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Enough Speculation, The Lists Are In

It’s been almost a year since the NHL announced their expansion to Las Vegas and Expansion Draft format. Since then, fans and experts alike have been trying to predict what Vegas’ roster could look like and who teams will choose to protect from the draft. Here on, we’ve had a few tries at predicting the Isles’ protection list ourselves but now, we have our answer.

The Islanders will be going with the eight skater, one goaltender format as opposed to the seven forwards, three defensemen, one goaltender option. This will allow the Islanders to protect five defensemen in Johnny Boychuk (who must be protected due to his no-movement clause), Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Adam Pelech, and prospect Ryan Pulock. In addition, John Tavares (NMC), Andrew Ladd (NMC), and Anders Lee will be the forwards the Isles will protect. Thomas Greiss will be the Islanders’ goaltender.

This will leave several quality players available for Vegas including defensemen Calvin de Haan and Thomas Hickey and forwards Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Josh Bailey, Casey Cizikas, and Shane Prince. Luckily, the Golden Knights can only select one player from the Isles but they’ll get a good one for sure. Another possibility to consider is that the Isles could have a trade in place with the Knights. It has been reported that the Blue Jackets have gone as far as trading their first round pick to Vegas in exchange for staying away from certain players. It is very possible that the Isles – who have picks in all but two (4th and 6th) of the seven rounds – could offer something similar to Vegas to ensure someone like Ryan Strome or Calvin de Haan remains with the team. In fact, Darren Dreger, an insider at TSN, says that a source has indicated that the Islanders will give a first round pick (they currently hold the 15th overall pick) to Vegas to ensure that no forwards are selected. If this is the case, defensemen Calvin de Haan or Thomas Hickey could be a Golden Knight.

Protecting five defensemen comes as surprise as the Islanders are the only team to do so. The Islanders had to protect Boychuk because of his NMC and Leddy’s spot was all but guaranteed because he’s consistently their best defenseman but the rest was kind of unknown until now. Hamonic’s name had been floated around with many experts citing that he’d be moved soon but obviously he hasn’t been as he is on the team’s protected list. Joining those three is Ryan Pulock, a prospect who has lived up to the hype in his few NHL appearances with his power play presence and his status as an offensive-defenseman.

The biggest surprise comes with the protection of Adam Pelech. This isn’t the first time the 22 year old surprised the hockey world. Pelech was an unheard of prospect to many Isles fans when being called up early in the 2015-2016 season. Through seven games he showed that he could keep up with the best of them including a huge performance against the Rangers. Pelech was then diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome which required surgery that kept him out of the lineup until the last two games of the regular-season. Through 44 games during the 2016-2017 season, Pelech played so well that people often forgot that he was only 22 years old. Pelech also elevated his game towards the end of the season while the team was fighting for a playoff spot. He opened the scoring in a mid-March game against the Winnipeg Jets and did the same in a do-or-die situation against the Devils. He also was a shutdown defenseman, blocking shots and throwing the body. The Golden Knights’ General Manager, George McPhee served as Isles’ GM Garth Snow’s Special Advisor, Vice President, and Alternate Governor during the 2015-2016 season so he definitely knows a lot about Pelech, Pulock, and the Islanders in general.

For now, we know who the Isles are protecting but on June 21st – the NHL Awards and Expansion Draft – we’ll know who Vegas will select from the Isles and the other 29 current teams. And hopefully for the Islanders, they won’t lose their first rounder and Calvin de Haan.

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