Tonight is the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft as the Seattle Kraken will build their first roster by taking one player from each team. They’ll be looking to have the same level of success that the Vegas Golden Knights had in 2017 when their first roster led them to the 2017-18 Stanley Cup Final. Each team is given a chance to a group of players while leaving at least two forwards, one defenseman, and one netminder under contract exposed. Some teams had a struggle with who to protect due to the wealth of talent they have.
One team without that issue is the Detroit Red Wings who have been one of the worst teams in the NHL over the last several seasons, mostly due to lack of talent. Their protected list had the following players: Tyler Bertuzzi, Adam Erne, Robby Fabbri, Dylan Larkin, Michael Rasmussen, Givani Smith, Jakub Vrana, Filip Hronek, the newly acquired Nick Leddy, Gustav Lindstrom, and Thomas Greiss. That leaves not a lot of great options for the Kraken to choose from. However, they have to take someone so let’s look at who they’re most likely to select.
Troy Stecher, Defenseman
The 27-year-old defenseman Troy Stecher was someone everyone expected the Red Wings to protect just last week. However, after the Red Wings swung a trade for former New York Islander Nick Leddy, the team had no choice but to leave him available. Looking at the list of Red Wings unprotected, he seems to be the most likely choice for the Kraken. He had a really solid year when he received playing time with 11 points in 44 games. He also had a very impressive 2021 IIHF World Championship, including this gorgeous assist in the quarterfinals against Russia.
He’s a solid two-way defenseman who could really shine with Seattle if they decided to take him. He also is on a very friendly contract, with just one year remaining at $1.7 million. He could be a player that Seattle locks up or, if the team is struggling, would make a very good trade piece at the deadline. Look for Stecher’s name to be called tonight when it’s the Red Wings turn to be picked from.
Vladislav Namestnikov, Center
Vladislav Namestnikov was another player that most Red Wings fans expected to be on the protected list. The 28-year-old Russian had an up and down 2021 season, notching 17 points in 53 games. The lack of points could honestly be pointed towards terrible puck luck rather than poor play, as he was a very solid player most of the season. He doesn’t turn the puck over often as he had just nine giveaways all season. And while he doesn’t give the puck away, he’s great at taking the puck away, having more takeaways than giveaways four times in his career, including 2021.
He has a career-high of 48 points and is a player who still could get back to those numbers if in the right situation. As proven with Vegas four years ago, it’s very possible a player like Namestnikov could emerge as a much bigger player put in a circumstance where they’re one of the top guys. Even if it doesn’t happen, a two-way player like Namestnikov is something any team needs, and the Kraken could easily go that direction rather than Stecher.
Evgeny Svechnikov, Left Wing
FREE GENO! That’s something that Red Wings fans have been screaming for a while as it seemed like, for a while, Evgeny Svechnikov was the most likely option to be taken in the Expansion Draft. The 24-year-old Russian has been given extremely limited time in the NHL, despite putting on good performances basically every time he gets called up. He had eight points in just 21 games in 2021 while playing less than 12 minutes per game. Every time he got the opportunity to make things happen, he delivered. However, his chances were limited and he was even placed on waivers at one point.
If the Kraken want to choose a Red Wing who has the most likely chance to break out, Svechnikov is the one to go with. He’s still young and has shown potential after injuries derailed the early part of his career. He has size at 6’3″, 208 pounds and has a lightning-quick shot that could make him a 20-30 goal scorer if given the opportunity. But that’s the key for Svechnikov; he needs the opportunity and the Kraken could be the one to give him the chance that Detroit isn’t.
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