in the team.
The next pick all makes it in with a surprisingly close decision as veterans and prime-aged players blend together through their performances and relative injuries. The first to be protected on this list would have to be Connor Brown, the veteran player who put up the second-most points in the roster this season and has made an impressive impact on the team.
Along with Brown comes Chris Tierney, Nick Paul, Ryan Dzingle, and Evgeni Dadonov who have shown that they are a highly important part of the team, contributing points and a steady presence to help build confidence and skill in a largely new and young group of players. This kind of veteran and elite player presence will help to assist in the development of the young players as a team.
The first selection for this list should come as no surprise, as team superstar and crucial player Thomas Chabot take the position of the first protected player. Chabot has been the difference-maker ever since he was drafted to the Senators, being called the diamond in the rough when the team was at their worst in the past couple of years. The second player would be his defensive partner, Victor Mete, who will likely take a protected position. The two play well together and have begun to develop good line chemistry that could grow to benefit their performance.
The final protected player is likely to be Nikita Zaitsev, as the player has done a good job with the team, and has been fairly consistent given the continued movement of line partners depending on injury and other reasons for absence.
In goal, there are a couple of options to choose from for the Senators organization. The first option would be to protect 27-year-old goalie Matt Murray, the goalie was elite with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and despite looking slightly unsettled with the Senators, he still has plenty of playing time left in his career, and will likely develop to become more settled with his new teammates.
The other option that the Senators have would be the protection of Marcus Hogberg, a slightly younger player who has yet to reach his full potential. The odds are that this goalie will serve as a backup to another goalie that the Senators would look to sign in free agency or through further trades.
Who May Be Leaving
The choices for who may leave are left relatively slim, as the majority of stars from the team are protected, leaving the potential to see the loss of Derek Stepan, Artem Anisimov, or Colin White. Each player has their own merits, while all fitting into a different role among the team.
In selecting Derek Stepan, the Kraken would be selecting a veteran forward who has leadership experience after serving as an alternate captain for both the New York Rangers and the Arizona Coyotes. The player has shown his talents as a two-way forward over a career spanning 11 seasons so far. He is a heavy hitter, laying the body out to help protect his teammates, as well as protect the lead. As a centre, he shows a high degree of efficiency in the face-off circle. Overall the Senators would likely be able to cope with the loss, while the Kraken would make a notable gain to their locker room chemistry.
If the team were to select Anisimov, the Kraken would again be picking up a veteran centre, however, this veteran plays a very different game than Stepan. This centre has also moved around a fair bit, however, unlike his counterpart, he has not played in a leadership position in his team. This player is unafraid to drop the gloves, and still largely able to play a two-way game. However, the centre fits better into a top-nine forward position, or as a depth player in the lines, as he has seemingly yet to find a spot in the team where he can continually put up points.
The youngest of the top choices, White would make a solid contribution to the Kraken. The young forward has a lot of time to develop into an even better player than he currently is. The player likes to play from the front and attempts to put up points where possible. He will certainly have to look to continue to grow, and a new environment may provide just that chance. The Senators will feel this loss, although they have plenty of young talent and a lot of forward depth that could work to make up for the loss of this player.
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