Wednesday night the NHL Expansion Draft results will be announced as the Vegas Golden Knights will announce their selection from the other 30 NHL teams. The other NHL teams had to place players on a protected list last weekend before letting Vegas choose from the remaining players.
Michael Rand of the Star Tribune decided to take this idea and use it to predict who the other three professional Twin Cities sports teams would protect in a theoretical expansion draft. As a good blogger, I decided “why not do this for the Gophers?” To make it fun, I wanted to try and predict who would be protected from the big three Gophers sports—Football, Men’s Basketball, and Men’s Hockey.
There is lots of strategy to think about when deciding who to protect. Do you protect the highly talented senior who you will only have for one more season, or do you take the less talented freshman or sophomore who may have the potential to be as good or even better? There is no right answer...this is meant to spur discussion. So go ahead and give your lists in the comments below, or tell us where you disagree with my list.
So here are our predictions on who the Gopher Hockey Team would protect in a theoretical expansion draft.
The rules for our College Hockey Expansion Draft:
Just like the actual NHL expansion draft, teams are allowed to protect either A. (seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie) or B. (eight skaters of any position and a goalie) You are allowed to select any player who will be an incoming freshman in the fall through a senior on the roster.
Goalie: Eric Schierhorn (Jr)
Defensemen: Ryan Lindgren (So), Jack Sadek (Jr)
Forwards: Leon Bristedt (Sr), Brent Gates Jr. (Jr), Casey Mittelstadt (Fr), Tommy Novak (Jr), Rem Pitlick (So), Tyler Sheehy (Jr)
I went with the 8 skaters and one goalie because Minnesota has a lot of semi-depth at defensman, but other than Lindgren there isn’t really a player that would be brutal to lose.
Schierhorn is the absolutely obvious selection at goalie. There isn’t a backup goalie on the roster that anyone would take. Mat Robson will come in this season and be an actual backup to Schierhorn after impressing in a Canadian junior league last season, but still is an unknown quantity.
On defense, Lindgren is an obvious take. He will be an assistant captain next season for the Gophers and will only keep getting better. Sadek has the ability to continue to improve and become a good shut down defensive defenseman. He still had two years of eligibility left so he is a better pick then a Steve Johnson here. Ryan Zuhlsdorf could be a pick too..especially if you went the 7/3/1 route but I just valued an additional forward more.
My forwards is where my scoring will need to come from. Bristedt is my only senior selected, but he had a good junior season and I can expect him to produce for me. Juniors Gates Jr. and Novak had rough 2016-17 seasons. Junior has the talent he just needs to concentrate it. Novak was off to a good start before getting hurt and missing he end of the season. Both players will play big roles on my power play. Tyler Sheehy is an absolute no brainer. You don’t let Hobey Baker finalists go—even if he might leave a year early. Rem Pitlick has the ability to be your leading scorer and is just a sophomore. I mean...come on. Obviously Casey Mittelstadt gets a nod too. The incoming freshman will be a top-ten pick in the NHL Draft on Friday night. He may take a year to get used to the strength of the college game, but once it clicks for him....watch out.
As for who was left out? Senior Mike Szmatula could have been a pick but with just a year left you need to take players with more eligibility left. A lot of the other Gopher forwards are more the role player type that you would hate to lose, but could probably replace. Another incoming freshman Scott Reedy was another potential pick, but you just have too much firepower you can for sure count on this season left to protect than to take a shot on the freshman.
Who would you protect?
Try and pick your own group and see if you agree or differ with me. The link to the Gopher roster is here. However, the 2017-18 freshman are not yet on that roster, but really Mittelstadt and Reedy are the only two that would really be possibilities out of that group.