The expansion draft for the incoming Seattle Kraken franchise is set for July 21st, 2021. The Detroit Red Wings have certain players that they are going to protect such as new captain Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Robby Fabbri, as well as new addition Jakub Vrana. Beyond those three players though, general manager Steve Yzerman has many decisions to make as to what players he sees as worthy of protecting.
Teams have the option of protecting either seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie, or eight total skaters and one goalie. These are the same rules that the Vegas Golden Knights had when they came into the league starting in the 2017-2018 season. The fact that the Detroit Red Wings have struggled in the recent past on both the offensive and defensive sides of the game makes it likely that they will opt to protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie.
Jakub Vrana was acquired by the Detroit Red Wings in a trade that sent Anthony Mantha to the Washington Capitals. Richard Panik and two draft picks were also sent to the Red Wings. I previously wrote that such a trade would accelerate the rebuild for the Red Wings. Mantha is a six-foot-five-inch right-winger who is only 26-years-old. Mantha’s effort was called into question at certain times during his six seasons with the Red Wings.
How did this happen? How can the Seattle Kraken replicate this success in their first season in the NHL?
The Seattle Kraken is not likely to match the results of the Golden Knights in their first season but a smart expansion draft strategy will help with that. The other teams in the NHL should learn from the "mistakes" that they made regarding which players they protected going into the Golden Knights expansion draft. The players for the Golden Knights came together to prove that they still have the ability to play at the NHL level.
Tomáš Nosek of the Vegas Golden Knights tied for the team lead in the Stanley Cup Finals in goals scored with Reilly Smith with three goals scored. Nosek is a center that the Detroit Red Wings did not protect going into the Golden Knights expansion draft. It could be argued that the fact that Nosek only was able to play in 17 games in two seasons with the Red Wings at the professional level meant that he did not get a fair shake to try to crack the team’s roster.
The lack of offensive talent on the current Detroit Red Wings roster makes the decisions that need to be made with regard to the upcoming expansion draft more difficult. One player that the Red Wings could protect is Adam Erne, who is a left-winger who performed his role very well on a team that has struggled in recent seasons. The 26-year-old played 45 games for the team in the 2020-2021 season and scored 11 goals.
Givani Smith is a forward that needs to be protected. While not an offensive forward, Smith’s toughness and willingness to do what needs to be done for the team is invaluable. The organization needs to decide whether or not Smith can parlay the success that he had in the minor leagues in this role in the NHL.
Michael Rasmussen had a step forward during the 2020-2021 NHL season. The 22-year-old was a top ten pick of the 2017 entry draft. The Detroit Red Wings can certainly use the 6’6" center as they rebuild their roster.
One forward that the Detroit Red Wings are unlikely to protect in the upcoming expansion draft is Evgeny Svechnikov. Svechnikov was already waived twice during the 2020-2021 NHL season and was not claimed by any other NHL team. For whatever reason, Svechnikov seems to need a fresh start with another NHL team, such as the Seattle Kraken. The 24-year-old can teach the young players on the Kraken how to play at the NHL level.
Troy Stecher is a young defenseman on the Red Wings’ roster that the team should protect as they continue to rebuild their defensive corps. The 27-year-old was signed by the team in October of 2020. Stetcher previously played four seasons in the NHL for the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks are going through a rebuild of their own. Stecher is looking to find the form he had in his rookie season where he scored 24 points during the 2016-2017 season.
Filip Hronek is one of the best defensemen on the Detroit Red Wings roster. This means that he should be protected. The 23-year-old had 3.2 point shares according to Hockey Reference, which is an estimate of the number of points contributed by a player. Hronek was drafted in the second round of the 2016 NHL entry draft.
This leaves Gustav Lindstrom as the last forward that the Red Wings should protect. He has more experience at the NHL level than Svechnikov. Lindstrom was also a second-round pick of the Red Wings in 2017. Svechnikov will likely want to prove that the Red Wings drafting him was not a mistake.
Goaltending was not an issue as it had been in the past few years. Jimmy Howard retired after 14 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings. In stepped both Jonathan Bernier and Thomas Greiss, who performed very well for a team that gave up 171 goals in the 56 games played. Bernier is a free agent meaning that he could be re-signed after the expansion draft takes place. That leaves an easy decision to protect Greiss.
Two players that the Detroit Red Wings do not need to worry about protecting are Moritz Seider, who is a German defenseman who is one of the most talented players that the Red Wings have drafted in recent history, and Filip Zadina, who seemingly fell in the 2018 NHL draft.